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People v. Galan

October 5, 2009; as modified October 14, 2009

THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
RAFAEL PEREZ GALAN, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



(Super. Ct. No. LA055360) (Los Angeles County) Kathryne Stoltz, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Yegan, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

A trial is a search for the truth. Cross-examination and impeachment of witnesses go to the truth-seeking function of the trial. The courts should be ever vigilant to allow both sides access to evidentiary material that will enable them to search for the truth. In an appropriate case, these principles allow a criminal defendant, by way of a Pitchess motion, to "fish" in a police officer's personnel records to see if the officer has a penchant to commit some type of misconduct that would aid in the search for truth. (Pitchess v. Superior Court (1974) 11 Cal.3d 531; Evid. Code, § 1043.) As this case shows, there are limits to these rules.

Where, as here, a defendant's undisputed extra-judicial statements are reasonably consistent with the officer's description of the crime, discovery of any complaint of prior fabrication is foreclosed. Why? Because, notwithstanding defense counsel's declaration to the contrary, his client has impliedly acknowledged that the officer has been truthful in his report of the circumstances of the crime. Were we to rule otherwise, imaginative defense counsel could ignore his client's extra-judicial statements and defeat the Pitchess scheme's purpose "to protect the defendant's right to a fair trial and the officer's interest in privacy [in his personnel records] to the fullest extent possible. . . " (People v. Mooc (2001) 26 Cal.4th 1216, 1227.)

Rafael Perez Galan appeals from the judgment entered following his conviction by a jury of four counts of assault with a deadly weapon (an automobile) (Pen. Code, § 245, subd. (a)(1)), one count of felony driving under the influence of alcohol (Veh. Code, § 23152, subd. (a)), one count of felony driving with a blood-alcohol level of .08 percent or more (Id., § 23152, subd. (b)), and one count of attempting to elude a pursuing peace officer while driving recklessly. (Id., § 2800.2, subd. (a).) Appellant admitted one prior prison term (Pen. Code, § 667.5, subd. (b)) and three prior convictions of driving under the influence. (Veh. Code, §§ 23550, 23550.5.) He was sentenced to prison for eight years and four months.

Appellant contends that the trial court abused its discretion in denying his Pitchess motion to discover police officers' confidential personnel records. Appellant argues that he "made a sufficient showing of good cause entitling [him] to an in camera review of the records requested." This contention is without merit and we affirm the judgment.

Facts

The following statement of facts is based on an arrest report written by Officer Jason Meilleur and a report written by Sergeant Robert Kirk. In ruling on appellant's Pitchess motion, the trial court considered both reports.

At approximately 10:20 p.m. on March 25, 2007, Officers Meilleur and Barnes saw appellant driving a pickup truck at 75 miles per hour on a street where the speed limit was 35 miles per hour. The truck was "straddling the dashed line between" two traffic lanes. The officers were in full uniform and were driving marked black-and-white police motorcycles.

Appellant "was forced to stop" because of "heavy traffic." The officers drove their motorcycles behind appellant's truck and activated their "forward facing solid red lights and red and blue strobe lights to initiate a traffic stop." Appellant "failed to pull to the right and yield." He drove away, and a police pursuit ensued.

During the pursuit, appellant "suddenly stopped," shifted into reverse, and "quickly began backing" toward the officers. Meilleur "swerved to the left and [Barnes] swerved to the right to avoid being struck" by the truck. Appellant then shifted back into drive and drove away. The officers "continued to follow [him] . . . with all emergency lights activated and intermittent chirps of the siren."

Appellant "suddenly stopped again, placed the [truck] in reverse, and began backing" toward the officers. Meilleur was forced "to swerve to the south curb" and Barnes was forced "to swerve to the north curb to avoid being struck by [the truck]." Appellant shifted into drive and "began driving [westbound] . . . actively swerving at [Barnes] causing him to swerve toward the south curb to avoid being struck by [the truck]." Appellant "then drove away at a high rate of speed . . . ." But he "suddenly stopped again," shifted into reverse, "and began actively swerving . . . at [Barnes] again, causing [Barnes] to swerve into the west curb." Appellant's truck missed Barnes by approximately one foot.

During the subsequent pursuit of appellant, he "stopped again and began backing." The officers "were already separated along the east and west sides [of the street] allowing [appellant] to pass in between [them]." Appellant then shifted into drive "and began actively attempting to run [Meilleur] off the road." Meilleur "was forced to drive up the east curb" into a parking lot. Appellant shifted into reverse "and began backing at [Meilleur] forcing [him] to drive out of the parking lot . . . ." Appellant shifted back into drive and drove away.

Appellant eventually stopped at the end of a dead-end street. He exited the truck and fled on foot. The police arrested him and administered two chemical tests of his breath. Both ...


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