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The People v. Alberto Sanchez et al

August 30, 2011


(Super. Ct. No. 064854)

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

P. v. Sanchez



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 This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

Defendants, Alberto Sanchez (Alberto), Israel Sanchez (Israel) and Edgar Radillo (Edgar), picked up a young woman and drove her to a remote location in Yolo County where they sexually assaulted her. All three were convicted by a jury of two counts each of forcible rape (Pen. Code, § 261, subd. (a)(2)) and rape in concert (id. § 264.1) and one count each of assault (id. § 245, subd. (a)(1)), false imprisonment (id. §§ 236 and 237, subd. (a)) and sexual battery (id. § 243.4, subd. (a)). (Further undesignated section references are to the Penal Code.) In addition, Alberto and Israel were convicted of kidnapping (§ 207, subd. (a)), while Edgar was found guilty of the lesser included offense of false imprisonment. Finally, the jury found as to Alberto and Israel that the rape and rape in concert offenses had been committed under circumstances involving a kidnapping and movement of the victim which substantially increased her risk of harm (§ 667.61).

Alberto and Israel were sentenced to an aggregate determinate term of five years plus a consecutive indeterminate term of 25 years to life. Edgar received an aggregate determinate term of 23 years, 8 months.

All three defendants appeal, contending: (1) the trial court erred in denying their Wheeler/Batson motion; (2) the court improperly admitted into evidence their out-of-court, custodial statements; (3) the court abused its discretion in denying their request for separate trials; (4) the evidence is insufficient to support the kidnapping convictions; (5) the court erred in failing to instruct that aiding and abetting a kidnapping and conspiracy to kidnap are specific intent crimes; (6) the court improperly instructed on conspiracy; (7) the court erred in failing to give a requested pinpoint instruction that asportation by fraud is not kidnapping; (8) the court's instructions improperly directed a verdict on the rape and rape in concert charges; (9) the court erred in failing to give a unanimity instruction on the act constituting kidnapping; (10) the court was required to dismiss Alberto's two rape convictions as lesser included offenses of his two rape in concert convictions; (11) the false imprisonment convictions of Israel and Alberto must be dismissed as lesser included offenses of kidnapping; and (12) cumulative error.

The People correctly concede Alberto's two rape convictions (counts 2 and 4) and the false imprisonment convictions (count 7) of Israel and Alberto must be vacated. We thus accept those concessions. We also conclude Edgar's conviction for the lesser included offense of false imprisonment on count 1 must be dismissed in light of his conviction for the same offense on count 7. In all other respects, we affirm the judgments.

Facts and Proceedings

On the evening of August 11, 2006, 16-year-old Antonio S. met Edgar and Alberto at a school in Dixon and the three smoked marijuana. Later, Israel joined them and the four departed in Israel's 4-door Acura. They drove around Dixon for a while and then headed for Davis. Antonio and Edgar continued to smoke marijuana in the back seat of the car. At some point during their drive around Davis, they stopped for gas and Antonio purchased a bag of Doritos. They then continued their cruise past the local bars.

That same evening, 23-year-old S.L. and some friends went out for a night of dinner and drinking in downtown Davis. At approximately 11:00 p.m., S.L. left her friends and went to another bar to meet someone. She left that bar at around 1:00 or 1:30 a.m. She was intoxicated, tired and wanted to go home. However, her ride for the evening had already gone home.

S.L. started walking down the street and thinking how she might get home. Just then, Israel and the others drove by. They stopped and asked if S.L. was alright and if she needed help. S.L. said she wanted to go home and they offered to take her there. S.L. accepted the offer and told them she lived off Covell and Alvarado in Davis. She got in the back of the car between Antonio and Edgar and instructed them to take Highway 113 and exit at Covell. She repeated that she just wanted to go home. They agreed to take her home.

A couple of minutes after S.L. got into the car, the men began passing around a marijuana cigar to smoke. They offered it to S.L. and she took a puff. Israel proceeded onto Highway 113 but did not take the Covell exit. As they drove, Antonio began touching S.L.'s leg and she told him to stop and pushed his hand away. She repeated that she just wanted to go home.

