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Name: People v. Joseph H.
Case #: E059942
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 06/08/2015

It was harmless error for police to ask minor, who was under 14 years old, questions that were designed to establish that he appreciated the wrongfulness of his conduct (Gladys R. questionnaire) without first giving Miranda warnings. When he was 10 years old, the minor shot and killed his sleeping father. A wardship petition was filed alleging murder and gun use. After a contested hearing, the court found the minor understood the wrongfulness of his conduct (Pen. Code, § 26), sustained the allegations in the petition, and committed the minor to the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). The minor raised numerous issues on appeal, including an argument that the juvenile court erroneously considered statements obtained in violation of Miranda. Held: Affirmed. The minor was taken to the police station and interviewed. Prior to reading the minor his Miranda rights, a detective asked him questions from a Gladys R. questionnaire (In re Gladys R. (1970) 1 Cal.3d 855), which were designed to determine whether an arrestee under the age of 14 years understands the wrongfulness of his conduct. Trial counsel objected to the use of this evidence because the minor was in custody and not yet Mirandized. The questionnaire carried the warning that the minor should be Mirandized prior to asking the questions. The fact the minor was asked the Gladys R. questions tends to establish he was in custody because it is unlikely an officer would ask a minor the questions if he or she had no intention of charging the minor with a crime. Other evidence in the record also supported a determination that the minor was in custody, and the officer should have read the minor his Miranda rights before posing the Gladys R. questions. However, given the minor’s numerous spontaneous admissions, the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.

The minor was not entitled to have counsel present when he was examined by the prosecution’s psychiatrist. Defense counsel objected to use of a report by the prosecution’s expert, Dr. Rath, and testimony on the question of sanity because the expert had also been appointed to conduct a competency examination. The juvenile court agreed that the doctor was inappropriately appointed to conduct both sanity and competency evaluations, and allowed the prosecution to retain a new expert to evaluate the minor on the issue of his sanity. Defense counsel objected to the evaluation without counsel being present. The juvenile court denied the request. The evaluation of the minor during trial without defense counsel present did not violate the minor’s right to due process or his right to counsel. There is no due process right to have counsel present at a minor’s psychiatric examination if three conditions are met: (1) counsel is notified of the appointment of a psychiatrist; (2) the court-appointed doctor is not permitted to testify at the guilt trial unless the minor places his mental state in issue; and (3) if the minor’s mental state is placed in issue and the expert testifies, the jury is given a limiting instruction. Additionally, given the circumstances of the case, the prosecution’s request for time to retain a new expert was not untimely under Penal Code section 1054.3, subdivision (b)(1).

The juvenile court did not abuse its discretion by committing the minor to DJJ. When considering a proper disposition for a minor found to be a delinquent, the court must consider the minor’s age, the circumstances and gravity of the offense, and the minor’s prior delinquent history. In addition, a DJJ placement must provide a probable benefit to the minor and there must be evidence that less restrictive alternatives would be inappropriate. A minor who commits a Welfare and Institutions Code section 707, subdivision (b) offense may be committed to DJJ absent disqualifying factors (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 733). Here, the juvenile court heard testimony that (1) DJJ could provide special education services that had been recommended for the minor; (2) the minor’s history of violent behavior required his placement in a highly structured environment; (3) all other secured facilities had rejected minor due to his offense, age, and special needs, except one in Utah that the probation officer did not recommend; (4) the minor had improved cognitively while at juvenile hall; and (5) the minor said he liked it at DJJ. The juvenile court considered all the evidence, addressed the issues, and properly exercised its discretion to commit the minor to DJJ.