Category Archives: Appellate Factfinding

Did the court improperly make its own factual or credibility determinations, instead of leaving them to the trier of fact?


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. 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. Aguilar – 1/29/2013

People v. Aguilar

No. F061462 (opn 1/29/2013, rev den 5/15/2013)

Year: 2013
Facts: Error/Omission
Selective vs. Whole-Record Review
Appellate Factfinding
Court: 5th District
Errors Found/Argued: Errors not found by another court

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 9.37.38 PMSummary: The Court of Appeal found “any possible” Confrontation Clause error harmless under both Chapman and Watson. But analysis was limited to a list of evidentiary items supporting the murder judgment and a finding that defendant’s credibility was “conclusively undermined[.]” (Opn at 67-68.) Missing entirely from the analysis and the rest of the opinion: any acknowledgment that (a) the jury followed 5 court days of evidence with 4 such days in deliberation; (b) during the latter period jurors requested 7 testimony read backs; (c) after 6 hours of deliberation, the jury announced it was deadlocked; and (d) the testimonial hearsay at issue was the only evidence directly undermining defendant’s alibi testimony. The harmless error analysis also relied on factual assertions unsupported by the record (e.g., that the defendant was “seen walking away from” the burning room where the death occurred) and omission of defense-favorable evidence. Defendant identified these errors and others in petitioning for both rehearing and California Supreme Court review; both petitions were summarily denied. Note: The CSC granted defendant’s motion for judicial notice as to other recent DCA opinions violating harmless error standards.

Document Links:
Court of Appeal Opinion (PDF)
Court of Appeal Opinion (Google Scholar)
Petition for Rehearing (cited record material available upon request
Petition for Review (see pp 1-2, 4-16; cited record material available upon request
Motion for Judicial Notice