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Under Pitchess, supra, 11 Cal.3d at pp. 537-538, a defendant is entitled to discovery of a police officer's confidential personnel records if those files contain information that is potentially relevant to the defense.
Antione Thomas appealed from the single judgment entered following jury trials in two separate unrelated cases. In the first case, a jury convicted Thomas of one count of possession for sale of cocaine base. In the second case, a jury convicted Thomas of one count of second degree robbery with a further finding that he had personally used a handgun in the commission of the offense. In each case, following a bifurcated trial, the jury found defendant had at least four prior strike convictions. Thomas was sentenced for both cases in a single proceeding, and was given a total state prison term of 60 years to life. On appeal, Thomas contended: (1) the court abused its discretion in denying his request to continue the trial so that he could conduct additional discovery under Pitchess v. Superior Court (1974) 11 Cal.3d 531, 113 Cal. Rptr. 897, 522 P.2d 305; (2) he was denied effective assistance of counsel due to counsel's failure to subpoena a percipient witness in the drug case; (3) the court improperly overruled hearsay objections to information allegedly contained on defendant's cell phone which the prosecution used as evidence of drug sales; (4) he was denied effective assistance of counsel due to counsel's failure to competently present a motion to dismiss his prior strike convictions under People v. Superior Court (Romero) (1996) 13 Cal.4th 497, 529-530, 53 Cal. Rptr. 2d 789, 917 P.2d 628; and (5) the court abused its discretion in denying two motions for substitute counsel made by defendant pursuant to People v. Marsden (1970) 2 Cal.3d 118, 123, 84 Cal. Rptr. 156, 465 P.2d 44. Thomas has also filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, in which he alleged that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance on numerous grounds.
Did the trial court abuse its discretion in denying Thomas’ request for a continuance to conduct pitchess discovery?
The court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Thomas’ request for a continuance to conduct pitchess discovery. In criminal cases, continuances are granted only upon a showing of good cause. The trial court has broad discretion to determine whether good cause exists. Under Pitchess, supra, 11 Cal.3d at pp. 537-538, a defendant is entitled to discovery of a police officer's confidential personnel records if those files contain information that is potentially relevant to the defense. Reviewing the court's ruling based upon the record and argument presented at the time the motion to continue the trial was made, the court concluded that Thomas failed to carry his burden of showing the trial court abused its discretion when it refused to grant a continuance. The record here reflected that the trial court resolved Thomas’ request for a continuance consistent with the realization that not only Thomas, but the witnesses and the prosecution have a statutory right to an "expeditious disposition."