Monday, March 07, 2005

Two opinions today

#1: Criminal Law – People v. Vieira (available here)
This case was the automatic appeal of 1 of the participants in a 1990 quadruple murder committed by a cult-style group in Stanislaus county. Vieira killed one of the 4 victims. Vieira was 21 at the time, and had been beaten, sexually humiliated, etc. for years due to his “low” status in the group. He was convicted of 4 counts of murder and sentenced to death. The Court today upheld 3 of those death sentences.

In addition to the very tragic story involved, this case also raised another issue of prosecutor misconduct (see last week’s Sakarias posts and articles). At the penalty phase, the prosecutor invoked the Bible as the source of 2 “very important concepts”: (1) that “capital punishment for murder is necessary in order to preserve the sanctity of human life” and (2) “only the severest penalty of death can underscore the severity of taking life.” The prosecutor also quoted from Exodus. He told the jurors that this line of argument was “just in the event any of you have any reservations about religion in this case.”

Today the Court, Justice Kennard dissenting, ruled that this conduct by the prosecutor was improper but did not prejudice Vieira. In 2002 the Court considered, in People v. Slaughter, the same biblical argument (in fact by the same prosecutor). In Slaughter, as in Vieira today, a majority of the Court held that it constituted misconduct but did not prejudice the defendant.

#2: Civil Procedure – Campbell v. Regents of UC (available here)
The Court unanimously held that a plaintiff must exhaust her administrative remedies before suing under CA’s “whistleblower” statutes (Ca. Gov. Code section 12653(c) and Ca. Lab. Code section 1102.5). The Court stated that the “whistleblower” statutes do not constitute an exception to the “settled rule requiring exhaustion of administrative remedies.”

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