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Name: People v. Snow
Case #: S018033
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 04/03/2003

This was an appeal following a complete retrial of a death penalty case, resulting again in a death penalty sentence. This time, the Supreme Court affirmed guilt findings and the imposition of the death penalty. Many of the issues were discussed seriatum, and the court is apparently reserving most of the ineffective assistance of counsel claims to be resolved in a still-pending habeas corpus petition. However, the court did address the contention on appeal that the defendant was deprived of effective assistance of counsel at the penalty trial when his two court appointed attorneys declined to make an opening statement, offered no evidence in mitigation, and made no closing argument. Counsel filed a sealed affidavit explaining some of the reasons for their actions, which was reviewed by the Supreme Court. In the affidavit counsel explained that the defendant had stated that he did not want any evidence presented in mitigation. Relying on its previous decisions in People v. Lang (1989) 49 Cal.3d 991, and other cases, the court found that, on this record, it was not unreasonable for counsel to forego presentation of evidence and argument. The court also found that the trial court did not err in not demanding further explanation from counsel, even where the defendant requested that other counsel be appointed to present the defense. Justice Werdegar, joined by Justice Moreno and Chief Justice George, agreed that further inquiry on habeas corpus was needed to resolved the contention of ineffective assistance of counsel, but dissented from the holding that the trial court was not required to make an inquiry because the omission leaves the record showing a complete denial of counsel at the penalty phase.