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People v. Contreras

May 10, 2010

THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
JESUS CONTRERAS, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



Appeal from a judgment of the Superior Court of Orange County, W. Michael Hayes, Judge. Affirmed. (Super. Ct. No. 02CF1044).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: O'leary, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Jesus Contreras appeals from a judgment after a jury found true he remained a mentally disordered offender. Contreras argues the trial court prejudicially erred when it instructed the jury with CALCRIM No. 224, the general instruction on circumstantial evidence, rather than CALCRIM No. 225, the instruction on circumstantial evidence to be given when only a defendant's intent or mental state is at issue. We disagree and affirm the judgment.

FACTS

On October 21, 2003, Contreras pled guilty to two counts of assault with a deadly weapon with great bodily injury committed against his mother and his aunt. The trial court sentenced him to a total of four years in prison. After Contreras had served his sentence, the trial court found he suffered from a severe mental disorder within the meaning of Penal Code section 2970.*fn1 The court granted the state's petition seeking to extend Contreras's commitment one additional year as a mentally disordered offender. After that time was served, the state petitioned to extend his commitment an additional year.

Dr. Meerabai Mohapatra, the sole trial witness, offered her expert testimony for the prosecution. Mohapatra was a staff psychiatrist at Patton State Hospital and had been assigned Contreras's case for about two years.*fn2 Mohapatra testified Contreras suffered from schizophrenia, antisocial personality disorder, and polysubstance dependency. Mohapatra based her diagnosis of schizophrenia on Contreras's delusions, hallucinations, disorganized thought process, poor impulse control, aggressive behavior, flat affect, other inappropriate behavior, and his prior criminal history.

Mohapatra testified Contreras's schizophrenia manifested in his refusal to eat because he believed he was not going to be able to swallow, his thoughts that the hospital staff was going to break his penis, and his thoughts that his arms and leg were going to fall off because of his tattoos. In addition, Contreras talked about being lobotomized with an ice pick and hearing echoes through the hole in his head. He complained about hearing voices that commanded him to hurt himself or others and of seeing spirits or ghosts. During several instances at the hospital, Contreras was seen talking to unseen others and laughing inappropriately.

Some of Contreras's inappropriate behaviors that contributed to Mohapatra's diagnosis were laughter when someone talked about a family member being killed, pronouncing "'guns can solve problems that words cannot,'" and threatening his roommate. He threatened a fellow patient saying he had friends on the outside that could "get" the fellow patient. He also joined in an assault on a fellow patient who was being beaten up by several other patients. When confronted, he said he did it for fun and for the exercise it provided.

Mohapatra testified a person can have both schizophrenia and antisocial personality disorder but, in this case, his symptoms are either from his schizophrenia or jointly attributable to his schizophrenia and his personality disorder.

Contreras had been prescribed antipsychotic medication and was recommended for several group therapy classes, which he typically slept through. According to Mohapatra, he denied having a mental illness, denied needing medication, and he refused to go to group therapy. Mohapatra recalled Contreras stated he intended to resume his gang activities and to sell and use drugs when he was released. Although she felt he had improved, she did not think his schizophrenia was in remission and believed he could not be safely and effectively treated in the community. She concluded because of his mental disorder and noncompliance with his medication schedule, he remained a danger to others.

The trial court instructed the jury with CALCRIM No. 224 and CALCRIM No. 3457.*fn3 The jury concluded Contreras remained a mentally disordered offender and the court committed him for an additional year.

DISCUSSION

Contreras contends the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury pursuant to CALCRIM No. 225 regarding its consideration of circumstantial evidence. He contends the trial court failed by instructing the jury with CALCRIM No. 224 and should have instructed the jury with CALCRIM No. 225 ...


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