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People v. Rodriguez

Filed 5/17/18 IN THE SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA THE PEOPLE, ) ) Plaintiff and Respondent, ) ) S239713 v. ) ) Ct.App. 5 F065807 JESUS MANUEL RODRIGUEZ AND ) EDGAR OCTAVIO BARAJAS, ) ) Stanislaus County Defendants and Appellants. ) Super. Ct. Nos. ) 1085319 and 1086536 ____________________________________) Defendants Edgar Octavio Barajas and Jesus Manuel Rodriguez were convicted in a joint trial of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and participation in a criminal street gang. The trial court sentenced each defendant to mandatory terms amounting to 50 years to life. We granted review to consider (1) whether the accomplice testimony in this case was sufficiently corroborated in light of People v. Romero and Self (2015) 62 Cal.4th 1, 36 (Romero and Self), and (2) whether defendants’ constitutional challenges to their 50-years-to-life sentences were rendered moot by recent legislation making them eligible for a youth offender parole hearing during their 25th year of incarceration (Pen. Code, §§ 3051, 4801), even though their cases were not remanded to the trial court to determine whether they had an adequate opportunity to make a record of factors relevant to their eventual parole determinations. (See People v. Franklin (2016) 63 Cal.4th 261, 283–284, 286 (Franklin).) With respect to Barajas, the Attorney General concedes that the accomplice testimony was not sufficiently corroborated and that his convictions must be reversed. We agree with the Attorney General and therefore reverse Barajas’s convictions and remand with an order to enter a judgment of acquittal. Rodriguez raises only the second issue, and we conclude he is entitled to relief. We remand his case to the Court of Appeal to direct the trial court to provide him with an opportunity to make a record of information that Penal Code sections 3051 and 4801 deem relevant at a youth offender parole hearing. As in Franklin, Rodriguez’s constitutional challenge to his 50-years-to-life sentence is moot in light of the enactment of those statutes and our remand to facilitate proper discharge of the Board of Parole Hearings’ obligations under those statutes. I. On May 26, 2004, Ernestina Tizoc was killed in a drive-by shooting in Oregon Park in Modesto. The park was known as a hangout for members of the Norteño gang. Witnesses saw a white Chevrolet Blazer with broken windows drive slowly around the park and approach a gazebo where an afterschool program was being held. Before the shots were fired at Tizoc, the occupants of the Blazer made gang signs and yelled a cry for a rival gang, the Sureños. Officers arrived at the scene and received information that people at a residence on Thrasher Avenue were involved in the shooting. Officers went to the location and detained Rodriguez, Barajas, Mario Garcia, and Louis Acosta. At the time, Rodriguez was 15 years old, and Barajas was 16 years old. At trial, a gang expert working with the district attorney’s office testified that he believed all of the arrestees were Sureño gang members. In a subsequent search of the Thrasher Avenue residence, an …
Original document
Source: California Supreme Court