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People v. Rocha

California Court of Appeal, Sixth District

December 6, 2013

The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
Manuel Alfred ROCHA, Defendant and Appellant.

Santa Clara County Superior Court No.: C1103705, The Honorable Teresa Guerrero-Daley.

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[165 Cal.Rptr.3d 192] David S. Adams, under appointment by the Court of Appeal for Appellant, Olathe, for Defendant and Appellant Manuel Alfred Rocha.

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Gerald A. Engler, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Seth K. Schalit, Supervising Deputy Attorney General, Leif M. Dautch, Deputy Attorney General, for Plaintiff and Respondent the People



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A jury convicted defendant Manuel Alfred Rocha of residential burglary and interfering with a police officer based on evidence

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that he entered a homeowner's garage and carried away an impact wrench belonging to the homeowner. On appeal his chief contention is that the court erred in admitting evidence of a 2009 burglary, also of a residential garage, to show that defendant committed the present burglary with the requisite larcenous intent. Defendant contends that the circumstances of the earlier burglary were too dissimilar from the charged offense for it to possess substantial probative value, and that its potential for prejudice preponderated over whatever probative value it might have. He also contends, and respondent concedes, that the trial court overstated the time to be deducted from defendant's credit for presentence confinement due to a contemporaneous parole hold. We will direct a modification of the judgment to award additional credit, but will otherwise affirm the judgment.


Around 8:00 on the morning of Saturday, March 26, 2011, Gilberto Gonzales, as was his custom, opened the door of the garage attached to his San Jose home. The garage was used to do laundry as well as to store personal property, including many tools Mr. Gonzalez owned for working on cars and in construction. He usually left the door open when he was home. Toward noon he drove to the auto parts store.[1] A few minutes later, his wife Denise and daughter Bianka stepped out of the house to have a smoke.[2] Almost as soon as they did, Bianka heard a noise in the garage. Bianka described the sound as " [l]ike going through things; making noises, closing and opening doors," also " like people scattering things, opening drawers." She thought the noises were being made by her father, which was odd because he had " just left." Meanwhile Denise saw the " shadow of a person" in the corner of the garage. She too thought her husband had returned, so she went back into the house on the way to the back yard, because her husband did not like smoking in front of the house.

Bianka reentered the house and opened a door connecting into the garage, apparently expecting to see her father. Instead she saw defendant, a complete stranger, standing about 10 feet away, " opening drawers." He turned to look at her; neither of them spoke. According to Denise, Bianka called out that someone other than her father was present. She ran to the phone and called 911. While on the phone, she went out the front of the house and saw defendant emerge from the garage and walk down the driveway and then the street. He appeared to be holding a bulky boxlike object to his chest, apparently [165 Cal.Rptr.3d 193] wrapped in a sweater or jacket. He was walking slowly. He

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seemed " calm, cool, collected." He also struck her as " disorientated," though she could not describe this impression more particularly. She thought he was on drugs. She was familiar with people who use methamphetamine and had seen them under its influence, though she had no formal training in its effects.

Bianka described the intruder to the 911 operator, who relayed it in turn to San Jose Police Officer Cooley, who was patrolling in the area. Within 10 minutes, he saw defendant— who matched the description— in a trailer park a few blocks from the Gonzalez home. Defendant was carrying a black case resembling a lunch pail. Officer Cooley followed him into the mobile home park. When defendant saw him, he froze, and then— disregarding Officer Cooley's command to stop— bolted, dropping the case to the ground. Additional officers were summoned to surround and search the mobile home park. About an hour later, they found defendant standing inside a metal shed. In the shed they also found a pair of pliers and a screwdriver. Officer Cooley did not perceive defendant as " disorientated," confused, paranoid, hallucinating, delusional, or exhibiting other physical or mental signs of being under the influence of methamphetamine. From Officer Cooley's experience, defendant " had the loo[k] of like he was caught."

About 15 minutes after defendant was captured, San Jose Police Officer Vela brought Bianka to the mobile home park for an in-field showup. She saw defendant standing by a police car in handcuffs. She apparently identified him as the man she had seen in the garage.[3]

Defendant was taken into custody by San Jose Police Officer Jennings, who had arrived at the scene of the capture almost immediately after it occurred. Defendant initially refused to identify himself to Officer Jennings, but did so after the officer explained that since he was going to be fingerprinted and identified anyway, he should " just avoid the delay and let us know who you are." [4] Maybe 10 to 15 minutes elapsed between his initial refusal and the yielding of his identity. During this time he sat in the back of Officer Jennings's patrol car. He seemed calm and resigned, exhibiting no signs of mental or emotional upset. The same was true during the 10 minutes it took Officer Jennings to drive him to the " preprocessing center," and once

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there, throughout the officer's questions about things like his address and occupation. Nor did he exhibit any untoward behaviors while a phlebotomist took a blood sample. In total Officer Jennings spent perhaps four hours in defendant's presence. Defendant might have exhibited some symptoms consistent with methamphetamine intoxication, but the officer did not see anything that would have led him to charge defendant with being under the influence. In particular, [165 Cal.Rptr.3d 194] defendant had dry mouth, but while this was consistent with present methamphetamine use, it could also be explained by past or chronic use, or the use of other drugs. Methamphetamine remains detectable in the blood for 24 hours after ingestion and in the urine for four days.

The case defendant had abandoned contained a tool variously referred to in the record as an impact wrench or drill. Officers showed this to Mr. Gonzalez, who said it was his. He said the pliers were not his. He initially identified the screwdriver as his. But when it was shown to him at trial, he denied that it was his.

After the incident it appeared that several things in the garage had been moved, presumably by the intruder. A bike, normally kept near a washer and dryer along the back wall of the garage, had been left near the main garage door. The bike was not functional, having a broken chain. A " TV screen box," also previously located near the back of the garage, was found next to the bike. Some tools normally kept on top of a desk or dresser near the center of the garage had been scattered, and various cabinets and drawers were open.

It was stipulated that a blood sample drawn from defendant about 2:45 p.m. on March 26th, 2011, tested positive for amphetamine and methamphetamine.

A search incident to defendant's arrest yielded a Costco membership card in the name of Curtis Pembrook. Mr. Pembrook testified that the card had been in his wallet when the wallet and his cell phone were taken from his car by persons unknown while the car ...

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