Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, March 6, 2008


Page 1


Defendant Found Insane Only on Some Counts Must Be Committed—C.A.


By a MetNews Staff Writer


A defendant convicted of certain crimes but acquitted as to others by reason of insanity, and whose sanity has not been restored at the time of sentencing, must be committed to a state hospital for treatment before he is sentenced to prison, this district’s Court of Appeal has ruled.

Vacating an order by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Fred J. Fujioka sentencing Orlando Chavez to 20 years imprisonment, plus a term of commitment at the state hospital to be served after completion of his state prison term, the court held Tuesday that Chavez’s prison sentence should be stayed until after he regains his sanity.

Chavez was changed with three counts of assault with a deadly weapon committed because of the victim’s race or color, vandalism, exhibiting a deadly weapon to a police officer to resist arrest and resisting an executive officer while personally using a deadly and dangerous weapon based on incident that occurred in Pasadena in April of 2001 when Chavez, brandishing a metal pipe, attacked four separate vehicles at an intersection. He hit three of the cars in the rear window with the pipe, shattering the window of one, and when police arrived, he refused to put down the pipe and threatened to “smash” an officer.

He later dropped the pipe and was arrested without further incident.

Chavez was also charged with assaulting a peace officer and inflicting great bodily injury, battery with injury upon a peace officer, and battery with serious bodily injury after he attacked a deputy sheriff in the county jail in November of 2001 while in custody.

Chavez pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to all the charges. Conflicting evidence was presented at a sanity hearing, and a jury found Chavez was insane at the time he committed the April 2001 offenses, but sane at the time he committed the November 2001 offenses.

Concurrent Sentences

Fujioka ordered the sentences on the three November offenses to run concurrently for a total term of 20 years, calculated the maximum term of commitment for the April offenses to be 16 years and 4 months, and issued an order directing Chavez to be committed to a state hospital once he had completed the prison term.

On appeal, Chavez challenged the sufficiency of the evidence to support the jury’s determination that he was sane at the time he committed the November 2001 offenses and the order directing him to serve his state prison sentence before his state hospital commitment. He argued that he should have been committed to the start hospital first, and that his state prison sentence should run concurrently with that commitment.

However, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Frank Y. Jackson, sitting by assignment, opined that the court could not disturb the jury’s finding of sanity as to the November 2001 offenses because evidence presented by Chavez’s expert witness was not so compelling that a jury could not have reasonably rejected it.

Turning to Chavez’s arguments regarding his prison term and his commitment, Jackson pointed out that Penal Code Sec. 1026 clearly requires that a court must sentence a defendant as provided by law if a jury finds him sane, and that the court must order him confined in a state mental hospital if the jury finds him insane and he has not regained his sanity fully. However, he noted, “it does not tell the court what to do when a jury finds defendant sane as to some crimes and insane as to others.”

Mandatory Language

Concluding that the language of Sec. 1026 is mandatory, and its requirement that a defendant acquitted by reason of mental insanity be committed to a state hospital “allows no discretion,” Jackson wrote, “a defendant who is convicted of certain crimes and acquitted by reason of insanity as to others and whose sanity has not been restored fully at the time of sentencing must first be committed to a state hospital for the care and treatment of the mentally disordered.”

Disagreeing with the conclusions reached in People v. Cleveland (1972) 27 Cal.App.3d 820, and People v. Cleveland (1974) 37 Cal.App.3d 547, where the Court of Appeal held that a state hospital commitment and a state prison term could be served at the same time and in the same place, Jackson wrote, “[t]reatment and punishment are two separate and distinct concepts.”

He continued:

“The state legislature has declared ‘that the purpose of imprisonment for crime is punishment’…[while] a commitment to a state hospital…is ‘in lieu of criminal punishment’…and ‘is for purposes of treatment, not punishment.’”

Writing that the question of whether to impose concurrent or consecutive sentences applies only in cases involving multiple convictions and multiple terms of imprisonment, Jackson concluded, “there is no legal basis to order a state hospital commitment and a state prison sentence to run concurrently with or consecutively to one another,” and the court remanded the matter to the trial court with orders to confine Chavez to a state mental hospital if it found he had not regained his sanity, and to stay execution of his prison term until such time as he did regain his sanity.

Justices Robert M. Mallano and Frances Rothschild joined Jackson in his opinion.

The case is People v. Chavez, 08 S.O.S. 1431.


Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company