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People v. Goodliffe

September 14, 2009

THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
DUKE AUSTIN GOODLIFFE, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Butte County, Robert A. Glusman, Judge. Reversed in part and affirmed in part. (Super. Ct. No. CM028077).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Blease, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PARTIAL PUBLICATION*fn1

Does a general statement of legislative intent trump the plain meaning of a statute? The issue arises in the application of subdivision (c) of Penal Code section 667.6.*fn2 It provides that a "full, separate and consecutive term" may be imposed for each violation of a violent sexual offense listed in subdivision (e), but only if the "crimes involve the same victim on the same occasion." (Italics added.) Notwithstanding the plain meaning of this provision, the trial court imposed a full, consecutive term on defendant Duke Austin Goodliffe for a crime committed against a separate victim. He appeals.

Defendant pleaded no contest to four sexual offenses involving four young children*fn3 including one offense specified in section 667.6, subdivision (e) (count 9).*fn4 He was sentenced to 19 years, four months in state prison,*fn5 including a full, consecutive term for count 9 under subdivision (c). We requested supplemental letter briefs addressing whether defendant was properly sentenced to a full, consecutive term under section 667.6.

On appeal defendant claims that he is not subject to subdivision (c) because the other crimes of which he was convicted did not involve the same victim on the same occasion. The People concede that is the case. However they argue that a literal reading of subdivision (c) would lead to the "absurd consequence[]" of "lessen[ing] the number of sex offenders who fall under the purview" of Jessica‟s Law, in conflict with its stated intention.*fn6 They ask that we rewrite subdivision (c) to reinsert language that Jessica‟s Law repealed.*fn7 That we cannot do.

"[T]he basic principle of statutory... construction... mandates that courts, in construing a measure, not undertake to rewrite its unambiguous language. (In re Waters of Long Valley Creek Stream System (1979) 25 Cal.3d 339, 348[].)" (People v. Skinner (1985) 39 Cal.3d 765, 775 (Skinner).) There are a few exceptions to the rule. "[It] is not applied... when it appears clear that a word has been erroneously used, and a judicial correction will best carry out the intent of the adopting body. (Pepper v. Board of Directors (1958) 162 Cal.App.2d 1, 4.)" (Skinner, supra, 39 Cal.3d at p. 775.) The rule also does not apply where a literal reading would achieve the absurd consequence of rendering other provisions of the same enactment ineffective. (People v. Pieters (1991) 52 Cal.3d 894, 898-899 (Pieters).

Pieters is relied on by the People in this appeal. However, Pieters does not apply to this case because subdivision (c) does not render ineffective any other provision of Jessica‟s Law.

Accordingly, we shall reverse the judgment insofar as it imposes a full, consecutive term on count 9 and remand the matter for resentencing.*fn8

DISCUSSION*fn9

I.

In his supplemental letter brief, defendant contends the trial court erred in sentencing him to a full, consecutive term on count 9 because his crimes did not "involve the same victim on the same occasion" as required by section 667.6, subdivision (c). We agree.

Section 667.6, subdivision (c) authorizes a trial court to impose "a full, separate, and consecutive term... for each violation of an offense specified in subdivision (e) if the crimes involve the same victim on the same occasion."*fn10 (Italics added.) Subdivision (c) further provides that "[a] term may be imposed consecutively pursuant to this subdivision if a person (e)."*fn11

The People concede that defendant‟s crimes did not involve the same victim on the same occasion,*fn12 but argue that giving subdivision (c) its literal meaning would conflict with the electorate‟s stated intent in Jessica‟s Law "to strengthen and improve the laws that punish and control sexual offenders." (Voter Information Pamp., Gen. Elec. (Nov. 7, 2006) text of Prop. 83, § 31, p. 138.)*fn13 Given that intent, the People find it an "absurd consequence[]" that section 667.6, subdivision (c) would "lessen the number of sex offenders who fall under [its] purview... by making [it] inapplicable to a defendant who is convicted of committing an [enumerated sex offense] against one victim and a non-[enumerated sex offense] against a separate victim on a separate occasion."

As noted (fn. 7), Jessica‟s Law repealed language that authorized a trial court to impose "a full, separate, and consecutive term... for each violation of [enumerated sex offenses] whether or not the crimes were committed during a single transaction." (Former § 667.6, subd. (c), as amended by Stats. 2002, ch. 787, § 16, italics added.) ...


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