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The People v. Matthew Douglas White

January 21, 2011

THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
MATTHEW DOUGLAS WHITE, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



Super. Ct. No. LF009183A

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

P. v. White CA3

NOT TO BE PUBLISHED

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 This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

Defendant Matthew Douglas White, while intoxicated and speeding, hit a car stopped on the shoulder of the highway with its hazard lights on, killing its occupant and injuring two passengers in defendant's car. A jury convicted defendant of second degree murder (Pen. Code, § 187); gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated (Pen. Code, § 191.5, subd. (a)); driving under the influence, causing injury (Veh. Code, § 23153, subd. (a)) and driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 percent or higher, causing injury (Veh. Code, § 23153, subd. (b)), both with three enhancements for causing great bodily injury (Pen. Code, § 12022.7, subd. (a)) and one for inflicting great bodily injury on multiple victims (Veh. Code, § 23558); driving with a suspended license (Veh. Code, § 14601.1, subd. (a)); exhibition of speed (Veh. Code, § 23109, subd. (c)); and unsafe passing on the right (Veh. Code, § 21755). Defendant was sentenced to an aggregate, unstayed term of 17 years to life in prison.

On appeal, defendant requests this court to review the sealed record on his pretrial Pitchess motion. (Pitchess v. Superior Court (1974) 11 Cal.3d 531 (Pitchess); Evid. Code, §§ 1043-1047.) The People agree such review is appropriate. The trial court failed to follow the proper procedure in connection with the Pitchess motion. Thus, we must conditionally reverse judgment with directions to hold a new in camera review and to prepare a record sufficient for appellate review.

BACKGROUND

Given the limited nature of the issue on appeal, a detailed recitation of the facts of defendant's crimes is unnecessary.

Defendant drove down Interstate 5 at a high rate of speed, weaving in and out of traffic. He was drunk. The parties stipulated that more than an hour later defendant's blood alcohol level was .16 percent. Defendant pulled onto the right shoulder to pass a truck and collided with a car that was stopped on the shoulder. The driver of the stopped car was killed. The two passengers in defendant's car were injured.

California Highway Patrol (CHP) Officer Jason Gonzales was dispatched on a call for a reckless driver. He came upon the scene of the collision. A Volkswagen Jetta, with its flashers on, had been damaged very badly; its driver was inside with his seatbelt on. Gonzales was told the driver had died. Gonzales contacted defendant, who smelled of alcohol. Gonzales was the primary investigator and wrote a 34-page report on the collision.

Defendant filed a Pitchess motion with respect to Officer Gonzales. He sought names, addresses, and phone numbers of those filing complaints against Gonzales for dishonesty, morally lax character, false reports or arrests, and fabrication of accident reports, charges or evidence, as well as all statements in such complaints or by those interviewed due to the complaints. The motion was accompanied by a declaration of defendant's counsel stating there were significant inconsistencies concerning major contested issues in the two reports Gonzales prepared. The defense wanted the information to locate witnesses and assess credibility, and to cross-examine, impeach, and refresh the recollection of witnesses.

The CHP objected to the motion as untimely. The trial court found good cause for the late filing and set a hearing.

A closed hearing was held with the trial court and an attorney representing the CHP. The court asked the attorney if she had reviewed the records. She responded she had, but not the entire personnel file. The court asked if there appeared to be anything relevant to the indicated issues and she replied, "Nothing at all, Your Honor." The court noted for the record that the files had ...


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