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Manslaughter Conviction Reversed: Conviction Under Wrong Statute

People v. Reynoza Docket: H047594 (Sixth Appellate District), Opinion Date: February 15, 2022. Reynoza was convicted of dissuading a witness; Penal Code 136.1(b)(2) punishes any person who attempts to prevent or dissuade a witness from “[c]ausing a complaint . . . to be sought and prosecuted, and assisting in the prosecution thereof.” The witness was Cornejo. Cornejo and two other men—including Reynoza’s brother—had been arrested for misdemeanor firearm possession in Gilroy in February 2017. The alleged dissuasion occurred in San Jose in June 2017, after charges had been filed in Cornejo’s case. Men in Reynoza’s group outside a bar said something like, “[D]rop the charges,” and “[W]e don’t fuck with snitches.” A member of the group, Cervantes, punched Cornejo in the head. Cornejo fell to the ground and his head struck the pavement. Cornejo died soon thereafter. Cervantes was convicted of involuntary manslaughter. The court of appeal reversed Reynoza’s conviction. The words “[c]ausing a complaint . . . to be sought” in section 136.1(b)(2) refer to attempts to prevent a complaint from being filed. If the defendant knows a complaint has already been filed and does not attempt to prevent or dissuade the witness from causing any further or amended complaint to be filed, an essential element of the offense is missing. #dissuadewitnesses #involuntarymanslaughter #convictionreversed

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