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The People v. Lennett Baker

April 11, 2012

THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
LENNETT BAKER, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Superior Court of San Bernardino County. Katrina West, Judge. (Super.Ct.No. FELSS1002660)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mckinster Acting P.J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Affirmed.

Defendant and appellant Lennett Baker appeals a judgment pursuant to Penal Code section 2962, finding that she qualifies as a mentally disordered offender.*fn1 She contends that there was insufficient evidence to support the trial court's finding because the prosecution relied on inadmissible hearsay in the guise of expert opinion testimony and that the testimony in some respects exceeded the scope of the expert witness's expertise.

Although we agree that some of the expert witness's testimony was incompetent hearsay and that some of her testimony exceeded the scope of admissible expert opinion testimony, we conclude nevertheless that substantial evidence supported the trial court's finding that Baker qualifies as a mentally disordered offender. Accordingly, we will affirm the judgment.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On February 8, 2005, Baker was convicted in the Superior Court of Kern County on a plea of nolo contendere to one count of arson of an inhabited structure. (§ 451, subd. (b).) She was sentenced to a term of three years in state prison.*fn2 On June 21, 2010, the Board of Parole Hearings*fn3 determined that Baker was a mentally disordered offender (MDO) within the meaning of section 2962. It sustained the requirement that she receive mental health treatment as a condition of parole. On June 30, 2010, Baker challenged that finding in the Superior Court of San Bernardino County.

At a bench trial on May 18, 2011, the court found that Baker met the criteria of section 2962. Baker filed a timely notice of appeal on May 19, 2011.

FACTS

The Prosecution Case

At the hearing on Baker's petition, the prosecution's only witness was Dr. Kathi Studden, a licensed psychologist employed by the Department of Corrections to perform evaluations of prisoners to determine whether they qualify as mentally disordered. She had performed some 3500 such evaluations and had testified as an expert about 20 times.

On April 19, 2010, Dr. Studden interviewed Baker at the California Institute for Women. Before interviewing her, Dr. Studden reviewed Baker's central file, which contained "all of the criminal type information," including a description of the crime, probation officer's reports, and information concerning Baker's performance on parole. She also reviewed Baker's medical record, which contained a history of her mental health treatment while in prison. The prison records showed that Baker was receiving mental health care while in prison "at the enhanced outpatient level of care, which is a fairly high level of care." Dr. Studden testified that the records showed that Baker had received more than 90 days of treatment prior to the time of the Board of Prison Hearings (sic) hearing on June 21, 2010.

Dr. Studden testified that Baker was serving a three-year sentence for arson of an inhabited structure. She testified that the probation officer's report stated that on October 14, 2003, Baker was living at her mother's house, where her brother also resided, when the structure burned. The report stated that the fire department determined that the fire had been deliberately set because there were two separate locations where fires had started. The report indicated that two people had needed treatment for smoke inhalation.

Dr. Studden testified that the reports indicated that Baker had first told her brother that a bomb had gone off in the house and later told investigators that demons had set the fire and that they would be able to see that because "they" have cameras in the room watching her. Dr. Studden opined that the arson was a qualifying offense (under section 2962) because it posed a danger to others, including potential fatalities. She also opined that the crime was caused or aggravated by a mental illness. She felt that Baker was paranoid and acting out against her paranoia.

Based on her review of the record and her interview with Baker, Dr. Studden diagnosed Baker's condition as psychotic disorder, not otherwise specified. She testified that Baker had "very prominent delusions" of grandeur and paranoia. About two months before the interview, Baker had typed a 10-page letter which contained a lot of paranoid ideation, including that she had patented cell phones and that China wanted her to be released so she could go work for them, that the "White Lords of Bakersfield" were in charge, that people were watching her, and that someone had killed her son. The letter indicated that law enforcement and the prison system were out to get ...


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