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People v. Johnson

December 22, 2009


APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County. James B. Pierce, Judge. Affirmed. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. NA076301).

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



Defendant and appellant Clifford Johnson (defendant) stabbed a motel employee who was attempting to eject defendant from motel property. Defendant argued at trial that the employee used excessive force when attempting to eject defendant and that defendant stabbed the employee in self-defense. A jury convicted defendant of one count of assault with a deadly weapon. (Pen. Code, § 245, subd. (a)(1).)*fn1

On appeal, defendant contends that the trial court erred by refusing to give defendant's proposed jury instruction-derived from CALCRIM No. 3475-that force is permitted to eject a trespasser only if the trespasser is likely to injure the property or an occupant. Defendant also contends that the trial court should have instructed the jury sua sponte with CALCRIM No. 3471, which addresses whether a defendant who engaged in mutual combat or was the initial aggressor had a right of reasonable self-defense.*fn2

We conclude that defendant's proposed instruction based on CALCRIM No. 3475 was irrelevant to the jury's consideration of whether defendant acted in reasonable self-defense. We further conclude that, because CALCRIM No. 3471 concerns the preliminary factual question of whether a defendant has the right to act in self-defense, the trial court's unqualified instruction on reasonable self-defense rendered that instruction unnecessary. We therefore affirm.


Rajesh Patel owned the Poolside Motel (the motel) in Long Beach. Roger Manriquez worked at the motel in exchange for a room. His duties included housekeeping, maintenance, and security. Defendant, a homeless person from the neighborhood, at times stayed as a paying guest at the motel. Patel sometimes gave defendant permission to stay on the motel's property even when defendant was not a paying guest.

In early 2007, Manriquez was involved in an incident at the motel with a person named Anthony Speech. Speech refused to leave the motel despite numerous requests and threatened Manriquez. Manriquez obtained a pellet gun that looked like a regular nine-millimeter firearm and fired a warning shot to frighten Speech. Manriquez was arrested and prosecuted for his role in the incident. Defendant testified that he was aware of the incident, and believed that Manriquez had used a real gun rather than a pellet gun.

On the evening of October 27, 2007, defendant went to the motel and asked Patel if he could stay on the property. Patel gave defendant permission to sit on the motel's patio, but told defendant that he could not spend the night. Defendant spent the evening on the patio smoking cigarettes and drinking beer.

Shortly after midnight, Manriquez arrived at the motel and saw defendant on the patio. Manriquez told defendant to leave, but defendant refused on the ground that he had Patel's permission to be there. Manriquez told defendant that upon Manriquez's return, defendant should be gone. Manriquez left to attend to other business.

When Manriquez returned, defendant was still on the patio. Manriquez again ordered defendant to leave; defendant again refused. The two men struggled. Manriquez testified that defendant "flinched" as if to attack him, and that Manriquez threw defendant to the ground to protect himself.*fn3 Defendant, on the other hand, testified that Manriquez became enraged, grabbed defendant and threw him to the ground twice. During the struggle, defendant produced a knife and stabbed Manriquez in the abdomen and in the left hand and wrist. Defendant testified, "[T]he second time when he threw me on the ground, just before I got up, he seemed as though he was going to either stomp me or kick me. . . . But I feared for my safety. So when I got up, I tried to get up as quick as I could. I got the knife out, and I stabbed him basically to keep him off of me."

Manriquez left the patio to find a weapon. Defendant could have left the motel, but instead pursued Manriquez with the knife around some cars in the parking lot. Defendant testified that he wanted to prevent Manriquez from getting to the gun Manriquez had used during the incident with Anthony Speech.

Eventually, Manriquez picked up a broom and told defendant that if he came any closer, Manriquez would hit him. Defendant left the motel. Manriquez collapsed in the parking lot. When police arrived, they discovered Manriquez lying on his back, bleeding profusely, with six to ten ...

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