BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



          SENATE COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS
                             Senator Ricardo Lara, Chair
                            2015 - 2016  Regular  Session

          SB 694 (Leno) - New evidence:  habeas corpus:  motion to vacate  
          judgment 
          
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          |Version: February 27, 2015      |Policy Vote: PUB. S. 5 - 2      |
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          |Urgency: No                     |Mandate: No                     |
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          |Hearing Date: May 4, 2015       |Consultant: Jolie Onodera       |
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          This bill meets the criteria for referral to the Suspense File.




          Bill Summary:  SB 694:
                 Authorizes the granting of a habeas corpus petition  
               based on new evidence which "raises a reasonable  
               probability of a different outcome if a new trial were  
               granted."
                 Lowers the standard of proof for a court finding  
               required in order to require the Victim Compensation and  
               Government Claims Board (Board) to recommend an  
               appropriation be made and a claim paid without a hearing. 
                 Lowers the standard of proof to meet the definition of  
               "new evidence" from "undermines the prosecution case and  
               points unerringly to innocence' to "raises a possibility of  
               a different outcome if a new trial were granted," both in  
               prosecuting a writ of habeas corpus and a motion to vacate  
               judgment.









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          Fiscal  
          Impact:  
           Potential future increase in General Fund appropriations for  
            payment of approved claims for compensation to exonerees  
            potentially in the hundreds of thousands to low millions of  
            dollars in any one year for: 1) new cases granted a writ of  
            habeas corpus on the grounds of new evidence, as defined; 2)  
            new cases in which a court vacates judgment on the basis of  
            the revised definition of new evidence; and, 3) claims that  
            otherwise would not have been paid under the higher standard  
            for a court finding and subject to a Board hearing. Annual  
            costs would vary based on the number of claims filed and the  
            duration of unlawful imprisonment specific to each individual.  
            Since 2002, 14 claims have been paid totaling $5.3 million,  
            ranging in amount from $17,000 to $757,000, with an average  
            compensation amount of $379,000. Three claims totaling about  
            $1 million are pending Legislative approval.
           Potentially significant increase in Attorney General (AG)  
            workload (General Fund) to the extent a greater number of  
            claims meeting the lower standard of "reasonable probability"  
            result in additional petitions granted. Resources could  
            potentially be required for post-verdict investigations, and  
            to litigate retrials, appeals, and collateral challenges.
           No significant workload impact to the Board. Potential  
            increases in the number of claims submitted for review are  
            estimated to be offset in whole or in part by the reduced  
            workload resulting from fewer required hearings in order to  
            recommend an appropriation for claims prospectively.
           Potential future cost savings (General Fund) in averted  
            incarceration of an unknown, but potentially significant  
            amount to the extent future writs of habeas corpus are  
            granted.


          Background:  Existing law provides that every person unlawfully imprisoned  
          or restrained of his or her liberty, under any pretense, may  
          prosecute a writ of habeas corpus to inquire into the cause of  
          his or her imprisonment or restraint. (Penal Code (PC)   
          1473(a).)
          Existing law states that a writ of habeas corpus may be  
          prosecuted for, but not limited to, the following reasons:
                 False evidence that is substantially material or  
               probative on the issue of guilt, or punishment was  
               introduced against a person at any hearing or trial  








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               relating to his or her incarceration.
                 False physical evidence, believed by a person to be  
               factual, material or probative on the issue of guilt, which  
               was known by the person at the time of entering a plea of  
               guilty and which was a material factor directly related to  
               the plea of guilty by the person. (PC  1473 (b).)

          Existing law provides that in a contested proceeding, if a court  
          grants a writ of habeas corpus concerning a person who is  
          unlawfully imprisoned or restrained, or when the court vacates a  
          judgment on the basis of new evidence concerning a person who is  
          no longer unlawfully imprisoned or restrained, and if the court  
          finds that the new evidence on the petition points unerringly to  
          innocence, that finding shall be binding on the Victim  
          Compensation and Government Claims Board for a claim presented  
          to the Board, and upon application by the person, the Board  
          shall, without a hearing, recommend to the Legislature that an  
          appropriation be made and the claim paid. (PC  1485.55(a).) 

          Existing law provides that "new evidence" means evidence that  
          was not available or known at the time of trial that completely  
          undermines the prosecution case and points unerringly to  
          innocence. (PC  1485.55(g).)


          Under current law, any person no longer unlawfully imprisoned or  
          restrained may prosecute a motion to vacate a judgment for newly  
          discovered evidence, as specified. Existing law states that the  
          procedure for bringing and adjudicating a motion to vacate  
          judgment, including the burden of producing evidence and the  
          burden of proof, shall be the same as for prosecuting a writ of  
          habeas corpus. (PC  1473.6.)


          Proposed Law:  
           This bill:
                 Authorizes, as grounds for a writ of habeas corpus, new  
               evidence exists which would raise a reasonable probability  
               of a different outcome if a new trial were granted.
                 Lowers the standard for a court finding in order to  
               require VCGCB to recommend a claim be paid without a  
               hearing from "points unerringly to innocence" to "raises a  
               possibility of a different outcome if a new trial were  
               granted."








          SB 694 (Leno)                                          Page 3 of  
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                 Lowers the standard to meet the definition of "new  
               evidence" from "undermines the prosecution case and points  
               unerringly to innocence" to "raises a possibility of a  
               different outcome if a new trial were granted."
          
          Related Legislation:  SB 635 (Nielsen) 2015 would raise the  
          compensation for innocent persons who were wrongly convicted  
          from $100 per day to $140 per day of incarceration served, as  
          specified. This bill would expand the scope of a compensable  
          injury to include non-pecuniary injuries, as specified. This  
          bill is pending hearing in this Committee.


          Prior  
          Legislation:  SB 1058 (Leno) Chapter 623/2013 allows a writ of  
          habeas corpus when evidence given at trial has subsequently been  
          repudiated by the expert that testified or undermined by later  
          scientific research or technological advances.
          SB 618 (Leno) Chapter 800/2013 streamlined and provided clarity  
          to the process for compensating persons who have been exonerated  
          after serving time incarcerated.

          Staff Comments:  By lowering the standard of proof to meet the  
          definition of "new evidence," this measure could result in the  
          courts granting additional writs of habeas corpus and motions to  
          vacate judgment. As the bill allows a lower standard for a court  
          finding required to recommend an appropriation without a  
          hearing, payments from the General Fund to compensate  
          individuals for wrongful incarceration could potentially  
          increase. While it is unknown how many cases this bill will  
          impact, costs could range potentially in the hundreds of  
          thousands to millions of dollars in any one year. Annual costs  
          would vary based on the number of claims filed and the duration  
          of unlawful imprisonment specific to each individual. Since  
          2002, 14 claims have been paid totaling $5.3 million, ranging in  
          amount from $17,000 to $757,000, with an average compensation  
          amount of $379,000. Staff notes that three claims are pending  
          Legislative approval for payment of $968,400.


          The AG has indicated the provisions of this bill could result in  
          an unquantifiable but potentially significant workload impact  
          that could require increased staffing. The additional need for  
          resources for post-verdict investigations and to litigate  








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          retrials, appeals and collateral challenges is unknown, but  
          could be significant. 

          The Board has indicated no significant impact due the provisions  
          of this bill in its role of considering erroneous conviction  
          claims.


          Notwithstanding the fiscal impacts of this measure, this bill  
          will serve to allow more individuals determined to be wrongfully  
          convicted and unlawfully imprisoned the compensation they  
          deserve.




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