Thursday, June 26, 2003
S.C. to Look at Requirements for Granting Pitchess Motion
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The California Supreme Court yesterday agreed to review a ruling by this district’s Court of Appeal regarding the factual foundation that must be laid by a criminal defendant in order to obtain discovery of police personnel records.
The high court voted 5-1 to grant review of Div. Two’s decision in Warrick v. Superior Court (City of Los Angeles Police Department), 107 Cal.App.4th 1271. Chief Justice Ronald M. George was absent and Justice Janice Rogers Brown was alone in the minority.
Div. Two held that the defendant, charged with possession of cocaine for sale, failed to provide a plausible explanation for his claim that the police planted the drugs he was accused of possessing.
Without such a showing, Justice Michael Nott wrote for the Court of Appeal, the defendant, Donald P. Warrick, had no right to discover past complaints of misconduct by the arresting officers under Pitchess v. Superior Court and its statutory codification.
Warrick, who is represented by the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office, was arrested in April of last year. The police report says that he was observed by officers standing against a wall, looking at a baggie containing what appeared to be cocaine, then ran when he saw the three police officers get out of their car.
The officers saw Warrick discard numerous items as he ran, according to the report, and two of them arrested him while the third retrieved what turned out to be 42 rocks of cocaine. The baggie, the arresting officers said, was still in his hand.
At the time of arrest, the report said, he had $2.75 on his person, along with some porcelain chips, commonly used by burglars to smash car windows.
In a declaration in support of his Pitchess motion, Warrick claimed that he was in the area to buy drugs, not sell them. Before he completed the purchase, he declared, the police showed up, chased and caught up with him, and produced the cocaine rocks, saying “You must have thrown these—these are yours.”
The defense asserted that by discovering the officers’ personnel records, it could determine whether they had a propensity to engage in aggressive behavior, violence, lying, planting evidence, or other forms of moral turpitude, and could potentially locate witnesses to testify to those traits.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stephen A. Marcus denied the Pitchess motion. The Court of Appeal at first summarily denied the defendant’s writ petition, but the Supreme Court ordered that it be heard on the merits.
The Court of Appeal then denied the writ in its published opinion of March 27. Nott concluded that it was not believable that Warrick, who had less than three dollars in his pocket and was arrested with an empty baggie in his hand, was in the neighborhood to buy drugs rather than sell them.
Nor, the justice said, was it plausible that the supposed seller or anyone else besides the defendant had discarded 42 rocks of cocaine.
In other action at yesterday’s conference, the court:
•Agreed to decide whether, when a defendant is convicted of escape from state prison and draws another prison term, that term is “separately served” so that a subsequent felony conviction draws a one-year enhancement, besides any enhancement applicable to the conviction for which the individual was serving time when he or she escaped. The Third District Court of Appeal ruled in People v. Langston (2003) 107 Cal.App.4th 959 that the escape term was not “separately served.”
•Denied review of a ruling by this district’s Div. Two that the exclusivity of the workers’ compensation remedy does not bar a contractual labor arbitration concerning an on-the-job injury. The case is Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 1277 v. Los Angeles County Metropolitan Authority (2003) 107 Cal.App.4th 673.
•Denied review of R.J. Reynolds’ appeal from lower court rulings that it violated the Master Settlement Agreement between the tobacco industry and the 50 states by leaving in place signs at a Northern California speedway, advertising its sponsorship of the Winston Cup auto racing series, for the full nine months of the cup competition. A San Diego Superior Court judge and the Fourth District’s Div. One agreed with Attorney General Bill Lockyer that under the “Brand Name Sponsorship” exception to the settlement’s ban on outdoor cigarette advertising, the signs had to come down within 10 days following the Winston Cup event held at that particular location.
The case is People ex rel. Lockyer v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (2003) 107 Cal.App.4th 516.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company