People v. Minnick

Decision Date26 October 1989
Docket NumberNo. F010805,F010805
Citation263 Cal.Rptr. 316,214 Cal.App.3d 1478
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
PartiesThe PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. Randy Virgil MINNICK, Defendant and Respondent.

STONE (WM. A.), Associate Justice.


The People appeal from an order granting a new trial after a jury convicted respondent, Randy Virgil Minnick, of four counts of child molestation by force in violation of Penal Code section 288, subdivision (b). In addition, the jury found that respondent occupied a position of special trust and had committed an act of substantial sexual conduct within the meaning of Penal Code section 1203.066. The sole evidence against respondent was the testimony of the victim, respondent's 10-year-old daughter. The basis for the motion for new trial was the testimony of the victim in which she recanted her previous testimony and stated that she in fact had not been molested by respondent. According to the victim, she had lied at trial because she was angry with her father and "wanted to get even." In fact, the victim changed her story approximately four times following the verdict.


The granting or denial of a motion for new trial on the ground of newly discovered evidence rests in the sound discretion of the trial court, and the appellate court will not interfere except upon a clear showing of an abuse of discretion. (People v. Love (1959) 51 Cal.2d 751, 757-758, 336 P.2d 169; People v. Montgomery (1976) 61 Cal.App.3d 718, 730, 132 Cal.Rptr. 558; People v. McGaughran (1961) 197 Cal.App.2d 6, 17, 17 Cal.Rptr. 121.) While it is true, generally, that motions for new trial are looked upon with disfavor (People v. Love, supra, 51 Cal.2d at p. 757, 336 P.2d 169) and that the recantation of a witness should be given little credence (People v. McGaughran, supra, 197 Cal.App.2d at p. 17, 17 Cal.Rptr. 121), it is within the trial judge's discretion whether or not the showing merits the granting of a new trial. (Ibid.)

" '... [The question of whether a motion for new trial is to be granted] should be determined by [the trial] court with a full realization of the responsibility involved, and the motion should undoubtedly be granted where the showing is such as to make it apparent to the trial court that the defendant has, without fault on his part, not had a fair trial on the merits, and that by reason of the newly discovered evidence the result would probably be, or should be, different on a retrial.' [Citations.] Distrust or disfavor of the motion does not mean 'that when the trial court has exercised its discretion and granted a new trial that such action is looked upon with either distrust or disfavor. In fact, it has been said that one of the most prolific causes of miscarriages of justice is the reluctance of trial judges to exercise the discretion with which they are clothed to grant a new trial when the circumstances show that justice would be thereby served.... It is recognized that despite the exercise of diligent effort, cases will sometimes occur where, after trial, new evidence most material to the issues and which would probably have produced a different result is discovered. It is for such cases that the remedy of a motion for a new trial on the ground of newly discovered evidence has been given.' [Citations.]" (People v. Love, supra, 51 Cal.2d at pp. 757-758, 336 P.2d 169.)

In determining whether there has been a proper exercise of discretion on such motion each case must be examined on its own facts (People v. Hill (1969) 70 Cal.2d 678, 698, 76 Cal.Rptr. 225, 452 P.2d 329), recognizing that the trial court is in the best position to determine the genuineness and effectiveness of the showing in support of the motion (People v. Gaines (1962) 204 Cal.App.2d 624, 629, 22 Cal.Rptr. 556).

The People contend the trial court is required to determine whether the witness's recantation is true or false in ruling on a motion for new trial. If false, the motion must be denied; if true, it must be granted. In support of its position, the People cite People v. Lee (1935) 9 Cal.App.2d 99, 108, 48 P.2d 1003, which states:

"We are finally constrained to observe that the responsibility of weighing the recantation was imposed upon the trial court. Upon this tribunal rested the duty of determining whether the recantation was true or false.... It is too firmly established to require the citation of any authorities that the trial court is vested with a wide discretion in passing upon motions for a new trial and that only when it is clearly made to appear that the trial court has capriciously or arbitrarily abused its discretion its action granting or denying such a motion will be disturbed. We entertain a settled conviction that no such abuse of discretion has here been shown."

If the Lee court intended by this language that the trial court must find, as an absolute determination, that the recantation is true or false, we disagree. Such a holding renders meaningless the right of both the People and the defendant to have a jury determine the ultimate issue of guilt or innocence based upon all of the evidence.

Rather, we hold that the correct standard is set forth in People v. Cole (1979) 94 Cal.App.3d 854, 155 Cal.Rptr. 892 (disapproved on other grounds in In re Kelly (1983) 33 Cal.3d 267, 277, 188 Cal.Rptr. 447, 655 P.2d 1282). The role of the trial court in deciding a motion for new trial based upon a witness's recantation is to determine whether the new evidence is credible, i.e., worthy of belief by the jury. That determination is made after a consideration of all the facts pertinent to the particular issue. The trial court is not the final arbiter...

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  • Brown v. State
    • United States
    • Wyoming Supreme Court
    • August 23, 1991
    ...appellate court case. That case represents, at best, one view from a splintered California appellate system. People v. Minnick, 214 Cal.App.3d 1478, 263 Cal.Rptr. 316 (1989). In reaching a decision, which varies significantly from other similar California cases, the appeals court noted: the......
  • Roberts v. Broomfield
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of California
    • October 28, 2022 viewed with suspicion.” (In re Weber (1974) 11 Cal.3d 703, 722 [114 Cal.Rptr. 429, 523 P.2d 229]; see also People v. Minnick (1989) 214 Cal.App.3d 1478, [263 Cal.Rptr. 316]; People v. McGaughran (1961) 197 Cal.App.2d 6, 17 [17 Cal.Rptr. 121] [“It has been repeatedly held that where a wit......
  • State v. Etienne
    • United States
    • New Hampshire Supreme Court
    • December 21, 2011
    ...matter that the recantation is not credible. State v. Mills, 136 N.H. 46, 51, 611 A.2d 1104 (1992); see also People v. Minnick, 214 Cal.App.3d 1478, 263 Cal.Rptr. 316, 318 (1989) (in deciding motion for new trial based upon recantation, trial judge determines whether new evidence is credibl......
  • Roberts v. Broomfield
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of California
    • October 28, 2022 to be viewed with suspicion." (In re Weber (1974) 11 Cal.3d 703, 722, [114 Cal. Rptr. 429, 523 P.2d 229]; see also People v. Minnick (1989) 214 Cal.App.3d 1478, 1481, ; People v. McGaughran (1961) 197 Cal.App.2d 6, 17, ["It has been repeatedly held that where a witness who has testified ......
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