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In Re K.H., A Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. v. K. H

IN THE COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA FIRST APPELLATE DISTRICT DIVISION 4


December 8, 2010

IN RE K.H., A PERSON COMING UNDER THE JUVENILE COURT LAW.
THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
K. H., DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.

(Solano County Super. Ct. No. J39674)

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

In re K.H. CA1/4

NOT TO BE PUBLISHED IN OFFICIAL REPORTS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 This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

The minor, K.H., appeals from the jurisdictional finding and dispositional order of the court finding that he committed second degree robbery (Pen. Code, § 211).*fn1 He argues that the victim's eyewitness identification of him as the robber was insufficient to support the court's finding. We disagree and affirm.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On September 23, 2009, a juvenile wardship petition was filed alleging that the minor came within the provisions of Welfare and Institutions Code section 602, in that he committed second degree robbery (§ 211). On November 24, 2009, the court joined the minor's case with that of his sibling, who was charged as a co-responsible.

On February 10, 2010, a contested jurisdictional hearing was held. At the hearing, the victim identified the minor and his sibling as the young men who robbed him on April 15, 2009. The victim testified that when he rang the doorbell of a Vacaville residence to deliver a take-out food order, the minor's sibling opened the door and attempted to pull him inside. During the struggle that followed, the victim fell, at which point the minor grabbed the victim's leg and helped to pull him inside the otherwise abandoned residence. As he was being pulled inside, the victim called for help from two neighbors who were returning by car to the home next door. One of the neighbors testified at the hearing that she observed the victim being hit and dragged into the residence by a "younger, black male" dressed in all-black clothing, but did not observe his facial features. Once the victim was inside the residence, the minor pointed a gun at his face and demanded his wallet. When the victim told the minor and his sibling that he did not have a wallet, they searched him and took the money (approximately $20) he was carrying. The victim then observed the minor and his sibling leave the residence through the back door, before he ran to the house next door and asked the neighbor who had observed part of the attack to call the police.

When police arrived, the victim provided a statement that included a description of the robbers' clothing, heights, and weights. However, when testifying, the victim could not remember the height and weight figures he had provided at the scene, and he did not recall the exact location of the house or the precise time of day at which the robbery occurred. He identified the minor in court as the person who robbed him.

A police officer approaching the scene to investigate observed the minor and his sibling walking on a street behind the property where the robbery had occurred. The officer detained the young men because they resembled the victim's description of the robbers. The police transported the victim to the location where the minor and his sibling were detained, and allowed the victim to observe the young men from inside a police vehicle at an estimated distance of 30 feet away. During this process, the victim "concentrat[ed on] their face, how they look like." He identified the minor and his sibling as the robbers, but stated that they "look[ed] like they changed their clothes." The neighbor who had observed part of the attack was also taken to the location where the minor and his sibling were detained. She was unable to identify the young man who she had observed pulling the victim into the house, and stated that the young men were not wearing the clothing that she had seen on the robber.

The court sustained the allegation of second degree robbery (§ 211), and the minor admitted a separate allegation of receiving stolen property relating to a later incident. At a dispositional hearing on April 9, 2010, the minor was adjudged a ward of the court and placed on probation in the custody of his mother. This timely appeal followed.

II. DISCUSSION

The minor argues that the victim's eyewitness identification, upon which the court relied, was insufficient to support its finding that he committed second degree robbery. In support of this argument, he notes that while testifying, the victim "did not or could not give any more than the most generic of superficial descriptions" of the minor and his sibling beyond their clothing. The minor suggests that the victim's generic description of the young men increases the likelihood that a false out-of-court identification occurred, especially in light of the fact that the young men were strangers to the victim before the robbery and were of a race different from the victim. The minor also argues that the victim's identification was unreliable because his "powers of observation are . . . quite lacking in precision," as demonstrated by the fact that his testimony was inaccurate regarding the location of the house and the exact time of the robbery. Additionally, the minor argues that the victim's identification was undermined by a lack of corroborating physical evidence. The minor notes that neither the money taken from the victim nor the weapon used during the robbery was recovered from the minor or his sibling, and that at the time the victim identified them shortly after the robbery, neither young man was wearing exactly the same clothing that the victim had told police that the robbers wore during the attack.

In a juvenile appeal claiming insufficiency of the evidence, we apply the same standard of review as we would in an adult criminal appeal. (In re Ryan N. (2001) 92 Cal.App.4th 1359, 1371.) Under this standard, the critical inquiry is " 'whether, after reviewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.' " (Ibid., original italics.) We must review the entire record below to determine whether there is " 'substantial evidence--that is, evidence which is reasonable, credible, and of solid value--such that a reasonable trier of fact could find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.' " (Ibid.) In making this determination, we note that the testimony of a single witness is sufficient to prove a disputed fact, and eyewitness identification alone can sustain a conviction. (Evid. Code § 411; People v. Robertson (1989) 48 Cal.3d 18, 44.) "[W]hen the circumstances surrounding the identification and its weight are explored at length at trial [and] where eyewitness identification is believed by the trier of fact, that determination is binding on the reviewing court. [Citation.]" (In re Gustavo M. (1989) 214 Cal.App.3d 1485, 1497.)

In light of the forgoing standard of review, we conclude that substantial evidence supports the court's order. The court was fully aware of all the factors the minor relies upon in an attempt to challenge the reliability of the victim's identification of him as one of the robbers. The minor's counsel had the opportunity to cross-examine the victim and to argue that certain factors made his identification unreliable. In determining the credibility of the victim's testimony, the court explicitly referenced several relevant factors listed in CALCRIM No. 226 (Witnesses), such as how well the witness could see, hear, or otherwise perceive the things about which the witness testified, how well the witness was able to remember and describe what happened, and the witness's behavior while testifying. The court stated that it had "carefully considered the testimony of the percipient witness and the percipient witness is what either makes this case or doesn't make this case. The Court does believe the witness. It was consistent. The minors were found close by and he was unequivocal in the identification."

The minor argues that the victim's description of the robbers' clothing was inconsistent with the clothes the minor and his sibling were wearing when arrested. The minor overstates the inconsistency. The victim told police that the robbers wore jeans and black tops. When arrested, the minor and his sibling were wearing jeans, but one of them was wearing a white shirt. The discrepancy is easily explained, however, as one of the young men may have removed his outer shirt and discarded it before being detained by police. The discrepancy therefore does not undermine the reliability of the victim's field identification, which was reaffirmed by his later in-court identification. The court believed the victim's testimony identifying the minor as one of the robbers. It is not the role of the appellate court to reweigh credibility choices made by the trier of fact. (In re Ryan N., supra, 92 Cal.App.4th at p. 1372.) The court's order finding that the minor committed second degree robbery is supported by substantial evidence.

III. DISPOSITION

The court's order is affirmed.

We concur: Ruvolo, P. J. Rivera, J.


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