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Name: People v. Bratton (2023) 95 Cal.App.5th 1100
Case #: E078627
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 09/26/2023

Standard principles of issue preclusion may be used to deny a defendant’s request for resentencing under Penal Code section 1172.6. In 1995, Bratton, age 16 years, committed a robbery with an accomplice. He confessed to shooting the store clerk dead during the offense. His defense was that he did not participate in the crime at all. He was convicted of first degree murder with robbery and burglary special circumstances and the jury found true a personal gun use enhancement. In 2021 his petition for resentencing was denied at the prima facie stage after the trial court relied on the appellate opinion to find he was the actual killer. Bratton appealed. Held: Affirmed. The use of facts in the appellate opinion to deny resentencing was error. However, standard principles of issue preclusion apply here and the jury’s verdicts have a preclusive effect on the issue of whether Bratton was the shooter. Issue preclusion bars relitigation of matters earlier decided if the issue sought to be precluded from relitigation is identical to that decided in a former proceeding, the issue was actually litigated, it was necessarily decided on the merits, and the parties are the same. Evidence that Bratton was the killer was properly raised and decided in his trial, notwithstanding his failure to contest it (disagreeing with People v. Gonzalez (2021) 65 Cal.App.5th 420). Based on the instructions given, the defense had an incentive and opportunity to contest the issue.

Penal Code section 1172.6 is not a change in the law so significant that it warrants relitigation. There is an exception to application of issue preclusion where a change in the law occurs such that it would result in a manifestly inequitable administration of the laws. However, courts have upheld the prosecution’s reliance on issue preclusion in proceedings under section 1172.6. In People v. Lewis (2021) 11 Cal.5th 952, the Supreme Court implicitly held that issue preclusion can apply, “when it concluded that the trial court can deny a petition at the prima facie stage based on the record of conviction.”