As they drove away from Davis, S.L. asked where they were going, but nobody responded. They eventually arrived at a remote area and drove up a dirt driveway. Israel turned off the car and the car lights.

What happened thereafter is less certain. Both S.L. and Antonio testified at trial and described different versions. According to S.L., the four men got out of the car and ordered her out. She refused, and one of them yelled at her to get out. She got out of the car and began to cry. S.L. pleaded, "Please don't do this. Please don't. I beg you, please stop. Don't do this to me." One of the men pushed S.L. onto the ground near the car and then someone got on top of her while the others stood around them in a circle. The man on top of S.L. told her to take off her skirt. She refused, and he took it off for her, along with her underpants. S.L. then heard cheering and laughing and "abrela, abrela," which means open. S.L. began moving around trying to get the man off of her and he punched her in the left eye. He then penetrated her vagina with his penis. The man remained on top of S.L. for five to seven minutes and then told her not to tell anyone.

According to S.L., after the first man got off her another took his place. He too penetrated her vagina with his penis. This man pulled down her shirt and bra and squeezed her left breast "very hard." After this man got off S.L., the men kicked her in the stomach and neck. She laid there until she heard the car engine start and heard them drive away.

Antonio testified pursuant to a plea deal whereby he was permitted to plead guilty to two felonies with no particular promise as to sentencing. According to Antonio, after they arrived at the remote location, S.L. said she was going to be sick and she and Edgar got out of the car. Israel and Alberto also got out, but Antonio remained in the car. Edgar held S.L. while she vomited. Israel eventually walked over to them and took over holding S.L. Meanwhile, Alberto took S.L.'s purse out of the car and emptied it on the trunk. He found condoms inside.

According to Antonio, Alberto and Edgar eventually joined Israel and together they removed S.L.'s clothes. Israel and Alberto then walked S.L. over to a grassy area and laid her down. Alberto threw Israel a condom taken from S.L.'s purse. Israel got on top of S.L. and had sexual intercourse with her. According to Antonio, S.L. did not appear to be a willing participant. He heard her moaning and yelling "no" and "stop." After Israel finished, he asked, "Who is next?" Alberto gave Edgar another condom from S.L.'s purse and Edgar got on top of S.L. and had sexual intercourse with her.

At some point during the foregoing, Antonio got out of the car and smoked a cigarette. He also discarded the empty Doritos bag he had obtained at the gas station. By the time Edgar finished with S.L., Antonio was back in the car. After Edgar rejoined the others at the car, they got in and started to drive away. However, at the end of the driveway, Alberto told Israel to stop the car. Alberto got out and was gone four to five minutes. When he returned, he told them he had beaten S.L. up. On the way home, the others instructed Antonio not to say anything about what happened.

After the men left, S.L. blacked out for a short period. When she awoke, her stomach hurt and she was cold. She got up and started running from the area for fear that the men might return. In the distance, she saw the lights of a city and moved in that direction. She was wearing only her top and shoes. S.L. was eventually discovered by police officers at 4:45 a.m. walking along County Road 102. She appeared injured, stated that she had been raped and pointed in the direction of where it had occurred. She informed the officers that the rest of her clothes and her purse were still at the scene.

Officers eventually located the crime scene and found S.L.'s clothes and purse. They also found an empty Doritos bag, a condom wrapper, two condoms, and a receipt from one of the bars where S.L. had been that evening. They located an area where the grass appeared to be pressed down as if someone had been lying on it.

A fingerprint lifted from the Doritos bag was determined to be a match to one on file for Antonio. On August 25, officers served a search warrant at Antonio's home. They picked up Antonio and took him in for questioning. Antonio admitted picking up S.L. that evening and indicated three others had been involved. He identified one of the participants as Alberto Sanchez but provided only first names, Edgar and Israel, for the other two.

Officers later picked up Alberto, Edgar and Israel and brought them in for questioning. DNA from one of the condoms found at the scene was later determined to be a match for Edgar, and DNA from the other condom was found to be a match for Israel.

