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Name: People v. Turner
Case #: A147603
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 07/10/2017

The trial court properly admitted evidence of defendant's prior possession of ammunition to impeach his specific testimony suggesting the police planted the contraband in his bag. Turner was arrested after refusing to leave a restaurant. During an inventory search, officers found a revolver, ammunition, and drugs in his duffel bag. During his trial, the court allowed the prosecution to impeach Turner with his prior arrest for possessing the same type of ammunition about a month before his arrest in this case. On appeal, Turner argued that the trial court erred by admitting evidence of his previous arrest. Held: Affirmed. Prior…

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Name: People v. Tovar
Case #: A145498
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 04/10/2017

Prosecution was not required to prove connection between gang subset (FMT) and the larger Norteño gang where there was sufficient evidence that defendant conspired to commit murder to benefit his subset, FMT, not just Norteños generally. A jury convicted Tovar of first degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. It found true a weapon use enhancement and that Tovar committed the conspiracy to benefit a criminal street gang (Pen. Code, § 186.22, subd. (b)). On appeal, Tovar argued the evidence did not support the gang enhancement. Held: Affirmed. Penal Code section 186.22, subdivision (b) provides a sentencing enhancement where…

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Name: People v. Smith
Case #: A146648
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 5
Opinion Date: 03/30/2017

Girlfriend's extradjudicial admission she was driving car involved in alcohol-related injury accident is inadmissible as a declaration against penal interests because it was obviously unreliable. Smith was convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol causing injury (Veh. Code, § 23153, subd. (a)), and other alcohol-related offenses and allegations. At trial, Smith offered evidence that his girlfriend told a private investigator that she, not Smith, was driving the car at the time of the accident. The girlfriend refused to testify at trial, asserting her Fifth Amendment rights. After an Evidence Code section 402 hearing, the trial court found the statement…

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Name: People v. Vega-Robles
Case #: A137121
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 03/07/2017

Gang experts’ testimony did not run afoul of People v. Sanchez (2016) 63 Cal.4th 665 because it was either general non-case-specific background, based on the experts’ personal knowledge, or non-testimonial. Vega-Robles appealed his murder convictions and gang enhancements challenging, among other things, the gang experts' testimony on hearsay and confrontation grounds. The Court of Appeal rejected the argument. The Supreme Court granted review and ultimately transferred the case back to the Court of Appeal for reconsideration in light of Sanchez. Held: Affirmed, in part. Sanchez held that the hearsay rule bars an expert from relating "case-specific facts about which the…

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Name: People v. Lara
Case #: C072355
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 03/06/2017

Murder convictions reversed where circumstantial evidence placing defendants at the scene of the homicide was insufficient to prove the offenses. Lucero was shot and killed shortly after he and fellow gang members (defendants Lara, Flores and Espinoza) burglarized a house together. Lara's case was tried before one jury; Flores' and Espinoza's cases before a second jury. They were convicted of murder (first degree as to Lara; second degree as to the others), residential burglary, and gang participation. Lara was convicted of additional offenses. The jury found true firearm and gang enhancements. On appeal defendants challenged the sufficiency of the evidence…

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Name: People v. Lena
Case #: A138474
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 4
Opinion Date: 02/22/2017

Trial court properly struck defendant's direct examination testimony as a sanction for refusing to answer any of the prosecutor's questions on cross-examination. Lena testified during his trial for assault on a peace officer with a semiautomatic firearm (Pen. Code, § 245, subd. (d)(2)) and other offenses. However, he refused to answer any of the prosecutor's questions on cross-examination, despite being warned by the trial court that his failure to do so would result in his direct testimony being stricken. The court struck his direct testimony. The jury convicted Lena and he appealed. Held: Affirmed. A trial court may impose sanctions…

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Name: People v. Villa-Gomez
Case #: C073188
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 03/09/2017

Defendant's admission of gang membership during booking for immigration hold admissible in criminal case arising after defendant's statements were made. While in jail on an immigration hold, defendant Villa-Gomez was involved in a group assault on another inmate. A jury convicted defendant of two counts of assault and found true allegations that he acted for the benefit of a criminal street gang. He was also convicted of active participation in a criminal street gang. Defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in admitting statements he made to jail booking officers regarding his gang membership. Held: Affirmed. Miranda v. Arizona

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Name: People v. Shorts
Case #: C078041
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 03/06/2017

Trial court did not err under Evidence Code section 352 by admitting propensity evidence during defendant's murder and child sex offense trial that he had previously sexually assaulted his adult ex-girlfriend. A 13-year-old girl was found dead in a park. She had been shot in the head and there was evidence of sexual intercourse. Years later, a cold hit on DNA found on the girl was matched to Shorts. During his murder and sex assault trial, Shorts moved to exclude propensity evidence under section 352 that three years earlier he took his ex-girlfriend to a park, threatened her at gunpoint,…

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Name: People v. Garcia
Case #: G050268
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 11/15/2016

Trial court did not abuse its discretion or violate the defendant's constitutional rights by ordering a conditional examination and release of a material prosecution witness. Garcia was charged with human trafficking accomplished by means of force or fear (Pen. Code, § 236.1, subds. (c)(1), (c)(2)) and pimping a 14-year-old female (Pen. Code, § 266h, subd. (b)(2)). The trial court denied defense requests to continue to detain the minor as a material witness (Pen. Code, § 1332) and ordered her conditional examination (Pen. Code, § 1336). At trial, the court found the minor witness unavailable and admitted a video of her…

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Name: In re N.C.
Case #: A146637
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 11/02/2016

The Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act (CASE Act) applies in wardship proceedings. N.C., a 17 year-old victim of human trafficking, was arrested on two separate occasions for prostitution, both times before any actual exchange of money or sex acts. Wardship petitions were filed alleging prostitution in violation of Penal Code section 647, subdivision (b). N.C. moved for dismissal under the CASE Act. The juvenile court denied her motion, reasoning that the Act did not apply to wardship proceedings and that, even if it did, the alleged offenses did not qualify because they did not involve "commercial sexual acts." The juvenile…

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