BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                     SB 694  


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          Date of Hearing:  August 26, 2015


                        ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS


                                 Jimmy Gomez, Chair


          SB 694  
          (Leno) - As Amended August 17, 2015


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          Urgency:  No  State Mandated Local Program:  NoReimbursable:  No


          SUMMARY:


          This bill codifies a standard for habeas corpus petitions filed  
          on the basis of new evidence.  Specifically, this bill:  










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          1)Permits a writ of habeas corpus to be prosecuted on the basis  
            of new evidence, which would have more likely than not changed  
            the outcome of the trial.  However, this new evidence must be  
            evidence that has been discovered after the trial and could  
            not have been discovered prior to trial.  

          2)Requires the Victims Compensation and Government Claims Board  
            to recommend payment for incarceration of a person if the  
            court finds that the person is factually innocent.  



          3)Makes additional clarifying and technical changes.  


          


          FISCAL EFFECT:


          Potential significant costs in the millions (GF and Trial Court  
          Trust Fund) to Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, and Trial Courts  
          during the first two or three years.  Although this bill  
          specifies the "new evidence" must be evidence that was not  
          available at the time of the trial, staff of the various courts  
          will have to review the record and make that determination.   
          Writs may be submitted to all three courts; and the higher the  
          court, the higher the level of review.  Denial by a lower court  
          is subject to either appeal, or to the filing of an original  
          petition at the next higher court, (or both).   The Judicial  
          Council estimates a large volume of new writs during the first  
          two or three years after enactment, but a leveling off  
          thereafter. 










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          COMMENTS:


          1)Purpose.  According to the author, "Under existing California  
            law an inmate who has been convicted of committing a crime,  
            but claims that they are factually innocent, may file a  
            petition for writ of habeas corpus, which, if a court agrees  
            with their claim, could potentially result in a new trial if  
            warranted. The burden for proving one's innocence in such  
            cases based on newly-available evidence is not currently  
            defined by statute, but has evolved from appellate court  
            opinions, and is practically impossible to achieve in  
            California."


            "As a legal and practical matter, current case law requires  
            wrongfully incarcerated individuals who have produced new  
            evidence to conclusively and affirmatively prove their  
            innocence, often decades after the fact when witness memories  
            have faded, other evidence has disappeared, and re-litigating  
            the original case is essentially impossible. Even when new  
            evidence shows that their conviction would have never occurred  
            in the first place, an individual is likely to remain  
            wrongfully incarcerated under the status quo in California."

            "This proposed standard in SB 694 simply brings claims of  
            actual innocence based on new evidence into alignment with  
            other post-conviction remedies for various established  
            constitutional violations, such as claims of ineffective  
            assistance of counsel, prosecutorial misconduct, or false  
            evidence, as well as bringing California in line with 39 other  
            states."    


          2)Background.  Current law provides that every person unlawfully  
            imprisoned or restrained of his or her liberty, under any  
            pretense whatever, may prosecute a writ of habeas corpus to  
            inquire into the cause of such imprisonment or restraint.   
            Current law states that a writ of habeas corpus may be  








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            prosecuted for, but not limited to, the following reasons:  

             a)   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  
               relating to his incarceration;

             b)   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. 

            Current 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.  However, in California, there is no  
            codified standard of proof for a writ of habeas corpus brought  
            on the basis of new evidence.  The current standard is based  
            on case law.


            The author states, "In order to prevail on a new evidence  
            claim under current law, an individual must undermine the  
            prosecution's entire case and 'point unerringly to innocence  
            with evidence no reasonable jury could reject.'  The  
            California Supreme Court has acknowledged that this standard  
            is very high, much higher than the 'preponderance of the  
            evidence' standard that governs other habeas corpus claims,  
            such as those based on ineffective assistance of counsel.  It  
            is by far the most difficult standard to meet in the entire  
            nation."


            SB 694 sets the standard for the granting of a writ of habeas  
            corpus as new evidence exists which would have more likely  
            than not changed the outcome of the trial.  However, this new  
            evidence must be evidence that has been discovered after the  
            trial and could not have been discovered prior to trial.   The  








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            reasonable probability standard is the same standard that is  
            used in most other states, and in California is used for cases  
            of: ineffective assistance of counsel; false evidence; and,  
            prosecutorial misconduct.  


            This bill also makes conforming changes, making it clear the  
            standard is a finding of factual innocence by a court in the  
            section requiring the Victim Compensation and Government  
            Claims Board to make a recommendation for an appropriation  
            when the court has granted a writ of habeas corpus on the  
            basis of new evidence.


          3)Support. According to The California Innocence Project, "The  
            burden for proving one's actual innocence with new evidence of  
            innocence is not defined by statute in California.  Rather,  
            California case law from more than sixty years ago requires a  
            wrongfully convicted person seeking relief from their  
            conviction to meet a very high burden.  Specifically, they  
            must present evidence no reasonable jury would reject,  
            evidence which undermines the prosecution's entire case and  
            points unerringly to innocence.  Even the California Supreme  
            Court has recognized this standard as much higher than other  
            standards for relief which govern other habeas claims. 

          4)Prior Legislation:  

             a)   SB 1058 (Leno), Chapter 623, Statutes of 2014, allowed 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.

             b)   SB 618 (Leno), Chapter 800, Statutes of 2013,  
               streamlined the process for compensating persons who have  
               been exonerated after being wrongfully convicted and  
               imprisoned.  









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             c)   AB 1593 (Ma), Chapter 809, Statutes of 2012, allows a  
               writ of habeas corpus to be prosecuted if expert testimony  
               relating to intimate partner battering and its effects was  
               received into evidence but was limited at the trial court  
               proceedings relating to a prisoner's incarceration for the  
               commission of a violent felony committed prior to August  
               29, 1996, and there is a reasonable probability, sufficient  
               to undermine confidence in the judgment of conviction, that  
               if the testimony had not been limited, the result of the  
               proceedings would have been different.

             d)   SB 1471 (Runner), of the 2007-08 Legislative Session,  
               would have required habeas petitions in death penalty cases  
               to be filed within one year and change the standards for  
               competent counsel.  SB 1471 failed passage in Senate Public  
               Safety.


          Analysis Prepared by:Pedro R. Reyes / APPR. / (916)  
          319-2081