People v. Vasquez
In People v. Vasquez, the defendant was convicted of numerous sexual offenses in two separate trials. All the charges arose from a single act of rape of an 11-year old girl. In the first trial, the defendant was convicted of committing a lewd and lascivious act upon a minor, a violation of PC 288(a). Since the jury could not reach a verdict on the other 2 counts and the special allegation, the court declared a mistrial for those charges. When a mistrial occurs, the prosecutor can elect to have another jury trial for the charges the defendant was neither convicted nor acquitted, which is what happened in this case. After the second jury trial, the defendant was convicted of rape (PC 269(a)(1)) and aggravated sexual assault upon a child under 14 years of age and seven or more years younger than the perpetrator by means of rape (PC 261(a)(2)). The special allegation that the defendant had tied and bound the victim (PC 667.61(e) and (j)(2)) was also found to be true by the second jury.
Vasquez was sentenced to 25 years to life on the rape conviction from the first trial. After the second trial, the court imposed but stayed a sentence of 25 years to life on the lewd and lascivious conduct conviction, and 15 years to life on the aggravated sexual assault on a minor conviction.
Issues Raised on Appeal
The defendant raised three issues on appeal. The first issue was whether the trial court erred by not including a jury instruction for a lesser included offense of statutory rape. The Court of Appeal determined that Vasquez was not entitled to a statutory rape jury instruction even though it was a lesser included offense of both the rape and aggravated sexual assault charges. The appellate court judged that there was not enough evidence presented at trial to support a conclusion that he only committed statutory rape but not forcible rape.
The second issue raised on appeal was that his conviction in the second trial for aggravated sexual assault of a child by means of rape must be vacated because he had already been convicted of rape in the first trial, and rape is a lesser included offense of aggravated sexual assault of a child by means of rape. The appellate court agreed with Vasquez on this issue. Rape is a lesser included offense of aggravated sexual assault of a minor by means of rape, and multiple convictions may not be based on necessary included offenses. In this case, upholding both convictions for rape and aggravated sexual assault by means of rape would essentially be convicting and punishing the defendant twice for one act of rape. As a result, the Court of Appeal vacated the conviction for aggravated sexual assault of a child by means of rape and the 15 years to life sentence that was imposed and stayed by the trial court.
Lastly, Vasquez argued that the trial court made 3 errors in the jury instructions and verdict forms and that these errors combined to lessen the prosecution’s burden of proof in the second trial. The appellate court found that the alleged error in the verdict form was waived because Vasquez failed to object to the form during the trial when he had the opportunity to do so. The same thing occurred for the second error alleged. Vasquez failed to object to the trial court’s response to a jury question received during deliberations, thus waiving his right to challenge it upon appeal. Finally, the Court of Appeal found no error with the language of one of the jury instructions in the second trial that Vasquez alleged was unclear. As a result, the appellate court found no errors that reduced the prosecution’s burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt for the charges and allegations in the second trial.
Contact a Wallin & Klarich Sex Crimes Defense Attorney
Felony accusations are a very serious matter. A conviction for California Penal Code 269 is charged as a felony under California law, punishable by imprisonment for a minimum of 15 years with a maximum of a life sentence in state prison. If released, you will have to register as a sex offender under Penal Code 290. If you or someone you know is accused of a sex crime, it is imperative that you contact our experienced attorneys at Wallin & Klarich today. Our lawyers have over 40 years of experience defending these types of cases and will fight for your right to due process. The judicial process can be complicated, be sure you have a knowledgeable attorney by your side every step of the way.
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