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Name: People v. Manzo
Case #: D055671
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 01/31/2011
Subsequent History: 5/18/11: review granted (S191400)
Summary

While invocation of the right to remain silent must be unambiguous, a person is not required to use specific words or technical terms to do so. Appellant argued the trial court erred in admitting statements he made to police after he told them “I’m doing my right” in response to Miranda admonitions. The appellate court agreed appellant’s response was an unambiguous invocation of Miranda. The videotape of the interrogation shows that after the first officer asked appellant if he understood his rights, there were about eight seconds of silence. When a second officer asked appellant if he understood, he replied, “I’m doing what my right.” Although use of the word “doing” might be ambiguous in some contexts, here it could only reasonably be construed as invoking. So, appellant’s subsequent answers to the continued police investigation should have been excluded. But, the error in admitting appellant’s statements to police was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt as to the murder and attempted murder convictions. This case did not involve a credibility contest, but rather hinged on the physical evidence, expert testimony, and that of eyewitnesses, all of which overwhelmingly pointed to appellant’s guilt.
The trial court did not err by admitting evidence of a witness’s prior consistent statements. (Evid. Code, sec. 791, subd. (b).) One of the main witnesses against appellant was a man initially charged as a co-defendant in the murder, but who portrayed himself as a second victim. The prosecution sought to admit the prior consistent statements made to police in a taped interview at the time of arrest, which corroborated his testimony at trial. The court allowed the testimony under Evidence Code section 791 because defense counsel had questioned him about the partial immunity he had been given for drug offenses related to the case, and about the fact that the murder charge against him had been dismissed without prejudice. The appellate court held this was not error. Defense counsel implied the witness had an improper motive to lie via the matters revealed during cross-examination, and section 791 allows the prosecutor to present evidence of consistent statements made before the improper motives arose. But even if it was error to admit the prior consistent statements, it was harmless since, as noted, the evidence was overwhelming.
Under the rule of lenity, the crime of discharging a firearm at an occupied vehicle (Pen. Code, sec. 246) requires a showing that the firearm is outside the vehicle’s periphery at the time it is discharged. Appellant was standing outside the truck when he fired at the passenger, but the hand holding the firearm was within the truck. Based on the location of the weapon, appellant argued he could not be convicted of discharging at an occupied vehicle. The court noted the statute is susceptible to several interpretations. The word “at” could refer to both the direction the firearm is pointing, or also to its location at the time of discharge. Also, the statute could focus on the location of the weapon or of the person at the time of discharge. Because of the several reasonable constructions of the statute, the court applied the rule of lenity and construed it to exclude the discharge of a firearm located within the occupied vehicle. Based on this interpretation and the facts of the case, appellant’s conviction was reversed.