intro

Note: Cases appear by date of decision, in reverse chronological order. To receive notification of newly posted cases, sign up for case alerts on the bottom of the home page.

People v. Sanders – 9/29/2016

People v. Sanders

No. A142875 (opn 9/29/2016, mod 10/19/16, rev den 12/14/2016)

Year: 2016
Errors: Facts: Error/Omission
Court: 1st District, Div 5
Errors Found/Argued: Errors not found by another court

Summary: Court of Appeal regarded record deferentially with respect to the facts as a general rule of appellate procedure, inappropriate in the context of the issues on appeal. (See arg. I in petition for review.) The error was material, because appellant was convicted of 40-something counts of robbery arising from a dozen incidents over the court of several months’ time. He was labelled the “chrome revolver bandit” because though no one could ID him, they often (but not always) remembered the big Dirty Harry style revolver used by the culprit. The circumstantial evidence in the record was rife with gaps, and confidence in the outcome — a key fact in prejudice assessment — should have taken these gaps into consideration, rather than deferring them away.

Document links:
Court of Appeal Opinion w/modification (Google Scholar) 
Court of Appeal Opinion (PDF)
Petition for Rehearing (PDF)
Petition for Review (PDF)

People v. Debouver – 7/27/2016

People v. Debouver

No. B262455 (opn 7/27/2016, rhg den 8/17/2016)

Year: 2016
Errors:
Facts: Error/Omission
Law: Error/Misstatement
Issues: Omission/Unbriefed
Court: 2d District, Div 6
Errors Found/Argued: Errors not found by another court

Summary: There are assorted factual and legal errors and misstatements, as well as mischaracterization of appellant’s claims, which are outlined in the rehearing petition.  The most glaring mischaracterization of an issue (or perhaps simply a legal error) is in arguments IV and V of the rehearing petition, where the DCA treated “inhabited dwelling” and “residence” as one and the same, despite clear recognition in case law, see especially Singleton, that they have materially different meanings.

Document links:
Appellant’s Opening Brief (PDF)
Appellant’s Reply Brief (PDF)
Court of Appeal Opinion (Google Scholar)
Court of Appeal Opinion (PDF)
Petition for Rehearing (PDF)

Nidiver v. Lifehouse Health Services,LLC – 3/25/2016

Nidiver v. Lifehouse Health Services,LLC

No. C077803 (opn 3/25/2016; CSC denied publication 6/15/2016, No. S234084)

Year: 2016
Errors: Law: Error/Misstatement
Court: 3d District
Errors Found/Argued: Errors not found by another court

Summary: In an elder abuse case, the court determined that plaintiffs could not pursue direct liability claims against the parent entity and sole member of the LLC that acted as licensee of a skilled nursing facility because, even if the member engaged in tortious conduct, the member was acting within the scope of its duties as a member. The holding is contrary to statutory and case law which makes members of LLCs, like corporate shareholders, responsible for their own tortious or criminal conduct even if they are acting within the scope of their duties, though LLC members cannot be held liable solely because they are members. The court denied publication; no party petitioned for review.

Document Links:
Court of Appeal Opinion (Google Scholar)
Court of Appeal Opinion (PDF)
1st Letter opposing publication (PDF)
2nd Letter opposing publication (PDF)

People v. Nguyen – 8/13/2015

People v. Nguyen

No. S076340; 61 Cal.4th 1015 (opn 8/13/2015; rhg den 10/14/2015; petn for cert to be filed)

Year: 2015
Errors:
Facts: Error/Omission
Law: Error/Misstatement
Issues: Omission/Unbriefed
Prejudice: Selective vs. Whole-Record Review
Court: Supreme Court
Errors Found/Argued: Errors not found by another court

Summary: In this capital case decision, the California Supreme Court consistently portrayed the facts of the crimes in a misleadingly (and sometimes inaccurately) pro-prosecution manner, ignoring evidence that undermined the prosecution’s case or supported the defense version; it repeatedly ignored appellant’s legal arguments; it ignored precedent in appellant’s favor; it reached pro-prosecution conclusions about the law that were neither explained nor supported by precedent; it frequently misstated or misleadingly portrayed the facts relevant to the legal issues raised; and it relied on reasons for rejecting appellant’s claims that had not been proposed by the respondent. See, e.g.:

