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People v. Loya

California Court of Appeals, Fifth District

July 26, 2016

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
ARMANDO T. LOYA, Defendant and Appellant


          APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Kern County, No. BF144483A, No. BF151668A, John W. Lua, Judge.

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          C. Matthew Missakian, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

         Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Michael P. Farrell, Assistant Attorney General, Carlos A. Martinez and Marcia A. Fay, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

         Opinion by Kane, J., with Hill, P. J., and Gomes, J., concurring.


          [205 Cal.Rptr.3d 234] KANE, J.


         On the day set for jury trial, appellant Armando T. Loya contemplated a plea agreement negotiated with the prosecution for a principal four-year prison term that involved disposition of both cases summarized below. He entered into a protracted and mutually frustrating discussion with the trial judge, who asked multiple times if appellant wanted to plead or proceed to trial. Appellant, however, principally questioned why he could not enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity (NGI), which was a question he had raised on previous occasions. Without stating any reason, and just after appellant indicated his desire to take the plea agreement, the court said it would not approve the plea and withdrew it from further consideration. Trial commenced.

         In Bakersfield Superior Court case No. BF151668A[1] (the present matter), a jury convicted appellant of reckless evasion of a peace officer (Veh. Code, § 2800.2; count 1); hit and run resulting in property damage (Veh. Code, § 20002, subd. (a); count 2); driving under the influence of a drug (Veh. Code, § 23152, former subd. (a); count 3); being under the influence of a controlled substance (Health & Saf. Code, § 11550, subd. (a); count 4); resisting or delaying a peace officer (Pen. Code, § 148, subd. (a)(1); count 6); and driving with a suspended license (Veh. Code, § 14601.1, subd. (a); count 7). The jury found him not guilty of vandalism (Pen. Code, § 594, subd. (b)(2)(A); count 5). The trial court found true that appellant had suffered a prior strike and four prior prison terms. Appellant was sentenced to an aggregate term of 10 years in state prison.

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         In companion case No. BF144483A, appellant was found in violation of probation and was sentenced to six years in state prison, to be served concurrently with the 10 years imposed in the case above.

         On appeal, appellant raises four issues. We find merit to his claim that the trial court abused its discretion in rejecting the plea bargain in the absence of any stated justification. We reverse the judgment and [205 Cal.Rptr.3d 235] remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. However, due to a lack of prejudice, we reject appellant's contentions that he was denied his statutory right to plead NGI or that the trial court abused its discretion in denying two motions pursuant to People v. Marsden (1970) 2 Cal.3d 118 [84 Cal.Rptr. 156, 465 P.2d 44] ( Marsden ). Finally, in light of the remand, we do not reach appellant's last issue that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel and due process.


         I. Trial facts from the present matter

         Appellant did not present any evidence. The prosecution established the following relevant facts.

         On November 9, 2013, appellant drove through a stop sign in Bakersfield, and then failed to yield when police officers pursued him in marked police vehicles with flashing emergency lights and sirens. During the pursuit, appellant drove through four red lights, travelled 60 to 70 miles per hour, and swerved around other vehicles. Officers observed appellant " bouncing up and down" on his driver's seat, and he was gesturing with his hands as if he was waving at the pursuing officers. When the chase entered a residential neighborhood, officers cancelled the high-speed pursuit, turned off their lights and sirens, and reduced their speeds. They continued to follow appellant at a safe speed. Appellant initially pulled away, but then began to slow down. During a turn, appellant lost control of his vehicle and struck a chain-link fence. He ran from his vehicle.

         Officers chased appellant on foot. He ignored officers' commands to stop and continued to flee. At one point, appellant looked back at an officer after the officer yelled for him to stop, but appellant continued to run away. Officers lost sight of appellant after he jumped a fence. Law enforcement established a perimeter. About 30 to 40 minutes later, officers located appellant hiding in a parked car in a nearby apartment complex. He was lying on the floorboard on his chest and side, trying to be as low as possible between the back passenger seat and the front seats. He was hiding under articles of clothing. He failed to comply with officers' commands and resisted

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efforts to be arrested. After a brief struggle, appellant was removed from the vehicle and handcuffed. After he was restrained, appellant's face began to appear pale and he was sweating profusely. He became unresponsive and was transported to a hospital.