Alberto testified at trial. He admitted picking up S.L. in the early morning hours of August 12, 2006, and taking her to a remote location. According to Alberto, after they arrived at the scene, he walked over to a gate at the entrance to the driveway and remained there until they departed 15 minutes later. He claimed not to have heard or seen anything that was done by the others with S.L.

As noted previously, Antonio was given a plea deal and testified for the prosecution. The other three were charged with kidnapping (count 1), two counts of rape (counts 2 and 4), two counts of rape in concert (counts 3 and 5), assault (count 6), false imprisonment (count 7), and sexual battery (count 8). They were also charged with enhancements on the rape and rape in concert charges for having kidnapped the victim and having moved her so as to substantially increase her risk of harm.

Israel and Alberto were convicted as charged. Edgar was found guilty on all charges except kidnapping, for which he was instead convicted of the lesser included offense of false imprisonment. The jury also found not true as to Edgar all of the enhancements on the rape and rape in concert charges.

Alberto was sentenced on the assault charge (count 6) to the upper term of four years and on the sexual battery charge (count 8) to a consecutive one-third the middle term of one year, for an aggregate determinate sentence of five years. In addition, Alberto received a consecutive indeterminate term of 25 years to life for one rape in concert charge (count 3) and an identical term to run concurrently on the other rape in concert charge (count 5). Sentence on the remaining counts was stayed pursuant to section 654. Alberto received credit for time served of 356 days plus 53 days of conduct credits, for a total of 409 days.

Israel received the same sentence as Alberto, except instead of staying sentence on the rape charges (counts 2 and 4), the court struck those charges. Israel received credit for time served of 346 days plus 51 days conduct credits, for a total of 397 days.

Edgar was sentenced on the assault charge (count 6) to the upper term of four years and received one-third the middle terms of eight months and one year respectively on the false imprisonment (count 7) and the sexual battery (count 8) charges. On the two rape in concert charges (counts 3 and 5), Edgar received the upper term of nine years, to run fully consecutive pursuant to section 667.6, subdivision (d). The court struck the rape charges (counts 2 and 4). Although the court was reminded of Edgar's conviction on count 1 to the lesser included offense of false imprisonment, it took no action on that charge. Thus, Edgar received an aggregate determinate term of 23 years, 8 months. He received credit for time served of 346 days plus 51 days conduct credits, for a total of 397 days.



Wheeler/Batson Motion

Defendants, each of whom is Hispanic, contend they were deprived of their constitutional rights to equal protection and trial by a representative jury by virtue of the prosecutor's exercise of peremptory challenges to exclude Hispanics from the jury, in violation of People v. Wheeler (1978) 22 Cal.3d 258 (Wheeler) and Batson v. Kentucky (1986) 476 U.S. 79 [90 L.Ed.2d 69] (Batson).

After the prosecution exercised its first five peremptory challenges on jurors who self-identified as Hispanic, defendants raised a Wheeler/Batson challenge. The prosecution responded with various nondiscriminatory reasons for the peremptory challenges, and the trial court rejected the challenge without prejudice to renewal at a later time. Defendants never renewed their motion.

"It is well settled that '[a] prosecutor's use of peremptory challenges to strike prospective jurors on the basis of group bias--that is, bias against "members of an identifiable group distinguished on racial, religious, ethnic, or similar grounds"--violates the right of a criminal defendant to trial by a jury drawn from a representative cross-section of the community under article I, section 16 of the California Constitution. [Citations.] Such a practice also violates the defendant's right to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. [Citations.]' [Citation.]" (People v. Hamilton (2009) 45 Cal.4th 863, 898.)

A Wheeler/Batson challenge involves a three-step process. "First, the trial court must determine whether the defendant has made a prima facie showing that the prosecutor exercised a peremptory challenge based on race. Second, if the showing is made, the burden shifts to the prosecutor to demonstrate that the challenges were exercised for a race-neutral reason. Third, the court determines whether the defendant has proven purposeful discrimination. The ultimate burden of persuasion regarding racial motivation rests with, and never shifts from, the opponent of the strike. [Citation.]" (People v. Lenix (2008) 44 Cal.4th 602, 612-613.)

