Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, March 15, 2024


Page 3


Court of Appeal:

Court Must Give Notice of Where Habeas Petition Is Sent

Failure of Los Angeles Superior Court to Provide Opportunity to File Peremptory Challenge Before Judge Ronald Coen Denied Relief Results in Writ of Mandate Vacating His Order  


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Div. Three of the Court of Appeal for this district has issued a writ of mandate directing the Los Angeles Superior Court to vacate an order denying a habeas corpus petition, faulting a procedure under which a judge acted on the petition with no notice to the partes of the assignment of the matter to him, thus barring the prospect of a peremptory challenge.

Justice Rashida A. Adams authored the opinion, filed Wednesday and not certified for publication.

The writ petition was presented by Adam Miranda, a prison inmate who was convicted in 1982 of first degree murder and other offenses with enhancement allegations found to be true and with a special circumstance.

Miranda’s habeas corpus petition was filed on June 1, 2023 by a deputy federal public defender (with no explanation in the opinion as to why a federal attorney was involved in a state proceeding). After Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William Ryan on June 2 granted Miranda’s unopposed motion to file exhibits under seal, his lawyer kept an eye on the court register to see where the matter was assigned.

No Written Order

On June 30, she learned that Judge Ronald S. Coen had denied the petition three days earlier. The court’s record shows no evidence of an order assigning the matter to Coen.

However, the reason for the petition having been routed to Coen is apparent from a Sept. 13, 2023 unpublished opinion handed down by Div. Three of this district’s Court of Appeal in People v. Gonzales. Coen was familiar with the record in the case having denied a resentencing petition by Arnold Gonzales, Miranda’s co-conspirator in a robbery of an AM/PM minimarket that culminated in Miranda fatally shooting a clerk, with the two becoming co-defendants.

Div. Three in 2023 affirmed Coen’s order in the Gonzales case, but that division, on Wednesday, invalidated his action on Miranda’s petition based on the Court’s lack of notice of the assignment. Miranda’s lawyer said in a declaration that if she had known of the assignment to Coen, she would have “considered filing a peremptory challenge” under Code of Civil Procedure §170.6.

Adams’s Opinion

 Adams wrote:

“The rules governing the timing of section 170.6 disqualification motions…suggest the assignment of a matter to a judge or particular department must be announced or publicized in some fashion so that the litigants may become aware that it has occurred.…It appears undisputed that in this case there simply was no record of the assignment to Judge Coen, and no formal or informal means by which the assignment was made known before Judge Coen ruled on the petition.

“The facts of this case do not call for us to consider what form of notice of assignment the trial court must provide to a petitioner who may not have ready access to the court docket and who does not request notice of the assignment….It appears no one except the court knew or could have known that an assignment to Judge Coen in Department 101 was made, even counsel who was regularly checking the court docket for information about an anticipated assignment. Under these circumstances, Miranda was improperly deprived of his statutory right to file a challenge pursuant to section 170.6.” The case is Miranda v. Superior Court, B330458.

Miranda had been sentenced to death in 1982 by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Parker, since deceased. A factor in aggravation considered by her was that, after he was convicted in her courtroom of the first degree murder of market clerk Gary Black, Miranda pled guilty to an unrelated second-degree murder of another victim, Robert Hosey.

On May 5, 2008, the fourth in a succession of Miranda’s habeas corpus petitions was granted by the California Supreme Court, declaring that the judgment “is vacated insofar as it imposes a sentence of death.” It lifted the death sentence based on nondisclosure of potentially exculpatory evidence to either Joe Ingber (now deceased) or H. Clay Jacke Sr., who were representing Miranda in the prosecution for the killing of Hosey.

The prosecutors in that non-capital case, then-Deputy District Attorneys Lance Ito and Frederick Horn, expressed bewilderment as to why the defense lawyers did not simply come to examine their files under the office’s “open file policy.” The evidence that was not disclosed to the defense was a letter in their files from a jailhouse inmate.

Ito went on to become a judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court—gaining international fame in presiding over the O.J. Simpson murder case—and Horn became a judge of the Orange Superior Court. Both are now retired, but Ito continues to serve the court on assignment.

Jacke’s son, H. Clay Jacke II, is a Los Angeles Superior Court judge. Ronald Coen’s son, Sean Coen, is also a member of that court.


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