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The People v. Quawntay Adams

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


October 13, 2011

THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
QUAWNTAY ADAMS, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.

(Super. Ct. No. SC055166B)

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

P. v. Adams

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NOT TO BE PUBLISHED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 This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.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 Quawntay Adams appeals from the trial court's denial of his petition for writ of error coram nobis regarding his 1993 conviction for assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer and resulting three-year sentence in state prison. (Pen. Code, § 245, subd. (c).)*fn1 [1] We shall affirm.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On October 21, 1992, while confined at the N.A. Chaderjain California Youth Authority (CYA),*fn2 defendant assaulted youth counselor Karen Tzikas, hitting her multiple times with a sock containing a can of beans while another ward held her down. Defendant was 17 years old when he committed the crime. He was arraigned as an adult on charges of assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer (§ 245, subd. (c)) and battery with serious bodily injury (§ 243, subd. (d)).

On February 18, 1993, represented by counsel, defendant pleaded guilty to the assault charge in exchange for dismissal of the remaining count, and was sentenced to three years in state prison. The arrest disposition forms and the abstract of judgment reflect defendant's birth date as September 30, 1972. According to those documents, defendant was 20 years old when he committed the crime.

On March 14, 1995, defendant filed his first of three petitions for writ of habeas corpus in the superior court, alleging he was released from state prison on July 29, 1994, and thereafter "arrested by [CYA] for no reason" despite the court having informed him he was "not to return to [CYA]" and was to be released on parole.

Defendant filed his second of three petitions for writ of habeas corpus on April 5, 1995, in which he reiterated the allegations contained in the first petition and further alleged that he was 17 years old when he committed the crime. Defendant alleged that CYA felt he "was unfit for their treatment" and "sent [him] to court for prosecution." He also claimed he served a three-year sentence in state prison, but was "only sentenced to [two] years."

On May 2, 1995, the superior court denied both of defendant's petitions, ruling that "CYA's continued supervision over [defendant] is an administrative decision by CYA that is subject to administrative review" and defendant "must exhaust his administrative remedies before seeking relief from the court." With respect to defendant's age, the court stated, "Court records reflect that [defendant's] date of birth is September 30, 1972, that the assault occurred on October 21, 1992, and that [defendant] was, therefore, 20 years of age at the time of the assault." The court also ruled that the record confirmed the three-year sentence.

On July 18, 1995, defendant filed his third and final petition for writ of habeas corpus, alleging he was sentenced to state prison at the age of 17 in violation of Welfare and Institutions Code section 602*fn3 [3] because the "court believed [he] was 20 years of age." He further alleged that, following the 1993 assault at CYA, he was "refer[r]ed directly to superior court of adults" where he "filled out no papers asking [his] name or age and [he] never stated to the court or officials that [he] was 20 years old." He claimed that CYA "always knew of [his] real age" and his "birth certificate has always been in [his] [CYA] file." He also claimed he "never knew of the mistake until now."

On August 28, 1995, the superior court denied defendant's third habeas petition on the grounds that he waived his right to have his case proceed in juvenile court by failing to call to the court's attention the fact that he was under the age of 18 when he committed the offense.

On December 1, 2010, defendant filed a petition for writ of error coram nobis in the superior court, alleging he was only 17 years old when he committed the offense and requesting that the judgment be vacated. In support of the petition, defendant attached a copy of his birth certificate reflecting a birth date of September 30, 1975.

On December 10, 2010, the court denied defendant's petition, ruling as follows: "[Defendant] previously made the same argument based upon the same allegations in two prior [petitions for writ of habeas corpus] filed on April 5, 1995, and July 18, 1995, both of which were denied. His third and current Petition appears to be taking a third bite at the same apple. [¶] . . . [¶] As [defendant] is attempting to challenge his conviction as he has previously done so twice prior, he is presenting a new claim that could have been presented in either one of his earlier Petitions. Accordingly, his Petition is a 'delayed petition' and therefore, fails to merit relief. (In re Clark (1993) 5 Cal.4th [750,] 769-770, 774.)"

