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The People v. Eppie Mcclain

December 1, 2010

THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
EPPIE MCCLAIN, JR., DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Superior Court of San Bernardino County. Donna G. Garza, Judge. (Super.Ct.No. FSB802459)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Miller J.

P. v. McClain

CA4/2

NOT TO BE PUBLISHED IN OFFICIAL REPORTS

California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

OPINION

Affirmed.

A jury found defendant Eppie McClain, Jr., guilty of (1) attempted carjacking (Pen. Code, §§ 664, 215, subd. (a));*fn1 (2) assault with a firearm (§ 245, subd. (a)(2)); and (3) being a felon in possession of a firearm (§ 12021, subd. (a)(1)).*fn2 In regard to the attempted carjacking, the jury found true the allegation that defendant personally used a firearm during the commission of the felony. (§ 12022.53, subd. (b).) The trial court found true the allegations that defendant suffered (1) two prior strike convictions (§§ 667, subds. (b)-(i), 1170.12, subds. (a)-(d));*fn3 (2) two prior serious felony convictions (§ 667, subd. (a)(1)); and (3) two prior convictions that resulted in prison terms (§ 667.5). The trial court sentenced defendant to state prison for a determinate term of 20 years, and an indeterminate term of 25 years to life.

Defendant makes two contentions. First, defendant asserts that the evidence supporting his conviction for attempted carjacking (§§ 664, 215, subd. (a)) does not meet the substantial evidence standard. Second, defendant contends that the prosecutor committed Batson/Wheeler*fn4 error by excusing two African-American people from the venire. We affirm the judgment.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On June 13, 2008, at approximately 10:30 a.m., the victim, who is female, exited a grocery store in Loma Linda. The victim's three- and one-half-year-old son was with her at the grocery store. As the victim and her son exited the store, they proceeded towards the victim's van, which was parked in the store's parking lot. The victim placed her son in his car seat, and then placed her groceries in her van.

After the groceries were put away, the victim entered the van and put the windows halfway down, because it was a hot day. With the exception of the driver's door, the van's doors were locked. Defendant approached the passenger door of the van. Through the half-open window, defendant asked the victim if she had jumper cables. The victim told defendant that she did not have jumper cables, but defendant could get help at the nearby gas station. Defendant asked the victim if she would help him push his car. Defendant said that his car was located at the nearby Laundromat. The victim told defendant that she would help him.

Defendant tried to open the van's passenger door. Defendant shook the van as he pulled hard on the door handle. The victim told defendant that she could not let him into the van. The victim told defendant that she would follow him to his car. As defendant pulled hard on the door handle with one hand, he moved his other hand towards his pocket. Defendant removed a gun from his pocket and pointed it at the victim.

The victim saw the gun and began screaming. The victim screamed, "'What did I do to you? Please, don't do it. I meant to help you. Why are you doing this?'" Defendant repeatedly said to the victim, "'Shut up. Open the door. Shut up.'" The victim jumped out of her van and screamed for help. The victim screamed, "'He's got a gun. My son is in the car, please.'" People in the parking lot began running to the victim's aid.

Defendant moved around the van, to the driver's side. Defendant placed his hand on the van's steering wheel. As the people from the parking lot approached the van, defendant ran away. One of the people in the parking lot, a man (Witness-1), chased after defendant. As Witness-1 followed defendant, defendant pointed the gun at Witness-1. Witness-1 continued to chase defendant into a field.

A second man (Witness-2), was walking through the field on the way to the VA hospital. Witness-2 heard a person yell, "'Stop him. He's got a gun.'" Witness-2 saw defendant coming through the field with a gun. Defendant pointed the gun in the direction of Witness-2. Defendant passed by Witness-2; defendant was headed in the direction of the VA hospital. Witness-2 followed defendant at a safe distance, in order to alert the VA hospital's security that a man with a gun was near the hospital. Defendant took a path to the right side of the hospital. Witness-2 took a path to the left side of the hospital, in order to reach the entrance of the hospital first. As defendant came around the corner, Witness-2 saw defendant throw the gun in a garbage can. As defendant approached the entrance to the hospital emergency room, three officers stepped outside, and defendant surrendered.

