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Name: People v. Meraz
Case #: B245657
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 8
Opinion Date: 12/21/2016
Summary

Gang expert related case-specific hearsay during testimony in violation of People v. Sanchez but error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. After the Court of Appeal affirmed Meraz’s gang-related murder conviction, the Supreme Court granted review and transferred the case back to the Court of Appeal for reconsideration in light of People v. Sanchez (2016) 63 Cal.4th 665. Held: Affirmed. Sanchez held that “case-specific out-of-court statements conveyed by the prosecution’s gang expert constituted inadmissible hearsay under state law and, to the extent they were testimonial, ran afoul of Crawford.” In this case, the gang expert testified about the Terra Bella gang, its rivalry with another gang, its primary activities, and its pattern of criminal activity. While based on hearsay, most of the expert’s testimony did not violate Sanchez because it was non-case-specific general background information of the type Sanchez specifically permitted. However, the gang expert also relayed case-specific hearsay–i.e., information from field identification cards and arrest reports completed by other officers identifying Meraz as a Terra Bella gang member. Assuming that hearsay was testimonial and violated Sanchez and Crawford, reversal was not required. The evidence was “duplicative and weak” compared to other evidence properly admitted that “overwhelmingly” proved the same fact, such as Meraz’s admission to an officer that he was a member of Terra Bella, the fact he was observed wearing Terra Bella colors, and the fact he had a Terra Bella tattoo. The error in admitting the case-specific field identification cards and arrest reports was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/B245657A.PDF