Penal Code section 1473, subdivision (b), provides that one ground for habeas corpus relief is that “[f]alse evidence that is substantially material or probative on the issue of guilt or punishment was introduced against a person at any hearing or trial relating to his incarceration.”  Less than two years ago, a 4-3 Supreme Court concluded that such “false evidence” does not include expert testimony — in the case before the court, it was bite-mark testimony by a dental expert — that, post-conviction, had been recanted by the expert himself and discredited by other experts based on newly available computer technology.  (In re Richards (2012) 55 Cal.4th 948.)  Justice Liu in dissent, joined by Justices Werdegar and Chin, said “there is no reason to treat expert testimony differently from lay testimony under section 1473(b).”

The Legislature last week passed a bill to essentially codify the Richards dissent.  If signed by Governor Brown, Senate Bill 1058 will add to section 1473 the proviso that “‘false evidence’ shall include opinions of experts that have either been repudiated by the expert who originally provided the opinion at a hearing or trial or that have been undermined by later scientific research or technological advances.”

No, this is not “payback” for the Supreme Court removing Prop. 49 from the November ballot.  By the time the Supreme Court acted last Monday to strike the anti-Citizens United measure, both houses of the Legislature had many weeks earlier already approved the pertinent amendment to section 1473; on Wednesday the Senate concurred in a separate Assembly addition to the bill.  Also, it is not unusual for the Legislature to respond to Supreme Court decisions with statutory changes, although the governor has vetoed that kind of legislation more than once.