Where, as here, the trial court makes no specific finding on whether the defendant made the required prima facie showing and the prosecutor explains the basis for her challenge, we proceed to the second and third steps of the process. (People v. Cowan (2010) 50 Cal.4th 401, 448.)

"A prosecutor asked to explain his conduct must provide a '"clear and reasonably specific" explanation of his "legitimate reasons" for exercising the challenges.' [Citation.] 'The justification need not support a challenge for cause, and even a "trivial" reason, if genuine and neutral, will suffice.' [Citation.] A prospective juror may be excused based upon facial expressions, gestures, hunches, and even for arbitrary or idiosyncratic reasons. [Citations.] Nevertheless, although a prosecutor may rely on any number of bases to select jurors, a legitimate reason is one that does not deny equal protection. [Citation.] Certainly a challenge based on racial prejudice would not be supported by a legitimate reason." (People v. Lenix, supra, 44 Cal.4th at p. 613.)

On direct review, the Batson/Wheeler issue "turns largely on an 'evaluation of credibility.' [Citation.] The trial court's determination is entitled to 'great deference,' [citation], and 'must be sustained unless it is clearly erroneous,' [citation]." (Felkner v. Jackson (2011) 562 U.S. __ [179 L.Ed.2d 374, 377].)

"Credibility can be measured by, among other factors, the prosecutor's demeanor; by how reasonable, or how improbable, the explanations are; and by whether the proffered rationale has some basis in accepted trial strategy.' [Citation.] In assessing credibility, the court draws upon its contemporaneous observations of the voir dire. It may also rely on the court's own experiences as a lawyer and bench officer in the community, and even the common practices of the advocate and the office that employs him or her. [Citation.]" (People v. Lenix, supra, 44 Cal.4th at p. 613, fn. omitted.)

"The proper focus of a Batson/Wheeler inquiry is on the subjective genuineness of the race-neutral reasons given for the peremptory challenge, not on the objective reasonableness of those reasons. [Citation.] What matters is that the prosecutor's reason for exercising the peremptory challenge is legitimate. A '"legitimate reason" is not a reason that makes sense, but a reason that does not deny equal protection. [Citations.]' [Citation.]" (People v. Hamilton, supra, 45 Cal.4th at p. 903.)

Prospective Juror Danielle A.

The prosecutor exercised her first peremptory challenge on Danielle A. During the Wheeler/Batson hearing, the prosecutor explained she did not feel comfortable having Danielle on the jury because "she herself and her husband have been accused and arrested for drug offenses." In her questionnaire, Danielle had answered "yes" to the question: "Have you, a close friend, or relative ever been ACCUSED or ARRESTED for a crime, even if the case did not come to court?" Danielle further indicated the individuals involved had been herself, her husband and her son and that there had been no trial. Danielle identified the crimes as "drug possession various traffic ect. [sic]." In response to the question "What happened?" Danielle indicated: "probation, jail time, fines ect [sic]." Finally, in response to the question, "How do you feel about what happened?" Danielle answered: "Things happened the way they should have[.] [Y]ou do something then you deserve the consequences of your actions."

During voir dire, the court questioned Danielle A. about the prior offenses as follows:

"Q. Now, you make reference in one of the questions to the situation involving yourself, your husband and your son. Were any charges ever filed in that respect?

"A. Traffic, a few, but--

"Q. No felonies or misdemeanors?

"A. Yes, there were."

At the Wheeler/Batson hearing, the trial judge acknowledged that perhaps he should have been more assertive in questioning her about the prior offenses but he "didn't want to embarrass her."

Defendants contend the prosecution had insufficient information about the prior offenses to use them as a basis for excusing the potential juror. They point out there was no information about the age of the offenses, where they occurred, whether there was a conviction, or whether they involved misdemeanors or felonies. They argue it is uncertain whether Danielle A., her husband or her son had been the one involved in the drug offense. Defendants further argue the prosecutor failed to question the juror about the offenses, thereby demonstrating this was not the motivating factor for her challenge.

The People acknowledge that the exact nature of the charges against Danielle A. and/or her husband and son is not revealed by the record but argue the prosecutor need not question a potential juror if the prosecutor already has enough information to make a decision on whether to allow the person to remain on the jury.

