California v. WilliamsAnnotate this Case
In 2013, a jury found defendant-respondent James Ambrosia Williams guilty of child abuse and that he had personally inflicted great bodily injury on the child, who was under the age of five. The trial court found defendant had a prior strike conviction, a prior serious felony conviction, and two prior prison terms. It imposed an aggregate term of 22 years in state prison, including a five-year enhancement for the prior serious felony conviction. Defendant appealed to the Court of Appeal, and judgment was affirmed. At the time defendant was sentenced, Penal Code section 1385 generally authorized judges and magistrates to order an action dismissed in the interests of justice on their own motion or upon the application of the prosecuting attorney but specifically barred them from striking any prior serious felony conviction in connection with imposition of a five- year enhancement. Four years after defendant was sentenced, Senate Bill No. 1393 (Reg. Sess. 2017-2018) amended the statute to delete the prohibition. In an unreported minute order dated September 30, 2019, and without the parties present, the sentencing judge recalled defendant’s sentence and struck the five-year punishment for the section 667 serious felony enhancement. The rest of defendant’s sentence remained unchanged. The State appealed. The Court of Appeal vacated the sentence: the trial court set forth the authority it relied upon for its decision but did not articulate a factual basis for exercising its discretion to strike the punishment for the prior serious felony enhancement. The matter was remanded for the sentencing court to articulate its basis for exercising discretion to strike the punishment.