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People v. Rusconi

California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, First Division

April 28, 2015

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
MONICA RUSCONI, Defendant and Appellant.

APPEAL from an order of the Superior Court of San Diego County, No. SCD175729 David J. Danielsen, Judge.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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COUNSEL

Mark D. Johnson, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Julie L. Garland, Assistant Attorney General, Seth Friedman and Karl T. Terp, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

OPINION

BENKE, Acting P. J.

Recently, our Supreme Court held that where a defendant has suffered two prior convictions growing out of a single act, involving a single victim, only one of the convictions may be treated as a strike within the meaning of the three strikes law (Pen. Code, §§ 667, subds. (b)-(i), 1170.12). (People v. Vargas (2014) 59 Cal.4th 635, 646-649 [174 Cal.Rptr.3d 277, 328 P.3d 1020] (Vargas).) Contrary to defendant and appellant Monica Rusconi's argument on appeal here, Vargas does not require any relief from the 25-year-to-life sentence she is now serving following her conviction of a third strike: felony driving while intoxicated after having been previously convicted of vehicular manslaughter while under the influence of alcohol. (§ 23550.5, subd. (b).)

Although arguably Vargas represents a change in the law which might permit us to revisit three strikes sentences that are otherwise final, because the two strikes Rusconi challenges at this point grow out of an incident in which she killed two bicyclists and was convicted of two counts of manslaughter, the holding in Vargas has no application here. For decades, our courts have consistently determined that where multiple victims have been injured by a single violent act, a defendant may be punished separately for each victim of his or her violence. This principle has been so well accepted for such a lengthy period of time that we have no doubt that when the Legislature and then the People enacted our three strikes law in 1994, they were aware of it and fully expected it would be applied in three strikes cases.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

A. Manslaughter Convictions

On April 11, 1986, Rusconi pled guilty to two counts of vehicular manslaughter (Pen. Code, former § 192, subd. (c)(3))[1] and one count of

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felony hit and run. Her plea was subject to People v. West (1970) 3 Cal.3d 595 [91 Cal.Rptr. 385, 477 P.2d 409] and included a Harvey waiver (People v. Harvey (1979) 25 Cal.3d 754 [159 Cal.Rptr. 696, 602 P.2d 396]). The manslaughter convictions grew out of an incident in which, while driving under the influence of alcohol, Rusconi drove her car onto the shoulder of a narrow road and hit two ...


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