The People have the better argument. "A prospective juror's negative experience with the criminal justice system, including arrest, is a legitimate, race-neutral reason for excusing the juror." (People v. Cowan, supra, 50 Cal.4th at p. 450.) This is true whether it is the juror herself or a family member who was involved. (See ibid.) And while the age of the offense and whether it was a misdemeanor or a felony may be relevant considerations, they are not determinative. Hence, while a failure to engage in meaningful voir dire can in some important circumstances, be circumstantial evidence suggesting pretext (People v. Lomax (2010) 49 Cal.4th 530, 573), we agree with the People it was not necessary in this instance for the prosecution to ascertain the details of the prior offenses of Danielle A. or her family in order to use this as a legitimate basis for a peremptory challenge.

Defendants argue the pretextual nature of the prosecutor's stated rationale is revealed in her failure to challenge two similarly situated non-Hispanic jurors, Jurors No. 1 and 11. "'If a prosecutor's proffered reason for striking a [Hispanic] panelist applies just as well to an otherwise-similar [non-Hispanic] who is permitted to serve, that is evidence tending to prove purposeful discrimination to be considered'" in the third step of the Wheeler/Batson analysis. (People v. Lomax, supra, 49 Cal.4th at pp. 571-572.) In this instance, Juror No. 1's father had been accused of sexual misconduct, and Juror No. 11 had received a speeding ticket "for no reason."

The People counter that Jurors No. 1 and 11 were not similarly situated to Danielle A., because elsewhere in their questionnaires they demonstrated a pro-prosecution or pro-victim bias. Juror No. 11 stated the following about the crimes charged in the instant case: "Rape is a very serious and terrible crime that should be punished fully." He also indicated a friend had previously been raped, but no charges had been filed and expressed a belief that rape is an underreported crime because of fear. Juror No. 1 disclosed that he had been a victim of sexual assault throughout his childhood, but no charges had ever been filed.

Again, we agree with the People. While Juror No. 1's father may have been accused of sexual misconduct, it also appears Juror No. 1 may have been the victim. Thus, he can hardly be considered one who believes his family may have been unjustly accused. And while Juror No. 11 did indicate he had been unjustly accused of speeding, he also demonstrated affinity to victims of the crimes charged in this matter. Thus, he too was not necessarily one who would have a bias against law enforcement.

The record supports a race-neutral basis for the prosecutor's challenge of Danielle A.

Prospective Juror Carlos H.

The prosecutor exercised her second peremptory challenge on potential Juror Carlos H. The prosecutor based this challenge on the following factors: (1) as a teenager, Carlos had been kicked off of a ladder by a border patrol officer who was chasing illegal aliens; (2) Carlos had a bad experience with law enforcement in the resolution of a case where his grandson was the victim; (3) Carlos's uncle had been accused of and arrested for drug addiction; (4) Carlos believes some additional evidence is needed to support the testimony of a witness; and (5) Carlos's brother was accused of sexual assault. Each of these factors is supported by Carlos's questionnaire responses.

Defendants argue the incident with the ladder, which occurred 42 years earlier, cannot serve as a valid basis for challenging the potential juror and the factor involving the grandson as a victim actually cuts against the defense, not the prosecution. They further argue the prosecutor's failure to question Carlos H. about any of these factors reveals their pretextual nature. Finally, defendants argue the prosecutor failed to challenge similarly situated jurors who had had negative experiences with law enforcement or expressed a belief that additional evidence is necessary to corroborate the testimony of a witness.

Given the many factors cited by the prosecutor, she cannot be faulted for failing to question the potential juror. There was certainly enough from the questionnaire alone to support the challenge. As for the age of the ladder incident, this merely goes to the weight of the factor. And while the fact the potential juror's grandson was the victim of an unsolved robbery may have biased him against criminal defendants in general, the prosecutor was free to surmise this would also bias him against law enforcement who failed to solve the crime. Finally, as to similarly-situated jurors, defendants point to none who have the same or similar combination of factors as Carlos H. Thus, there were no similarly-situated jurors.

The record supports the prosecutor's peremptory challenge of Carlos H.

