Brief Fact Summary. Edward Bruno (“Mr. Bruno”) was beaten and robbed by the Defendants, Rochelle Lonel Gardeley and Tommie James Thompson (the “defendants”). The defendants were members of the Family Crip gang. Mr. Bruno had been drinking and he left his car to go urinate in an area controlled by the Family Crip gang.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Expert testimony may be based on evidence not admitted as long as it is the kind of evidence reasonably relied on by experts in the particular field.
The use of expert testimony in the area of gang sociology and psychology is well established.View Full Point of Law
The prosecution called Detective Patrick Boyd (“Detective Boyd”), a member of the San Jose Police Department, as a witness to offer his opinion regarding the gang activity of the defendants. Detective Boyd was given a hypothetical based on the facts of the assault, and was asked if in his expert opinion this attack would be gang related activity. Detective Boyd responded that it was. The jury convicted the defendants of three offenses and found that they were committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a criminal street gang. The Court of Appeals reversed because Detective Boyd’s opinion was not based on facts in evidence and he had no personal knowledge of the facts underlying the incidents.
Issue. Did Detective Boyd’s testimony provide an appropriate basis for a jury to reasonably find that the gang met the STEP Act requirements to be a criminal street gang?
Do the predicated offenses have to be gang related for the prosecution to prove a pattern of criminal activity?
Held. Justice Kennard issued the opinion for the Supreme Court of California reversing the Court of Appeals and concluding that Detective Boyd’s testimony provided a basis for the jury to reasonably conclude that the gang met the standards of a criminal street gang under STEP.
The Supreme Court of California also held that the predicated offenses do not have to be gang related to prove a pattern of criminal activity.
Discussion. Inadmissible evidence, including hearsay, may be relied on by an expert forming his opinion as long as it is of the type that is reasonably relied upon by experts in that particular field. Detective Boyd based his opinion on conversations with the defendants and other gang members, investigations of crimes committed by gang members, and information from colleagues and other law enforcement agencies. A jury could reasonably conclude from the hypothetical that the attack was committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with that gang, and with the intent to promote or assist conduct by gang members.