the “disproportionate use of gang evidence to prove a straightforward robbery created a trial atmosphere that deprived appellant of . . . fundamental fairness.”
c. The trial court has discretion to bifurcate criminal street gang enhancement allegations.
Section 186.22, subdivision (b), does not require, or even address, bifurcation of criminal street gang enhancements from the trial of the underlying offense. (People v. Martin, supra, 23 Cal.App.4th at p. 81.) 2 However, the same is true of statutes providing for sentence enhancements based on prior conviction allegations. Nonetheless, prior conviction allegations routinely are bifurcated based on section 1044, which grants the trial court broad discretion to control the conduct of a criminal trial “ ‘with a view to the expeditious and effective ascertainment of the truth regarding the matters involved.’ [Citation.]” (People v. Calderon (1994) 9 Cal.4th 69, 75; People v. Cline (1998) 60 Cal.App.4th 1327, 1333-1334 [People’s request for bifurcation of prior conviction allegations properly granted to avoid the risk of jury nullification in a case prosecuted under the Three Strikes law].)
Calderon, the leading case on bifurcation of prior conviction allegations, concluded the risk of undue prejudice posed by the admission of evidence of a prior conviction, considered against the minimal inconvenience generally caused by a separate trial of the prior conviction allegation, frequently will militate in favor of granting a defendant’s timely request for bifurcation. (People v. Calderon, supra, 9 Cal.4th at p. 79.)
However, a trial court is not required to bifurcate a prior conviction allegation if the defendant will not be unduly prejudiced by having the truth of the alleged prior
2 A bifurcated procedure was utilized with respect to a criminal street gang enhancement in People v. Olguin (1994) 31 Cal.App.4th 1355, 1367, a case involving the shooting of a rival gang member occasioned by the defacement of the defendant’s gang-related graffiti. However, Olguin had no occasion to address the propriety of the trial court’s ruling on the bifurcation issue and is thus not directly relevant to our discussion.