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The People v. Kent Morrison

September 14, 2011


APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County. Leslie A. Swain, Judge. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. BA360441)

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


Affirmed in part, modified in part and remanded with directions.

A jury convicted Kent Morrison of attempted second degree robbery. On appeal he contends the trial court erred in allowing the prosecutor to impeach him on a collateral matter, the prosecutor committed misconduct in misrepresenting the collateral evidence to the jurors and his $10 "crime prevention" fine should be vacated. We affirm the conviction and order the fine vacated.*fn2


A. The Prosecution's Case In Chief

Vicente Hernandez waited for a bus just after midnight at the corner of Vermont Avenue and Venice Boulevard. Hernandez saw a van drive by, make a u-turn, and pull into the strip mall behind the bus stop. Two men got out of the van. One of the men "stared" at Hernandez while the other man, later identified as co-defendant Isaiah Young, stood on the corner and "was looking around." Suddenly, Hernandez felt a blow to the back of his head and someone grabbed his hands and pulled them behind his back. The person held Hernandez's hands with one of his hands while he searched Hernandez's pockets with his other hand. The person who did this was not Morrison or Young. When Hernandez called out "the police is coming" the person searching him ran toward the van while the other person remained at the corner. The van drove out of the parking lot.

A passer-by offered to give Hernandez a ride to follow the van and Hernandez accepted. As they pursued the van, Hernandez called 911 and gave a description of the van and the last three numbers of its license plate. A police officer in a patrol car spotted a van that met the description given by Hernandez. After the van ran through two stop signs, the officer ordered it to stop. The officer detained Morrison, who was the driver, and two male passengers. When Hernandez arrived at the scene, he identified all three men as the ones who had been involved in trying to rob him. At trial, Hernandez testified that the van the police stopped was the same van the robbers had used. He identified Young as the look-out.

B. Morrison's Defense

Morrison testified in his own defense.

Without objection, he told the jury that he was 25 years of age and, at the time of the charged crime, had for the past year worked as an auto mechanic at Vermont and 103rd Street. The van he was driving the night of the alleged attempted robbery was the "work van" that he had been driving for four months and that he sometimes drove home.

According to Morrison, on the night of the alleged robbery he was at home when two friends, Davon and Young, arrived with a third person, Medina, whom he did not know. Davon wanted a ride to a bus stop so that he could take a bus to visit his girl friend. Morrison drove Davon to the bus stop in the van that he used in his work. Young and Medina came along. Morrison intended to drive Davon to the bus stop at Vermont and Vernon, which was only a few blocks from his house. From there Davon could take a bus to Vermont and Wilshire, his final destination. When they arrived at the Vermont and Vernon bus stop, a person waiting there told them they had just missed the bus Davon needed to take. Morrison kept driving up Vermont trying to catch up with the bus. When the van's gas light came on Morrison realized that if he continued he would not have enough gas to get home and neither he nor his companions had money to buy gas. Morrison decided to drop Davon at the bus stop at Vermont and Venice. He agreed to wait in the mall parking lot to make sure Davon got on the bus safely.

After a short time, Medina got out of the van to check on Davon. Medina returned five or ten minutes later, jumped into the back of the van and told Morrison a member of the Playboy gang had pulled a gun on him. While Morrison was trying to decide whether Medina was "just playing" a van drove into the strip mall parking lot "real fast" and Morrison thought it was going to crash into his van. The van pulled up behind Morrison and the driver's door opened. Afraid he was about to be shot, Morrison sped out of the parking lot. The van chased Morrison onto the freeway and down surface streets but eventually he lost it. When Morrison saw that the van was no longer following him he pulled to the curb on a side street and told Medina to get out. Morrison believed the persons in the van chased him because they were after Medina. Moments later a police car arrived and he was arrested.

On cross-examination Morrison testified that he worked five days a week as an auto mechanic for Benny Watkins and that Watkins owned the van he was driving on the night in question. Morrison stated he used the van to pick up parts and occasionally drove it home. He admitted that he did not have a driver's license. The following colloquy took place between the prosecutor and Morrison regarding his use of the van.

"Q. As of the date of this incident [Watkins] was in the process ...

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