At its Wednesday conference, the Supreme Court refused to block death penalty trials during Governor Gavin Newsom’s execution moratorium, it gave the Governor another chance to keep secret at least parts of the files that supported six different clemency recommendation requests, and it agreed to answer state law business tort questions for the Ninth Circuit.  Other actions of note at the conference included:

  • The court granted review in a capital habeas corpus case, In re Friend, to resolve some questions about how Proposition 66 works.  Proposition 66, which the court mostly upheld two years ago, is the 2016 ballot measure designed to expedite executions in California.  The court limited the issues to these:  “(1) Is the dismissal of a condemned inmate’s habeas corpus petition pursuant to Penal Code section 1509, subdivision (d) an appealable order and subject to the requirement of obtaining a certificate of appealability under Penal Code section 1509.1, subdivision (c), which applies to the ‘decision of the superior court denying relief on a successive petition’?; (2) What is the meaning of the term ‘successive petition’ in Penal Code section 1509, subdivision (d), and is the habeas corpus petition at issue a successive petition?; (3) If the habeas corpus petition at issue is a successive petition within the meaning of the statute, can the statutory provisions governing such petitions be applied to this petition when petitioner’s first habeas corpus petition was filed before the statutes took effect (see, e.g., Landgraf v. USI Film Products (1994) 511 U.S. 244, 269-270)?”  (Links added.)  The First District, Division Three, Court of Appeal, in an unpublished order, denied the death row inmate a certificate allowing him to appeal what the appellate court found was a ruling on a successive habeas petition.
  • The court granted the petition for review in People v. Gentile, a case involving application of the new felony-murder legislation, Senate Bill 1437.  It also took the rare step of concurrently depublishing the opinion of the Fourth District, Division Two.  The court — apparently not wanting to address the new law’s constitutionality (see here) — limited the issues to these:  “1. Does the amendment to Penal Code section 188 by recently enacted Senate Bill No. 1437 eliminate second degree murder liability under the natural and probable consequences doctrine?  2. Does Senate Bill No. 1437 apply retroactively to cases not yet final on appeal?  3. Was it prejudicial error to instruct the jury in this case on natural and probable consequences as a theory of murder?”  In its now-depublished opinion, filed after a prior grant-and-transfer by the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal affirmed the defendant’s second-degree murder sentence and held that the new law “does not eliminate all murder liability for aiders and abettors” and that, “[a]t a minimum . . . [the] defendant . . . was a direct or active aider and abettor.”
  • The court transferred to the superior court under Proposition 66 a capital habeas corpus petition.
  • There were nine criminal case grant-and-holds and one criminal case grant-and-transfer.
  • The court transferred to the Courts of Appeal, or dismissed review in, 15 former grant-and-holds.

[November 1 update:  Two days ago, the court further limited the issues in Gentile by eliminating what it had originally stated as the second question, “Does Senate Bill No. 1437 apply retroactively to cases not yet final on appeal?”]