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Name: Thornell v. Jones
Case #: 22–982
Court: US Supreme Court
Opinion Date: 05/30/2024

A prejudice showing for a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel during the sentencing phase of a capital case requires a petitioner to show that absent counsel’s errors, the sentencer would have concluded that the balance of aggravating and mitigating circumstances did not warrant the death sentence. Jones was convicted in Arizona of the premeditated first-degree murders of two victims and the attempted premeditated murder of a third victim. He was sentenced to death. The Ninth Circuit granted habeas relief finding that there was a reasonable probability that Jones would not have received a death sentence if mitigating evidence of…

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Name: People v. Carter
Case #: S278262
Court: CA Supreme Court
Opinion Date: 05/20/2024

Prior to an SVP trial, the superior court abused its discretion in denying Carter’s Marsden motion without an adequate inquiry and further deprived Carter of effective assistance of counsel by failing to appoint substitute counsel to evaluate his motion to dismiss. After waiting over 12 years, Carter sought to file a motion to dismiss the SVP petition against him, and requested to replace the Public Defender’s Office under Marsden. The trial court erred in conducting an insufficient Marsden inquiry and in instructing Carter to file his motion to dismiss pro se. The trial court should have considered Carter’s Marsden motion…

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Name: People v. Ferenz (2024) 99 Cal.App.5th 1032
Case #: H049430
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 6 DCA
Opinion Date: 01/26/2024
Subsequent History: ordered published 2/21/2024

Police reports, district attorney investigative reports, interview transcripts, preliminary hearing transcripts, and prior conviction records were properly attached to prosecutor’s statement of view pursuant to Penal Code section 1203.01. Defendant pleaded no contest to rape of an unconscious person, forcible rape, and dissuading a witness and was sentenced to state prison. Prior to sentencing, the prosecutor submitted a statement of view, which included the above-refenced attachments, noting the materials could be relevant to assess defendant for possible treatment as a sexually violent predator (SVP). On appeal, defendant argued the attachments impermissibly went beyond the scope of the crimes committed, contained…

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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. Foley (2023) 97 Cal.App.5th 653
Case #: C097140
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 11/29/2023

Denial of Penal Code section 1172.6 resentencing petition reversed where defendant was denied his constitutional right to conflict-free representation. Defendant Foley and codefendant Gladden were tried together and convicted of murder under a felony-murder theory. Neither man was the actual killer. In 2019, both petitioned for resentencing under section 1172.6. The trial court issued an OSC. At the consolidated evidentiary hearing, the same attorney represented both Foley and Gladden. Counsel argued that neither defendant nor Gladden were major participants who acted with reckless indifference to human life, but acknowledged that Gladden “certainly [had] the stronger petition.” The court granted Gladden’s…

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Name: People v. Molina (2023) 96 Cal.App.5th 516
Case #: G061280
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 10/17/2023

Defendant forfeited his challenges to the COVID-19 safety protocols implemented at his trial by failing to object, and any objection to the protocols would have been meritless. A jury convicted Molina of felony offenses during the pandemic. On appeal he argued COVID-19 safety protocols implemented at trial deprived him of his constitutional right to a fair trial. In particular, he challenged the jurors’ use of face masks during voir dire, the trial court’s decision to allow certain jurors to continue to wear face masks and sit outside the jury box during trial even after the protocols were lifted, and the…

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Name: People v. Villegas (2023) 97 Cal.App.5th 253
Case #: A164370
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 11/15/2023

Counsel was not ineffective in failing to seek exclusion of defendant’s second statement to police where defendant waived his right to remain silent and then failed to clearly assert this right during questioning before making incriminating statements. Defendant was questioned as to sexual offenses against two alleged victims, waived his Miranda rights, made incriminating statements, and was arrested. Police then learned of a third alleged victim and questioned defendant a second time a couple days later. He waived his Miranda rights a second time and admitted making a “mistake,” but said he would not say anything else. Police detailed the…

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Name: People v. Panighetti (2023) 95 Cal.App.5th 978
Case #: C095100
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 09/25/2023

Trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying multiple Marsden motions where disputes between trial counsel and defendant were over tactical decisions and trial counsel presented a defense consistent with the law. Defendant and Jill Doe practiced bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism (BDSM) over a number of years together. Doe contacted police several times throughout the relationship when the encounters turned violent. Doe and Defendant reconnected in 2020 and their initial consensual sexual encounter was followed by violent encounters. Defendant was charged with multiple sex offenses. At trial, the jury rejected the defense that, by virtue of Doe's written…

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Name: People v. Lepere (2023) 91 Cal.App.5th 727
Case #: G061393
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 05/16/2023
Subsequent History: Modified 6/2/2023

Motion to suppress DNA evidence was properly denied where the affidavit supporting the search warrant was sufficiently detailed and established probable cause. In 2021, through the use of a genealogy website and DNA extracted from a rape kit, defendant became a person of interest in a 1980 rape and murder case. A search warrant of defendant’s house was issued and items seized from his trash linked him to the crime. He was convicted of murder. On appeal, he argued the police officer’s affidavit in support of the search warrant lacked probable cause and his motion to suppress the DNA evidence was…

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Name: In re Kerins (2023) 89 Cal.App.5th 1084
Case #: A165304
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 4
Opinion Date: 03/30/2023

Failure to bring SVP defendant to trial more than 14 years after the filing of the SVP petition did not amount to unconstitutional pretrial delay. Kerins was convicted of an SVP-qualifying offense in 1988. He was convicted of additional offenses in 1998 and sentenced to state prison for 13 years. Prior to his release, psychologists determined Kerins met the criteria for an SVP, and the the People filed an SVP petition. More than 14 years after the SVP petition was filed, Kerins filed a habeas petition alleging that the People had failed to bring him to trial in a timely…

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