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Name: People v. Guillen
Case #: G046163
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 07/07/2014
Summary

Inmates who participated in beating death of inmate they believed was a child molester may not overturn convictions based on outrageous government misconduct even where there is evidence correctional guards condoned beating. Chamberlain was arrested for possession of child pornography and housed at Theo Lacy Jail (TLJ) pending trial. The inmates at TLJ were organized into race-based groups called CARs (classification according to race), who engaged in “taxing,” a physical form of punishment or discipline, with inmates of a given race generally “taxing” members of the same race. However, child molesters were especially despised and all inmates, regardless of race, participated in “taxing” them. Chamberlain told guards he feared for his safety after an inmate asked for his paperwork to see his charges. He was thereafter stomped and beaten to death by a number of inmates. There was evidence the “taxing” may have been condoned by guards. After their pretrial motion to dismiss the charges based on outrageous government misconduct was denied, five of the inmates were convicted of second degree murder for Chamberlain’s death. They appealed. Held: Affirmed. Based on the factors that the California Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals have used to assess claims of outrageous government conduct, and based on the totality of the circumstances, appellants failed to establish that jail deputies “engaged in outrageous government conduct that impacted a protected right and prevented them from receiving a fair trial.” While the evidence here reflects the deputies “engaged in abhorrent conduct and were derelict in their duties,” there is no evidence deputies overcame inmates’ reluctance to commit the assault or manufactured it. The deputies did not create the CAR system; it was created long ago by inmates. Although evidence reflected some of the deputies condoned and/or used that system to discipline inmates, this was not outrageous conduct sufficient to warrant dismissal of criminal charges.

The trial court did not err in excluding much of the evidence regarding Orange County Sheriff Department (OCSD) policies. Appellants claimed the court’s exclusion of much of the evidence regarding OCSD policies as irrelevant denied them due process and a fair trial. In Nevada v. Jackson (2013) 133 S.Ct. 1990, 1992, the court held that while the Constitution guarantees defendants a meaningful opportunity to present a complete defense, state lawmakers have wide latitude to establish rules excluding evidence from criminal trials. Here, the trial court did not deny defendants the right to present a defense, but refused to admit certain evidence regarding their defense. There was other evidence admitted which addressed appellants’ claims that three of the deputies created an environment where inmates feared them and that they acted out of fear, thereby reducing their culpability and negating the mental state required for second degree murder.

The trial court did not err in failing to instruct on voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter. Appellant Villafana argued the court erred in not instructing on voluntary manslaughter. However, the California Supreme Court’s decision in People v. Bryant (2013) 56 Cal.4th 959, held a killing without malice in the commission of an inherently dangerous assaultive felony is not voluntary manslaughter, because that offense requires either an intent to kill or a conscious disregard for life. Thus, the trial court was not required to instruct on voluntary manslaughter based on a killing committed without malice during the commission of an inherently dangerous assaultive felony. With respect to involuntary manslaughter, this question was not resolved by Bryant. However, the evidence here did not support such an instruction because it failed to show the appellants were criminally negligent. Rather, it reflected they committed acts endangering Chamberlain’s life, realized the danger, and acted in total disregard of it.

The trial court erred by not requiring the jury to begin deliberations anew after an alternate juror replaced a deliberating juror, but the error was harmless. When an alternate is substituted onto the jury after deliberations have begun, the court must instruct the jury to set aside and disregard all past deliberations and begin deliberating anew. Here, after the court clerk swore in an alternate juror, the court stated it had received the jury’s request for read back of testimony. However, this request had come from the original jury, so the court’s statement erroneously suggested to the jury that it should resume deliberations rather than begin anew. The error was harmless because this was not a close case, the period of deliberation prior to substitution of the alternate juror was minimal compared to deliberation after that point, and the broad nature of the requested read back did not provide the alternate juror an indication of the jury’s previous deliberations. Further, the newly constituted jury deliberated nine days and was unable to reach unanimous verdicts on the issue of first degree murder; it was not until the court removed first degree murder from the jury’s consideration that it was able to reach a verdict.