Thursday, June 21, 2018

People v. Cortez (Cal. Ct. App. - June 20, 2018)

The first sentence of this opinion is somewhat funny.  Not "ha-ha" funny, but instead, slightly remarkable (or at least worth notice).

It reads:  "Defendant and appellant, Anthony Esparza Cortez, Jr., a convicted felon, and his friend, Michael Saavedra, conspired to commit murder against Rene Perez, and his sonin-law, Alvino Barrera."

It's funny because even though there are plenty of published opinions about murders, I don't usually see the Court of Appeal say that someone "conspired to commit murder against" someone.  Usually the justices just say "conspired to murder" that person.  No "commit" or "against".

Indeed, as far as I can tell, in no reported or unreported opinion in history has any California court ever used the phrase "conspired to commit murder against" someone.  Nor, my research reveals, has any brief, secondary source, or anything ever employed this phrase before this opinion.

Not that there's anything wrong with the phrase.  I know exactly what it means.  And we often say that someone "conspired to commit a crime against" someone else.  Nothing wrong with replacing "a crime" with a particular crime; here, murder.

Still, it's unusual.  Some extra words we don't usually see.

So I dug even deeper.  And I'm not 100% sure about this, but the only use of this phrase in all of recorded American jurisprudence before this opinion is its use by non-lawyers and non-judges; in particular, by a gang leader in Texas when pleading guilty ("I conspired to commit murder against other DMI members for sanction, violations and so forth."), by a pro se litigant in his handwritten complaint against various defendants ("all parties conspired to commit murder against me"), and by a pro se litigant in Newport Beach in a petition for certiorari to the United States Supreme Court in which he raises 58 "Questions Presented," alleges that AT&T is "the biggest terrorist organization in the world," and ends his lengthy petition by saying "the Defendants have conspired to commit Murder against the Petitioner Anthony Martini and the Defendants are accomplices to Murder, Kidnapping and made the Petitioner permanently disabled for the rest of his life being in pain 24/7."

Fine company indeed.

Regardless, again, I know what the sentence means, so no biggie.  Just a couple of extra words we usually don't see.