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Name: People v. Beames
Case #: S050455
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 03/22/2007
Summary

The decision whether to grant a continuance is within the discretion of the trial court. There are no mechanical tests to decide if a denial of a continuance is so arbitrary as to violate due process -– it is determined on a case by case basis. When a defendant make a motion to continue to investigate whether to pursue a change of venue, subsequent failure to exhaust peremptory challenges and failure to object to the final composition of the jury signify that the jury as impaneled is fair and impartial so that no venue change was necessary. Appellant and co-defendant were charged with the torture-murder of the co-defendant’s 15-month-old baby. Separate back-to-back trials were scheduled. After a guilty verdict was returned for the co-defendant, appellant requested a continuance to explore a change of venue motion. The prosecution objected that a continuance would cause a hardship to the subpoened witnesses. The court denied the motion without prejudice, stating that it could evaluate a need for venue change through the voir dire process. Although a court cannot deny a motion to change venue on the theory that voir dire is a better method of assessing the need to change venue, here appellant did not make a motion to change venue –- only a continuance to explore such a motion.