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Name: People v. Epps
Case #: S082110
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 03/05/2001
Subsequent History: Rehg. den. 5/16/01

Here the court had dismissed the jury over appellant’s objection and found the prior conviction true after a court trial. The Court noted that the right to a jury trial of the fact of a prior conviction derives solely from statute and not from either the state or federal Constitutions (citing Apprendi among other cases). Thus the error was simply one of state law and the Watson test of harmless error applied. In responding to the point that a defendant will rarely be able to establish prejudice, the Court said it was not deciding the issue in a case involving contested factual issues. The Court also suggested writ relief might be available, which does not require a showing of prejudice. (5-2 decision). Werdegar, J. specially concurred, but expressed doubt whether the harmless error rule applied, and whether Apprendi had invalidated the premises of earlier decisions. Mosk and Kennard, JJ. dissented, finding the error reversible per se.