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Gang Enhancements Reversed: Expert's Testimony Inadmissable

People v. Valencia Court: Supreme Court of California, Docket: S250218, Opinion Date: July 1, 2021. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeal in this case involving allegations of active gang participation and gang enhancements attached to other offenses, holding that the commission of two or more predicate offenses must be proven by independent admissible evidence, and such proof may not be established solely by the testimony of an expert who has no personal knowledge of facts otherwise necessary to satisfy the prosecution's burden. The two defendants in this case were charged with two counts of attempted murder, assault with a firearm, and active street gang participation. Gang and firearm enhancements were attached to the charges. The first trial ended when the jury hung on almost all charges, but a second jury convicted Defendants of the remaining allegations. The court of appeal reversed the active gang participation and enhancement allegations, as well as Defendant's firearm enhancements attached to those allegations, and otherwise affirmed, holding that some of an expert's testimony constituted inadmissible hearsay. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the jury was permitted to improperly rely on hearsay to conclude that the predicate offenses had been proven and that Defendants acted with intent to benefit a gang when they committed the crimes with which they were charged; and (2) the error was not harmless.

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