Tuesday, May 05, 2020

People v. Torres (Cal. Ct. App. - May 4, 2020)

Doctrinally, this is simply a case that applies -- in a fairly straightforward fashion -- a prior decision from the Court of Appeal that holds that the prosecution in a murder trial has to do something (not necessarily something effective) to try to delay a critical witness from being deported before trial instead of simply using that witness' testimony at the preliminary hearing at trial.  Justice Bigelow dissents, arguing that the majority decision improperly expands precedent.  But, with respect, I think her real disagreement is with the underlying decision itself.  It's that's right, then the majority is right that the present case must be reversed.

It's a Justice Wiley opinion, which (as usual) you can tell from its particular style.  When discussing whether the underlying error was harmless, there's a wonderful quote in the middle of the opinion:

"The question thus is whether there is a reasonable possibility the evidence complained of might have contributed to the conviction. (Chapman, supra, 386 U.S. at p. 23.) The answer is yes. If we subtract Hernandez’s hearsay testimony from the trial evidence, this leaves only one testifying eyewitness to the stabbing: victim Quinones. The prosecution described Quinones’s trial performance as “a bunch of crazy stuff.” [emphasis in original] . . . . We agree with the prosecution’s description. Quinones was too crazy a witness to be the sole foundation for a conviction for attempted murder. . . . [B]etween the methamphetamine and his continuously evolving contradictions, Quinones proved himself an impressively unreliable witness."


P.S. - Speaking of Justice Wiley,d an informed reader tells me he's looking for a law clerk -- term or permanent -- to start in August.  I'd attach the announcement if I could, but that's a task beyond my technological competence, so I'll just cut-and-paste the thing:

August 2020 judicial clerkship opening

I need help deciding appeals and crafting appellate opinions.  I have an opening for one judicial attorney, to start August 24, 2020 or thereabouts.
     Our goals here at the California Court of Appeal are to achieve the ideal of equal justice under law and to inspire the public with the excellence of California’s appellate justice system.  The work is fulfilling, important, diverse, and fascinating:  we encounter just about every imaginable human conflict, in practically every legal setting.  Every case is a new story.  You would work with me directly, as well as with a small, supportive, friendly, fun, talented, and non-hierarchical group of colleagues. 
     We used to work together in downtown Los Angeles.  Nowadays we are all working from home in one of the most quarantine-tolerant jobs ever.  Internally, we have a lot of video chats, phone calls, texts, and email conversations.  Externally, oral arguments are strictly remote.  Who knows when all that will end?
     You must have excellent academic and professional credentials.  Actual or pending membership in the California bar is required.  We are writers:  you have got to love to write.  Judgment is vital.  Terrific research skills are important.  And you must enjoy puzzling through the law to figure it out, because every new case brings fresh challenges. 
     I am open to lawyers who would like to clerk for a set term, preferably two years, as well as to those considering a judicial attorney career.  It is fine if you are entertaining both possibilities and have not decided. 
     The more professional experience you have, the better. 
     Please send a cover letter, resume, references, law school grades, and writing sample to Div8.J4@gmail.com.  And please spread the word, if you know someone who might be interested.

John Shepard Wiley Jr.
California Court of Appeal
Second District, Division Eight