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Name: People v. Stuart
Case #: A116520
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 10/18/2007

California Rules of Court, rule 4.413, which provides criteria allowing the trial court to make an unusual case finding overcoming the presumption against a grant of probation, is permissive rather than mandatory, and is reviewable under an abuse of discretion standard. Appellant pled guilty to the voluntary manslaughter of her elderly mother, a lesser included offense to the charge of murder, and admitted the Penal Code section 1203, subdivision (e)(3) (presumptive probation ineligibility) allegation. The trial court denied her probation and sentenced her to state prison for the middle term of six years but later reconsidered and imposed a three-year term. The court declined to make an unusual case finding and grant probation, stating that a prison sentence fulfilled one of the objectives in sentencing — punishment and deterrence. On appeal, appellant argued that the trial court’s denial of probation was arbitrary and capricious as it failed to adequately consider that the killing was about an assisted suicide, her mother being elderly, ill, and desirous of death, that appellant suffered from post traumatic stress disorder, and that the crime was committed under duress caused by caring for an elderly and infirm parent. The appellate court found that a finding of a factor under 4.413 did not compel a grant of probation and, nevertheless, determined that the lower court had properly considered all the relevant factors, thereby dispelling any claim that it had abused its discretion in denying probation.