Application of new, lower standard of proof for obtaining habeas corpus relief based on new evidence results in granting of writ for defendant convicted of 1998 robbery. A jury convicted Miles of participating in a 1998 robbery; three prior serious felonies were found true. He was sentenced to 75 years to life in prison. His robbery convictions were affirmed on direct appeal (although a gang enhancement was reversed). His initial state writ petition was denied. In 2012 he filed a second writ petition, attaching declarations from three men (Teamer, Steward, and Bailey) who confessed to the robbery and stated Miles was not involved. Evidentiary hearings were held. Held: Writ granted. Based on a new, lower standard of proof for a habeas corpus claim based on new evidence, relief may be granted when the evidence is “credible, material, presented without substantial delay, and of such decisive force and value” that it more likely than not would have changed the outcome of trial (Pen. Code, § 1473, subd. (b)(3)(A)). This is a “preponderance of the evidence” standard. The declarations of Teamer, Steward, and Bailey are sufficiently credible to warrant habeas relief. The confessions are material, were presented without substantial delay and were not merely corroborative or collateral. Here the case was based entirely on witness testimony; there was no forensic or photographic evidence linking Miles to the robbery. It is therefore more likely than not that the confessions would have changed the outcome of the trial.
The confessions contained in the declarations attached to Miles’ petition for writ of habeas corpus qualify as “new evidence” under the habeas statute. Under the recently amended habeas statute, “new evidence” is “evidence that has been discovered after trial, that could not have been discovered prior to trial by the exercise of due diligence, is admissible and is not merely cumulative, corroborative, collateral, or impeaching.” (Pen. Code, § 1473, subd. (b)(3)(B).) Miles could not reasonably have been expected to “discover” the confessions prior to his trial because Teamer was his codefendant at trial and Steward and Bailey had not yet been identified as robbery suspects. The confessions were admissible because Teamer and Steward testified at the habeas hearings and were subject to cross-examination. Although Bailey did not testify and his declaration is hearsay (it is not clearly against his penal interest because the statute of limitations passed), and he has not been found to be an “unavailable” witness, the primary focus is whether his confession is trustworthy. In a habeas corpus proceeding, the evidentiary rules are more flexibly applied in the interests of justice. Bailey had nothing to gain by lying in his declaration; he was still in a Texas prison when he made the confession and could possibly suffer a penal consequence; and his statement was consistent with those of Teamer and Stewart. His declaration therefore passes the threshold of admissibility. Finally, the confessions are “sufficiently important in the ascertainment of truth that they are not merely cumulative, corroborative, or impeaching” and thus qualify as “new evidence.”
The newly amended statute which lowers the standard for granting habeas corpus relief applies to Miles’ pending petition. Generally, criminal statutes do not apply retroactively. “However, if a change in the law relates to modes of procedure, rather than substance, the law applies to existing causes of action and defenses without having retrospective effect.” Changes in a statute which relate to burdens of proof are applied as changes in procedure. When Miles first filed his petition the standard of proof for new evidence habeas corpus relief required evidence that completely undermined the prosecution’s case and pointed “unerringly” to innocence. However, during the pendency of Miles’ writ proceedings, the burden of proof was lowered to require that the new evidence be credible, material, presented without undue delay, and of such decisive force that it would have more likely than not changed the outcome of the trial (Pen. Code, § 1473, subd. (b)(3)(A), effective 1/1/2017). This change in procedure is properly applied to Miles’ pending writ petition.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/G046534.PDF