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Name: People v. Singh
Case #: C075295
Opinion Date: 08/02/2017
Citation: 13 Cal.App.5th 1187
Summary

Rap lyrics were relevant and properly admitted to show the killer’s identity and the defendant’s intent to kill. Singh, who had a history of conflict with Montoya, shot Montoya in the face, stomach and groin, killing him. In the trial court, Singh sought unsuccessfully to exclude admission of rap lyrics he had allegedly written, which the prosecution offered as evidence of intent and identity. Singh was convicted of first degree murder with a gun use enhancement found true. He appealed. Held: Affirmed. Evidence is relevant if it has “any tendency in reason to prove or disprove any disputed fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action.” (Evid. Code, § 210.) “Rap lyrics written by a defendant may be relevant to establish contested issues of fact, including intent.” At trial, the identity of the killer as well as Singh’s intent, were at issue. The rap lyrics, which described a desire to kill in a manner similar to how Montoya was killed, provided circumstantial evidence from which a jury could infer Singh’s identity as the shooter and his intent to intentionally kill Montoya in a specific manner. Even if admitting the rap lyrics were error, it was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt based on the other evidence presented at trial.

The rap lyrics were not more prejudicial than probative within the meaning of Evidence Code section 352. Evidence Code section 352 provides the trial court with discretion to exclude evidence if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the probability that admitting the evidence will prejudice the defendant. “Prejudice” within the meaning of section 352 refers to evidence that “‘uniquely tends to evoke an emotional bias against the defendant’ without regard to its relevance on material issues.” (People v. Kipp (2001) 26 Cal.4th 1100, 1121.) Admission of the rap lyrics was not prejudicial because only those lyrics relevant to the crime were admitted, the evidence was circumstantial and not cumulative, the lyrics would not have confused the jury, and they did not evoke an emotional bias against the defendant unrelated to the facts of the offense.

Defendant forfeited any challenge to the presence of alternate jurors in the deliberation room during the read back of testimony. The trial court informed the parties it was its practice to have the alternate jurors brought into the deliberation room to hear any read back of testimony requested by the jury. There was no objection to this practice. During deliberations, the jury requested read back of certain testimony and the alternate jurors were present for this proceeding. On appeal, Singh argued the alternate jurors’ presence for the read back of testimony violated his right to a jury trial by infringing on the jury’s deliberative secrecy. This issue was forfeited because there was no objection to the trial court’s practice. In any event, the presence of alternates in the jury room during deliberation is not necessarily detrimental to the defendant’s right to a jury trial. There is no evidence any of the jurors spoke about the case while the alternates were present. The alternates were instructed not to talk to the jurors and the parties agreed to the reporter reading the testimony in the jury room so long as the reporter ensured there was no discussion in the room when the reporter was present.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/C075295.PDF