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People v. Zinda

California Court of Appeals, Third District, Sacramento

January 27, 2015

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
STEVEN ANDREW ZINDA, Defendant and Appellant.

[CERTIFIED FOR PARTIAL PUBLICATION][*]

APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Sacramento County, No. 11F02036 Marjorie Koller, Judge.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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COUNSEL

Charles M. Bonneau, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Dane R. Gillette and Michael P. Farrell, Assistant Attorneys General, Catherine Chatman and Larenda R. Delaini, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

OPINION

HOCH, J.

Defendant Steven Andrew Zinda chased David Valdez into a field and murdered him with an axe. Tragically, a poor decision placed Valdez in the wrong place at the wrong time. After drinking with some friends at a house in Rio Linda, Valdez decided to leave around 2:00 a.m. He was intoxicated and did not make it very far before driving his Honda Passport into a ditch near defendant’s house. Valdez stayed with his vehicle while two friends left in a truck to get some tow chains. Meanwhile, defendant’s house was being burglarized. Defendant stayed the night at a friend’s house, but had reason to believe certain neighborhood gang members wanted to steal from him, so he set his alarm for 3:00 a.m. and stopped by his house to check on it before his early morning work shift. He arrived to find the burglary in progress. One burglar fled to a waiting car and drove away. Defendant went into his house, grabbed an axe from inside, and came back out. He then saw Valdez waiting for his friends on the side of the road. Assuming Valdez was one of the burglars, defendant walked out to him with the axe and yelled: “Did your buddies leave you, man?” Valdez ran. Defendant took this to be an admission of guilt and gave chase with the axe. When he caught up to Valdez in a field about a quarter mile away, defendant swung the axe and either “missed him the first time” or “got him like in the shoulder or maybe his upper body.” He then grappled with Valdez on the ground, “givin him elbows, ” and swung the axe a second time, which “gashed him up on his face.” Defendant then hit Valdez with the axe “one or two more times... to finish it off.”

Defendant was convicted by jury of second degree murder and found to have personally used a deadly weapon during the commission of the crime. He was sentenced to serve an indeterminate prison term of 15 years to life plus a consecutive determinate term of one year.

On appeal, defendant contends the trial court: (1) erred by not instructing the jury, sua sponte, on (a) justifiable homicide in making an arrest, and (b) mistake of fact; (2) erroneously instructed the jury on heat of passion

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voluntary manslaughter; and (3) erroneously excluded “evidence that [Valdez] claimed a gang affiliation, and photographs which either suggested a gang affiliation or gave a more accurate and neutral portrait of the victim near the time of his death.”

We affirm the judgment. As we explain, defendant was not entitled to a sua sponte instruction on justifiable homicide in making an arrest or mistake of fact. The justifiable homicide instruction was not supported by substantial evidence because there was no evidence defendant was attempting to arrest Valdez for burglary. Such a theory was also inconsistent with defendant’s theory of the case, i.e., while defendant killed Valdez unlawfully, the crime was not murder but voluntary manslaughter. The mistake of fact instruction also lacks evidentiary support because defendant’s erroneous belief Valdez was involved in the burglary does not make killing him with multiple axe blows an innocent act. Nor is mistake of fact a true affirmative defense implicating the trial court’s sua sponte instructional duties. We need not determine whether the trial court erroneously instructed the jury on heat of passion voluntary manslaughter because defendant was not entitled to voluntary manslaughter instructions. Nor did the trial court abuse its discretion by excluding the proffered photographic evidence and other evidence Valdez claimed a gang affiliation.

FACTS

On the night of March 19, 2011, Valdez and a close friend, Justin Trammell, went to a house in Rio Linda where they drank alcohol and played cards with friends. Valdez and Trammell rode to the house together in Valdez’s Honda Passport, a midsize SUV. Valdez drove and brought over a large bottle of rum. Renee Ross was in charge of the house for the night; she was watching her three half-sisters while her father and stepmother were out of town. Ross’s boyfriend, Craig ...


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