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Name: People v. Thomas
Case #: S093456
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 02/03/2011

For Miranda purposes, Miranda warnings are required before questioning where a citizen is led to believe, as a reasonable person, that he is deprived of his freedom in any significant way. Appellant was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. In this automatic appeal, among the issues considered by the Court were the requirement of a Miranda advisement and whether CALJIC No. 2.28 violated appellant’s constitutional rights. Appellant, a school custodian, was accused of raping and murdering a high school student on school grounds. The victim was bludgeoned and her throat was cut. According to the evidence, appellant “found” the victim in a school shop classroom and summoned other personnel. When the sheriff’s deputies arrived at the scene, they were told by the school police officer that appellant had discovered the body, blood had been discovered in the bathroom, and that appellant had been seen washing his hands in the bathroom. One of the officers asked another to detain appellant. Appellant was placed in the rear of a patrol vehicle. The doors could not be opened from the inside. He was told that he was a witness to be interviewed, and that he was going to be detained until detectives arrived to handle interviews. Appellant agreed. After about 20 minutes, the deputy let appellant out of the car and asked him to come to the rear of the vehicle, where he asked appellant what happened. The trial court’s subsequent denial of appellant’s suppression motion was upheld by the Supreme Court which found that even if appellant had been in custody when detained in the patrol car, he did not necessarily remain in custody when released and questioned at the rear of the vehicle. Because he was no longer in custody when questioned, the officer was not required to advise him of his Miranda rights. For purposes of receiving Miranda protection, the ultimate inquiry is whether a reasonable person would believe that his freedom had been restricted to a degree associated with a formal arrest.
CALJIC No. 2.28 improperly suggests that defendant is responsible for untimely disclosure of discovery and is deficient in instructing how the failure to timely provide discovery should affect the jury’s deliberations. On the second day of trial, defense counsel provided a witness list which included the name of Brent Turvey, M.S. Near the end of the prosecution’s case-in-chief, the prosecutor announced that he had received no reports from Turvey and asked that his testimony be excluded for failure to provide discovery. The court declined the request but instructed the jury with the 1996 version of CALJIC No. 2.28. The Supreme Court found the instruction to be flawed because it suggested that defendant bore responsibility for his attorney’s failure to provide discovery, and failed to instruct the jury how the untimely disclosure should impact the jury’s deliberations. However, because of the overwhelming evidence, the error was harmless.