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Wiley v. County of San Diego

Supreme Court of California
966 P.2d 983, 19 Cal. 4th 532 (1998)


Kevin Wiley (plaintiff) was arrested and charged with burglary and assault against his former girlfriend, Toni DiGiovanni. Public defender John Jimenez (defendant) was assigned at the criminal arraignment. Jimenez had an investigator contact witnesses, but the investigator did not find a witness to establish an alibi for Wiley. At trial, DiGiovanni’s 11-year-old son testified that he saw Wiley’s truck at his house the morning of the attack and that Wiley had abused his mom before. The jury convicted Wiley of battery, and Wiley was sentenced to four years in prison. While Wiley’s appeal was pending, he filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus claiming inadequate assistance of counsel. Wiley attached declarations from DiGiovanni’s neighbors, none of whom were contacted by the investigator Jimenez hired, saying they saw a man who was not Wiley banging on DiGiovanni’s door and shouting on the day of the alleged attacks. The trial court denied Wiley’s petition. One year later, Wiley filed a second petition for writ of habeas corpus. In addition to the declarations he previously submitted, Wiley submitted evidence that DiGiovanni’s son recanted his testimony. The trial court granted the petition, finding that DiGiovanni’s son had lied and his testimony was crucial in convicting Wiley. The court also found that an inadequate investigation deprived Wiley of witnesses for his defense. The prosecutors dismissed the criminal case against Wiley. Wiley then filed a malpractice claim against Jimenez and the County of San Diego (county) (defendant). Prior to trial, the court found that Wiley’s innocence was not an issue, and the court would not require proof of Wiley’s innocence or submit the question to the jury. The jury found in favor of Wiley and awarded him $162,500. On appeal, Jimenez and the county challenged the trial court’s ruling on the issue of actual innocence, but the appellate court rejected their arguments on that issue. Jimenez and the County sought review.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Brown, J.)

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