Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Court of Appeal Ruling Applies Collateral Estoppel, Bars Second Hearing for Same Probation Violation
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The doctrine of collateral estoppel did not permit a second probation violation hearing after the first hearing ended in a ruling for the defendant because prosecutors tried to prove their case entirely with hearsay evidence, the First District Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
Div. One overturned a Solano Superior Court judge’s ruling that Myesha Marie Quarterman violated her probation on earlier theft charges by pawning a camera and accessories with knowledge they were stolen.
Quarterman was placed on three years probation in 2008. In 2010, the district attorney charged her with possession of stolen property and filed a request for revocation of probation following her arrest by Vallejo police.
The court scheduled a joint probation violation hearing and preliminary hearing. A detective testified as the sole prosecution witness, explaining that he spoke to Christopher Riley, who said his camera and related equipment—valued at $6,000 or more—had been stolen from his car and that a photographer friend had told him about a “cold caller” who offered to sell him some camera equipment.
The detective said he then checked a local pawnshop and found that Quarterman had pawned the equipment, presenting her valid identification and giving a thumbprint.
Interviewed by the detective, Quarterman waived her Miranda rights and gave a statement. She said she got the equipment from a man she had known for about nine months, but only knew by his street name, and that she agreed to pawn the items for him after he repeatedly assured her they were not stolen.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge held her to answer on the receiving charge, finding the detective’s testimony sufficient under Proposition 115, which allows a qualified peace officer to give hearsay testimony at a preliminary hearing. But the judge said the probation violation, to which Proposition 115 does not apply, was not proven by the evidence.
The receiving charge was subsequently assigned to Judge Robert Bowers for trial. Bowers granted the prosecution a new probation violation hearing, denied the defense motion for dismissal on collateral estoppel grounds, and—following testimony by Riley, the manager of the pawn shop, and the detective—revoked probation.
But Presiding Justice James Marchiano said the original dismissal of the probation violation barred the second hearing.
He distinguished Lucido v. Superior Court (1990) 51 Cal.3d 335, in which the court held that collateral estoppel did not preclude a trial on an indecent exposure charge that was identical to a probation violation allegation that had been dismissed for lack of proof.
In Lucido, the jurist noted, the court found that all of the elements of collateral estoppel applied—both proceedings involved the identical issue, the issue was actually litigated in the prior proceeding, the issue was necessarily decided, and the court’s decision was final on the merits—but found that barring the second proceeding would not serve the fundamental purposes of the doctrine.
In this case, Marchiano said, applying the doctrine would serve those purposes—preservation of the integrity of the system, judicial economy, and protection from vexatious litigation.
“[I]n this case, the prosecutor failed to offer any justification whatsoever for Mr. Riley’s nonappearance at the combined preliminary/revocation hearing, and there was no evidence or even an assertion that he was legally unavailable or that his testimony could only be secured at great inconvenience. The prosecutor’s complete failure to make any effort to justify the witness’s absence, coupled with his failure to ask for a continuance (even though defendant had waived time for the preliminary hearing), or move to dismiss the revocation petition without prejudice, does not permit probation revocation proceedings to be decided on the basis of hearsay preliminary hearing testimony.”
Under those circumstances, Marchiano concluded, “application of collateral estoppel...would further the public policy of preserving the integrity of the judicial system.”
The case is People v. Quarterman, A130065.
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company