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Articles Posted in Evidentiary Issues

CDCR Recalls the sentence of a Barhoma Law, P.C. Client! The client has a re-sentencing hearing where he is expected to walk free after nearly two and half decades of incarceration.

The Barhoma Law client will be re-united with his family and loved ones after 25- years of incarceration. In the 1990s, he was charged with and later convicted by a jury of one count each of robbery (Penal Code § 211), burglary (Penal Code § 459), possession of a firearm by a felon ( Penal Code§ 12021, subd. (a)(1)), and evading police (Veh. Code § 2800.1). Since his incarceration, the client has maintained his innocence wrongful conviction. Many lawyers have tried to keep his case alive, but were unable to successfully free him.

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The Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in downtown Los Angeles, California.

Police and prosecutors are eager to use anything they can to identify a suspect and obtain a conviction, especially in the most serious cases, such as California homicide crimes. However, often this comes at the expense of—rather than the pursuit of—justice.

For example, take a recent New York Times article discussing the use of facial recognition software. Racial recognition software relies on computers to recognize human faces. In the law enforcement context, this usually involves a police officer inputting a suspect’s photo into the program, which then searches through a database of thousands of photos, looking for a match. Police will occasionally use facial recognition software if they have surveillance video or a still-frame photo, but do not know who it is in the photo.

According to the New York Times article, the use of facial recognition software was used to arrest a man for a crime he did not commit. Evidently, police received a report of a man stealing candy. When police arrived on the scene, they found the suspect at a rental car agency, trying to get his rental extended. The suspect gave them an ID card, apologized, and offered to pay for the candy.

On December 7, 2020, George Gascon was sworn in as the new District Attorney, defeating the previous District Attorney, Jackie Lacey. With his swearing in comes sweeping reforms and promises to re-open thousands of old cases. In his sweeping reforms, Mr. Gascon provides for retroactive applications, removing gun enhancements, gang enhancements, Three Strikes Law and materially changing juvenile laws.

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Traditionally, reforms are non-retroactive, meaning they do not apply to prior judgments or convictions. However, in Mr. Gascon’s sweeping reform, his office is now applying these reforms retroactively. That means that many of the new changes will affect old convictions from the past, regardless of when they took place.

In this post, Attorney Matthew Barhoma, founder of Barhoma Law, P.C. and California Criminal Appeals Attorney highlights the new changes and outlines how they will affect general cases. To learn how District Attorney, George Gascon’s, sweeping reform may affect your case, please consult with a Criminal Appeals and Post Conviction attorney with Barhoma Law, P.C. by calling our firm at 213-800-7664.

Celebrities have a lot of sway. They are frequently on television, and many of them have hundreds of thousands – or even millions – of followers on social media. In Kim Kardashian’s case, more than 67 million followers. Over the years, Kardashian has used her platform to advocate for criminal justice reform generally, as well as speaking out about specific injustices she sees in the system.

kim-kardashian-trump-300x200Kardashian’s most recent efforts relate to the scheduled execution of Brandon Bernard, a 40-year-old man who the government plans to execute on December 10, 2020. Bernard was arrested and charged with murder in what the prosecution described as a gang-related killing. Evidently, back in 1999, when Bernard was just 18 years old, he and several of his associates approached a vehicle with a couple inside. One of Bernard’s associates shot at the couple inside the car, and then Bernard lit the car on fire. One of the victims died of a gunshot wound and the other of smoke inhalation. Bernard was convicted in a Texas court and sentenced to die. He exhausted his appeals and post-conviction remedies, and is scheduled to be executed this month. According to Bernard, he lit the car on fire when his co-defendant held a gun to his head. As such, it was questionable to what extent he was involved.

Upon hearing about the case, Kardashian reached out to her millions of Twitter followers, asking them to sign a petition urging President Donald Trump to commute Bernard’s sentence to life in prison. Kardashian explained in a November 29th tweet, “while Brandon did participate in this crime, his role was minor compared to that of the other teens involved, two of whom are home from prison now.” She went on to explain that the crime was horrible, but that Bernard’s trial attorney failed to present important mitigating information that may have impacted the jury’s decision to render a death sentence. For example, the jury never heard that Bernard grew up in an abusive home, that his father left him to fend for himself on the streets, and that he was remorseful for his role in the killings. Kardashian also pointed out that the jury did not hear evidence regarding how Bernard’s brain was still developing when he participated in the crime.

Earlier this year, the California Supreme Court reversed the death sentence Scott Peterson received after being convicted for the 2002 murder of his wife and unborn child. In more recent news, the state’s high court ordered a trial judge to review the merits of one of Peterson’s post-conviction claims.

Specifically, the high court was concerned about Peterson’s claim that one of the jurors on his case failed to disclose that she had once feared for her unborn child when her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend harassed her. Evidently, the juror had to take out a restraining order against the woman, who was charged based on the juror’s allegations and ultimately spent a week in jail.

The juror’s failure to disclose this pertinent information, Peterson argued, consisted of “prejudicial misconduct.” In Peterson’s court filings, he notes that the juror seemed as though she “wanted” to be on the jury so that she could convict Peterson for his alleged crimes. Peterson notes that the juror’s employer did not offer to pay her for the time she would be on the jury, and that she agreed to sit on the jury even though it would take several months.

Last month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a California homicide case discussing the defendant’s challenge to the lower court’s decision not to admit certain evidence pertaining to the victim. Ultimately, the court agreed with the defendant, reversing his conviction for murder in the second degree.

In any California criminal trial, one of the many roles of the judge is to act as a gatekeeper of the evidence. Relying on the California Evidence Code, the court will determine which evidence is admissible. Often, these decisions are made in pre-trial motions in limine, but occasionally an issue will arise mid-trial requiring the judge to render a decision before continuing on with the case. Usually, in that predicament, the judge will make a mid-trial ruling outside the presence of the jury, so as to not prejudice the jury.

In this case, the defendant was charged for murder related to the shooting death of another man. The evidence showed that the defendant and the victim each fired shots at each other. While the victim shot 15 shots, missing each time, the defendant shot twice, killing the victim.

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