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People v. Valenzuela

California Court of Appeals, Second District, First Division

May 9, 2018

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
JIMMY VALENZUELA, Defendant and Appellant.

          APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County No. BA398681, James R. Dabney, Judge. Affirmed; remanded with directions.

          Mark L. Christiansen, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

          Xavier Becerra, Attorney General, Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Lance E. Winters, Assistant Attorney General, Margaret E. Maxwell and Yun K. Lee, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

          CHANEY, J.

         Jimmy Valenzuela appeals from the judgment entered on his conviction for two counts of first degree murder. Valenzuela contends the verdict for one of the murders is unintelligible because the jury submitted two signed verdict forms for that murder, one reflecting a guilty verdict and the other a not guilty verdict. Valenzuela also contends he should benefit from a change in the law granting trial courts the discretion to strike gun enhancements. We agree with the second contention but reject the first, and thus affirm Valenzuela's conviction but remand for resentencing.

         BACKGROUND

         In 2007, an assailant shot and killed Joe Alvarado. In 2010, an assailant shot and killed Jimmy Jimenez. Both were members of the Varrio Nuevo Estrada street gang and were thought to have been killed by a member of the rival Southside Montebello street gang. During recorded conversations with a police informant, Valenzuela admitted shooting Alvarado and Jimenez. He was arrested and tried on two counts of first degree murder.

         At the end of trial, after the jury indicated it had reached a verdict and returned verdict forms for the Alvarado and Jimenez murders, the trial court stated, “The jury has reached a verdict. I am unsealing the verdicts. [¶] The verdicts appear to be correctly dated and signed. [¶] The clerk will read the verdicts as they are to be recorded.” The court clerk read the verdicts, both of which indicated the jury found Valenzuela guilty of two counts of first degree murder, and as to each count found true the firearm and gang allegations and the special circumstances allegation that he had committed “more than one murder in this case.” The clerk then asked, “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, are these your verdicts, so say you one, so say you all?” The jury answered in the affirmative.

         When the trial court inquired whether either side wished to have the jury polled, Valenzuela's counsel indicated he did want the jury polled. The court then stated, “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, as I call you by your seat number, please answer ‘yes' or ‘no' to the following question: Are these your individual verdicts as to counts One and Two?” Each juror answered in the affirmative.

         The court sentenced Valenzuela for the Alvarado murder to life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus 25 years to life, and for the Jimenez murder to a concurrent sentence of the same length.

         Valenzuela timely appealed.

         The record on appeal includes two signed verdict forms for the Jimenez murder. In the first, which was read at trial, the jury found Valenzuela guilty. The second delivers a not guilty verdict.

         DISCUSSION

         I. The Verdict ...


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