Tuesday, January 23, 2007

People v. Coleman (Cal. Ct. App. - Jan. 23, 2007)

It's pretty rare for the Court of Appeal to buck precedent and reverse a conviction on insufficiency grounds. Especially for high-profile offenses like -- as here -- carjacking.

But that's what Justice Doi Todd does here. She concludes that existing precedent is wrong, and that what Chris Coleman did here entails merely robbery, not carjacking.

The argument in favor of Justice Doi Todd's position is that this is, assuredly, not your typical carjacking, and not what the Legislature had in mind when it codified the offense. Yes, Coleman took a car at gunpoint, but (1) he took it from someone sitting at an office desk, in a business, when the car was parked outside, and (2) it wasn't even her car -- it was the car of her boss, and she merely had access to his keys, which he had left in the office when he went to a job in another vehicle. So not really a classic carjacking when you shove a gun in the driver's face and throw her from the vehicle. On the flip side, however, the definition of a carjacking is pretty (and deliberately) broad, and the statutory text may well cover what transpired here.

It'll be interesting to see what happens with this one. For now, however, Coleman's convicted of robbery, not carjacking.