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People v. Garcia

California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, Second Division

June 9, 2015

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
ERIC GEOVANIE GARCIA et al., Defendants and Appellants.


APPEAL from the Superior Court of Riverside County, No. SWF021408 Angel M. Bermudez, Judge.

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Stephen M. Lathrop, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant Eric Geovanie Garcia.

Allen G. Weinberg, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant Joseph Navarro.

J. Courtney Shevelson, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant Samuel Navarro.

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Julie L. Garland, Assistant Attorney General, Barry Carlton and Sharon L. Rhodes, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.



Defendants are all related. Defendants Samuel Navarro and Joseph Navarro are brothers. Defendant Eric Geovanie Garcia is the brother of Lizbeth Robles, who is Samuel Navarro’s girlfriend; thus, Garcia is Samuel Navarro’s de facto brother-in-law.

At one time, Garcia and Joseph Navarro were friends with Luis Arceo, who lived next door to Samuel Navarro. However, during a party at Arceo’s home, Arceo got into a fistfight with them. Garcia threatened to “get” Arceo.

About two weeks later, there was another party at Arceo’s home. After midnight, when most of the guests had left, defendants and a group of their

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friends and relatives came over to Arceo’s property. Garcia confronted Arceo, called him a “bitch” and a “rat, ” and threatened to kill him.

Meanwhile, Robles and/or Joseph Navarro, along with others, accosted one of the party guests. Either Robles or Joseph Navarro threw the first punch. After that, each of the three defendants was seen with a knife, and each was seen hitting or stabbing someone. By the time defendants left, three party guests had been stabbed. Two died; one survived.

After a jury trial, Garcia and Joseph Navarro were found guilty on two counts of first degree murder and sentenced to 50 years to life in prison. Samuel Navarro was likewise found guilty on two counts of first degree murder; in addition, however, solely as to him, a multiple-murder special circumstance was found true, and he was found guilty on one count of unpremeditated attempted murder. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, plus nine years.

Defendants now contend:

1. The trial court erred by failing to instruct that provocation can reduce first degree murder to second degree murder.

2. The trial court erred by instructing on the legally impossible theory of conspiracy to commit attempted murder.

3. The trial court erred by instructing on the legally impossible theory of conspiracy to commit second degree implied malice murder.

4. The trial court erred by instructing that a “direct” aider and abettor could be guilty of premeditated first degree murder even if he did not personally premeditate.

5. The trial court erred by instructing that, under the natural and probable consequences doctrine, an aider and abettor could be convicted of first degree murder as long as “[m]urder” was a natural and probable consequence of the target offense.

6. The natural and probable consequences doctrine is unconstitutional.

7. The prosecutor committed misconduct by misstating the law in closing argument.

8. Because Garcia and Joseph Navarro were juveniles when the crimes were committed, their sentences of 50 years to life constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

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9. The trial court miscalculated Joseph Navarro’s pretrial actual custody credit.

10. The trial court erred by imposing a parole revocation restitution fine on Garcia and Joseph Navarro in the amount of $10, 000.

11. The abstract of judgment is erroneous because it fails to reflect the fact that the trial court ordered direct victim restitution liability to be joint and several.

As the People concede, the contentions regarding pretrial actual custody credit and the parole revocation restitution fine are well-taken. We will modify the judgment accordingly. Otherwise, we find no prejudicial error.



A. Introduction.

The issues raised in this appeal largely turn on which of the defendants stabbed which of the victims and on defendants’ respective mental states at the time. Accordingly, we highlight the facts relating to those matters; we pretermit the facts relating to whether defendants actually stabbed anybody at all.

B. May 12 and 13, 2007: The Mother’s Day Party.

Defendant Samuel Navarro and Lizbeth Robles, the mother of his child, lived in a converted barn on Ritter Avenue in Homeland. Luis Arceo and his family lived in a trailer next door to the barn.

On May 12 and 13, 2007 - Mother’s Day - there was a party at the trailer. At the time, Arceo was 16. Those attending the party included defendant Joseph Navarro, then aged 17, who was Samuel Navarro’s younger brother. They also included defendant Eric Garcia, also aged 17, who was Robles’s brother. Arceo considered both Garcia and Joseph Navarro to be his friends.

Future victim Miguel Salas, then aged 18 or 19, was also at the party. During a card game, Salas’s girlfriend asked for another card by saying, “Hit me.” Joseph Navarro responded with the double entendre, “I’d hit that.” After he said this several times, Salas admonished him to be respectful. Garcia intervened, saying, “If you have a problem with Joe, then you have a problem with me.”

