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The People v. Maurice R. Muhammad

July 25, 2012


(Super. Ct. No. 09F03089)

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

P. v. Muhammad CA3


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 This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

A jury convicted defendant Maurice R. Muhammad of stalking, criminal threats, false imprisonment, robbery, and spousal battery. (Pen. Code, §§ 211, 236, 243, subd. (e)(1), 422, 646.9, subd. (a).) The trial court sentenced defendant to prison for seven years, and defendant timely appealed. On appeal, defendant contends: (1) no substantial evidence supports stalking; (2) no substantial evidence supports criminal threats; (3) the trial court improperly allowed expert testimony on the cycle of violence in domestic abuse cases; and (4) the trial court improperly imposed unstayed prison sentences on some counts. As we explain, each of these contentions fails to persuade. Accordingly, we shall affirm.


The alleged victim was defendant's wife, I.H., and by the time of trial she had tried to have the charges against defendant dropped. The People's case was based largely on pretrial statements made by I.H., eyewitness testimony, and evidence that defendant had abused I.H. in the past.

Witness Testimony

Sergeant Jennifer Garcia testified that on the morning of the charged offenses, I.H. was scared, crying, and had visible spit on her face. I.H. reported that defendant had threatened her by text and telephone messages the night before, and at the parking lot had grabbed her by the hair, spun her around, threatened her, spat on her, and grabbed her purse and ran off. I.H. reported that in the prior messages, defendant called her a "whore and bitch. And then [I.H.] also said that he was going to get her[.]" While defendant had I.H. in a bear hug at the parking lot, he said that if he could not have I.H., nobody would, and he yelled about "kicking her ass right there[.]" I.H. later reported that when her purse was returned, money was missing. At the police station, I.H. received texts and phone messages from defendant, which Sergeant Garcia was able to hear or read, and defendant stated I.H. would not get her purse back and that defendant would kill her. I.H. was visibly afraid, complained of neck pain, and showed the officer a tangled clump of hair.

Two witnesses saw I.H. being attacked. One saw a man grab a woman and "head bump her," then saw the man grab something off of the woman's shoulder and run off. The other eyewitness saw the man grab the woman from behind, by the hair, and saw him butt his head "into her forehead."

Detective Dennis Prizmich testified as an expert on intimate partner battering. Based on his training and experience, he described the "cycle of violence" by which tension between intimate partners repeatedly builds up, the aggressor does a physically or verbally violent act, and then there is a "honeymoon stage where they make up." Often the victim will downplay the extent of the abuse or wholly deny that it occurs, recanting prior statements and becoming uncooperative with law enforcement.

A peace officer testified that in 2004, I.H. reported that defendant had punched her in the stomach. Another officer testified that in 2006, I.H. reported that defendant chased her in the family law court parking lot.

I.H.'s Testimony

I.H. testified she was divorcing defendant and no longer lived with him. She worked at the UC Davis Medical Center. On April 17, 2009, she received several texts and voice messages from defendant, but testified she did not recall them or consider them to be threatening. She recalled speaking to Sergeant Garcia on that day, but denied telling the officer defendant threatened her and did not recall saying she had received 50 texts from defendant.*fn1 I.H. testified she had not been afraid, and had not told the officer she was afraid.

I.H. denied recalling receiving specific texts, including but not limited to the following texts copied from her phone by a peace officer: (1) "'Slut ass stank bitch. Hate your whore ass. Allah is gonna destroy your ass. I hope you and [your] mismatched children die, slut bitch. Kamelion 8:41 am[;]'" (2) "'San Leandro Bitch hug: Lying cop calling slut! Disrespect breeds disrespect [you] piece of shit sorry whore! Fuck [you] and I appreciate [your] help prostitute. Kamileon 8:49 am[;]'" and (3) "'Die bitch. Die!'"

I.H. admitted that on April 17, 2009, she did not park in her usual parking structure, to prevent defendant from knowing whether she was at work, but denied she had been afraid of him. She saw defendant's vehicle driving toward the parking structure, but "just kept walking" to work. Defendant called out to her, got out of his car, walked fast toward her, pulled her around to face him, and tried to kiss her. I.H. denied telling Sergeant Garcia that she tried to run away, that defendant pulled her by the hair, or that she had been afraid. I.H. conceded that defendant had called her a "bitch" and a "whore" and sprayed her with saliva while he talked, but denied that he purposefully spat at her or that she told Sergeant Garcia he had done so. Defendant took her backpack, but I.H. denied reporting that he ripped it off her shoulder. Later that day, a friend returned the backpack, but I.H. denied recalling reporting that money was missing.

While she was at the police station that day, I.H. received a telephone call from defendant, but she denied that he said anything like "'I'm going to kill you, bitch[.]'" She denied telling the police that defendant caused her a headache or neck pain, or showing the police where he had pulled some of her hair out in clumps.

I.H. denied she had applied for a restraining order against defendant that day, but eventually conceded she signed such an application that had been filled out by somebody else. She also conceded she had obtained a prior restraining order against defendant in 2006. In her application for the earlier restraining order, she stated defendant struck her in the face, and she testified he had done so. She denied defendant punched her in the stomach in 2004 and denied recalling that he chased her around the family law court parking lot in 2006. She admitted trying to get the present charges dismissed, and trying to reconcile with defendant in June 2009.

After deliberating for less than half an hour, the jury convicted ...

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