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Name: People v. Lashon (2023) 95 Cal.App.5th 136
Case #: A163074
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 09/01/2023

A defendant cannot raise a claim under the Racial Justice Act (RJA) for the first time on appeal (but see Editor’s Note on pending legislation). Lashon was conviction of second degree and first degree murder, with true findings of multiple murders, and sentenced to LWOP. She appealed, contending in her opening brief for the first time that the judgment was the result of the trial judge’s implicit racial bias against her and her trial counsel in violation of the RJA (Pen. Code, § 745). Held: Affirmed. A violation of the RJA occurs if during defendant’s court proceedings, a trial judge “exhibited bias or animus towards the defendant because of the defendant’s race, ethnicity, or national origin, whether or not purposeful.” (§ 745, subd. (a)(2).) To seek relief, “[a] defendant may file a motion in the trial court or, if judgment has been imposed, may file a petition for writ of habeas corpus . . . .” (§ 745, subd. (b).) The RJA was enacted before Lashon’s trial began and was made applicable to all cases then pending in the trial courts. By not filing a motion in the trial court before judgment was entered, Lashon forfeited her section 745 claim on direct appeal. In light of this determination, the Court of Appeal did not address whether portions of the trial and sentencing proceedings cited in the opening brief constituted a prima facie showing for relief under the RJA. [Editor’s Note: Assembly Bill No. 1118 (effective 1/1/2024) authorizes a defendant to raise an RJA claim based on the trial record on direct appeal from the conviction or sentence. The bill also authorizes the defendant to move to stay the appeal and request remand to the superior court to file a motion.]