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Garcia challenged Salas to a fight. All four youths went outside. Garcia punched Salas in the face. After about a minute of one-on-one fighting, Joseph Navarro jumped in and started hitting Salas from behind. Arceo thought this was unfair, so despite his friendship with Garcia and Joseph Navarro, he jumped in on Salas’s side.

Garcia was mad at Arceo. He threatened to “get” Arceo and said that Arceo was going to “pay.” After the fight, Samuel Navarro and Robles arrived; they took Joseph Navarro and Garcia back to the barn.

Later, as Salas was leaving, Garcia and Joseph Navarro returned, this time accompanied by Samuel Navarro. They started hitting Salas again. This time, Arceo’s sister called the police; Arceo spoke to them. By the time the police arrived, the fight was over.

After this incident, Arceo stopped hanging out with Garcia and Joseph Navarro.

C. May 27 and 28, 2007: The Birthday Party.

On May 27 and 28, 2007, a birthday party for Arceo’s younger sister was held at the trailer.

Around 12:40 a.m., after most of the guests had left, Garcia, Joseph Navarro, Samuel Navarro, Robles, and others associated with them walked over toward the trailer area. Garcia yelled, “I want [Salas] and [Arceo] up here.” He called Arceo a “bitch” and a “rat.”[1] He added, “I’m gonna kill you.” He was jumping up and down and staring at Arceo. He yelled “Paramount.” Samuel Navarro similarly shouted “East Side Paramount” and “East Los.” Arceo started “screaming things back at them.” He “cocked his hands up” and said, “I’m right here.” He, too, was jumping up and down.

Robles and other members of defendants’ group walked up to party guest Juan Pablo Medina Martinez.[2] Martinez said they were being disrespectful. He added, “Calm down. There’s kids here.”[3] Robles replied, “I don’t give a fuck. My kids are here, too.” She then “socked” Martinez in the face. Martinez pushed her down.[4]

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“They all” started hitting Martinez. Samuel Navarro either hit or stabbed him in the stomach. Two other people also hit or stabbed him.[5] Martinez fell to the ground. Samuel Navarro tried to stab him in the face, but he put up his left arm to block the blow; as a result, he was stabbed in the left wrist.

“[E]verybody started running.” Among others, Salas and party guest Brice Moreno (aged 20) tried to run away. Garcia and Joseph Navarro - both holding knives - chased after them.

Garcia caught up with Moreno and hit or stabbed him from behind. Moreno screamed and fell to the ground. He said, “No, please, stop. I got two kids.” Garcia stood over him and continued to hit or stab him. Joseph Navarro also started hitting or stabbing Moreno.

Salas came up behind Garcia and started punching him, saying, “Leave [Moreno] alone.” Garcia turned around and hit or stabbed Salas in the torso. Salas fell to the ground. Samuel Navarro “[got] on top of [Salas]” and hit or stabbed him in the hip.

Garcia was holding “a knife that was full of blood.” He called Arceo’s name. Arceo said, “I’m right here.” Garcia said, “I found you, bitch.” On seeing the knife, Arceo ran; Garcia chased him, but he got away.

Meanwhile, Martinez got up and walked out to the street. He saw Garcia walking back toward the trailer, holding a knife. Garcia asked, “Do you want me to kill you?” Martinez replied, “I was already stabbed.... Let me die.” Garcia kept walking.

Martinez lay down and started to pass out. Suddenly, Robles punched him in the mouth and screamed, “That’s what you get, motherfucker.” Someone else heard Robles say, “That’s what you guys get for disrespecting and being cop callers.”

Defendants got into Samuel Navarro’s car and left. Samuel Navarro was smiling and laughing.

When the police arrived, they asked Salas, “Who stabbed you?” He pointed toward the barn.

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Salas died from a single stab wound to the left chest. He also had a second, nonfatal stab wound in the left hip.

Moreno had only a single stab wound, to the chest, which proved fatal.[6]

Martinez was hospitalized for over three weeks, but he survived. He had one stab wound in his stomach and another in his left armpit; both of these were “life-threatening.” In addition to the stab wound in the left wrist, mentioned earlier, he had relatively minor stab wounds to his back and legs.

At the scene, the police found two Frost Cutlery brand knives on the ground. However, when these knives were tested for blood, no blood was found on them. One empty Frost Cutlery knife box was also found at the scene.

Inside the barn, the police found three more empty Frost Cutlery knife boxes. Samuel Navarro’s ...

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