         A physician determined appellant was unresponsive due to a methamphetamine coma. A blood test confirmed that appellant was impaired due to this drug in his system.

         After his arrest, appellant placed a telephone call from county jail to an acquaintance. The call was recorded and played for the jury. Appellant said he fled from police because he had " shit" in his car.

         II. Procedural history of the present matter

         Given the importance to the issues on appeal, we set out in some detail the procedural history.

         A. Competency questions arise

         On November 26, 2013, criminal proceedings were suspended for the purpose of determining if appellant was competent to stand trial and cooperate with defense counsel. On January 3, 2014, the court found appellant competent and criminal proceedings were reinstated.

         B. The Marsden hearings

         Four Marsden hearings occurred prior to trial. Each is summarized below as relevant [205 Cal.Rptr.3d 236] to the issues raised in the present appeal.

         1. The first hearing

         The first Marsden hearing occurred on November 26, 2013 (on the same day defense counsel requested a competency evaluation). Appellant raised claims regarding his appointed counsel that are not relevant to the present appeal. The court found no basis to substitute counsel and denied appellant's motion.

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         2. The second hearing

         The second Marsden hearing occurred on January 3, 2014, during which defense counsel said appellant had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and had been previously found incompetent and sent to Patton State Hospital during his previous case.[2] Defense counsel stated:

         " [Appellant] also told me he wanted to plea [NGI] at the prelim, and I told him I wouldn't--I didn't want to do that at the prelim because I didn't think it would be--I didn't think it would change the prelim, that would be a call the trial attorney would have to make.

         " But that, combined with him telling me he had paranoid schizophrenia issues combined with him believing that I lied to him when I don't believe I ever lied to him, and his not wanting to communicate with me, made me believe that there was enough information to declare a doubt."

         After hearing further comments, the court denied the Marsden motion.

         3. The third hearing

         On January 16, 2014, a third Marsden hearing took place. During the hearing, defense counsel stated the following: " [Appellant] also told me that he was schizophrenic which when I interviewed him before the first setting of the case, at which time I--it seemed that we could have communication and he seemed lucid and I didn't think I needed to do a [Penal Code section] 1368 [motion]. But he told me he wanted to plead NGI after the Marsden and because he seemed irrational and I had doubts about--if--I began to have doubts about his ability to help--to help--to help with his representation and I spoke with my supervisor and I thought that I should [file a Penal Code section 1368 motion for] him at that time."

         After hearing further comments, the court granted the Marsden motion, finding that the attorney-client relationship had broken down.

         4. The fourth hearing

         On April 16, 2014, the matter was transferred from the presiding department to the trial court. At approximately 10:13 a.m., appellant's fourth

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Marsden hearing commenced. Appellant made the following comments: " I asked [my new defense counsel] about an NGI plea. He told me there's no way he would change my plea to an NGI plea because a judge wouldn't accept it, which isn't right, because that's a plea--you can change your plea to that anytime because there's four pleas, and he lied to me about that."

          [205 Cal.Rptr.3d 237] The court later informed appellant that defense counsel's statement that the judge would not accept an NGI plea at this time was true. The following exchange occurred:

         " [APPELLANT]: So you're telling me that I cannot change my plea to an NGI plea, never, because I went to Patton State Hospital, and they taught us that there's four pleas. They told us that we could change our plea at any time to an NGI. You're telling me that Patton State Hospital--I went there--that they lied to me and they told me a lie, then, because we went there--I went there so they could teach me about the court; right? They taught me who the judge is, who my attorney is, and about the four pleas. So you're telling me that they lied to me?

         " THE COURT: I'm not telling you--I'm not telling you anything about what they told you. I'm telling you that [defense counsel]--

         " [APPELLANT]: That's what he taught me--

         " THE COURT: [Appellant]. [Appellant].

         " [APPELLANT]:--when I was at Patton State Hospital for a [Penal Code section] 1368; so then they're reteaching me ...

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