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Name: People v. Archuleta
Case #: E049095
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 04/11/2014
Subsequent History: Review granted 6/11/2014: S218640

Where an expert's testimony is merely a conduit for testimonial hearsay to the jury, and it is not shown that the declarant is unavailable or that appellant had a fair opportunity to cross-examine him, a defendant's constitutional right to confrontation under the Sixth Amendment is violated. A jury convicted appellant of possession of methamphetamine and active gang participation. Law enforcement officers received information that a homicide suspect could be found at appellant's residence. At the residence, they found appellant and Ramirez in the garage, each holding suspected methamphetamine. (They did not find the homicide suspect.) At trial, the prosecution's gang…

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Name: People v. Jackson
Case #: B241930
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 5
Opinion Date: 12/03/2013

Expert testimony regarding "unknown offender assessment" was properly introduced to interpret evidence in murder case. In 1994, defendant's wife, Marie, was murdered. Her body was found in the trunk of her locked Saab, which was parked at a beach with the battery removed. In 2005, DNA evidence from the crime scene was matched to defendant. At his trial in 2012, the trial court admitted the expert testimony of a former FBI agent, Safarik, who analyzed the crime scene. Safarik's assessment did not focus on who committed the offense, but provided insight into potential motivation for the crime by analyzing the…

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Name: Kansas v. Cheever
Case #: 12-609
Court: US Supreme Court
District USSup
Opinion Date: 12/11/2013
Subsequent History: 134 S.Ct. 596, 187 L.Ed.2d 519

Where a defense expert testifies that the defendant lacked the requisite mental state to commit a crime, the Fifth Amendment does not prohibit the prosecution from introducing rebuttal evidence from a court-ordered mental evaluation of the defendant. After smoking methamphetamine, Cheever shot and killed a sheriff. At his trial for capital murder, Cheever presented expert testimony in support of a voluntary-intoxication defense. In rebuttal and over defense objection, the prosecution presented testimony from an expert who had examined Cheever by court order. The jury found Cheever guilty. On appeal, the Kansas Supreme Court agreed with Cheever that the state had…

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Name: People v. Vangelder
Case #: S195423
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 11/21/2013

In a per se driving under the influence (DUI) trial, expert witness testimony on the reliability of breath-testing machines generally was properly excluded. Appellant was charged with the per se DUI offense (Veh. Code, § 23152, subd. (b)). At trial, he offered testimony by Dr. Hlastala concerning the effects of alcohol on the respiratory system and the reliability of breath-testing machines in general. On objection by the prosecution, the court ruled that testimony would not be allowed as to properly working machines, although evidence could be presented that the particular machines malfunctioned. The jury convicted appellant. The Supreme Court found…

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Name: People v. Austin
Case #: B238535
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 09/12/2013

Prosecution expert who lacked medical background was qualified to testify that victim’s physiological response to oral copulation did not reflect the act was consensual. Austin was charged with a number of forcible sex acts committed against his minor stepdaughter. On appeal Austin claimed the prosecution expert was unqualified to give an opinion regarding the physical response to oral copulation. Held: Affirmed. Regarding the allegations of forcible oral copulation, the prosecution averred Austin used duress to secure submission; the defense argued he believed the acts were consensual. The minor testified she experienced orgasm during oral copulation. The prosecution expert in child…

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Name: People v. Valadez
Case #: B239983
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 8
Opinion Date: 09/27/2013

The trial court did not err by allowing a police officer's expert testimony concerning gangs and gang activity. Appellants were convicted of conspiring to commit the crimes of shooting from a vehicle and assault with a semiautomatic firearm with gang enhancements. At their trial, Officer Krish, testifying as a gang expert, opined appellants were members of the Lowell Street gang and intended to commit a violent act for the gang's benefit. His opinions were based on conversations with gang members and other officers, as well as written materials. On appeal, appellants argued Krish's testimony about the background and history of…

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Name: People v. Dowl
Case #: S182621
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 08/29/2013

Where a defendant defends against a charge of possession of marijuana for sale by introducing evidence that under the Compassionate Use Act and Medical Marijuana Program he legally possessed the marijuana, evidence supporting an officer's opinion testimony may be sufficient to support a conviction. Appellant was charged with possession of marijuana for sale. At trial, he presented evidence that he had a prescription for marijuana for treatment of a medical condition. The prosecution presented the testimony of the arresting officer who opined that the marijuana was possessed for purposes of sale. On appeal, appellant contended that the…

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Name: People v. Her
Case #: C069153
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 05/14/2013

DNA nonexclusion evidence is relevant and admissible in the absence of supporting statistical evidence regarding the percentage of the population that could be excluded. At the scene of a murder, police collected blood that was tested for DNA evidence. A partial DNA match to defendant was admitted at trial over objection. Her was convicted of murder with special circumstances. On appeal, Her claimed the trial court erred in admitting expert testimony regarding a partial DNA profile because without supporting statistical evidence, the testimony was irrelevant. Held: Affirmed. The expert testified that a partial DNA profile found in mixed-source samples at…

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Name: People v. Xiong
Case #: F062474
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 5 DCA
Opinion Date: 04/30/2013

Statistical evidence of random match probabilities in a DNA cold hit case is relevant. A cab driver died as a result of a single gunshot to the center of the back of the head. An analyst took blood samples of stains at the location and analyzed them for DNA. With the samples that did not match the victim, she created a profile of 15 genetic loci, plus one gender marker; a statistically extremely rare profile. It was entered into a database and, some months later, appellant was found as a match to the DNA profile. Appellant was located and…

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Name: People v. Mercado
Case #: B223451
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 05/07/2013

Crawford did not bar expert from expressing opinion based on facts learned from investigator, about which the expert was not qualified to testify. Defendant was convicted of second degree murder, attempted murder, and enhancements after she hit a woman who was eight months pregnant with her car, killing the fetus. This decision follows a remand from the United States Supreme Court to reconsider the opinion in light of Williams v. Illinois (2012) 132 S.Ct. 2221. Here, appellant claimed her confrontation clause rights were violated when the medical examiner testified the fetus' death was a homicide based on facts obtained from…

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