Prospective Juror Sarah H.

The prosecution's next challenge was to Sarah H. The prosecutor cited two factors supporting that challenge: (1) Sarah had had a negative experience with law enforcement; and (2) she had once been arrested for assault and had been required to convince the judge of her innocence.

In her questionnaire, Sarah H. answered "yes" to the question whether she ever had a particularly bad experience with law enforcement officials. She explained: "A police officer, without his lights on, ran a red light in Davis and almost hit me while I was in the intersection. He then tried to pull me over and give me a speeding ticket when I was not speeding. He let me go after seeing I was not alone in my vehicle and I demanded his badge number." Elsewhere in the questionnaire, Sarah indicated that, in 2004, she had been accused or arrested for assault by an ex-girlfriend and "had to prove [her] innocence and try to convince the judge that [the ex-girlfriend] had fabricated the story." As to how she felt about this experience, Sarah explained: "I feel that anyone can be accused of something they didn't do and are treated like a criminal even when the police report states otherwise."

Defendants contend the two grounds mentioned by the prosecutor, although supported by the questionnaire responses, were not in fact what motivated the challenge. They point to the fact the prosecutor failed to ask Sarah H. any questions about these two items and failed to challenge other jurors who had had negative experiences with law enforcement. In addition, defendants point out "the prosecutor completely ignored other significant grounds which were likely sufficient to support a challenge for cause . . . ." For example, Sarah indicated in her questionnaire that she "can never say someone is guilty unless [she has] personally witnessed them commit the crime." She expressed a belief "that law enforcement operates by racial profiling" and indicated she did not believe she could be "open minded to judging a stranger." According to defendants, the prosecutor's failure to mention these other potential grounds for challenge "is consistent with the conclusion that the strike was motivated by a discriminatory purpose rather than an assessment of the relevant characteristics of the prospective juror."

As discussed above, the fact the prosecutor did not also challenge Jurors No. 1 and 11, who had had negative experiences with law enforcement, does not render the prosecutor's use of this factor in challenging Sarah H. suspect. Those other jurors had other questionnaire responses that suggested a pro-prosecution or pro-victim bias. And as for the prosecutor's failure to question Sarah, such questioning is unnecessary if the questionnaire response provides sufficient information. Sarah was fairly clear in her questionnaire responses regarding the nature of the prior incidents.

As for the prosecutor's failure to mention other valid grounds for excusing Sarah H., we note that the hearing on defendants' Wheeler/Batson motion took place the morning after the prosecutor made the various peremptory challenges at issue here. When asked to comment on the basis for the challenges, the prosecutor began: "It might take me a minute because I took out this morning all of my Post-It notes in all the areas in justifying these particular areas." In other words, the prosecutor no longer had the notes she used the day before to assist her in deciding who to challenge. Therefore, it is not surprising that the prosecutor might not recall all of the grounds she used to warrant each of the challenges, and no particular inference should be drawn from this circumstance.

We conclude the record supports the prosecutor's peremptory challenge of Sarah H.

Prospective Juror Maria C.

The next potential juror to be challenged by the prosecution was Maria C. The prosecutor explained she was concerned with Maria's response to a question about aider and abettor liability. That question asked: "The law says that someone who aids or abets a crime is equally liable for having committed that offense. Is there anyone who has a problem with the concept of law that holds someone who aids, facilitates, promotes, encourages, or instigates a crime is equally liable for having committed that crime?" Maria answered "yes" and explained: "[T]hey can be lying and blaming someone else."

During voir dire, the prosecutor questioned Maria C. about this questionnaire response as follows:

"Ms. [C.], with regard to your questions on aiding and abetting, you indicated that you do have a problem with the concept that somebody who aids and abets a crime as being each legally liable for that crime. Is that a fair reading of your answer?

"A. I am not sure. I didn't understand that question really.

"Q. If the law were to tell you that helping or promoting or encouraging a crime that is committed, you are responsible for that crime that was committed, even if you are not the person who actually committed it. Do you have a problem with that?

"A. No.

"Q. And is that with regards to any type of crime or would you compartmentalize?

"In other words, do you know what I mean by that? Would you follow the law ...

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