On December 15, 2010, defendant filed a supplemental petition for writ of error coram nobis reiterating his earlier claims and alleging that he exercised due diligence in raising the issue of his age. Thereafter, he filed a "Motion for Appeal and Appointment of Counsel."

On January 4, 2011, the superior court denied both the supplemental petition and the motion for appeal on the grounds that defendant made the same claims three times before, all of which had previously been rejected, and failed to show due diligence in filing his petition.

DISCUSSION

Defendant contends the court's denial of his petition for writ of error coram nobis was an abuse of discretion. We disagree.

"A petition for writ of error coram nobis is equivalent to a motion to vacate the judgment, and the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably. [Citation.] A trial court's denial of a coram nobis petition is an appealable order, unless the coram nobis petition failed to state a prima facie case for relief, or the petition raised issues that were, or could have been, raised in other proceedings. [Citation.] 'A writ of coram nobis is generally used to bring factual errors or omissions to the court's attention. [Citation.] "The writ will properly issue only when the petitioner can establish three elements: (1) that some fact existed which, without his fault or negligence, was not represented to the court at the trial and which would have prevented the rendition of the judgment; (2) that the new evidence does not go to the merits of the issues of fact determined at trial; and (3) that he did not know nor could he have, with due diligence, discovered the facts upon which he relies any sooner than the point at which he petitions for the writ. [Citations.]" [Citations.]' [Citations.] We review a trial court's denial of a petition for writ of error coram nobis for abuse of discretion." (People v. Dubon (2001) 90 Cal.App.4th 944, 950-951; see People v. Ibanez (1999) 76 Cal.App.4th 537, 544.)

Defendant contends he was 17 years old when he committed the crime at CYA, but that the court was under the mistaken belief, based on "court records," that he was 20. That judicial error, he claims, is the fact which existed at the time of trial (his plea) but was, without any fault or negligence on his part, not brought to the attention of the court, thus establishing the first element for coram nobis relief. He claims the second and third elements were also satisfied because the judicial error concerning his age did not go to the merits of the issues tried, and the judicial error was not known to him until the court denied his May 1995 habeas petition, and thereafter he exercised due diligence in "attempting to redress this error."

Defendant has not established the elements necessary to obtain coram nobis relief. First, the relevant fact that existed at the time of trial was that defendant was 17 years old when he committed the crime at CYA. Defendant, who was aware of that fact, admits that the court was laboring under the misimpression that he was 20 years old, and that he did nothing to disabuse the court of that notion. He claims he only discovered the court's mistake in May 1995 when the court denied his habeas petition, and he attempted to rectify the problem thereafter. However, it is worth noting that the circumstances begged the question, given that defendant was confined as a ward at the CYA when he committed the crime for which he was arraigned in adult court. The fact that the prosecution charged and tried him as an adult should--at the very least--have prompted him to question the appropriateness of the adult proceedings and alert someone to his true age, an act which surely would have prevented not only rendition of the judgment but most likely the trial (plea) itself.

In any event, while defendant may have been unaware of the court's mistake at the time he entered his guilty plea, he was always aware of his true age but failed to raise the issue until the filing of his second habeas petition, and even then failed to provide any evidence to contradict the information contained in the court files. Despite having been convicted by his plea and sentenced, having served his state prison sentence, and having filed three habeas petitions, all of which were denied, it was not until 2010, 17 years after entry of judgment, that he finally produced a birth certificate as evidence to substantiate his claim.

Defendant failed to satisfy his burden to produce evidence to establish the relief sought. (People v. Kim (2009) 45 Cal.4th 1078, 1101 [party moving the court to issue writ of error coram nobis has the burden of producing evidence].) The trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying his petition for writ of error coram nobis.

In light of our disposition of defendant's claim regarding denial of his coram nobis petition, we need not address his argument that the trial court misconstrued his petition as a request that the judgment of conviction, rather than the sentence, be vacated. Our analysis and conclusion remain the same in any event.

DISPOSITION

The judgment is affirmed.

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


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