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In re Figueroa

Filed 3/12/18 IN THE SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA In re VICENTE BENAVIDES ) FIGUEROA ) on Habeas Corpus. ) S111336 ) ) Kern County ) Super. Ct. No. 48266 ___________________________________ ) On appeal we affirmed petitioner’s convictions and death penalty judgment. (People v. Benavides (2005) 35 Cal.4th 69 (Benavides).) In response to his petition for habeas corpus relief, we issued an order to show cause on his claims that his convictions were based on false evidence and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Respondent1 now concedes that false evidence was introduced at trial and that petitioner’s convictions of substantive sexual offenses, special-circumstance findings, and judgment of death must be vacated. Respondent urges us to reduce the murder conviction from first to second degree. We decline to do so. The judgment is vacated in its entirety. 1 As the custodian of petitioner’s confinement, respondent is the Secretary of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. 1 I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND A. Procedure2 Petitioner was found guilty of murder3 committed with three special circumstances of felony-murder rape, sodomy, and lewd conduct.4 Petitioner was also convicted of the substantive crimes of rape, sodomy, and lewd conduct5 with the infliction of great bodily injury during those offenses.6 The jury returned a verdict of death. Following our issuance of an order to show cause, the parties completed briefing on March 14, 2017.7 B. Trial Evidence A more thorough factual recitation can be found in Benavides, supra, 35 Cal.4th at pages 79-86. This summary is limited to the false evidence issue. 1. Consuelo’s Hospitalizations The victim was 21-month-old Consuelo Verdugo. Her mother, Estella Medina, and petitioner brought Consuelo to a hospital emergency room at Delano Regional Medical Center (DRMC) on the evening of November 17, 1991. They reported that Consuelo had been running after her older sister and hit her head on a door. Consuelo was limp and minimally responsive to external stimulation. She moved her arms and legs 2 The procedural background is largely taken from the automatic appeal. (Benavides, supra, 35 Cal.4th at pp. 79-86.) 3 Pen. Code, § 187; all unspecified section references hereafter are to the Penal Code. 4 § 190.2, subd. (a)(17)(C), (D), (E). 5 §§ 261, subd. (a)(2), 286, subd. (c), 288, subd. (a). 6 § 12022.8. 7 The petition was initially filed on November 11, 2002, by the Habeas Corpus Resource Center (HCRC). In February 2006, HCRC director Michael Laurence learned that a former HCRC investigator, Kathleen Culhane, had fabricated declarations in another case. An investigation revealed that she had fabricated numerous declarations in this case as well. On April 22, 2008, HCRC filed the operative pleading, denominated “Corrected Amended Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus,” and a set of revised exhibits. 2 and withdrew from pain, but did not appear to recognize her mother. She had a small bruise on her forehead, with scrapes on her nose and lip. Medical personnel focused on Consuelo’s head injury and did not do a complete examination of her genitalia. When …
Original document
Source: California Supreme Court