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Name: Gimenez v. Ochoa
Case #: 14-55681
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 05/09/2016

Scientific debate regarding the validity of the "triad-only" test to detect shaken baby syndrome (SBS) does not constitute a repudiation of that test in the scientific community such that it undermines defendant's murder conviction. Defendant was convicted of murdering his infant daughter. In his second federal writ petition, defendant advanced a due process claim on the ground that the expert SBS evidence presented at his trial has been undermined by subsequent scientific developments in the field. In his case the prosecution's experts rested their SBS diagnosis on a triad of symptoms—subdural hematoma, brain swelling, and retinal hemorrhage. However, medical knowledge…

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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: 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. Nicholes
Case #: C077098
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 04/20/2016

Gang enhancement stricken because prosecution failed to show that two Norteño gang subsets had an associational or organizational connection that united them, as required by People v. Prunty (2015) 62 Cal.4th 59. A jury found Nicholes guilty of attempted voluntary manslaughter and assault with a firearm. It also found that he personally used a gun in the commission of the crimes and that he committed the offenses for the benefit of a criminal street gang. On appeal, Nicholes challenged the sufficiency of the evidence of the gang enhancement based on People v. Prunty. Held: Reversed. In Prunty, the California Supreme…

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Name: People v. Brown
Case #: A141172
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 4
Opinion Date: 02/25/2016

Trial court committed reversible error by failing to instruct sua sponte on assault (Pen. Code, § 240) as a lesser included offense of using force or violence to resist an officer (Pen. Code, § 69). Brown, a 67-year-old man, was riding his bike down the sidewalk at dusk in an area known for drug trafficking and gang activity. An officer yelled at him to stop, but he fled. The officers caught him and beat him, fracturing his ribs. The officers claimed their beating was necessary to subdue Brown, who was striking them with closed fists. Brown denied striking the officers…

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Name: People v. Ewing
Case #: C072783
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 01/27/2016

Sufficient evidence established a "criminal street gang" where the perpetrators of the instant offense and predicate offenses were all members of the same gang and defendant was either a member or associate of that gang. Ewing and three others were involved in a drug rip-off robbery, during which a victim was shot but survived. He was convicted of numerous offenses and a number of enhancements, including an allegation that he shot at a vehicle for the benefit of a gang (Pen. Code, § 186.22, subd. (b)(4)), were found true. On appeal Ewing challenged the sufficiency of the evidence of the…

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Name: People v. Mateo
Case #: B259997
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 5
Opinion Date: 01/13/2016

Trial court does not have a sua sponte duty to instruct the jury on the limited purpose of expert testimony on child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome (CSAAS). When I.T. was 18 years old she reported that Mateo had sexually abused her multiple times when she was between the ages of 9 and 12. At Mateo's retrial for continuous sexual abuse of a child under age 14 (Pen. Code, § 288.5, subd. (a)), the prosecution admitted expert testimony on CSAAS, which is a theory that explains why it is not unusual for a minor who has been sexually abused to delay…

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Name: People v. Stevens
Case #: S209643
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 12/10/2015

A mental health expert's testimony in support of a defendant's MDO commitment may not be used to prove the defendant committed qualifying offenses (Pen. Code, § 2962, subd. (e)(2)(A)-(O)) or that the offense involved certain behaviors (§ 2962, subd. (e)(2)(P), (Q)). Stevens was convicted of petty theft with a prior (Pen. Code, § 666) and sentenced to 32 months in prison. Before he was paroled, proceedings were initiated to commit Stevens as an MDO based on the contention that he committed the crime with threats of force or violence. At a bench trial, a psychologist testified that Stevens' offense…

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Name: In re Albert C.
Case #: B256480
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 5
Opinion Date: 11/10/2015
Subsequent History: Review granted 2/24/2016: S231315

Juvenile court did not err in rejecting expert's opinion that minor was incompetent to stand trial. After two juvenile delinquency petitions were filed against him, Albert was found incompetent. He was 14 years old and had an average IQ, but he suffered from ADHD. The first psychiatrist to assess his competency concluded that Albert lacked competency to stand trial presently, but could attain competency within 12 months with mental health services and repetitive education of competency-related concepts. Over the next eight months Albert received "competency training" but continued to fail competency tests. A different expert concluded that Albert was still…

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Name: Najera v. Shiomoto
Case #: F069387
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 5 DCA
Opinion Date: 09/17/2015

Trial court did not err in overturning administrative suspension of driver's license where Kern County Regional Crime Lab used incorrect procedures in performing and reporting blood tests. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) suspended Najera's driver's license after it found that he drove with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more (Veh. Code, § 13353.2). At an administrative hearing, Najera presented expert testimony challenging the manner in which the blood test results were conducted and reported by the Kern County Regional Crime Laboratory. The expert faulted the undersized sample taken, which was smaller than recommended and could lead…

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