Articles Posted in Supreme Court of California

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions of two counts of first degree murder and his sentence of death, holding that none of Defendant's challenges to his convictions and death sentence warranted reversal. Defendant was one of three members of a gang who were charged with the murders of Michael Faria and Jessica Salazar. This automatic appeal concerned only Defendant. The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of two counts of first degree murder and death sentence, holding (1) any error in allowing a gang expert to testify was harmless; (2) the trial court did not err in declining to exclude two portions of a jailhouse conversation Defendant had with a friend; (3) there was sufficient evidence to support a finding that Defendant shot Faria; (4) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in limiting the cross-examination of a certain witness; (5) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting a photograph depicting Faria's body; (6) the victim impact evidence admitting in this case was within the bounds of what precedents permit; and (7) Defendant's constitutional challenges to California's death penalty scheme failed. View "People v. Mendez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of first degree murder, with the special circumstance that the murder was committed during a rape, and Defendant's sentence of death holding that there was no prejudicial error in the proceedings below. Specifically, the Court held (1) the victim's brother testified at the penalty phase in contravention of a court order, but any prejudice was cured by the trial court's admonition and by other evidence undermining the significance of Defendant's assertions; (2) any assumed error in failing to instruct at the guilt phase on a good faith but unreasonable belief in consent to intercourse was not prejudicial; and (3) Defendant offered no compelling reasons for the Court to reconsider its precedent rejecting Defendant's constitutional challenges to California's death penalty scheme. View "People v. Molano" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions for three counts of first degree murder and three counts of first degree attempted murder arising from two shootings committed by Defendant on the same day and Defendant's sentence of death, holding that only one error occurred during the proceeding, and the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Specifically, the Court held (1) none of Defendant's claims of error at the guilt phase had merit, and therefore, there was no cumulative error requiring reversal of his convictions; and (2) during the penalty phase, the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury that a witness's prior conviction of a felony bore on his credibility, but the error was harmless, and therefore, there was no cumulative error requiring reversal of Defendant's penalty of death. View "People v. Mitchell" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the City and County of San Francisco (San Francisco) can lawfully apply a tax collection requirement, which requires parking lot operators to collect a tax from drivers who park their cars in paid parking lots and remit the proceeds to the city, to state universities that operate paid parking lots in the city, holding that the collection requirement is not unconstitutional. San Francisco, a consolidated city and county that has adopted a charter for its own governance, requires that state universities collect the parking tax at issue with whatever parking fees they charge and remit the proceeds to the city. The trial court concluded that the universities were exempt from compliance with the parking tax ordinance. The court of appeal affirmed, concluding that the constitutional principles articulated and applied in In re Means, 14 Cal.2d 254 (1939), and Hall v. City of Taft, 47 Cal.2d 177 (1956), exempts state agencies from collecting and remitting the parking tax. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that charter cities may require state agencies to assist in the collection and remittance of municipal taxes and that San Francisco's collection requirement is a valid exercise of its power from which state universities are not immune. View "City & County of San Francisco v. Regents of the University of California" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court sentencing Defendant Socorro Susan Caro to death for killing three of her four children, holding that any error in the admission of statements from a detective's interview of Defendant in the hospital after she underwent emergency surgery for a gunshot wound to her head was harmless. Specifically, the court held (1) the trial court committed certain evidentiary errors, but the errors were harmless, were not cumulatively prejudicial, and did not affect Defendant's right to present a defense; (2) assuming error on Defendant's claim that the prosecution should have provided its investigatory material about prospective jurors, the error was harmless; and (3) assuming that the prosecution committed misconduct, the misconduct did not require reversal. View "People v. Caro" on Justia Law

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In this criminal case, the Supreme Court held that, when a defendant posts bail, the trial court has authority to impose reasonable conditions related to public safety but that the question had become moot as to the Defendant in the instant case. Defendant was arrested and charged with two felony counts. Defendant posted bail and was released from custody. At arraignment, the court imposed as an additional condition of release that Defendant waive her Fourth Amendment right to be free of warrantless or unreasonable searches. The District Attorney petitioned for review, asking whether trial courts possess inherent authority to impose reasonable bail conditions related to public safety on felony defendants who are released on bail. The Supreme Court answered in the affirmative, holding (1) trial courts have authority to impose release conditions on persons who post bail; but (2) the question was moot as to Defendant, and therefore, this Court need not decide whether the specific condition was valid. View "In re Webb" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of two counts of first degree murder and personal use of a deadly weapon and Defendant's sentence of death on both counts, holding that no prejudicial error occurred in the proceedings below. Specifically, the Court held (1) the trial court did not abuse its discretion by admitting evidence of other crimes; (2) the trial court did not violate Defendant's right to an impartial penalty phase jury under the federal and state Constitutions by excusing a prospective juror for cause because of her views on the death penalty; (3) penalty retrial following a hung jury was not unconstitutional; (4) the trial court did not err by denying Defendant's motion to declare the death penalty unconstitutional in practice; and (5) an instruction during the penalty phase was given in error, but the error was harmless. View "People v. Erskine" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed as modified the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant and sentencing him to death for the murder of a peace officer, holding that modification of the judgment was required to reduce the restitution and parole revocation fines. Specifically, the Court held (1) the evidence was sufficient to support the jury's finding that Defendant committed a premeditated and deliberate murder; (2) any error in the jury instructions was harmless beyond. Reasonable doubt; (3) the evidence was sufficient to sustain the gang-related enhancement; (4) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in its in camera review process of sealed transcripts; (5) the trial court erred in admitting uncharged misconduct to support the prosecution's argument that Defendant premeditated the murder, but the error was harmless; (6) the guilt phase errors did not cumulatively amount to prejudice requiring reversal of Defendant's conviction; (7) any error in the penalty proceedings was harmless; and (8) the trial court erred by imposing two fines in excess of the statutory maximum - the restitution fine and the parole revocation fine. View "People v. Rivera" on Justia Law

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In this case involving application of the "catchall" provision of the anti-SLAPP statute, Cal. Code Civ. Proc. 425.16, the Supreme Court held (1) the context of a defendant's statement is relevant, though not dispositive, in analyzing whether the statement was made "in furtherance of" free speech "in connection with" a public issue; and (2) Defendant's confidential reports to its paying clients, which were generated for profit and exchanged confidentially, did not qualify for anti-SLAPP protection under the catchall provision. Plaintiff, a for-profit business entity that distributes web-based entertainment programming, sued Defendant, a for-profit business entity that offers online trafficking and brand safety services to Internet advertisers, alleging that Defendant disparaged its digital distribution network in confidential reports to its paying clients. Defendant filed an anti-SLAPP motion to strike. The court of appeal ruled that Defendant's reports were protected under the anti-SLAPP statute and that context was irrelevant to the anti-SLAPP analysis under subdivision (e)(4). The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) even where the topic discussed in Defendant's reports was one of public interest the reports did not qualify for anti-SLAPP protection under the catchall provision because Defendant did not issue the reports in furtherance of free speech "in connection with" an issue of public interest. View "FilmOn.com Inc. v. DoubleVerify Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of murder in the course of a robbery and related crimes and sentencing Defendant to death, holding that any assumed errors were harmless. Specifically, the Court held (1) even if it was error for the trial court to admit testimony arguably conveying the substance of a hearsay declarant's out-of-course identification, the error was harmless; (2) assuming there was error in Defendant's absence during one day of the penalty phase trial, the error was harmless; (3) any other possible errors contemplated by this Court were harmless; and (4) Defendant's challenges to the constitutionality of California's capital sentencing scheme were unavailing. View "People v. Bell" on Justia Law