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Name: People v. Lewis (2024) 101 Cal.App.5th 401
Case #: E082085
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 01/03/2024
Subsequent History: Ordered published 4/10/2024

Trial court abused its discretion in denying compassionate release under Penal Code section 1172.2 where the finding that defendant posed an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety was not supported by substantial evidence. Defendant was convicted of first degree murder committed in 2020. He was also associated with a street gang and had a significant criminal history. In 2023, the CDCR’s director of Health Care Services sent a letter to the superior court recommending compassionate release under section 1172.2. Defendant was diagnosed with ALS, which was rapidly progressing, and he had “a clear end of life trajectory.” Defendant had…

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Name: People v. Serrano (2024) 100 Cal.App.5th 1324
Case #: A166011
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 5
Opinion Date: 03/28/2024

Sufficient evidence supported the jury’s finding that defendant acted with premeditation and deliberation where he methodically pumped and aimed a shotgun at two peace officers. Serrano went on a crime spree that culminated in his shooting a rifle at two uniformed officers who approached him following a car crash. He was found guilty by jury of two counts of premeditated attempted murder of a peace officer, among other crimes. Serrano appealed, arguing there was insufficient evidence supporting the findings of premeditation and deliberation. Held: Affirmed. After the considering the categories of evidence set forth in People v. Anderson (1968) 70…

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Name: People v. Frias (2024) 98 Cal.App.5th 999
Case #: B322762
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 7
Opinion Date: 01/12/2024

Trial court abused its discretion in denying defendant’s request for substitution of retained counsel who was ready to proceed to trial, and this structural error required reversal. Frias was convicted of stalking. Prior to his trial, Frias requested that his counsel be substituted several times. The trial court granted four of these requests, but denied subsequent requests. On appeal, Frias argued that the trial court violated his Sixth Amendment right to counsel of his choice by denying his four requests to substitute the Castaneda Law firm as his counsel. Held: Reversed. A trial court has discretion to deny a motion…

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Name: People v. Lagunas (2023) 97 Cal.App.5th 996
Case #: G061812
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 12/12/2023

Defendant’s conviction for Watson murder was supported by substantial evidence. Defendant was driving under the influence of alcohol in a residential area. He accelerated through a turn, lost control of the car, and killed a six-year-old girl who was playing on the sidewalk. A jury convicted him of second degree implied malice murder, i.e., a “Watson” murder. On appeal, defendant argued there was insufficient evidence he deliberately acted with implied malice. Held: Affirmed. Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. Malice may be implied when a person drives a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol and kills someone. (People…

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Name: People v. Buckner (2023) 97 Cal.App.5th 724
Case #: A162304
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 4
Opinion Date: 11/30/2023

Because defendant was living in his house on the day he set it on fire, substantial evidence supports the jury’s conclusion that the house was inhabited at the time of the fire. A jury convicted Buckner of arson of an inhabited dwelling structure. On appeal, he argued substantial evidence did not support his conviction because there was no evidence that he intended to live in his home after the fire. Held: Affirmed. Penal Code section 450 defines “inhabited” for purposes of the arson statutes as “currently being used for dwelling purposes whether occupied or not.” The Court of Appeal reviewed…

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Name: In re Banks (2023) 97 Cal.App.5th 463
Case #: C098247
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 11/27/2023

Trial court properly granted habeas relief to inmate because there was insufficient evidence to support disciplinary finding that he conspired with another person to have a controlled substance mailed to him in prison. Someone mailed Banks, an inmate in prison, two large manilla envelopes with a controlled substance (Suboxone) hidden inside. The envelopes were intercepted in the mailroom and a disciplinary hearing officer ultimately found Banks guilty of conspiring to introduce a controlled substance into prison for distribution or sale. Banks exhausted his administrative remedies and filed a habeas petition in the trial court. The trial court granted the petition,…

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Name: People v. Banks (2023) 97 Cal.App.5th 376
Case #: B312618
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 6
Opinion Date: 11/20/2023

Suppression motion properly denied where evidence found during search of defendant’s car would inevitably have been discovered during a lawful inventory search. At 1:40 a.m., police pulled defendant over because his car did not have proper license plates and he was not wearing a seatbelt. There was no registration sticker on the front window of the car, and defendant did not have a license or provide proof of ownership of the vehicle. The front seat passenger (Doe) appeared under 18, twice gave a false name and birthdate, and wore revealing clothes under her coat, leading the officer to believe she might…

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Name: People v. Suazo (2023) 95 Cal.App.5th 681
Case #: F082140
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 5 DCA
Opinion Date: 09/19/2023

A predrinking intent to drive is not required before a jury may find implied malice supporting a second degree Watson murder (People v. Watson (1981) 30 Cal.3d 290). Defendant, while intoxicated, drove his vehicle at a high rate of speed off the highway and into an area occupied by an adjacent tractor supply business. When the vehicle hit agricultural equipment the passenger was ejected and killed. Defendant fled. He was convicted of second degree implied malice Watson murder, as well as other counts. He appealed. Held: Remanded for resentencing. Defendant contended the evidence was insufficient to support his murder conviction,…

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Name: People v. Perez-Robles (2023) 95 Cal.App.5th 222
Case #: C095414
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 09/06/2023
Subsequent History: Opn. modified 9/18/2023

Trial court prejudicially erred by not instructing the jury on misdemeanor sexual battery as a lesser included offense of sexual battery by restraint. Defendant, a massage therapist, was convicted of sex offenses involving six clients, including two counts of sexual battery while the victim was unlawfully restrained (Pen. Code, § 243.4(a)). On appeal, he argued that the evidence of restraint was at least questionable, and the trial court thus had a duty to instruct on a lesser included offense that lacked the element of restraint—misdemeanor sexual battery (§ 243.4(e)). Held: Reversed in part and remanded. The People acknowledged that misdemeanor…

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Name: People v. Gaines (2023) 93 Cal.App.5th 91 (and People v. Ross)
Case #: F083168, F083228
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 5 DCA
Opinion Date: 06/15/2023
Subsequent History: Ordered published 7/5/2023

The offenses of discharging a firearm from a vehicle, and permitting another person to discharge a firearm from a vehicle, do not require that the shooter be inside the vehicle at the time of the shooting. At a store, Gaines and Ross exchanged words with a man who was with his girlfriend and her children. After leaving the store, Gaines drove his vehicle in search of the man, who was walking on the sidewalk with his girlfriend and children. Gaines stopped the car while Ross got out and shot at the individuals. Defendants were convicted of numerous offenses including shooting…

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