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People v. Peau

California Court of Appeals, First District, First Division

May 7, 2015

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
MICHAEL PEAU, Defendant and Appellant.

[CERTIFIED FOR PARTIAL PUBLICATION[*]]

Alameda County Superior Court No. 168747, Honorable Allan D. Hymer Judge:

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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COUNSEL

Lawrence A. Gibbs, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Gerald A. Engler, Assistant Attorney General, Rene A. Chacon and Joan Killeen, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

OPINION

HUMES, P.J.

Defendant Michael Peau shot and killed Roberto Guzman outside the home where Guzman lived with Viridiana Vasquez and her family, including her father Gerardo.[1] The shooting occurred after Guzman and Gerardo told Peau, a long-time friend of the family, to stay away from the Vasquez home because he had sold Gerardo a stolen car. A jury convicted Peau of one count of first degree murder and found true the allegation that he personally and intentionally discharged a firearm causing death.[2]

On appeal, Peau claims that (1) the trial court erred by not sua sponte instructing the jury on voluntary manslaughter based on a sudden quarrel or

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heat of passion; (2) an evidentiary ruling involving Guzman’s alleged gang affiliation improperly required Peau to choose between remaining silent and presenting a defense; and (3) the prosecutor committed misconduct in closing argument by referring to imperfect self-defense as a “loophole” that would permit Peau to avoid responsibility. We reject these contentions and affirm.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

Guzman lived with the Vasquez family in a house in West Oakland. The Vasquez family included Gerardo, his wife, Adriana Lara, and his daughters, Viridiana and Jessica. Peau had known the Vasquez family for over a decade, frequently visited them, and was on friendly terms with Guzman.

In September 2011, Peau, who was then 22 years old, went to the Vasquez house with a friend and offered to sell a car to Gerardo for a low price. Gerardo testified that he “asked [Peau] if it was stolen, because [he] didn’t want to have any problems.” Peau assured him that the car belonged to a cousin who “was selling it cheap” because he no longer wanted it, and Gerardo purchased it for $100. When Gerardo attempted to register it the next day, he learned it had been stolen, and it was seized by the police. Peau testified at trial, and he denied that he sold the car to Gerardo or told him that it was not stolen.

When Peau next went by the Vasquez house, Guzman asked him why he had sold a stolen car to Gerardo. According to Gerardo, Peau became “upset” and briefly raised his shirt to show “two black guns” at his waist. Gerardo did not ask for the money to be returned and told Peau he had not given his name to the police, but he asked Peau to leave and said he “didn’t want to see” him any more.

Jessica testified that she witnessed another confrontation between Peau and Guzman several days later. She was sitting outside the Vasquez house with Peau when Guzman leaned out a window and calmly told Peau to leave. Peau tried to explain that he had addressed the situation with Gerardo, but Guzman insisted he go. According to Jessica, Peau then told Guzman to come outside and showed him two guns that had been in the pocket of his hooded sweatshirt. Viridiana pulled Guzman back into the house, and Peau went to his car. Before driving away, Peau sent Jessica a text message claiming he was going to “get” Guzman. Peau generally ...


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