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Name: People v. Wilson
Case #: H037262
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 6 DCA
Opinion Date: 09/05/2013

Defendant was denied his right to jury trial where trial court found that prior vehicular manslaughter conviction was a strike, because personal infliction of great bodily injury is not an element of manslaughter. Wilson was originally sentenced to a term of 25 years to life for a 1999 drunk driving conviction with two prior strikes. The strikes were based on Wilson’s plea in a 1993 drunk driving offense, in which one person was killed and another injured. In sentencing Wilson for the 1999 offense, the trial court examined the preliminary hearing transcript of the 1993 case and found Wilson had “personally inflicted” great bodily injury on both victims, qualifying the offenses as strikes. A federal court vacated that sentence based on a violation of Apprendi v. New Jersey (2000) 530 U.S. 466. On remand, the trial court struck one strike but not the one based on the manslaughter offense, and resentenced Wilson to a six year term – doubling the three year upper term for drunk driving. On appeal Wilson claimed the trial court’s finding of “personal infliction” of injury denied his right to a jury trial. Held: Reversed. Wilson never admitted to conduct sufficient to establish personal infliction of injury in the 1993 offense; actually, he disputed the relevant facts of his conduct. In addition to finding whether Wilson suffered the prior conviction, the applicable statutory definition of serious felony required the court to find that he personally inflicted great bodily injury on any person other than an accomplice. It could make the finding as to injury because this was implicit in the manslaughter plea. But it could not find that Wilson personally inflicted the injury without resolving a factual dispute, as Wilson’s plea only admitted he proximately caused the injury. The court did not have the power to resolve this dispute under California law (People v. McGee (2006) 38 Cal.4th 682) or federal law (Apprendi). The error was not harmless because the evidence in the record could reasonably support a jury’s finding of reasonable doubt that Wilson personally inflicted great bodily injury.