Facts: Error/Omission: Rhg.Pet. pp. 5-21, 34-36, 39, 46-49, 50-51, 56-57, 58

Law: Error/Misstatement: Rhg.Pet. 28-29, 56, 58-59

Issues: Omission, Mischaracterization, Unbriefed: Rhg.Pet. 21-26, 29-30, 34, 36-37, 39, 40-44, 51-52, 53-55, 56-57

Prejudice: Selective vs. Whole Record Review: Rhg.Pet. 13, 31, 34, 37-38, 44-46

Document Links:
Supreme Court Opinion (61 Cal.4th 1015; Google Scholar)
Supreme Court Opinion (PDF)
Petition for Rehearing (PDF)

People v. Sedillo – 4/8/2015

People v. Sedillo

No B248671 (opn. 4/8/2015, petn for rev pending, S226342)

Year: 2015
Errors:
Law: Error/Misstatement
Selective vs. Whole-Record Review
Court: 2d District, Div 1
Errors Found/Argued: Errors not found by another court

sedilloSummary: In a published opinion, the Court of Appeal found two trial errors and determined neither of them were prejudicial:

1. Error in admitting evidence that defendant’s phone was the subject of a court-ordered wiretap: The court agreed this was error and, without saying whether it was of constitutional dimension, found it was harmless because “defendant made sufficient statements regarding her culpability for the shootings with which she was charged to support the jury’s verdicts. The wiretaps show that defendant consistently bragged about her participation in the shooting that had taken place at Presidio’s wake.” (pp. 23-24.) In addition to stating the wrong legal standard – whether there was “sufficient evidence” to support the verdict – the court ignored: (a) that the defense’s argument at trial was that defendant was lying about having been involved in the shooting 18 years earlier; (b) that a gang expert provided testimony about why someone would lie about that; (c) the eyewitness descriptions of the getaway driver, alleged to have been defendant, were inconsistent with Sedillo; one witness, Foch, testified he saw the getaway driver and it was a male; and (d) that the jury asked for readback of Foch’s testimony on this point, showing jurors did not find defendant’s boasts to be overwhelming proof of her guilt.

2. Failure to instruct that to be liable as an aider and abettor, defendant had to form the intent to render aid before the shooting occurred: The court acknowledged this was constitutional error subject to Chapman analysis. But it found the error harmless because it was not “reasonably likely” the jury found defendant formed the intent after the shooting. (pp. 31-32.) In so doing, the court looked at only one part of the record – the fact CALJIC No. 3.01 is phrased in the “present tense,” which the court believed would have led the jury to convict defendant only if she formed the intent to render aid before the shooting. The analysis ignored: (a) that there was, in the court’s words, “skimpy evidence” of what occurred before the shooting; (b) that the jury rejected allegations defendant premeditated and deliberated, which is inconsistent with a finding she knew ahead of time that the direct perpetrator intended to commit murder (People v. Samaniego; People v. Lee); and (c) that nothing in the instructions told the jury the crimes were finished once the shooting stopped, so there is no basis to find jurors would have assumed that was the point before which Sedillo had to form the requisite intent.

The court also found numerous asserted errors would have been harmless, based on the similarly-mistaken reasoning it used for the evidentiary error described above.

Document Links:
Court of Appeal Opinion (Google Scholar)
Court of Appeal Opinion (PDF)
Petition for Rehearing (PDF)
Petition for Review (PDF)

People v. Riley – 2/19/2015

People v. Riley

No. D059840 (opn 2/19/2015, petn for rev pending, S225382)

Year: 2015
Errors: Selective vs. Whole-Record Review
Court: 4th District, Div 1
Errors Found/Argued: Errors not found by another court

rileySummary: This case came back to the Court of Appeal on remand from the US Supreme Court (Riley v Cal.) after a finding that the warrantless search of an arrestee’s cell phone violated the 4th Amendment. The court found the 4th A violation was harmless error.  It properly stated review under the Chapman standard was appropriate but then misapplied the standard by ignoring defense-favorable evidence, including the facts that the first trial resulted in a hung jury and that the eyewitnesses to the shooting excluded D. Rather than conducting the analysis described in Chapman (requiring the court to review the entire record to determine whether the state proved the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt) , the court seemed to review the record for substantial evidence to support the conviction. This petition challenges the flawed process used by many CA appellate courts when conducting harmless error analysis under Chapman. Linked documents include an amicus letter supporting grant of review; the letter lists many recent examples of flawed Chapman analysis.

