Monday, October 19, 2009

People v. Smith (Cal. Ct. App. - Oct. 19, 2009)

Some opinions write themselves.

For example, here's all I need to tell you about this one. First, the appeal. Ronald Smith alleges that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction for making criminal threats to his former cohabitant, S.J. He was, after all, in Texas when he made the threats -- without any job or income -- and the victim was in California. Given those facts, he could (and did) plausibly argue that his threats were no "so unequivocal, unconditional, immediate, and specific as to convey to the person threatened, a gravity of purpose and an immediate prospect of execution of the threat" as required by California law to support a criminal threat conviction.

But then all I have to tell you are the background facts. At which point you'll easily figure out how this one ends up. Here you go:

"Defendant, an unemployed drug-user, abused S.J. every day for 19 years—except on the few days when he was unable to do so because he was incarcerated. There was testimony defendant: abused her verbally, yelled at her, calling her a “bitch” and a “slut” and a no good “piece of shit”; administered beatings which were severe and became worse over time; hit and kicked her; kicked her in the legs, the stomach, the back and “just anywhere”; kicked her when she was on the floor; slapped her in the head and the face; pulled her hair; and urinated on her. The testimony indicated: defendant beat S.J. when she was eight months pregnant; this resulted in the child's death; he kicked her in the head less than a month after she had brain surgery—surgery that was necessary because of repeated blunt force trauma; he repeatedly put a gun in her mouth and threatened to kill her; he told her to “suck his dick” in front of their three boys; he had sex with her when the children were present; he told the children he would cut her legs off with the machete he kept under the bed; and he tortured their dog and threw their cat out the car window while driving on the freeway."

I could say more if necessary. About the actual threats here and whatnot. But why bother? Given the history, you know how this one's coming out. And where he's indeed going to spend the next 56 months.