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Name: People v. Leonard
Case #: S054291
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 05/17/2007
Summary

Error by the trial court to appoint the director of the regional center for the developmentally disabled to evaluate the defendant once a doubt is declared as to competency, as required by Penal Code sections 1369 and 1370.1, is reviewed under a harmless error standard. In the death penalty jury trial of appellant for six Sacramento murders in 1991, the court declared a doubt as to competency of the defendant. Despite evidence that appellant suffered from one of the requisite conditions listed in section 1370.1, epilepsy, the court failed to appoint the director. But because defendant was evaluated by other experts whose evidence enabled the trier of fact to make an informed determination of appellant’s competency, the error was harmless. The five-factor test for consideration of a motion for change of venue remains the applicable law and there is no presumed prejudice rule. (People v. Sully (1991) 53 Cal.3d 1195.) The factors to be considered are: (1) nature and gravity of the offense; (2) nature and extent of media coverage; (3) size of the community; (4) community status of the defendant; (5) prominence of the victim. It is misconduct for a juror not to deliberate but the error is harmless if the juror is impartial, i.e, capable and willing to decide the case based solely on the evidence presented at trial. (People v. Nestler (1997) 16 Cal.4th 561.)