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Name: In re Ruedas
Case #: G054523
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 05/24/2018

Habeas petition presenting Sanchez issue denied because Sanchez does not apply retroactively to cases that were final before this change in the law. Ruedas was charged with various gang-related offenses and enhancements. At trial, an expert related testimonial hearsay to prove the gang charges, over defense objection. Ruedas was convicted and his case became final in 2015. In 2016, the California Supreme Court decided People v. Sanchez (2016) 63 Cal.4th 665, which held that expert testimony is subject to exclusion under the hearsay rule and confrontation clause. Ruedas filed a habeas petition seeking retroactive application of Sanchez. Held: Petition denied. Under federal law, a judicial decision that establishes a new rule of law generally does not apply retroactively to final cases, unless it is substantive in nature or establishes a “watershed” rule of procedure that implicates fundamental fairness and accuracy of criminal trials. (Teague v. Lane (1989) 489 U.S. 288.) A decision creates a new rule if the outcome was not dictated by previously existing cases. At the time Ruedas’ case became final, five U.S. Supreme Court justices and six California Supreme Court justices agreed that, for purposes of the confrontation clause, out-of-court statements admitted through an expert are admitted for the truth. However, neither court had held as much in any majority opinion. Thus, Sanchez created a new rule of law because its result was not dictated by prior cases. Because Sanchez is a procedural rule, it does not qualify for the first Teague exception. Nor does it satisfy the watershed rule exception. Sanchez considered the degree to which Crawford v. Washington (2004) 541 U.S. 36 applies in the context of expert testimony. As Crawford does not qualify for watershed status, and Sanchez is but an extension of Crawford, Sanchez does not qualify for watershed status. Although a Sanchez violation occurred in this case, the petition was denied because the decision does not apply retroactive under federal law.

Sanchez is not retroactive under California retroactivity standards. A California Supreme Court decision establishes a new rule of law if it expressly overrules a precedent of that court or disapproves a practice impliedly sanctioned in an earlier case. Here, Sanchez created a new rule of law by disapproving of a practice sanctioned in Gardeley. Under California law (i.e. the old federal standard), whether a new rule is retroactive depends on (1) the purpose of the new rule (i.e. the rule’s relationship to the reliability and integrity of the truth-finding process at trial), (2) the reliance placed on the old rule, and (3) the effect retroactive application would have on the administration of justice. Sanchez, which established an evidentiary framework for analyzing the admissibility of expert basis evidence, pertains only to a particular subset of testimony and is not central to the truth-finding process. Prosecutors justifiably relied on the old rule for over two decades, and applying Sanchez retroactively would be a tremendous administrative burden. Given these factors, Sanchez does not qualify for retroactive application under California law.

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