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Name: Jointer v. Superior Court of Orange County
Case #: G047824
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 06/28/2013
Summary

Trial court abused its discretion in denying a Penal Code section 1405 motion for postconviction DNA testing because, assuming the test came back favorable for the defendant, there is a reasonable probability of a more favorable verdict. Appellant was convicted of second degree robbery with a firearm enhancement after evidence linked him to the robbery of a grocery store supervisor. As a result of prior strike convictions, he was sentenced to 34 years to life in state prison. A critical item of evidence offered by the prosecution was a water bottle bearing appellant’s fingerprints that the perpetrator drank from. A forensic specialist testified that he was not able to determine when the prints were left on the bottle. Thirteen years after the conviction, appellant filed a motion pursuant to section 1405 to have the water bottle tested for DNA. The trial court denied the motion, finding there was no reasonable probability that DNA testing would result in a more favorable verdict due to the substantial amount of other evidence linking appellant to the robbery. Reversed. Reviewing the ruling for abuse of discretion, the appellate court found that the trial court erred. With a section 1405 motion, the court is required to determine whether there is a reasonable probability of a more favorable verdict assuming the DNA test came back favorable to defendant; not whether appellant is entitled to some form of ultimate relief, such as the granting of a habeas petition. Here, the only disputed evidence as to the robbery was identity and the only physical evidence linking appellant to the crime was the water bottle. The other evidence, such as eyewitness identifications, was not conclusive and favorable DNA evidence in this case would be sufficiently exculpatory to create a reasonable probability of a more favorable verdict for appellant.