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Name: People v. Carter
Case #: S278262
Court: CA Supreme Court
Opinion Date: 05/20/2024

Prior to an SVP trial, the superior court abused its discretion in denying Carter’s Marsden motion without an adequate inquiry and further deprived Carter of effective assistance of counsel by failing to appoint substitute counsel to evaluate his motion to dismiss. After waiting over 12 years, Carter sought to file a motion to dismiss the SVP petition against him, and requested to replace the Public Defender’s Office under Marsden. The trial court erred in conducting an insufficient Marsden inquiry and in instructing Carter to file his motion to dismiss pro se. The trial court should have considered Carter’s Marsden motion…

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Name: People v. McClelland (2024) 100 Cal.App.5th 1109
Case #: D081369
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 03/27/2024

Defendant’s due process rights were not violated where he was present at a “status hearing” that functioned as an evidentiary hearing under Penal Code section 1172.6(d)(3). Defendant pled guilty to second degree murder in 1994. In 2019, he filed a (now former) section 1170.95 petition and the trial court issued an order to show cause and scheduled an evidentiary hearing. After the submission of briefing, the parties appeared at a “status hearing” in September at which defendant was present. The prosecution submitted exhibits without objection from defendant or his counsel. Defendant’s counsel then consented to the court issuing a written order…

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Name: Conservatorship of T.B. (2024) 99 Cal.App.5th 1361
Case #: A167919
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 02/27/2024

The time limit for starting conservatorship trials under amended Welfare and Institutions Code section 5350, is directory, not mandatory, and dismissal for the failure to comply with the time limit is therefore discretionary. The Public Guardian’s Office filed a petition under the LPS Act for appointment of a conservatorship for T.B. (§ 5350.) T.B. requested a trial to determine whether she was gravely disabled. Trial was originally set within the 10 days required by section 5350. T.B.’s court trial actually began 171 days later on April 24, 2023. The trial court found T.B. was gravely disabled and appointed a conservatorship…

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Name: In re Vaquera (2024) 15 Cal.5th 706
Case #: S258376
Court: CA Supreme Court
Opinion Date: 02/05/2024

Defendant’s 25-year-to-life sentence under the One Strike law violates due process because the information did not provide him fair notice of the prosecution’s election to seek that sentence. The prosecution charged Vaquera with two counts of committing a lewd act on a child under the age of 14 and a jury convicted him of both counts. In connection with one of these counts (count 2), the prosecution alleged a multiple victim circumstance under the One Strike law, which provides for a 15-year-to-life sentence, and the jury found the circumstance true. Although the One Strike law allegation as to count 2…

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Name: People v. Ramirez (2023) 98 Cal.App.5th 175
Case #: H049957
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 6 DCA
Opinion Date: 12/22/2023

Even assuming the compelled use of defendant’s fingerprint to unlock his cell phone constitutes a “search” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, there was no Fourth Amendment violation because use of defendant’s fingerprint was authorized by the search warrants. Jane Doe 1’s mother reported that defendant had taken inappropriate pictures of Jane Doe 1 on his phone. After obtaining electronic communications search warrants to search defendant’s phone, an officer went to the jail and used defendant’s fingerprint to unlock the phone and view its contents. When the phone locked and officers were unable to open it, they obtained another…

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Name: People v. Molina (2023) 96 Cal.App.5th 516
Case #: G061280
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 10/17/2023

Defendant forfeited his challenges to the COVID-19 safety protocols implemented at his trial by failing to object, and any objection to the protocols would have been meritless. A jury convicted Molina of felony offenses during the pandemic. On appeal he argued COVID-19 safety protocols implemented at trial deprived him of his constitutional right to a fair trial. In particular, he challenged the jurors’ use of face masks during voir dire, the trial court’s decision to allow certain jurors to continue to wear face masks and sit outside the jury box during trial even after the protocols were lifted, and the…

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Name: People v. Villegas (2023) 97 Cal.App.5th 253
Case #: A164370
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 11/15/2023

Counsel was not ineffective in failing to seek exclusion of defendant’s second statement to police where defendant waived his right to remain silent and then failed to clearly assert this right during questioning before making incriminating statements. Defendant was questioned as to sexual offenses against two alleged victims, waived his Miranda rights, made incriminating statements, and was arrested. Police then learned of a third alleged victim and questioned defendant a second time a couple days later. He waived his Miranda rights a second time and admitted making a “mistake,” but said he would not say anything else. Police detailed the…

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Name: Chavez Zepeda v. Superior Court (2023) 97 Cal.App.5th 65
Case #: A166159
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 4
Opinion Date: 11/13/2023

The phrase “circumstances in aggravation” in Penal Code section 1170(b)(2) refers to the factors listed in California Rules of Court, rule 4.421, and the Legislature has not violated the separation of powers by referring to this rule. Zepeda was charged with felony offenses and his preliminary hearing occurred before Senate Bill No. 567 amended section 1170(b)(2) to provide that the trial court cannot impose a sentence exceeding the middle term unless it finds that a longer sentence is justified by “circumstances in aggravation of the crime” and “the facts underlying those circumstances” have been stipulated to by the defendant or…

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Name: People v. Panighetti (2023) 95 Cal.App.5th 978
Case #: C095100
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 09/25/2023

Trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying multiple Marsden motions where disputes between trial counsel and defendant were over tactical decisions and trial counsel presented a defense consistent with the law. Defendant and Jill Doe practiced bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism (BDSM) over a number of years together. Doe contacted police several times throughout the relationship when the encounters turned violent. Doe and Defendant reconnected in 2020 and their initial consensual sexual encounter was followed by violent encounters. Defendant was charged with multiple sex offenses. At trial, the jury rejected the defense that, by virtue of Doe's written…

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Name: Camacho v. Superior Court (2023) 15 Cal.5th 354
Case #: S273391
Court: CA Supreme Court
Opinion Date: 08/31/2023

Opinion by: Justice Kruger (unanimous decision)

Persons facing commitment under the Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) Act have a due process right to a timely trial, but even a 15-year delay does not necessarily violate that right where the defense is primarily responsible for the delays. In 2006, the state filed a petition to recommit Camacho as an SVP. Since then, the defense requested or agreed to continuances of the trial date, and the trial on the recommitment petition has yet to occur. In 2018, Camacho withdrew his time waiver and was appointed new counsel. In 2021, the trial court denied Camacho’s…

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