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People v. Cook

Supreme Court of California

February 5, 2015

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
VICTORIA SAMANTHA COOK, Defendant and Appellant

Page 923

Superior Court of Riverside County, No. SWF10000834, Dennis A. McConaghy[*], Judge. Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division Two, No. E054307.

Thomas K. Macomber, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant.

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Julie L. Garland, Assistant Attorney General, Steven T. Oetting, Lise Jacobson and Tami Falkenstein Hennick, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

OPINION

Page 924

CHIN, J.

When a defendant is convicted of a crime, the sentence for that crime may sometimes be enhanced if the defendant " personally inflicts great bodily injury on any person." (Pen. Code, § 12022.7, subd. (a).) [1] Defendant was convicted of three counts of gross vehicular manslaughter. We must decide whether the sentence for the gross vehicular manslaughter of one victim may be enhanced for defendant's infliction of great bodily injury on other victims. The question requires us to interpret section 12022.7, subdivision (g), which provides that the enhancement " shall not apply to murder or manslaughter" or " if infliction of great bodily injury is an element of the offense."

We conclude that subdivision (g) of section 12022.7 means what it says: Great bodily [342 P.3d 405] injury enhancements do not apply to a conviction for murder or manslaughter. A defendant convicted of murder or manslaughter who also commits crimes against other victims may be convicted of those additional crimes and, to the extent the sentencing laws permit, punished separately for them. But the sentence for manslaughter may not be enhanced for the infliction of great bodily injury as to anyone. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeal to the extent it held defendant's manslaughter conviction is subject to any great bodily injury enhancement.

I. Facts and Procedural History

The facts of the crime are largely irrelevant to the sentencing issue before us. In essence, on June 2, 2009, while driving a Ford Fusion, defendant Victoria Samantha Cook was involved in an automobile accident in which three persons were killed and a fourth seriously injured. The evidence supported a jury finding that defendant caused the accident by speeding and driving recklessly.

A jury found defendant guilty of three counts of gross vehicular manslaughter, one count each for the three persons who died. (§ 192, subd. (c)(1).) As to the first count, the jury also found true three allegations that defendant personally inflicted great bodily injury. Two of the great bodily injury allegations related to the two victims who died and were the subject of

Page 925

the other two manslaughter convictions. The third related to the person who was injured but survived. This person was not the subject of any other charge or conviction.

The trial court sentenced defendant to state prison for a total of nine years eight months, consisting of the midterm of four years for the first manslaughter conviction, one year four months (one-third of the midterm) for each of the other two manslaughter convictions, and three years for the great bodily injury enhancement as to the victim who was injured but survived. The court struck the punishment for the great bodily injury enhancements as to the victims who died.

On appeal, defendant argued that section 12022.7, subdivision (g), prohibits all of the great bodily injury enhancements. The Court of Appeal upheld the enhancement as to the surviving victim, but reversed the enhancements as to the manslaughter victims. We granted the Attorney General's petition for review, which presented only the question of whether the Court of Appeal erred in reversing the enhancements as to the manslaughter victims. We later requested and received supplemental briefing on the additional question of whether any great bodily injury enhancement was proper.

II. Discussion

A. Background

Section 12022.7, subdivision (a), provides: " Any person who personally inflicts great bodily injury on any person other than an accomplice in the commission of a felony or attempted felony shall be punished by an additional and consecutive term of imprisonment in the state prison for three years." Subdivisions (b), (c), (d), and (e) of that section, which do not apply in this case, provide longer enhancements for the infliction of specified kinds of great bodily injury. Subdivision (f) of that section defines " 'great bodily injury.'" Section 12022.7, subdivision (g), the provision we are interpreting, provides: " This section shall not apply to murder or manslaughter or a violation of Section 451 [(arson)] or 452 [(unlawfully causing a fire)]. Subdivisions (a), (b), (c), and (d) shall not apply if infliction of great bodily injury is an element of the offense."

No one disputes that section 12022.7, subdivision (g), prohibits enhancing a manslaughter or murder conviction for inflicting great bodily injury on the person who is the subject of that conviction. The question before us is when, if ever, a manslaughter conviction may be enhanced for the infliction of great bodily injury on other victims during the commission of the manslaughter. Here, during the commission of manslaughter as to one of the victims,

Page 926

defendant killed (and thus inflicted great bodily injury on) two other victims and inflicted great bodily injury on another victim, who survived. We must decide whether defendant's sentence for one of [342 P.3d 406] the manslaughter convictions may be enhanced for any of the other great bodily injuries defendant inflicted and, if so, which ones.

Several cases have considered when, if ever, a great bodily injury enhancement may attach to a murder or manslaughter conviction, with inconsistent results. We will first review the cases. Then we will consider what the proper rule should be.

B. The Cases

Until recently, to the extent they confronted this question, the cases generally assumed or stated that section 12022.7's great bodily injury enhancement simply does not apply to murder or manslaughter. For example, in deciding a different question, the Court of Appeal in People v. Valencia (2000) 82 Cal.App.4th 139, 143 [98 Cal.Rptr.2d 37] stated that " a section 12022.7 great bodily injury enhancement may not enhance a murder conviction."

Closer on point is People v. Beltran (2000) 82 Cal.App.4th 693 [98 Cal.Rptr.2d 730] ( Beltran ). There, the defendant, while fleeing from the police in a vehicle, collided with another vehicle, killing one person and seriously injuring a second. He was convicted of evading a pursuing peace officer causing serious injuries to others (Veh. Code, § 2800.3) and vehicular manslaughter. As to the Vehicle Code count, the jury found true two great bodily injury enhancements--one for the deceased victim, who was the subject of the vehicular manslaughter conviction, and one for the surviving victim. No great bodily injury enhancement was alleged as to the vehicular manslaughter count. The Court of Appeal considered whether the enhancements as to the Vehicle Code count were valid. It noted that " [u]nder section 12022.7, [former] subdivision (f) [(now subd. (g))] the enhancements could not be based on Beltran's count 3 conviction of vehicular manslaughter. The only basis for the enhancements is the count 1 conviction of evading a peace officer under Vehicle Code section 2800.3." ( Beltran, at p. 696.) But the court also found that the enhancements were invalid as to the Vehicle Code violation because infliction of great bodily injury is an element of that offense. For this reason, it reversed both great bodily injury enhancements. It drew no distinction between the enhancement for the deceased victim and that for the surviving victim.

The first case to permit a great bodily injury enhancement to attach to a manslaughter conviction was People v. Verlinde (2002) 100 Cal.App.4th 1146 [123 Cal.Rptr.2d 322] ( Verli ...


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