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Name: People v. Sotelo-Urena
Case #: A144021
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 10/26/2016

Homeless man's murder conviction reversed where trial court excluded expert evidence that the homeless experience heightened sensitivity to perceived threats of violence, which would have supported self-defense claims. Sotelo-Urena, a homeless man, stabbed Bloom to death. During police interviews, Sotelo-Urena claimed that Bloom had stabbed him on a previous occasion and that he thought Bloom was reaching for a knife to stab him again. He was convicted of first degree murder and appealed, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion and denied him the right to present a complete defense by excluding as irrelevant and inappropriate expert testimony that…

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Name: People v. Sibrian
Case #: A143369
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 09/07/2016

During trial for resisting an officer, court did not abuse its discretion by allowing expert testimony concerning excessive force where the arresting officer used more than bare hands. During Sibrian's trial for resisting an officer (Pen. Code, §69), the prosecution had an expert on excessive force give opinion testimony, based on a hypothetical that closely tracked the facts of this case, that an arresting officer's use of force (punching and tasering someone to remove him from his car during a traffic stop) was consistent with the "industry standard." The jury convicted Sibrian, who appealed and argued that the expert's testimony…

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Name: People v. Orloff
Case #: B266933
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 6
Opinion Date: 08/25/2016

Trial court did not abuse its discretion by admitting evidence of prior uncharged criminal threats in case involving the same offense. Orloff, who is confined to a wheelchair, was convicted of making criminal threats (Pen. Code, § 422) and attempting by threats to deter an executive officer from performing his duties (Pen. Code, § 69). A strike prior as well as a prior serious felony enhancement were found true (Pen. Code, §§ 667, subds. (b)-(i), 667, subd. (a)). On appeal he challenged the trial court's admission of evidence of prior uncharged threats he made against other persons. Held: Affirmed. Evidence…

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Name: People v. Cortez
Case #: S211915
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 05/10/2016

Court of Appeal's reversal of murder convictions based on accumulation of instructional and evidentiary error, plus prosecutorial misconduct, overturned based on absence of error. Cortez and Bernal were convicted of first degree murder and premeditated attempted murder based on a drive-by shooting. Cortez was the driver and Bernal, who was a passenger, fired the shots. On appeal, Bernal's conviction was affirmed, but Cortez's was reversed based on three errors: (1) the giving of CALCRIM No. 361 regarding defendant's failure to explain or deny evidence; (2) the admission of Bernal's out of court statement that he and Cortez went to shoot…

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Name: People v. Herrera
Case #: B261842
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 6
Opinion Date: 05/16/2016

Trial court's improper restriction on defendant's use of psychiatric testimony regarding his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) requires reversal of murder conviction. A jury convicted defendant of first degree murder and found that he personally used a knife (Pen. Code, §§ 187, subd. (a), 12022, sub. (b)(1)). During trial he claimed that PTSD, stemming from repeated sexual abuse he suffered as a child, caused him to fear that the deceased, who was a long-time friend, was going to molest him, and he reacted violently. The court restricted the evidence from defendant's forensic psychologist, holding the defense expert could not testify about…

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Name: People v. Fruits
Case #: C076324
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 05/04/2016

In trial for criminal threats (Pen. Code, § 422) and elder abuse (Pen. Code, § 368, subd. (b)(1)), court did not err by permitting prosecution to admit evidence of prior uncharged threats. Fruits swung pruning shears at his 73-year-old mother and later threatened to kill her for calling the police. He was charged with elder abuse, making criminal threats, and a number of other offenses. At trial, Fruits denied swinging the pruning shears or threatening to kill his mom. However, to prove propensity, the prosecution admitted evidence that Fruits had threatened his mother on previous occasions. The jury convicted him…

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Name: United States v. Rosales-Aguilar
Case #: 14-50315
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 04/12/2016

Trial court did not err by allowing prosecution to impeach expert witness with defendant's voluntary but un-Mirandized statements to law enforcement. Rosales was charged with illegal reentry into the U.S. His defense was that he lacked the specific intent to be convicted of illegal reentry because his entered the U.S. accidentally while high on heroin and meth. He did not testify, but a psychiatrist, who he had retained as an expert, did. The psychiatrist relayed Rosales's drug explanation during trial. The government, in turn, impeached the expert with un-Mirandized statements Rosales made to border patrol officers wherein he admitted that…

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Name: People v. Gonzalez
Case #: B255375
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 4
Opinion Date: 03/30/2016
Subsequent History: Review granted 7/13/2016: S234377

Witness' statements to officer shortly after he witnessed a fatal shooting were admissible under the spontaneous statements exception to the hearsay rule. When officer Vasquez arrived at the scene of a robbery-murder about 12 minutes after it occurred, he encountered Ruiz, who witnessed the event and appeared to be in shock because he was pacing back and forth and speaking rapidly in broken sentences. Vasquez elicited statements from Ruiz, which ultimately inculpated appellants in the robbery-murder. Ruiz was unavailable for the trial. Over defense objections, the court permitted Vasquez to relay Ruiz's statements to the jury under the spontaneous statement…

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Name: People v. Giron-Chamul
Case #: A140628
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 03/18/2016

Defendant was denied opportunity to effectively cross-examine child witness because the witness refused to answer hundreds of questions. After a jury convicted Giron-Chamul of committing sex offenses against his 4-year-old daughter, he appealed raising a number of contentions, including that he was denied his constitutional right to confrontation because he did not have an adequate opportunity to effectively cross-examine his daughter, who refused to answer questions on cross-examination. Held: Reversed. The Confrontation Clause gives the accused the right to be confronted with the witnesses against him. It guarantees an opportunity for effective cross-examination. Several decisions have held that the right…

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Name: People v. Scally
Case #: G050444
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 12/22/2015

Text messages defendant sent containing pimp terminology were properly admitted as evidence of intent during his trial for pimping and pandering. Scally was found guilty of pimping (Pen. Code, 266h, subd. (a)) and pandering (Pen. Code, 266i, subd. (a)) based on his relationship with a woman named Dakota. At his trial, the prosecution admitted text messages Scally sent to various individuals bragging about Dakota's earnings as a prostitute and how he was focused on earning money. An expert testified that the messages were consistent with pimping activity. Scally's defense was that his relationship with Dakota was merely a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship.…

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