Criminal torture charges in California carry stiff penalties including prison time. In a rather bizarre case, a Court in Czechoslovakia has ruled that a 35-year-old man can be extradited to the United States to face charges of abducting, torturing and cutting off the penis of a California owner of a medical marijuana dispensary. (See http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/05/us-czech-usa-extradition-idUSBREA2423220140305.) If convicted of the crime of Torture in California, a person may face a life sentence so it is important to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney in California whether your case is in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside or any other county in the golden state. Because the crime of torture in California is new in that Penal Code section 206 became law in 1990, prosecutors have not charged all cases as torture even know the facts may warrant such a charge. As discussed below, an experienced criminal defense attorney, with knowledge of the law of torture in California, can successfully defend a case by obtaining a dismissal or not guilty verdict or a reduction in charges by properly challenging a prosecutor’s torture case which often times does not truly meet the evidentiary standard required under California Penal Code section 206.
1. California Cases Defining “Torture” Under Penal Code section 206
As explained in detail in People v. Jung (1999) 71 Cal.App.4th 1036, 1046 (Armstrong, J., dissenting) and summarized herein, torture is a rather new crime in California, created on June 5, 1990 when the California electorate passed Proposition 115 in response to the facts in Peoplev. Singleton (1980) 112 Cal.App.3d 418. (See Review of Selected Cal.2 Legis. — Prop. 115: The Crime Victims Justice Reform Act, 22 Pacific Law J. 1010,1012.)
Penal Code section 206 defines torture as follows: “Every person who, with the intent to cause cruel or extreme pain and suffering for the purpose of revenge, extortion, persuasion, or for any sadistic purpose, inflicts great bodily injury as defined in Section 12022.7 upon the person of another, is guilty of torture. The crime of torture does not require any proof that the victim suffered pain.”
In People v. Barrera (1993) 14 Cal.App.4th 1555, the Court of Appeal considered a constitutional challenge to Penal Code section 206 on the grounds that it was vague and overbroad. The Court noted that the statute enjoys “presumptive validity” and “is sufficiently certain if it employs words of long usage or with a common law meaning ‘notwithstanding an element of degree in the definition as to which estimates might differ.'” The court in People v. Barrera concluded that “‘Torture’ has a long-standing, Judicially recognized meaning.” Quoting the California Supreme Court in People v. Tubby (1949) 34 Cal.2d 72, the Barrera Court continued: “‘Torture has been defined as the “Act or process of inflicting severe pain, esp. as a punishment in order to extort confession, or in revenge.” (Webster’s New Int. Dict. (2d ed.).)'”(Peoplev. Barrera, supra, 14 Cal.App.4th 1563.) The dictionary definition was appropriately enlarged upon by this court in its original opinion in Peoplev. Heslen, 163 P.2d 21, 27 in the following words: “Implicit in that definition is the requirement of an intent to cause pain and suffering in addition to death. That is, the killer is not satisfied with killing alone. He wishes to punish, execute vengeance on, or extort something from his victim, and in the course, or as the result of inflicting pain and suffering, the victim dies. That intent may be manifested by the nature of the acts and circumstances surrounding the homicide.”
“‘In determining whether the murder was perpetrated by means of torture the solution must rest upon whether the assailant’s intent was to cause cruel suffering on the part of the object of the attack, either for the purpose of revenge, extortion, persuasion, or to satisfy some other untoward propensity. The test cannot be whether the victim merely suffered severe pain since presumably in most murders severe pain precedes death.’ (People v. Tubby (1949) 34 Cal.2d 72, 76-77.)” (People v. Barrera, supra, 14 Cal.App.4th at pp. 1563-1564.) The BarreraCourt concluded: “Torture combines a specific state of mind with a particular type of violent conduct causing significant personal injury. . . . As written, section 206 continues the Tubby definition.” (Id. at p.1564.)
In order to secure a conviction for the offense of torture, a prosecutor is required to prove that the defendant intended to cause cruel or extreme pain and suffering. As explained in by the California Supreme Court in People v. Mincey (1992) 2 Cal.4th 408, 433,”A defendant’s state of mind must, in the absence of the defendant’s own statements, be established by the circumstances surrounding the commission of the offense. The condition of the victim’s body may establish circumstantial evidence of the requisite intent. ‘In determining whether a murder was committed with that intent