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People v. Sanchez

Supreme Court of California

June 30, 2016, Filed



 [***106]  [**324]   CORRIGAN, J.—In Crawford v. Washington (2004) 541 U.S. 36 [158 L. Ed. 2d 177, 124 S. Ct. 1354] (Crawford), the United States Supreme Court held, with exceptions not relevant here, that ] the admission of testimonial hearsay against a criminal defendant violates the Sixth Amendment right to confront and cross-examine witnesses. Here we consider the degree to which the Crawford  rule limits an expert witness from relating case-specific hearsay content in explaining the basis for his opinion. In addition, we clarify the proper application [****2]  of Evidence Code sections 801 and 802, relating to the scope of expert testimony.

We hold that the case-specific statements related by the prosecution expert concerning defendant's gang membership constituted inadmissible hearsay under California law. They were recited by the expert, who presented them as true statements of fact, without the requisite independent proof. Some of [*671]  those hearsay statements were also testimonial and therefore should have been excluded under Crawford. The error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Accordingly, we reverse the jury findings on the street gang enhancements.


On October 16, 2011, two uniformed Santa Ana police officers made eye contact  [***107]  with defendant Marcos Arturo Sanchez, who was standing nearby. He reached into an electrical box with one hand, then ran upstairs into an apartment while holding his other hand near his waistband. When told defendant did not live in the apartment, the officers entered and apprehended him. A boy who had been in the apartment testified the man arrested was a stranger who ran through the residence and into the bathroom. A loaded gun and a plastic baggie were found on a tarp several feet below the bathroom window. The items appeared [****3]  to have been recently deposited. The downstairs neighbor, who owned the tarp, testified the items were not his and he had given no one permission to place them there. The baggie contained 14 bindles of heroin and four baggies of methamphetamine, all packaged for sale. Sanchez was charged with possession of a firearm by a felon, possession of drugs while armed with a loaded firearm, active participation in the “Delhi” street gang, and commission of a felony for the benefit of the Delhi gang. 1 He was also alleged to have been convicted of a felony for which he had served a state prison sentence. 2 

Santa Ana Police Detective David Stow testified for the prosecution as a gang expert. He had been a gang suppression officer for 17 of his 24 years on the force. His experience included investigating gang-related crime; interacting with gang members, as well as their relatives; and talking to other community members who may have information about gangs and their impact on the areas where they operate. As part of his duties, Stow read reports about gang investigations; reviewed court records relating to gang prosecutions; read jail letters; and became acquainted [****4]  with gang symbols, colors, and art work. He had received over 100 hours of formal training in gang recognition and subcultures, offered by various law-enforcement agencies in Southern California and around the nation. He had been involved in over 500 gang-related investigations.

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63 Cal. 4th 665 *; 374 P.3d 320 **; 204 Cal. Rptr. 3d 102 ***; 2016 Cal. LEXIS 4577 ****

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. MARCOS ARTURO SANCHEZ, Defendant and Appellant.

Subsequent History: Reported at People v. Sanchez, 2016 Cal. LEXIS 5457 (Cal., June 30, 2016)

Later proceeding at People v. Sanchez, 2016 Cal. App. LEXIS 796 (Cal. App. 4th Dist., Sept. 19, 2016)

On remand at, Decision reached on appeal by, Remanded by People v. Sanchez, 2016 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 6895 (Cal. App. 4th Dist., Sept. 19, 2016)

Prior History:  [****1] Superior Court of Orange County, No. 11CF2839, Steven D. Bromberg, Judge. Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division Three, No. G047666.

People v. Sanchez, 223 Cal. App. 4th 1, 167 Cal. Rptr. 3d 9, 2014 Cal. App. LEXIS 44 (Cal. App. 4th Dist., Jan. 21, 2014)


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Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Criminal Process, Right to Confrontation, Evidence, Statements as Evidence, Hearsay, Rule Components, Rule Components, Statements, Hearsay Within Hearsay, Admissibility, Expert Witnesses, Truth of Matter Asserted, Criminal Law & Procedure, Crimes Against Persons, Disruptive Conduct, Riot, Riot, Penalties