Trial court erred under Miranda by admitting defendant’s statements to police that were elicited after police assured him they would not ask questions about a particular crime but did so anyway. Anthony, accompanied by fellow gang members, committed a gang-related killing of a man walking on a Berkeley street. When pursued by police, Anthony led them on a high speed chase that ended in two collisions, killing a driver in another vehicle, as well as a pedestrian. While in custody in Berkeley, Anthony invoked his right to counsel but then, for unknown reasons, initiated contact with Oakland police, who wanted to question him about a case in which Anthony was a victim. Officers knew the Oakland incident was also gang-related and likely motivated the Berkeley killing. In an interview with Oakland police, Anthony was not read his Miranda rights, but officers confirmed with him that he had asserted his Miranda rights as to the Berkeley shooting. They assured him they would not ask him about the Berkeley case. Nonetheless, they proceeded to ask him questions about the Oakland incident. The interview was played at trial. Defendants were convicted of multiple murders and other crimes. On appeal Anthony challenged the trial court’s admission of his statements. Held: Affirmed. Miranda warnings are required prior to police conducting a custodial interrogation. Anthony was in custody when questioned by Oakland police, as he was transferred to Oakland by court order and he remained in restraints during the interview. Anthony confirmed his assertion of his rights and proceeded to answer questions based on the officers’ representations they would not ask questions that implicated those rights. Yet he was subject to an interrogation that implicated him in the Berkeley shooting. Officers had reason to believe that the Berkeley shooting was gang retaliation for the Oakland incident, and asked questions that called for Anthony to give responses that bore directly on his motive and intent and were thus incriminating. The interrogation should not have been admitted at trial. However, given the ample other evidence, the error was harmless.
Assuming trial court erred under People v. Sanchez (2016) 63 Cal.4th 665, and Crawford v. Washington (2004) 541 U.S. 36, in admitting a gang expert’s case-specific hearsay testimony, any error was harmless. Defendants argued the trial court committed prejudicial error under Sanchez and Crawford by allowing the prosecution gang expert to testify about inadmissible case-specific hearsay to establish the defendants’ gang affiliations and related motives, intents, and activities. This evidence was the basis for the jury’s finding the murder was gang-related, which supported a special circumstance allegation. In Sanchez, decided after the trial in this case, the court held that out-of-court statements about case-specific facts may not be relayed by an expert witness unless they fall within a hearsay exception. If the statements were testimonial, i.e., made when the primary purpose of the interrogation is to establish past events potentially relevant to criminal prosecution, this implicates a defendant’s Sixth Amendment confrontation clause rights. Here, assuming some of the expert testimony was inadmissible because it relied on case-specific hearsay evidence, much of it was admissible because it related to the expert’s background and generalized information, or was based on previously-admitted non-hearsay evidence. In any event, based on the other evidence presented, any error in admitting the objectionable testimony was harmless.
The trial court erred by instructing the jury on the natural and probable consequences doctrine for the first degree murder count, but the error was harmless. The prosecution argued that codefendant Flowers shot and killed the victim, and that the other three defendants were guilty of first degree murder on the theory that they either (1) aided and abetted, or were coconspirators in, first degree murder, or (2) aided and abetted, or conspired to commit, a firearm assault, the natural and probable consequence of which was the victim’s murder. The trial court instructed the jury regarding both of these theories and the verdict forms did not indicate on what theory of liability the jury relied. After the trial in this case, the California Supreme Court held that a defendant cannot be convicted of first degree premeditated murder under the natural and probable consequences doctrine. (People v. Chiu (2014) 59 Cal.4th 155.) Under Chiu, the trial court erred by instructing that an aider and abettor or conspirator who did not intend to kill could be convicted of first degree murder under the natural and probable consequences doctrine. When a trial court instructs a jury on two theories of guilt, one of which was legally correct and one legally incorrect, reversal is required unless there is a basis in the record to find that the verdict was based on a valid ground. A first degree murder verdict will be affirmed when the record demonstrates “beyond a reasonable doubt that the jury based its verdict on the legally valid theory.” Here, the jury found true the special circumstance allegation that each of these three defendants committed multiple murders, which required a showing that each defendant acted with the intent to kill. (See CALCRIM No. 702.) Therefore, the court determined that the jury’s verdicts indicated beyond a reasonable doubt that the jury relied on the legally correct theory.
Defendants may not raise their Senate Bill No. 1437 claim on direct appeal but must petition for relief in the trial court under Penal Code section 1170.95. Defendants sought application of SB 1437 on direct appeal. SB 1437 amended the felony murder rule and the natural and probable consequences doctrine, as it relates to murder, to ensure that murder liability is not imposed on a person who is not the actual killer, did not act with intent to kill, or was not a major participant in the underlying felony who acted with reckless indifference to human life. It amended Penal Code section 188 (defining malice) and section 189 (degrees of murder), which, as amended, addresses felony murder liability. It also added section 1170.95, which provides a procedure for qualified defendants to petition to have their murder conviction vacated. The fact that the Legislature specifically created this mechanism, which applies to both final and nonfinal convictions, reflects that SB 1437 should not be applied retroactively on direct appeal, but that defendants should seek relief via the petitioning procedure.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/archive/A139352.PDF