Monday, April 17, 2006

People v. Lopez (Cal. Ct. App. - April 13, 2006)

Rarely do you see a criminal conviction reversed for prosecutorial misconduct -- here, for prejudicial statements made during closing argument -- so quickly and perfunctorily as Justice Mallano does in this opinion, which tops out at seven (double-spaced) pages. The dissent by Justice Rothschild is similarly brief, and constitutes a mere two paragraphs.

It's a child molestation conviction of a Catholic priest in which the prosecutor made comments about his/her personal opinion in the defendant's guilt and also mentioned (without introduction of any evidence) the wider Catholic priest/molestation controversy. There's also an incredibly truncated discussion of harmless error in both the majority and dissent.

This reads to me like all of the Justices were in the mode of "Let's just finish this thing." I'm not sure I'm really excited about that fact. Moreover, since counsel for the defendant didn't object to the prosecutor's statement during closing, the majority (in a footnote, no less) has to reverse the conviction for ineffective assistance of counsel, which means that the opinion automatically has to be forwarded to the State Bar. In any event, the net result of the opinion is the reversal of a molestation conviction and a retrial -- surely no fun for the alleged victims. I'd generally like to see a little more analysis than exists here. Especially in a published opinion. If it's worth publishing, it's generally worth some detailed substantive analysis, no?