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People v. Miranda

California Court of Appeals, Second District, Sixth Division

August 23, 2016

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
ISAAC RANGEL et al., Defendants and Appellants.

         [CERTIFIED FOR PARTIAL PUBLICATION[*]]

         Superior Court County No. PA062376 of Los Angeles, Stephen A. Marcus, Judge

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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         COUNSEL

         James Crawford and Linn Davis, under appointments by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant, Humberto Miranda.

         Alan Siraco, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant, Felix Vega.

         David M. Thompson, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant, Isaac Rangel.

         Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Lance E. Winters, Assistant Attorney General, Steven D. Matthews and Roberta L. Davis, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

         OPINION

         YEGAN, J.

         This case involves a razor-blade-shank attack by “Southside” gang members on a Los Angeles County jail inmate who refused to stab another inmate at the gang’s behest. Humberto Miranda, Felix Vega, and Isaac Rangel appeal from the judgment entered after a jury trial. All were convicted of assault with a deadly weapon (count 1 - Pen. Code, § 245, subd. (a)(1));[1] assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury (count 2—§ 245, former subd. (a)(1), now subd. (a)(4)); and battery with serious bodily injury (count 3—§ 243, subd. (d)). Codefendant Chris DeLeon was acquitted. As to each appellant, the jury found true great bodily injury allegations (§ 12022.7, subd. (a)) and gang enhancements (§ 186.22,

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subd (b)(1)(A) & (C)). As to Miranda, the jury found true an allegation that, in the commission of battery with serious bodily injury, he had personally used a “knife and razor.” (§ 12022, subd. (b)(1).) Vega and Rangel admitted prior felony convictions.

         Miranda was sentenced to prison for 17 years, to be served first before the service of life sentences in another case. (See § 669.) Vega was sentenced to prison for 11 years, 4 months, to be served consecutively to a prior sentence in another case of 37 years, 4 months. The aggregate term for both cases was 48 years, 8 months. Rangel was sentenced to prison for 7 years, 4 months, to be served consecutively to a prior sentence in another case of 25 years. The aggregate term for both cases was 32 years, four months.

         Appellants argue that the evidence is insufficient to support the gang enhancements. In addition, they argue that the trial court erroneously (1) denied their Wheeler-Batson motions, (2) instructed the jury during jury selection, and (3) excluded evidence of the guilty pleas of three codefendants. Vega claims that the trial court erroneously limited his closing argument to the jury. Finally, Vega and Rangel contend that the trial court erroneously sentenced them and failed to calculate the custody credits to which they are entitled. Only the final contention has merit. Miranda makes no claim of sentencing error, but his sentence is also erroneous. We vacate appellants’ convictions on count 2 and reverse their sentences on counts 1 and 3. We remand the matter with directions to resentence them and calculate Vega’s and Rangel’s custody credits. In all other respects, we affirm.

         Facts

         Appellants and DeLeon were members of different Southern California local criminal street gangs. Estuardo Tobias, the victim, claimed that he was not a gang member. In June 2008 Tobias, appellants, and DeLeon were inmates in Dorm 816 at the North County Correctional Facility (NCCF) of the Los Angeles County Jail. The dorm housed approximately 65 inmates, all of whom were Hispanic.

         In the presence of Miranda, Rangel, and DeLeon, Vega ordered Tobias to cut another inmate with a knife. Tobias refused. Vega replied, “‘All right. If you don’t do it, you got that coming.’” Later that same day, Vega told Tobias that someone wanted to speak to him upstairs. Tobias understood that he was going to see “Puppet, ” “the gang member who was running the jail.” According to Tobias, “Puppet was the one who would give orders about who should get beat up and what should happen among the gang members....”

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         After Tobias walked upstairs, Vega started fighting with him and “tried to take [him] down on the ground.” Miranda, Rangel, DeLeon, and “not less than another five [persons]” ran toward Tobias. The other persons included gang members Edgar Centeno, Skary Paredes, and Ivan Toscano.

         Appellants cut Tobias with razor blades attached to toothbrushes. Tobias was punched and kicked. “There were blows, but there were so many of them [that Tobias] couldn’t tell... who did what.” Someone said, “‘Cut him, but make sure that you’re getting him on the neck.’” “The last thing [Tobias] remember[ed] was that someone said, ‘Hide. They’re coming.’”

         Sheriff’s deputies arrived and stopped the fight. A deputy testified that he “saw five people attacking one person.” The deputy subsequently testified: “There could have been more.” “[I]t looked like there was approximately five or more.” Another deputy testified that he “saw approximately five inmates” surrounding Tobias and “punching him repeatedly in a violent manner.” “It could have been more, but I’m pretty certain that it was at minimum five.” Neither deputy saw the beginning of the fight.

         Tobias was “drenched in blood.” Blood was “squirting from his wrist onto the walls.” He had “six or seven different injuries.”

         Appellants had blood on their clothing and bodies. The DNA profile of blood found on Vega and Rangel matched the DNA profile of Tobias’s blood.

         [[]] [*]

         Sufficiency of the Evidence to Support the Gang Enhancements

         Appellants contend that the evidence is insufficient to support the criminal street gang enhancements. The People were required to prove that the crimes for which appellants were convicted had been “committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with any criminal street gang, with the specific intent to promote, further, or assist in any criminal conduct by gang members....” (§ 186.22, subd. (b)(1).)

         Standard of Review

         “In considering a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence to support an enhancement, we review the entire ...


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