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In March, a California appeals court overturned the murder conviction of a man based upon the trial judge's jury instructions. A seasoned Santa Cruz criminal defense attorney knows that misleading jury instructions in a criminal case can deny a defendant the right to a fair trial.

The First District Court of Appeal overturned the murder conviction of a San Francisco man, concluding the definition of the lesser offense of manslaughter at trial may have misled the jury. The California Supreme Court will now weigh the matter. The high court recently agreed to review the appellate court ruling.

Prosecutors had claimed the man stabbed a 28-year-old woman to death in front of her children in October, 2000. The man was charged with murder and the case went to trial before a jury in 2008. The man argued to the jury the allegations could only support a charge of voluntary manslaughter. A conviction for voluntary manslaughter would have only exposed the accused to a sentence of three to eleven years. The man ultimately was convicted of murder and sentenced to 16 years to life in prison.

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The Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal of an East Coast nightclub owner. The man was accused of trafficking cocaine. Law enforcement agents covertly attached a GPS tracking device to the man's Jeep without first obtaining a search warrant. Law enforcement eventually seized nearly 100 kilograms of cocaine through information learned from the GPS device. A federal appeals court reversed the man's conviction, saying the extended use of the GPS tracking device during the investigation was a "search" deserving some protection under the Fourth Amendment.

A separate case, here on the West Coast, turned the other way on appeal. Police in Oregon entered a man's property and attached a GPS device to the man's vehicle. Law enforcement reportedly tracked the man to a remote property through the GPS unit and discovered a marijuana cultivation site.

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled the use of the GPS device was not a search and upheld the marijuana cultivation conviction. The U.S. Supreme Court did not take any action regarding the West Coast case.

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California's three strikes law has been around since 1994. Since the law was passed, no inmate serving a 25 year to life three strikes sentence has received parole through a California Board of Parole hearing, until this week. Wednesday the Board of Parole Hearings granted parole to a 48-year-old man who was sentenced in 2007 to 68 years in prison under the California three strikes law after a conviction for a home invasion robbery.

The parole board approved the release of the inmate under a new California law aimed at reducing prison costs. The law allows the board to consider medical parole for inmates who are so ill that the state considers the inmates are no longer a threat to the community.

Prison officials reportedly refused to discuss to specific details about the man's health. The man is in a long term care facility. Guarding the inmate at the facility reportedly costs $750,000 a year; medical costs to cover his care are an additional expense the state seeks to save through the medical parole.

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On Friday morning a Florida police officer believed a car was parked in an unusual spot. Police claim the officer approached the vehicle and asked the five people in the car what they were up to. The officer says the five people gave conflicting stories. She says she believes one of the occupants of the car was involved in some king of drug related activities. The officer called for backup and a K-9 handler to have the dog conduct a sniff search of the vehicle. The dog reportedly alerted during the sniff search.

As it turns out, one of the occupants in the car had an outstanding warrant from California. The 25-year-old is believed to have violated parole in California. Moreover, law enforcement in Los Angeles claims the man is wanted in a relation to charges in a number of alleged California burglaries.

Los Angeles police believe the man may be implicated in potentially hundreds of burglaries in Southern California. Police say the man, along with others would knock on the front door of residences during the daytime. If no one responded from inside the residence, police say the group would break into the home and take items, including jewelry, money and guns they found inside.

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned the murder conviction of a California woman Monday. The federal appellate court held that the woman was denied the right to a fair trial. California state courts and one federal judge previously had upheld the conviction.

The matter began with allegations in October 1993. Police claim the woman was driving a car in Long Beach on an October afternoon casing stores with friends, intending to return later that night and commit a California robbery.

The woman reportedly drove into a liquor store parking lot. Police allege two of the woman's friends got out of the car and entered the liquor store. Law enforcement claims the two came out of the store, when one went back in, robbed the store and shot the proprietor, killing him. The woman reportedly waited in the car during the alleged incident.

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