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Name: People v. Gonzalez
Case #: B236874
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 10/26/2012

Penal Code section 1111.5 (corroboration of jailhouse informants) does not apply retroactively. Appellant was convicted of a first degree murder that occurred in 2008 and was sentenced in 2011. At appellant’s trial, a police informant testified regarding information that he learned from appellant about the murder when they were housed together in jail. On appeal, appellant argued that Penal Code section 1111.5 should apply retroactively to his conviction, which was not final when the statute became effective January 1, 2012. The statute provides that a jury may not convict a defendant on the basis of the uncorroborated testimony of an in-custody informant. The court rejected appellant’s contention. A statute is presumed to operate prospectively absent an express declaration of retrospectivity or an indication from the electorate or Legislature that it intended otherwise. As the parties agreed, nowhere in the statute or its history is there any indication that it was to be applied retroactively. The court also found that the statute does not fall within the exception of prospectivity as an ameliorative law benefitting a defendant because the statute does not serve to lessen or mitigate criminal penalty for a particular crime. (In re Estrada (1965) 63 Cal.2d 740.)

Although no gang enhancement allegation was charged, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing gang evidence to show motive. Appellant also contended that the prosecution’s introduction of gang evidence violated his right to due process and a fair trial as it was more prejudicial than probative under Evidence Code section 352. The court disagreed. According to the prosecution’s theory, appellant gained entry to the victim’s apartment and murdered her because she was a member of a rival gang. Although appellant was not charged with gang enhancements, the gang evidence was relevant and admissible to show motive. Here, the trial court adequately weighed the probative versus prejudicial value of the evidence before permitting its entry.