DISCUSSION

A. SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE

Defendant contends that the evidence supporting his conviction for attempted carjacking (§§ 664, 215, subd. (a)), does not meet the substantial evidence standard. Defendant's contention focuses on the evidence related to the element of specific intent. We disagree with defendant's contention.

"A substantial evidence inquiry examines the record in the light most favorable to the judgment and upholds it if the record contains reasonable, credible evidence of solid value upon which a reasonable trier of fact could have relied in reaching the conclusion in question. Once such evidence is found, the substantial evidence test is satisfied. [Citation.] Even when there is a significant amount of countervailing evidence, the testimony of a single witness that satisfies the standard is sufficient to uphold the finding." (People v. Barnwell (2007) 41 Cal.4th 1038, 1052.) Further, we note that "[b]ecause intent can seldom be proven by direct evidence, it typically is inferred from the circumstances" presented by the evidence. (People v. Smith (2009) 178 Cal.App.4th 475, 479.)

"Carjacking is the felonious taking of a motor vehicle in the possession of another or from her person or immediate presence against her will and with the intent to either permanently or temporarily deprive the victim of possession of her car, accomplished by force or fear. [Citations.] Accordingly, attempted carjacking could be committed with the intent to either temporarily or permanently deprive the victim of possession of her car. [Citation.]" (People v. Marquez (2007) 152 Cal.App.4th 1064, 1067-1068, italics omitted.)

The victim testified that she jumped from the van after defendant pointed a gun at her, and then she saw defendant move to the driver's side of the van. Witness-1 testified that he also saw defendant "at the driver's side of the [van]." Witness-1 observed that defendant's body was halfway in the van, and defendant's hand was on the van's steering wheel. The jury could reasonably infer from defendant's act of placing his hand on the steering wheel that defendant did not go to the driver's side of the van to take the victim's purse or other belongings from inside; rather, defendant was attempting to take control of the van in order to temporarily or permanently deprive the victim of possession of her car. As a result, the jury could reasonably infer from the foregoing circumstances that defendant acted with the specific intent to temporarily or permanently deprive the victim of possession of her van. In sum, we conclude that substantial evidence supports defendant's conviction for attempted carjacking.

Defendant argues that the evidence of the victim's "fear cannot be a substitute for" evidence of defendant's intent because "[t]o hold otherwise would be a disservice to the reasonable doubt standard." Due to defendant's mention of the "reasonable doubt standard," we want to clarify that it is not an appellate court's function to determine if the evidence proves defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; rather, we analyze whether substantial evidence supports the jury's findings. (People v. Quintero (2006) 135 Cal.App.4th 1152, 1161-1162.) Further, we note that the victim's fear is not the focus of our analysis. Rather, our analysis focuses on defendant's act of pointing the gun at the victim, defendant's act of moving to the driver's side of the van, and defendant's act of placing his hand on the steering wheel. It is the foregoing evidence of defendant's acts that reflects defendant's intent to deprive the victim of her van.

Defendant contends that substantial evidence does not support his conviction for attempted carjacking because the circumstances do not reflect that defendant demanded the victim's car keys, that defendant attempted to force the victim from the van, or that defendant threatened to kill the victim. We do not find defendant's argument persuasive, because the victim was forced from the van when defendant pointed a gun at her. Accordingly, we are not persuaded by defendant's argument that "there was no attempt to force [the victim] out of her van."

Defendant asserts that the evidence reflects, "at most," an intent to rob or scare the victim. Contrary to defendant's position, when defendant reached the driver's side of the vehicle, he did not try to rummage for the victim's purse or look for items of value; rather, he placed his hand on the steering wheel. The jury could reasonably infer that defendant placed his hand on the steering wheel in an attempt to take control of the van, in order to deprive the victim of possession of the van. ...


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