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Name: People v. Diaz
Case #: B256050
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 6
Opinion Date: 04/14/2015
Summary

Petition to release personal juror identifying information is untimely if made after conviction, sentence, and affirmance on appeal. After his 2007 conviction for a gang-related murder, Diaz made a new trial motion raising three separate instances of juror misconduct. The trial court denied the motion and Diaz appealed. The Court of Appeal rejected the juror misconduct claims in Diaz’s direct appeal and affirmed. Diaz’s federal habeas petition was denied. In 2014, Diaz returned to the state trial court and filed a petition to access confidential juror identifying information (Code Civ. Proc., § 237, subd. (b)) so he could contact the jurors to investigate juror bias and misconduct as a possible basis for habeas relief. The trial court denied the petition, finding that it was a “fishing expedition.” He appealed. Held: Appeal dismissed. Section 237 allows any person to petition the trial court for release of personal juror identifying information and Code of Civil Procedure section 206 specifically states that a criminal defendant may petition for access to this information for the purpose of developing a new trial motion or any other lawful purpose. Section 237 does not contain an express time requirement, but there is a limited implied one. A defendant must also show diligence in making the request. Here, Diaz’s petition, which was filed six years after his conviction and appeal, was untimely, failed to show due diligence, and failed to make a prima facie showing that release of the information was for a lawful purpose. The purported juror misconduct had been investigated at trial, presented in a new trial motion, and rejected both at trial and on appeal. Additionally, the juror misconduct claims could not have been presented in a habeas petition because they were already raised and rejected on appeal. It would have been an abuse of discretion for the trial court to grant the motion.

A trial court should not rule on the merits of an untimely petition to access confidential juror identifying information and an order denying such an untimely petition is not appealable. There is no authority that a post-judgment order denying a petition for release of confidential juror identifying information is appealable. Although Penal Code section 1237, subdivision (b) allows a defendant to appeal any order that affects his or her substantial rights, the right of appeal is limited by the qualification that an order is not ordinarily appealable when the appeal would bypass or duplicate an appeal from the judgment itself. Allowing an appeal under the circumstances of this case would allow convicted defendants to “bring serial appeals based on the bald assertion that former counsel did not thoroughly explore a juror misconduct issue at trial or in the first appeal.” When an untimely petition to release juror information is filed, the trial court should not rule on the merits. Where the trial court does rule on the merits and denies relief, “the order is not an appealable order affecting appellant’s substantial rights.”