Friday, October 5, 2001
Court of Appeal Rejects ‘Single-Subject’ Challenge to Proposition 21
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer/Appellate Courts
This district’s Court of Appeal upheld the attempted-murder conviction of an Azusa gang member yesterday, rejecting his contention that Proposition 21 violates the constitutional requirement that an initiative embrace but a single subject.
The provisions of the measure approved by state voters in March of last year, Presiding Justice Paul A. Turner wrote, “were reasonably related to the purpose of the initiative to reduce juvenile and gang-related crime.”
The ruling affirms a 23-year prison term imposed on Rudy Raymond Abasta for the attempted killing of Christopher Gibbs, a black teenager, in Azusa on April 14 of last year. Prosecutors presented evidence that Abasta was a member of a Hispanic gang that dislikes African Americans, and that at the time Gibbs was stabbed, Abasta was on probation for a racially motivated assault on two blacks.
Abasta admitted his gang affiliation and lack of affinity for African Americans, but claimed he had been misidentified in the Gibbs attack. He spent part of the day on April 14 at the Rialto home of his girlfriend’s mother, he testified, and part of it working for a landscaper.
Jurors found him guilty. Retired Santa Anita Municipal Court Judge S. Clark Moore, sitting as a Los Angeles Superior Court judge by assignment, imposed a nine-year base term plus enhancements of 10 years for committing a violent felony on behalf of a criminal street gang, three years for inflicting great bodily injury, and one year for using a deadly weapon.
Abasta’s court-appointed attorney, Cynthia A. Thomas, argued that Proposition 21, under which the 10-year enhancement was imposed, violates Art. II, Sec. 8 of the state Constitution. That section provides:
“An initiative measure embracing more than one subject may not be submitted to the electors or have any effect.”
Turner concluded that the initiative, known as “The Gang Violence and Juvenile Crime Prevention Act,” meets the liberal test established by the Supreme Court for compliance with the single-subject rule—that all parts be “reasonably germane” to each other and to the general purpose of the measure.
According to the voter pamphlet, Turner noted, Proposition 21 was designed to increase punishment for gang-related crimes, make it easier to try juvenile criminals as adults, eliminate formal probation for juvenile felons, force gang members convicted of crimes to register with the police, and expand the number of crimes designated as violent and serious felonies.
All of the provisions of the initiative are consistent with that design, the presiding justice said, noting that California courts have upheld a number of broad state and local measures against single-subject challenges.
Deputy Attorneys General Brad D. Levenson and Corey J. Robins argued the appeal for the state.
The case is People v. Abasta. 01 S.O.S. 4899.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company