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People v. Miranda

California Court of Appeals, Second District, Eighth Division

May 13, 2015

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
DAVID MIRANDA, Defendant and Appellant.

[As modified May 20, 2015.]

APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County No. LA075380 Martin L. Herscovitz, Judge.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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COUNSEL

Patrick Morgan Ford, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Gerald Engler, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Lance E. Winters, Assistant Attorney General, Scott A. Taryle and Kimberley J. Baker-Guillemet, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

OPINION

RUBIN, J.

David Miranda appeals from his convictions for making criminal threats and resisting arrest, contending that the trial court erred by granting his pretrial motion to represent himself and by not later reversing that order after his mental health issues became apparent during the trial. We affirm because the record shows that his waiver of the right to counsel was

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knowing and voluntary, and there was no showing that he was unable to perform the basic tasks needed to represent himself without the help of counsel.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

At around 4:00 p.m. on September 23, 2013, Ana Miranda called 911 to report that her son David Miranda, 25, had a gun and was going to kill her or others.[1] By the time the police arrived, however, Miranda had left the scene. At around 10:00 p.m. that night, Miranda approached Ruth Reyes, who lived in an adjacent apartment building, and threatened to get his gun and kill her and “kill you all.” Reyes called 911, prompting Los Angeles Police Officers Smith and Franco to come to the scene.

As the officers interviewed Reyes they heard Miranda screaming, “Fuck you” and “What the fuck you looking at?” Miranda was more than six feet, six inches tall and weighed more than 300 pounds. He walked quickly toward the officers, saying, “Fuck you cops. You can both suck my dick.” Officer Smith knew Miranda from previous encounters and was aware that Miranda had a history of violence. The officers ordered Miranda to stop and put his hands up. Miranda instead continued to advance on the officers, began flailing his hands, and flung open the apartment building’s gate. When the officers ordered Miranda to get down on the ground, he said, “Fuck you. I’ll kill you both.” Officer Franco tasered Miranda after Miranda reached into his waistband. A search revealed that Miranda had not been armed.

Miranda was charged with one count of making criminal threats to Reyes (Pen. Code, § 422) and two counts of resisting arrest (Pen. Code, § 69). At a December 2013 hearing Miranda’s public defender said she was not yet ready for trial and that Miranda wanted to go to trial right away. When the trial court told the public defender that she was in charge of the timetable Miranda asked to represent himself. The trial court granted that request.[2]

Reyes and the two police officers testified at trial. Independent eyewitness Juan Diaz corroborated the officers’ version of events. Mother testified that Miranda was bipolar and schizophrenic and lost control when he was not taking his medication. He had tried to commit suicide. When she called 911 she lied about Miranda having a gun in order to make sure the police responded. Mother also testified that Reyes had a grudge against Miranda.

Miranda testified that he argued with his mother on September 23 because she forgot to wish him a happy birthday, leading him to break her cable

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television box. He did not threaten his mother, and claimed she called 911 out of frustration. Miranda then went to a park to play basketball because his psychiatrist told him to cope with stress by exercising. He felt sad and if he had had a gun would have killed himself.

On his way home from the park he stopped at a friend’s house, where he drank three shots of tequila. As he approached his mother’s apartment building, it was dark and he could not see the police. Miranda heard someone say, “Hey, come here.” He thought it might be members of Reyes’s family, who were angry at him and wanted to beat him up. He reached into his waistband to get his keys so he could open the gate, when he saw a gun pointed at him. He said, “What the fuck?” and then was tasered. The police roughed him up and “tortured” him. Miranda and his family had had run-ins with the police before and he believed the police had a grudge against him. He never threatened Reyes.

Miranda’s mental health issues were mentioned several times during the trial. His mother testified that he tried to kill himself several times, and that he was bipolar and schizophrenic and was out of control when not medicated. His sister testified that he needed his medications. During a discussion with the trial court about whether his brother should testify, Miranda said he used to attend special education classes and had trouble explaining himself. Miranda testified that he had “mental disabilities, ” and that he had mental health issues that were “not like retardation; but, like, I’m kind of slow....” During his rebuttal argument the prosecutor told the jury, “The defendant has mental problems. That’s clear.”

The jury convicted Miranda of all three counts. Shortly after the jury began deliberating the trial court said: “... I wanted to state for the record that I didn’t know anything about the defendant’s mental history before the first witness testified. That never was brought to my attention at the time the defendant went pro per [sic] or during the pretrial stages of this case. That was news to me when his mother testified as the first witness. Not ...


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