In this habeas corpus proceeding, petitioner argued that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to consult experts, put on expert testimony regarding eyewitness identifications and the limited illumination produced by firearm “muzzle flashes,” and failing to request a standard jury instruction concerning the reliability of eyewitness identifications. The Court of Appeal held that, in light of three declarations submitted with the petition (from trial counsel, a firearms expert, and a psychologist/perception expert on eyewitness identifications), an evidentiary hearing was necessary to dispose of petitioner’s claims. 

[Published Opinion] In a habeas proceeding, the Court of Appeal held that the Parole Board’s denial of petitioner’s request to present witnesses at his parole rescission hearing violated the Board’s own procedural rules as well as petitioner’s due process rights. The court further found that the matter is not moot, despite petitioner having had two further parole suitability hearings, and that petitioner did not forfeit his due process challenge by failing to object at the rescission hearing to the denial of his request to present witnesses.

The Court of Appeal held that the trail court erred by denying appellant’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea because defense counsel rendered ineffective assistance at the plea stage by failing to consider appellant’s mental deficiencies at the time of the plea or a possible mental defense to the criminal threat charge (Pen. Code, § 422), despite appellant informing trial counsel of undefined mental health issues and the police reports (which trial counsel possessed) indicating that the arresting officers had numerous prior contacts with appellant regarding his aberrant behavior and considered whether they should initiate commitment proceedings.

Agreeing with People v. Secrease (2021) 63 Cal.App.5th 231, the Court of Appeal held that a pre-Banks/Clark special circumstance finding does not automatically bar a defendant from obtaining resentencing relief under section 1170.95, and that a defendant may challenge a jury’s special circumstance finding under Banks/Clark when petitioning for section 1170.95 relief even if he or she has not first done so by habeas corpus.

The Court of Appeal concluded that the defendant’s habeas order, which reduced his 51-year aggregate sentence to 45 years and 8 months, but contained an unlawful sentence, was not void because (1) the defendant was entitled to petition the superior court for a writ of habeas corpus without first obtaining a certificate of probable cause; (2) the superior court could change an unlawful sentence at any time and (3) the court could reconsider the sentence upon notice from the CDCR of its possible illegality.