Category: State Courts

The Current Status of The People v. Daniel William Marsh

In April of 2013, Daniel Marsh was 15 years old when he broke into Chip Northup and Claudia Maupin‘s condominium in the middle of the night and heinously murdered them as they slept.  His case was directly filed in adult criminal court and, in 2014, he was convicted by a jury of two counts of first degree murder with special circumstances.  The trial court imposed a sentence of 52 years to life.  The Northup and Maupin families found relief in the verdict and sentence and believed Marsh would be locked up for a very long time.  Unfortunately, their relief was short lived and their fight for justice had just begun.  Continue reading . . .

California Supreme Court Hears Argument Challenging Death Penalty Law

The California Supreme Court heard oral argument today in People v. McDaniel.  Donte McDaniel was convicted in 2009 of two brutal murders and attempted murder on two others.  In 2004, McDaniel and his accomplice entered a woman’s Los Angeles apartment looking for a man who had stolen drugs from another member of the gang he belongs to, the Bounty Hunter Bloods (BHB). McDaniel began firing as he walked in the door, shooting and killing the woman, then shooting the man he was looking for  so may times in the head that his face collapsed.  He shot two other women in the apartment, not involved in the drug dispute, critically injuring them both and leaving them permanently disabled.

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“Affordable Bail” Does Not Protect Public and Victim Safety

If an arrestee can be “admitted to bail,” (meaning pretrial release is not precluded), California law authorizes four different methods of pretrial release, only one of which has a monetary requirement. Those four methods include (1) money bail; (2) release on own recognizance (“OR”); (3) OR under supervision; and (4) pretrial diversion. At an arrestee’s first court appearance, a judge will decide if he or she should be released on OR (with or without supervision) or on money bail.

The California Supreme Court’s Humphrey decision announced yesterday initially acknowledged OR as a type of pretrial release, but then they completely ignored it as they delved right into the unconstitutional disparities of money bail. The court also glossed over the fact that Humphrey requested OR release under supervision twice and was denied twice. The trial court denied his request for OR release due to the seriousness of the crimes committed (first-degree residential robbery, first-degree residential burglary, inflicting non-great bodily injury on an elder or dependent adult, and theft from an elder or dependent adult PLUS three prior strikes), the vulnerability of the victim (a 79-year-old man), and on the recommendation against OR release from pretrial service’s Public Safety Assessment Report. In addition to public safety concerns, the trial court was also concerned that Humphrey was a “flight risk.”

What is OR release? Had the court taken the time to examine it in a bit more detail, the public would better understand that it is a discretionary non-monetary alternative to cash bail contained in Article I, section 12 of the California Constitution. Continue reading . . .

Courts Must Consider an Arrestee’s Ability to Pay Money Bail in California

This morning the California Supreme Court held that trial courts must consider an arrestee’s ability to pay when setting the amount of money bail in the case of In re Humphrey (S247278).

Humphrey, a repeat offender, was charged with robbery and burglary. Bail was initially set at $600,000, then later reduced to $350,000.  Humphrey’s request for pretrial release on his own recognizance (“OR”) without financial conditions was denied because the trial court found he was a danger to public safety and a “flight risk.”  Humphrey was unable to post bail and remained detained pretrial.  Humphrey filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, arguing that the trial court’s failure to inquire into his financial circumstances and to not consider less restrictive alternatives to money bail was a violation of his constitutional rights.  The California Attorney General initially opposed Humphrey’s position.  However, the AG later changed his position and agreed that Humphrey was entitled to a new bail hearing stating that he would “no longer defend ‘any application of the bail law that does not take into consideration a person’s ability to pay, or alternative methods of ensuring a person’s appearance at trial.'”    CJLF filed a brief (found here) arguing that public and victim safety, and whether the arrestee is considered a “flight risk,” are the primary considerations to be evaluated by a court when initially deciding whether an arrestee is eligible for pretrial release, and, if eligible, what type of pretrial release is appropriate under the circumstances—money bail or release on OR without financial conditions.  It was CJLF’s position that to release Humphrey on an amount that he could afford, or on other less restrictive alternatives, would essentially permit his release on his OR, which is contrary to the trial court’s findings regarding his danger to victim and public safety. Continue reading . . .

Legislative Amendments to California Voter Enacted Law

This morning the California Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a statute passed by the state legislature (SB 1391) that prohibits 14- and 15-year-old criminal offenders from being prosecuted as adults.  In the case of in O.G. v. Superior Court (S259011), the issue was whether the California Legislature unconstitutionally amended the statutory provisions of Proposition 57 when it enacted SB 1391.  Prop. 57 was voted into law by a majority of California voters in 2016.  The ballot measure eliminated a District Attorney’s ability to directly file criminal charges against individuals under age 18 in adult court.  The measure instead gave juvenile court judges the sole authority to decide whether violent juveniles ages 14 and older should be prosecuted as adults only after conducting a full evidentiary hearing in the juvenile court.  In 2018, former Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 1391 into law.  SB 1391 prohibits 14 and 15 year olds from being criminally prosecuted as adults regardless of the crime committed.  CJLF filed a brief (found here) arguing that SB 1391 unconstitutionally amended Prop. 57.  Today the California Supreme Court held that SB 1391 “is fully consistent with and furthers” the intent and purpose of Prop. 57 and upheld the statutory amendment.

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Who decides if a teen killer should be tried as an adult?

On Tuesday morning, the California Supreme Court heard oral argument in the case of O.G. v. Superior Court (S259011).  The issue is whether the California Legislature unconstitutionally amended the statutory provisions of Proposition 57 when it enacted SB 1391.  Prop. 57 was voted into law by a majority of California voters in 2016.  The ballot measure eliminated a District Attorney’s ability to directly file criminal charges against individuals under age 18 in adult court.  The measure instead gave juvenile court judges the sole authority to decide whether violent juveniles ages 14 and older should be prosecuted as adults only after conducting a full evidentiary hearing in the juvenile court.  In 2018, former Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 1391 into law.  SB 1391 prohibits 14 and 15 year olds from being criminally prosecuted as adults regardless of the crime committed.  In a nut shell, voter enacted Prop. 57 gives juvenile court judges the sole authority to decide whether juveniles (ages 14 and older) should be prosecuted as adults and legislature enacted SB 1391 prohibits 14 and 15 years olds from being prosecuted as adults.  SB 1391 (the legislature) takes away what Prop. 57 (the voters) authorized.  CJLF filed a brief (found here) arguing that SB 1391 unconstitutionally amended Prop. 57.

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Indian Country

The U.S. Supreme Court ended its term today with a 5-4 bombshell decision that much of Oklahoma remains “Indian country” for the purpose of prosecuting crimes, even though it hasn’t been that in reality for a century. The Court also decided two politically charged cases regarding subpoenas for President Trump’s financial records.

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Florida Supreme Court Corrects Another Death Penalty Error

Until fairly recently, the Florida Supreme Court seemed determined to maximize the damage caused by new pronouncements from the U.S. Supreme Court in capital cases. One such error was corrected in January. Another one was corrected last week.

In 1982, Probation Supervisor Bjorn Svenson was ambushed by one of his parolees, who emptied his weapon into Supervisor Svenson, reloaded, and shot him twice more. The murderer’s latest attempt to escape long-overdue justice was shot down by the Florida Supreme Court last Thursday.

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