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Name: People v. Moreno
Case #: E049093
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 02/08/2011
Summary

Evidence Code section 1043 and Pitchess do not limit the discovery procedure to an individual employed as a peace officer at the time of the crime. Appellant and the victim became involved in an argument in the hallway of a sober-living house. Sometime during the argument, the victim said someone took her money and that she was going to “handle my business.” She then pushed appellant in the chest with her hands. Appellant unsheathed a knife and stabbed her several times, killing her. The autopsy report revealed that the victim had marijuana and methamphetamine in her body at the time of her death and the methamphetamine had been consumed not long before. Appellant told the investigating detective that he was aware that the victim was a former law enforcement officer who worked in juvenile hall and knew how to restrain defendants, and that he feared that she was going to do something. Prior to appellant’s murder trial, the court denied a Pitchess motion seeking discovery from the victim’s personnel files, finding the motion inadequate. The appellate court disagreed. To initiate discovery, a defendant must establish good cause for the records but the threshold is relatively low. The defense must have a plausible factual foundation supported by counsel’s declaration and supporting documents. Here, the motion satisfied this low threshold as it described the victim’s aggression, appellant’s response, and the possible defense. Based on this scenario, the victim’s personnel records indicating that she had a propensity for violence or aggressive behavior would be relevant to self defense, imperfect self-defense, or lack of premeditation. The court rejected respondent’s implied contention that the discovery procedure applies only to peace officers employed at the time of the crime. However, the remedy for the failure to hold the in-camera hearing is not reversal, but rather, remand for a Pitchess hearing. The trial court’s ruling following the hearing will dictate whether appellant is entitled to a new trial. He must establish that there is relevant information in the personnel files and that there is a reasonable probability that had it been provided, the outcome would have been different.
Code of Civil Procedure section 203 provides that prospective jurors possess a sufficient knowledge of the English language. During voir dire, the court appointed an interpreter to assist one of the juror’s. Appellant argued that he was denied his right to a jury of 12 competent jurors. The court rejected the claim. Code of Civil Procedure section 203 provides that a prospective trial juror must be fully able to understand spoken and written English. Appellant forfeited the claim by failing to raise it in the trial court. And even if not forfeited, he failed to explain how the appointment of the interpreter prejudiced him. The record failed to reveal the court’s reason for appointing the interpreter and a minute order indicated that on one occasion during voir dire the juror responded in English.
Admission of a Penal Code section 969b packet establishing prior convictions and prison terms does not violate the Sixth Amendment right to confrontation. A bifurcated court trial was held as to appellant’s prior convictions with the People producing the 969b packet as evidence of appellant’s priors. The appellate court held that this did not violate the confrontation clause because the documents are not testimonial since they are not prepared to provide evidence at trial. The clerk’s certification on the documents is not testimonial as it merely authenticates the record rather than creating a record for the purpose of providing evidence against a defendant.