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Name: In re Jeffrey G.
Case #: A149067
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 07/13/2017

NGI defendant denied transfer to conditional release program was entitled to reversal under People v. Sanchez (2016) 63 Cal.4th 665 because case-specific facts without independent evidentiary support were presented at his hearing. In 1990, defendant was found not guilty by reason of insanity (NGI) of a violent crime and committed to the State Department of Hospitals. In 2015, he petitioned for transfer from the state hospital to a conditional release program. At a hearing on his petition, he presented expert testimony as to his readiness for transfer and the state presented expert testimony in rebuttal. The court denied the petition. Less than two weeks later, Sanchez was decided, which substantially limited expert testimony with respect to case-specific hearsay evidence. Defendant appealed, arguing reversal was warranted under Sanchez. Held: Reversed. Under the law in effect at the time of defendant’s hearing, an expert was permitted to testify to hearsay evidence the expert relied on in forming his opinion, regardless of whether there was competent evidence in the record to support that testimony. Sanchez now bars such testimony unless there is direct evidence of the matter or the hearsay evidence was admitted under an appropriate exception. Here, the prosecution’s experts gave hearsay-based testimony about defendant’s history and his conduct during confinement, some of which was unsupported by independent evidence in the record. This included testimony that defendant was hostile and aggressive and had spotty attendance at treatment programs. The admission of this testimony prejudiced defendant because it was a “close case” and of the three critical factors the court relied on in denying his petition, one (defendant’s poor attendance) was unsupported by the record. Thus, it was reasonably probable defendant would have been found suitable for release without the unsupported hearsay evidence. The court reversed and remanded for a new hearing. [Editor’s Note: The court also concluded defendant did not forfeit the Sanchez issue because a hearsay objection would have been futile under the law in effect at the time; thus, the court did not consider defendant’s argument that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to objection on hearsay grounds.]

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: