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Name: People v. Burton
Case #: E061187
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 12/18/2015

Willful infliction of corporal injury on an intimate partner (Pen. Code, § 273.5) is a crime of moral turpitude that can properly be used to impeach a testifying defendant. A jury convicted Burton of the first degree murder of Jones and found true a firearm enhancement. (Pen. Code, §§ 187, subd. (a), 12022.53, subd. (d).) Burton appealed, arguing the trial court erred in admitting his two prior convictions for willful infliction of corporal injury on an intimate partner for impeachment because such crimes are not crimes of moral turpitude. Held: Affirmed. Any testifying witness can be impeached with evidence that he suffered a prior conviction of a felony involving moral turpitude. One definition of moral turpitude is a “general readiness to do evil.” (People v. Castro (1985) 38 Cal.3d 301, 306, 315.) California courts have held that section 273.5 is a crime of moral turpitude because the statute protects individuals who are in special relationships “for which society rationally demands, and the victim may reasonably expect, stability and safety, and in which the victim, for these reasons among others, may be especially vulnerable. To have joined in, and thus necessarily to be aware of, that special relationship, and then to violate it wilfully and with intent to injure, necessarily connotes the general readiness to do evil that has been held to define moral turpitude.” (People v. Rodriguez (1992) 5 Cal.App.4th 1398, 1402.) The court here agreed that a violation of section 273.5 is a crime of moral turpitude as a matter of law. The court rejected Burton’s argument that cohabitants and former cohabitants are not necessarily in a special relationship of trust.