First-Degree Murder Conviction in Norwalk Court Affirmed.

What does a jury need to find in hearing a first-degree murder trial need to find to convict someone of a premeditated murder planned with deliberation beforehand? The following summary of a recent Second Appellate District case arising at the Norwalk Superior Court explains what must be found. To read a short summary of the appellate court ruling, please click on the following link –

Probation Violation Hearing, Hearsay & Unavailable Witness

The rules of evidence at both federal and state court probation violation and probation revocation hearings can be counterintuitive and therefore, confusing. For example, if a witness needed for the prosecution to show a probation violation is unavailable, his or her hearsay statements can still be admissible without a Fourteenth Amendment due process violation (the Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses, however, does not apply in probation violation hearings). When would a prior transcript of testimony, for example be admissible? What about a body-cam video? To read a summary of one such case addressing this issue, please click on the following link –

Case Dismissed by Judge During Trial for Brady Violations.

We all understand that facts and evidence are how a conviction or a defense is supported. Prosecutors in some courthouses understand that withholding valuable evidence needed by a defendant can make it easier to secure a conviction from a jury or reach a plea bargain. When does such unfair conduct by a prosecutor, if discovered by a judge, lead to dismissal of a criminal case? To read a summary of a recent case where this happened, please click on the following link –

People v. Cardenas – The Limits of the Kill-Zone Theory

As one may suspect, the “Kill Zone” basis for murder liability is a favorite prosecution argument whenever there is a shooting that kills an innocent bystander in a crowd. Such an argument appeals to juror stereotypes of those who commit murder, especially those in criminal street gangs, as reckless and acting with callous indifference to human life. However, such a theory has limitations and a specific definition that must be strictly applied to prevent murder convictions for certain people who never intended to kill or did not realize the nature of what was likely to occur. Please click on the following link to read a summary of a case wherein the limits of the Kill Zone theory are set forth and explained –

When Are Consecutive, i.e., Not Concurrent, Sentences OK?

As the reader of this blog may be aware, when someone is convicted of two or more charges, the judge may order that sentences for each may run consecutive or concurrent. What are the rules for such a decision? To read a summary of a recent case wherein this very issues was extensively evaluated and such rules were explained, please click on the following link –

Subpoena Facebook & 7-Factor Alhambra v. Superior Court Test

If one sends a subpoena to Facebook to request a copy of someone’s postings, including private message and restricted postings, on Facebook, Facebook will most likely push back, claiming that the right of privacy protects disclosure of such posts. How does a judge rule on Facebook’s inevitable motion to quash such a subpoena? The answer is by evaluating the nature of the information sought under the 7-factor Alhambra v. Superior Court test. To read about this test and what it includes, please click on the following link –

Involuntary Murder Confession? Ninth Circuit Says No.

When a defendant confesses to a murder and later claims that his confession was involuntary, a judge will evaluate if the atmosphere of the questioning was threatening, if the police officers manipulated or made promises to defendant to encourage him to confess and how easily defendant provided the information. In the following case, defendant appealed his conviction, arguing that his confession was coerced and thus, involuntary and the jury consideration of his confession was a constitutional violation. The appellate court evaluated the confession and disagreed with defendant. To read a summary of the opinion, please click on the following link –

Remand When Judge Fails to Consider Youth-Related Factors?

The following short summary of a 2015 case out of the Clara Shortridge Foltz courthouse in downtown Los Angeles exemplifies how a judge is supposed to consider the youth-related factors of a defendant in sentencing, not after sentencing. In all fairness to the judge at issue (Judge Lomelli), the Franklin case was not decided until after this particular case, so the sentencing procedures were not understood at all. Nonetheless, this is a good summary to read to understand Franklin and how it applies to a “Franklin Hearing.” To read this summary, please click on the following link –

Is a Jury Trial a Federal Right for Parole Violation?

Maybe is the best answer to the question posed in the title to this blog post. The answer depends on whether the nature of the parole violation subjects the parolee to more or less time in federal prison than the parolee first faced in prison. If the answer is less time, no jury trial right attaches. If he or she faces more time, a jury trial right exists, which makes sense. To read more about this issue, please click on the following link –

What are Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering Activity?

In federal court, the Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketing Activity Act (VICAR), at 18 U.S.C. § 1959, defines violent crimes in a way that yields counterintuitive examples meeting the definition. For example, is the transportation of a controlled substance a violent crime? To find out more about this unusual statute, please click on the following link –