Tuesday, November 04, 2008

People v. Garcia (Cal. Ct. App. - Nov. 4, 2008)

I read a lot of cases. But I don't think my eyes have ever glazed over as much as when I read this opinion.

Maybe it was all that food I had at the lunchtime faculty meeting. Or the excitement of the election. Or, just maybe, the incredibly dry and complicated topic of the opinion, which involved a fact-specific calculation of the defendant's proper sentence.

But, whatever the reason, I can honestly say that I found myself occasionally thinking: "I can barely even follow what the scoop is here." Maybe in part because it was very hard for me to deeply care about the result, since it's a defendant who was convicted of nine different counts (basically, some armed robberies and armed carjackings, with priors), on some or all of which he was pretty clearly guilty, and was sentenced to 154 years to life. And, as far as I can tell, the whole appeal is about whether the sentence should really be 154 years to life or something like 125 years to life or 114 years to life or whatever. In other words, a monster difference. Oh, yeah. And whether he should have been ordered to pay an additional $20 per count in costs as well. In short, potentially significant legal issues, but, practically, not much at stake.

Plus, it's just all really confusing. Here's, for example, what the trial court stated in its tentative ruling: "The three possibilities are term, three times the traditional sentence for the current crime, a term of 25 years of a traditional sentence, which includes enhancements, the greatest minimum term must be selected. Enhancements are not included and enhancements are not triple. Count 4 and count 7, exempt for those the greatest is 25 years for carjacking determines the upper term is nine years, three times nine is 27. This is ption one. Option 2 is 25 to life. Option 3 is the traditional sentence, which in this matter would be the high term of nine years, plus 10 years for the firearm, plus 10 years for the two prior convictions, and three years for the priors under P.C. 667.5, subsection (b). But since two of these are used under P.C. 667, subsection (a), they will not be used again under 667(a). Thus the total is nine, plus 10, plus 10, plus three, for a total of 32-to-life on count 4. Since the court is required to set the greatest term, option 3 is selected. Therefore, the base term on count 4 is 32 years-to-life. As to count 7, since the status enhancement under Penal Code 667(a) and 667.5(b) can only be used once for the sentence, the sentence is 25-to-life, plus 10 years for the firearm, for a total on count 7 of 35 years to life. As to count 1, second degree robbery, violation of Penal Code section 211, the minimum sentence is 25 years to life, plus 10-year enhancement for the use of the firearm, for a total of 35-to-life. Same sentence on count 2. As to count 3, a violation of 12021, subsection (a)(1), the sentence is 25 years to life. As to count 5, grand theft of an auto, violation of 487(d)(1), sentence is 25 years to life, plus 10 years for firearm, so 35 years to life on count 5. However, count 5 is stayed pursuant to 654. As to count 6, unlawful driving of a car in violation of [Vehicle Code] section 10851(a), sentence is 25 years to life, plus the 10, total sentence on that count is 35-to-life. That, as well, is stayed pursuant to 654. Count 8, grand theft auto, P.C. 487(d)(1), 25-to-life, plus 10 years, so 35-to-life on that count, stayed, as well, pursuant to 654. As to count 9, unlawful driving of a car, pursuant to 10851, subsection (a), 25-to-life, plus 10 years, so 35-to-life,
stayed pursuant to 654. The total sentence in this case for all the counts is 162 years to life.”

And then here's the sentence (and explanation therefor) the trial court ultimately pronounced: "[B]ased on the case I came up with the same calculations for count 1, exact same. And for count 2, the 211, would be 25 to life, plus 10 for the gun, plus 10 for the two priors pursuant to 667, same goal, 45-to-life. Third count, even though [the prosecutor] has argued it should be concurrent, the number will come up differently because we have a 12021(a)(1), 25-to-life, 10 for the 667, which makes it 35-to-life. For 4, the 215, it would be nine, which is the highest term, 10 for the gun case, 10 for the two priors, three for the 667 prior prison, 32-to-life. 5 would be the same, 25-tolife, 10 for the gun, 10 for two priors, 45 to life. 6 would be 10 for the gun, 10 for the
priors. 5 and 6 remain stayed. [Seven], for 215, once again, is the same as count 4. Count 8 is 25-to-life, plus 10 for the gun, plus 10 for priors, 45-to-life. [Nine], the 10851(a), and we have to remember that, pursuant to, I think it was both 1170.12 and 667, any felony where a gun is used is a straight 25-to-life with the priors. So it’s 25-tolife, 10 for the gun, and 10 for the priors, 45-to-life. Counts 8 and 9, again, are stayed. . . . . [So] Count 1, 45-to-life. Count 2, 45-to-life. [Three], 35-to-life. [Four], 32-to-life. Count 5, 45. Count 6, 45. [Seven], 32.
Count 8, 45. Count 9, 45-to-life. Counts 5, 6, 8 and 9 are stayed pursuant to P.C. 654. And because [the prosecutor] has agreed and there’s no dispute that count 3 should run concurrent pursuant to [defense counsel’s] request, that now makes it 189-to-life. It’s 154-to-life."

I mean, I understand all the words that are being used. But can I really follow, intellectually, what's going on? Honestly, no. Not really.

Admittedly, Justice Turner's opinion helps out, and as I read all thirty-plus pages of it, I at least began to comprehend the basic scoop, as well as the potential problems. Still, on occasion, I found myself lost. Like I was reading stereo instructions. "Place the red coaxial into the right audio out input of the video component subwoofer?! What?"

Fortunately, in the end, I understood what was going on. Or at least I think I did. Kind of. Most importantly, I obtained solace in the fact that Justice Turner (1) explained the results, count-by-count, in the end, and (even more important, to me), (2) said, in the end, "We have asked the parties to calculate the sentence for each count. The calculation of the current sentences are quite complex and the trial court and the parties have quite understandably struggled with the issues; as have we." Whew. Thank goodness. Glad to know I'm not alone. 'Cause I gotta tell you that for a while there, I was feeling like a liberal arts major at a NASA engineering convention.