California Penal Code Section 1098

Penal Code Section 1098 provides in pertinent part: "When two or more defendants are jointly charged with any public offense, whether felony or misdemeanor, they must be tried jointly, unless the court order separate trials." Thus, there is a strong legislative preference for joint trials, stemming both from the fact that they "'promote economy and efficiency'" and "'"serve the interests of justice by avoiding the scandal and inequity of inconsistent verdicts."'" (Coffman, supra, 34 Cal.4th at p. 40, citing Zafiro v. United States (1993) 506 U.S. 534, 537 122 L. Ed. 2d 317, 113 S. Ct. 933 (Zafiro).) It is well settled that defendants are not entitled to severance "merely because they may have a better chance of acquittal in separate trials." (Zafiro, supra, 506 U.S. at p. 540.) To the contrary, under section 1098, "a trial court must order a joint trial as the 'rule' and may order separate trials only as an 'exception.' ." (People v. Alvarez (1996) 14 Cal.4th 155, 190 58 Cal. Rptr. 2d 385, 926 P.2d 365.) "'The court may, in its discretion, order separate trials if, among other reasons, there is an incriminating confession by one defendant that implicates a codefendant, or if the defendants will present conflicting defenses.' . 'Additionally, severance may be called for when "there is a serious risk that a joint trial would compromise a specific trial right of one of the defendants, or prevent the jury from making a reliable judgment about guilt or innocence."'" (Souza, supra, 54 Cal.4th at p. 109.) The Supreme Court has also said that severance may be granted based on "'prejudicial association with codefendants ... .'" (Keenan, supra, 46 Cal.3d at p. 500.) In deciding the severance issue, the trial court must determine whether "the realistic benefits from a consolidated trial are outweighed by the likelihood of 'substantial' prejudice to defendant." (Keenan, supra, 46 Cal.3d at p. 500.) "In determining the degree of potential prejudice, the court should evaluate whether (1) consolidation may cause introduction of damaging evidence not admissible in a separate trial, (2) any such otherwise-inadmissible evidence is unduly inflammatory, and (3) the otherwise-inadmissible evidence would have the effect of bolstering an otherwise weak case or cases." (Ibid.) That balancing process is a "'highly individualized exercise.'" (Id. at p. 501.) Less drastic measures than severance, such as limiting instructions, often will suffice to cure any risk of prejudice. (Zafiro, supra, 506 U.S. at p. 539.) "A court's denial of a motion for severance is reviewed for abuse of discretion, judged on the facts as they appeared at the time of the ruling." (Coffman, supra, 34 Cal.4th at p. 41.) Even if a trial court abuses its discretion in failing to grant severance, reversal is required only upon a showing that, to a reasonable probability, the defendant would have received a more favorable result in a separate trial. (Ibid.; People v. Massie (1967) 66 Cal.2d 899, 922-924 59 Cal. Rptr. 733, 428 P.2d 869 (Massie) applying standard of People v. Watson (1956) 46 Cal.2d 818, 836 299 P.2d 243 (Watson).) If the court's joinder ruling was proper when made, we will reverse a judgment based on constitutional compulsion only on a showing that joinder resulted in "'"'"gross unfairness" amounting to a denial of due process.'"'" (Souza, supra, 54 Cal.4th at p. 109.)