Friday, July 24, 2020

People v. Hubbard (Cal. Ct. App. - July 24, 2020)

Sentencing someone to 25 to life in prison for masturbating on the steps of a college building while there's someone 36 feet away from him -- the crime of indecent exposure -- certainly seems a hefty sentence.  But that's the three strikes law.

To be clear:  Mr. Hubbard has a serious problem keeping it in his pants.  By definition, he gets the three strikes sentence because this is far from his first offense.  (FWIW, all of his prior crimes seem far more serious than the current one.)

There's a long discussion in the opinion about what's required for the crime of "attempted" indecent exposure and the split in courts of various states about whether it counts as indecent exposure if no one actually sees a penis.  But, here, the victim said she saw his penis, and the Court of Appeal decides to follow an earlier Court of Appeal opinion that says you don't have to see the penis anyway, so it's a moot point.  Mr. Hubbard's conviction gets affirmed.

There was one part of Justice Duarte's opinion that was particularly memorable.  During trial and closing argument, the prosecutor introduced a picture of both the defendant and the victim.  Needless to say, the picture of the defendant make him look bad -- it was his booking photo, which caught him mid-blink, so he looked weird and/or intoxicated -- and the picture of the victim made her look awesome (taken at a picnic or the like, with figurative rainbows and unicorns).  Those photos were entirely irrelevant, since both the defendant and victim were both physically present at trial and looked the same, and there were no disputes at all about identity etc.  The Court of Appeal ultimately holds that the photos shouldn't have been admitted, but that the error was harmless.  But had this in particular to say about the photo of the victim:

"The photograph of Nayeli was completely irrelevant. We are not persuaded by the prosecutor’s argument that he “use[s] them in Power Point closings” and the trial court’s conclusion that the photograph was admissible to “remind the jury of who she is.” Nayeli was one of only three witnesses to testify during the only day of testimony and had testified the day before. On appeal, the Attorney General argues the photograph of Nayeli “was relevant to whether [defendant] [w]as guilty of the charged crime. Accordingly, the photo was relevant.” How exactly the photograph is relevant, the Attorney General does not say. Frankly, the argument makes no sense. It was an abuse of discretion to admit the photograph."

Totally true.  (Albeit harsh.)

Anyway, Mr. Hubbard -- who's 38 -- is likely to remain in prison for a long, long time.  Perhaps for the rest of his life.  (I suspect that they'll successfully SVP him even on the off chance he ever gets parole.)  In the meantime, this opinion let's you know more than you probably ever wanted to know about the ins and outs of indecent exposure in California.