Although it was a non-conference week, the Supreme Court on Wednesday denied review in People v. Blessett, and Justices Goodwin Liu and Joshua Groban recorded dissenting votes. Also, Justice Groban wrote a 14-page separate statement explaining his vote, a statement Justice Liu signed.

In Blessett, the Third District Court of Appeal, in a divided unpublished opinion, affirmed a murder conviction but reversed a gang enhancement finding. The decision followed the Supreme Court’s grant-and-hold of an earlier opinion in the case (here) and the court’s disapproval of that opinion . . . twice, first in People v. Perez (2020) 9 Cal.5th 1 (see here) and then in People v. Valencia (2021) 11 Cal.5th 818 (see here).

Justice Groban’s separate statement says the court should have reviewed the Third District majority’s conclusion that the erroneous admission of evidence — “extensive accounts of seven prior offenses involving Blessett, as well as the details of three predicate offenses committed by other gang members,” the statement says — was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt as to the murder conviction. He writes that Supreme Court review would “provide additional guidance to our lower courts on how to apply the Chapman standard for review of constitutional error.”

The separate statement asserts, “there are genuine questions about whether Blessett’s conviction, which virtually ensures that he will spend the rest of his life in prison, is valid.”

It’s usually Justice Liu who issues separate statements on the denial of review (he revived the long-dormant practice in 2015), but Justice Groban has written one before — a concurrence last November signed by a majority of the court.

Why did the court rule on a non-urgent petition for review on a non-conference day? The court’s time to act would have expired before the next conference (see rule 8.512(b)) and Justice Groban’s detailed separate statement likely wasn’t finished by the last conference. Irregularly scheduled rulings with separate statements have happened before. (See here and here.)


Highlighting separate statements

Another Justice Liu separate statement on denial of review that will remain largely inaccessible

Some publicity for separate statements when review is denied