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The People v. Tyrone Sanders

February 21, 2012


APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Nancy L. Newman, Judge. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. ZM008930)

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




Tyrone Sanders appeals from a judgment committing him to a two-year term as a sexually violent predator. (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 6600 et seq.)*fn1 The judgment was entered based upon a stipulated agreement. Appellant contends that the judgment must be reversed because his constitutional right to due process was violated by the excessive delay involved in resolving the matter, and also because the agreement was invalid. We conclude that because he admitted to the allegations contained in the petition seeking his commitment, he is foreclosed from seeking appellate review of any due process violation based on delay. Further, we reject appellant's contention that the agreement was invalid. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment.

factual and procedural background

On July 8, 2005, the Los Angeles County District Attorney filed a petition seeking commitment of appellant as a sexually violent predator (SVP). Later that month, appellant personally waived his right to a probable cause hearing and stipulated that there was probable cause to proceed on the petition based on the doctors' reports. The court ordered defendant transported to Atascadero State Hospital forthwith.

On September 20, 2006, the Governor signed into law Senate Bill No. 1128, a piece of urgency legislation that, among other things, amended section 6604 to lengthen the term of an SVP commitment from two years to an indeterminate period. (See People v. Castillo (2010) 49 Cal.4th 145, 150 (Castillo).) During the November 2006 General Election, the voters of California adopted Proposition 83 (known as "Jessica's Law"), which enacted the same changes. (Id. at pp. 150, 152.)

On October 31, 2006, the parties in this matter filed a stipulation with the court in which they agreed that appellant would receive a two-year commitment following his trial on the 2005 petition, notwithstanding the change in the law occasioned by legislative amendment of the Sexually Violent Predators Act (SVPA) providing for imposition of an indeterminate term of commitment. This stipulation was originally entered into on October 11, 2006, by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, the Los Angeles County Public Defender, and the Los Angeles County Superior Court, and indicated it was to be filed in every SVP case in which a petition was pending prior to the effective date of the legislation. As relevant here, the stipulation stated as follows: "On September 20, 2006 Senate Bill 1128, urgency legislation, was signed into law by the Governor. Additionally a ballot initiative commonly known as 'Jessica's Law' is on the ballot in November of 2006. The legislation and the initiative include language which would lengthen the term of commitment for a SVP from two years to an indeterminate term. Due to uncertainty in the retroactive application of this change, it is the intention of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office to apply the current[*fn2 ] two year commitment period to all currently pending initial commitment petitions, as limited below, for cases in which the trial and commitment occur after the effective date of the legislation or the initiative[,] whichever occurs first, hereafter 'effective date.' For all cases in which an initial commitment petition is filed after the effective date of the legislation, the District Attorney's office will seek the indeterminate term."

The matter then remained pending for a substantial period of time, during which defense counsel requested continuances to file pretrial motions and to prepare for trial. In addition, appellant filed two Marsden*fn3 motions, the second of which was granted in November 2008. In May 2009, appellant also filed a motion to dismiss the petition, contending the SVPA violated his constitutional rights to due process and equal protection, and was an illegal ex post facto law. On numerous occasions, appellant unsuccessfully objected to the delay in bringing the matter to trial, and argued the petition should be dismissed.

The Settlement Agreement

Eventually, on May 11, 2010, the parties informed the court they had reached a stipulation under which appellant admitted the allegations of the petition, and agreed to receive a two-year commitment. The stipulation provided as follows: "In the event the respondent's admission to the two-year commitment term is deemed unenforceable for any reason, the respondent shall be permitted to withdraw his admission to the petition and will be entitled to a trial on the most recently filed petition providing the respondent has not already been found to qualify as a sexually violent predator on that petition. If the jury determines that the respondent is a sexually violent predator, the commitment will be an indeterminate term. [¶] At the conclusion of the two-year commitment in case ZM008930 if appropriate, a sexually violent predator petition will be filed seeking an indeterminate commitment."

Appellant and his attorney stipulated to a factual basis for appellant's admission of the allegations of the petition based upon all the police reports, probation reports, psychologists' reports, and the records of appellant's prior convictions. Appellant admitted having suffered forcible oral copulation and rape convictions in 1979, 1987, and 1990, within the meaning of section 6600. He admitted that he had a currently diagnosed mental disorder that predisposed him to commit sexually violent, predatory crimes, that as a result of the diagnosed mental disorder it was likely that, if released, he would engage in sexually violent, predatory criminal behavior, and that he agreed to be committed as a sexually violent predator.

At the hearing on May 11, 2010, at which appellant was present, defense counsel acknowledged that although it was a civil matter, some criminal procedures applied and he therefore asked the court to issue "something like a certificate of probable cause with regard only to the issue of speedy trial." The court replied, "Correct. I would agree to the defendant not waiving ...

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