Document Links:
Opinion (Google Scholar)
Opinion (PDF)
Petition for Rehearing (PDF)
Petition for Review (PDF)
Amicus letter supporting review (PDF)
Motion for Judicial Notice (PDF)

People v. Montoya – 1/7/2015

People v. Montoya

B243042 (opn 1/7/2015, rev den 4/15/2015 (No. S224457), cert den 10/5/2015 (No. 15-5194))

Year: 2015
Errors: Selective vs. Whole-Record Review
Court: 2d District, Div 4
Errors Found/Argued: Errors not found by another court

Summary: After finding that the trial court should not have permitted Montoya to be convicted of first degree murder on natural and probable consequences theory (Chiu error), court of appeal found the erroneous instruction harmless beyond a reasonable doubt (under Chapman v. California) by positing a false dichotomy – since D said she did not know co-D intended to shoot anyone, guilty verdict on minor charge indicates that jury believed snitch, not D – and by ignoring a lot of evidence in the record from which jury could have had a reasonable doubt about guilt. Petitions for rehearing, review, and cert were denied; re the petition for review, the CA Supreme Court granted a motion for judicial notice of 12 other review petitions presenting similar errors.

Document Links:

People v. Mamea – 11/26/2014

People v. Mamea

F067261 (opn 11/26/2014, rev den 2/11/2015 (No. S223633)

Year: 2014
Errors: Appellate Factfinding
Court: 5th
Errors Found/Argued: Errors not found by another court

Summary: Without any hearing or review of the facts, the trial court found Mr. Mamea ineligible for resentencing under Penal Code section 1170.126, or Proposition 36. Mr. Mamea was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm x 2. The court relied on Prop 36 language contained in the voters’ pamphlet to conclude incorrectly that the electorate’s intent was to exclude any weapons-related felonies. Trial judge stated if his blanket exclusion of Mr. Mamea’s case was wrong, the case would be remanded for his consideration. On appeal the AG requested the court take judicial notice of the record of convictions, in this case a jury trial, but failed to provide a copy of the material as required by Rule 8.252(a)(3). DCA deferred ruling on the request until after case was submitted and then limited it to a review of their opinion following the convictions. Appellate court made factual findings that were never before the trial court. Rehearing and review denied.

Document Links:
Court of Appeal Opinion (Google Scholar)
Court of Appeal Opinion (PDF)
Petition for Rehearing (PDF)
Petition for Review (PDF) 

 

People v. Lewis – 8/20/2014

People v. Lewis

No. E058643 (opn 8/20/2014, rev den 11/12/2014)

Year: 2014
Errors:
Law: Error/Misstatement
Court: 
4th District, Division 2
Errors Found/Argued:
Errors not found by another court

Summary: People’s appeal from order granting relief on petition to reduce 3 Strikes term to 2 and releasing appellant due to time served. Contrary to both the substantial evidence rule and the requirement that the appellant produce an adequate record on appeal, the appellate court reversed and remanded for new hearing to see if the prosecution could produce additional evidence re possession of firearm. Specifically, the Court’s summary was: “This is plaintiff and appellant the People’s appeal from the superior court’s order granting defendant and respondent Anthony Lee Lewis’s petition for recall of sentence under Proposition 36 (Pen. Code, § 1170.126). The People argue defendant was ‘armed’ with a firearm during the commission of the commitment offense—being a felon in possession of a firearm (former § 12021, subd. (a)(1))—and thus was ineligible for resentencing. As discussed below, the record on appeal does not contain the accusatory pleading or the trial transcript, and so we cannot determine with certainty whether the conviction was based on defendant being armed with the firearm he was convicted of possessing. For this reason, we reverse and remand with directions to allow the trial court to examine the evidence adduced at trial to determine and state on the record whether the prosecution’s case was based on the theory that defendant was guilty of possession of a firearm by a felon because he had possession of a firearm that was capable of offensive or defensive use. The trial court shall then act on defendant’s resentencing petition in a manner consistent with this opinion.”

Document Links:
Opinion (Google Scholar)
Opinion (PDF)
Petition for Rehearing (PDF)
Petition for Review (PDF)