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Name: People v. Jones
Case #: B279694
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 7
Opinion Date: 08/21/2018

Murder conviction reversed where defendant’s waiver of jury trial after bare two-question inquiry was not knowing and voluntary. Jones was convicted of second degree murder and child abuse following the death of her four-month-old daughter. On appeal she argued her waiver of jury trial was involuntary. Held: Reversed. A criminal defendant has a constitutional right to a trial by jury. This right may be waived but the waiver must be knowing and intelligent, that is, made with the awareness of the nature of the right being waived and the consequences of this decision. In determining whether a defendant has made a knowing, voluntary, and intelligent waiver of a jury trial, the reviewing court examines the totality of the circumstances. Though there is no rigid colloquy required, trial courts should advise a defendant of the basic mechanics of a jury trial, the requirement of unanimity, and that a waiver of jury trial results in the trial judge deciding guilt or innocence (People v. Sivongxxay (2017) 3 Cal.5th 151). Here, the trial court asked Jones if she understood her right to a jury trial and, receiving a “yes” response, told her that as a result of her waiver the trial judge “sitting alone” would “decide the case.” This was insufficient to affirmatively show that Jones understood the nature of the right to a jury trial she was relinquishing or that her waiver was knowing and voluntary.

Sufficient evidence corroborated the accomplice’s testimony. Lucero, who was Jones’ boyfriend and the infant’s father, gave statements to police that placed responsibility for the child’s death on Jones. Jones argued there was insufficient evidence to corroborate these statements. Penal Code section 1111 requires the testimony (which includes out-of-court statements), of an accomplice to be corroborated. The corroboration may be circumstantial or slight, but must connect the defendant to the crime itself. Here, Jones’ conduct with respect to her treatment of the infant, her failure to summon help for the child, and her false and misleading statements to police regarding the child’s death, corroborated Lucero’s testimony and reflected Jones’ consciousness of guilt.

Substantial evidence supported defendant’s conviction for murder. Jones argued the evidence was insufficient to show she abused or assaulted the child or that the child’s injuries were caused in her presence. Second degree murder is the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought, but without premeditation or deliberation. Malice is implied when the killing is caused by an act, the natural consequences of which are dangerous to life, which is deliberately performed by a person who knows her conduct endangers the life of another and who acts in conscious disregard for life. Here, there was testimony regarding numerous injuries to the child, her loss of weight and malnutrition, and Jones’ failure to seek medical assistance. Jones was the primary caretaker for the child. Substantial evidence supported Jones’ conviction.