On June 17, 2020, the California Supreme Court ordered supplemental briefing on a claim raised in People v. Don’te McDaniel, No. S171393. Specifically, the Court asked for the Attorney General to address the questions “Do Penal Code section 1042 and article I, section 16 of the California Constitution require that the jury unanimously determine beyond a reasonable doubt factually disputed aggravating evidence and the ultimate penalty verdict? If so, was appellant prejudice by the trial court’s failure to so instruct the jury?”
This is an issue with potentially wide-ranging impact because Mr. McDaniel’s penalty phase trial was not unique. No jury in the history of the modern California death penalty has been instructed that it must make the determination between life and death under the beyond a reasonable doubt standard, and no jury has been required to find factually disputed aggravating factors unanimously at the penalty phase of a capital trial.
Because of the importance of this issue, OSPD is making available the major pleadings in the case, including the briefs of the parties and those of amicus curiae, who include California Governor Gavin Newsom and six present or former District Attorneys (Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Bectin, San Francisco County District Attorney Chesa Boudin, former Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti, former San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jefferey Rosen, and San Joaqin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar).