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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. Hampton (2023) 96 Cal.App.5th 965
Case #: A165957
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 10/25/2023

Substitute trial judge did not engage in improper conduct or violate defendant’s right to a fair trial by consulting with the prior judge about her ruling on remote jury deliberations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hampton was convicted of felony offenses after robbing a restaurant. At his trial, the first judge made rulings on whether jurors would be permitted to deliberate remotely in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and was then replaced due to a personal emergency. During deliberations, after all the alternate jurors had already been seated on the jury, a juror needed to quarantine. The substitute judge consulted with…

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Name: People v. Zemek (2023) 93 Cal.App.5th 313
Case #: D080917
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 07/11/2023

Trial court’s ruling requiring defendant’s husband and sister to attend her trial via livestreaming on the Internet during the COVID-19 pandemic did not violate her right to a public trial. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Zemek was convicted of first degree murder, elder abuse, and theft offenses. She raised a number of issues on appeal, including that she was denied her right to a public trial. The trial court had closed the physical courtroom to the public based on COVID-19 emergency orders and protocols, but the trial was livestreamed on the Internet. The court denied defense counsel’s multiple requests for Zemek’s…

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Name: People v. Govan (2023) 91 Cal.App.5th 1015
Case #: B316245
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 7
Opinion Date: 05/22/2023

It was an abuse of discretion to require a restraint belt without an individualized finding that defendant posed a safety or flight risk or was likely to disrupt the proceeding. A jury found defendant guilty of three counts of false imprisonment by violence; three counts of forcible oral copulation; three counts of forcible rape; and one count of attempted forcible rape. Because of the pandemic, jury selection was held in an unsecured room normally used for jury assembly. Because of this, and the seriousness of the charges, the trial court ordered defendant to be physically restrained by way of a…

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Name: People v. Muhammad (2023) 88 Cal.App.5th 511
Case #: B322899
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 6
Opinion Date: 02/22/2023

Permitting the jury to continue deliberations after a month-long break due to the COVID pandemic was not coercive and did not deprive defendant of due process of law. Defense counsel conceded Muhammad killed four people during a 2017 shooting spree, but argued he did so while suffering paranoid hallucinations. Muhammad’s trial began in February of 2020, and closing arguments took place on March 19. Statewide COVID court closures, however, required the trial court to halt deliberations after just one day. Deliberations were suspended for a month. When deliberations resumed on April 20, the jury requested read-backs of testimony and asked…

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