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The People v. Edgar Martinez

IN THE COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA THIRD APPELLATE DISTRICT (Sacramento)


September 28, 2011

THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
EDGAR MARTINEZ, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.

(Super. Ct. No. 07F09827)

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

P. v. Martinez

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NOT TO BE PUBLISHED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 This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

This case stands for the unremarkable proposition that the police do not have a duty to search for evidence that allegedly supports a defendant's claim of self-defense, where the defendant admits he kept that evidence hidden for 19 months and all other information gleaned by law enforcement officers contradicts the existence of that evidence.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Defendant Edgar Martinez shot Jose Segura to death at a house party in Citrus Heights, following an argument in which Segura accused defendant of being a "snitch." The partygoers who testified at trial and were present at the shooting did not see Segura with a weapon.

Defendant, however, testified at trial Segura had a knife, and he was defending himself when he shot Segura. Defendant picked up the knife after the shooting on his way out of the house. He bundled the knife with his gun in a T-shirt and hid the bundle in a box in his aunt and uncle's attic. He then fled to Mexico.

Nineteen months after the murder, defendant was extradited back to California. At that time, the police detective who had been assigned to the murder investigation interviewed defendant. The interview was the first time the detective heard anything about Segura being armed with a knife. The detective decided not to search the aunt and uncle's house for the knife because, except for defendant's statement, he had no reason to believe Segura was armed with a knife.

The jury also did not believe defendant's claim of self-defense and found him guilty of first degree murder.

Defendant appeals. His sole contention is his trial counsel was ineffective because counsel did not request the court sanction the police detective for not searching the aunt and uncle's home for the knife.

DISCUSSION

Defendant claims the "police acted in bad faith by not searching for and preserving potentially useful evidence in violation of [his] federal constitutional right[] to due process," and trial counsel should have requested sanctions. The seminal case he cites for this argument is Arizona v. Youngblood (1988) 488 U.S. 51 [102 L.Ed.2d 281]. That case "hold[s] that unless a criminal defendant can show bad faith on the part of the police, failure to preserve potentially useful evidence does not constitute a denial of due process of law." (Id. at p. 58 [102 L.Ed.2d at p. 289].)

That case does not apply for two reasons. One, the police did not fail to preserve the knife. Defendant did. According to defendant's own trial testimony, he removed the knife from the crime scene, thereby preventing its discovery. Two, the police did not act in bad faith. The detective reasonably decided not to search the aunt and uncle's house for the knife because all the evidence contradicted defendant's self-serving claim of self-defense. This included a statement to the detective by defendant's cousin (who saw defendant shoot Segura when Segura was just "standing there" with his hands "just by his sides"). The cousin admitted that five months after the murder, he took defendant's gun from his parents' attic to perpetrate a series of armed robberies but never mentioned anything about a knife being bundled with the gun.

Defendant makes much of testimony that some of the witnesses to the murder were intoxicated and their versions of events were not entirely consistent. What he fails to appreciate is that on the point that matters, they all testified consistently defendant shot an unarmed Segura. Defense counsel was not deficient in failing to ask the court to sanction law enforcement officers. (See People v. Waidla (2000) 22 Cal.4th 690, 718 [counsel's deficient performance is the first prong of an ineffective assistance of counsel inquiry].)

DISPOSITION

The judgment is affirmed.

We concur: BLEASE , Acting P. J. MURRAY , J.

20110928

© 1992-2011 VersusLaw Inc.



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