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People v. Superior Court (Joshua James Corbett)

California Court of Appeals, Second District, Seventh Division

February 14, 2017

THE PEOPLE, Petitioner,

         ORIGINAL PROCEEDINGS in mandate Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. BA425880. Edmund W. Clarke, Jr., Judge. Petition denied.

          Jackie Lacey, District Attorney, Steven Katz, Phyllis C. Asayama and Scott D. Collins, Deputy District Attorneys, for Petitioner.

         No appearance for Respondent.

         No appearance for Real Party in Interest.

          ZELON, Acting P. J.

         In the absence of exigent circumstances, if the police could have obtained but did not obtain a warrant to search a person's residence, and entered the person's residence illegally based on an invalid consent, does the fact that they could have obtained a warrant, or later obtained a warrant when they wanted to return to search the home again, excuse their failure to obtain a warrant before the initial entry? The answer is no.

         Here, an unarmed alleged stalker was arrested inside the home of his victim and then questioned extensively despite his repeated invocation of his right to remain silent. The police, aware from a records search that he had eight firearms registered in his name, continued to question him until he disclosed his address and the location where the guns could be found, and signed a form consenting to the search of his home. It is undisputed in this proceeding that the suspect's assent to the search was not a meaningful or valid consent.

         The parties agree that the police had probable cause to obtain a search warrant before they entered the suspect's home, and there is no dispute that officers had the opportunity to seek a warrant but elected not to do so. They searched the suspect's home and seized numerous firearms and ammunition, including seven of the eight weapons listed in the firearms registration record. The following day, relying upon information gathered from the interrogation of the suspect and facts learned from their earlier search of his home, they obtained a search warrant for the suspect's home, identifying two objects of the search: a gun safe they saw during their initial entry, and the eighth firearm known to be registered to the suspect but not located during the warrantless search the day before.

         The trial court suppressed the evidence collected in the initial search. The People seek a writ of mandate compelling the court to vacate its ruling and to deny the motion to suppress, arguing that because the police later obtained a warrant after the initial search, the evidence in the suspect's home would inevitably have been discovered. We deny the petition.


         Joshua Corbett was arrested by officers of the Los Angeles Police Department inside the home of Sandra Bullock on the morning of June 8, 2014. He was charged with 26 offenses, two of which concern the stalking of Bullock and the burglary of her home; the remaining 24 counts are firearms-related offenses concerning weapons, ammunition, and parts that were recovered during the search of Corbett's home.

         A. The Incident, Arrest, Interrogation, and Initial Search

         According to the affidavit of probable cause in the search warrant obtained on June 10, 2014, LAPD officers responded to Bullock's residence at 6:35 a.m. on June 8, 2014, in response to her report that a man wearing a dark sweatshirt and dark pants was inside her home. Officers arriving at the home found Corbett walking down the staircase. As he was detained, he called out, “Sandy, ” several times and said, “Sandy, I'm sorry. Please don't press charges.” Corbett was arrested and taken into custody.

         At the time of the arrest, according to the affidavit, Corbett possessed a letter addressed to Bullock, a notebook with multiple entries addressed to her, photographs of her from a magazine, and a Utah concealed weapons permit. Corbett was unarmed.

         Officer Juan Rodriguez arrested Corbett. Later that day, Rodriguez obtained an emergency protective order; he served it on Corbett at 12:08 p.m. on June 8, 2014. Rodriguez failed to use the appropriate form for the emergency protective order, instead using a form that had been superseded. Corbett remained in police custody.

         The following day, June 9, at approximately 10:00 or 10:15 a.m., Detective Jeffrey Dunn questioned Corbett in jail in the presence of Detective Christina Carlozzi, the primary detective assigned to the case; psychologist Scott Watson; and Detective Debbie Robles. At this time Corbett had been in custody for approximately 30 hours. He was handcuffed during the interrogation. He had not been given the opportunity to make a telephone call.

         Prior to the interrogation, Dunn received the arrest records, the face sheet of the emergency protective order, and a CLETS document in response to an automated firearm system inquiry. The CLETS printout provides information on firearms registered to the subject of the report, and it indicated that handguns were registered to Corbett. Also at this time, according to Dunn, the terms of Corbett's “restrictions pursuant to the emergency protective order were available online, ” and he “based [the] interview off that information.”[1] From the reports that were run, Dunn “learned that pursuant to the emergency protective order [Corbett] was restricted from possessing, owning, or having access to any firearm.”

         The interrogation was partially recorded. The recorded portion begins with one officer[2] advising Corbett of his Miranda rights. Without asking Corbett whether he wanted to waive those rights, the police asked Corbett, “So, do you-you want to talk about what happened with-with Sandy?” Corbett responded, “Not-not really. I don't want to talk about it. No.” Dunn asked, “You don't want to help us understand why you were there?” and Corbett said, “Right, I don't want to talk about it.”

         Dunn responded, “Okay. Well, how about off the record? Do you want to talk about it off the record? We can't use anything that we've discussed.” Corbett again stated that he did not want to talk about it.

         Dunn then told Corbett that his letter to Bullock made him think that there was more to the story than what Dunn had heard, and that he did not “want to go to the District Attorney and file, you know, felony burglary charges on you, if there's another side of the story.” Corbett acknowledged, “I did what I did. And I deserve to be punished for it.” Dunn asked why Corbett needed to be punished. Corbett said, “Well, I did what I did. I don't know. I shouldn't have pushed the issue. I don't want to talk about it.”

         Dunn changed the subject to the emergency protective order and firearms. He said that he knew that Corbett had “a bunch of guns, right?” to which Corbett made a response characterized by the transcriber as “Mmnh-mmnh.” Dunn said, “So, we're gonna have to hold on to those guns until this thing gets resolved. So, we can either go there with your permission and voluntarily, you know, surrender your guns.” Alternatively, Dunn told Corbett, “we're gonna have to write a search warrant, in which case we'll have to go into your house or your apartment and search the entire location until we find the weapons that we know you have there.”

         Dunn urged, “Just tell us where the guns are, and we can go get the guns. Or we'll have to write a search warrant and we'll have to go, essentially, open everything and unlock everything until we find what we're looking for.” Corbett responded, “Mmnh-mmnh.”

         Dunn told him that “it's however you want to play it, ” but that “[i]t's a whole lot easier if you give us permission to get the guns, 'cause we're gonna get them one way or the other.” Corbett made the sound, “Mmnh-mmnh.”

         Dunn said, “[A]re you gonna tell us where the guns are and-and how we can get our hands on them?” Corbett answered, “You guys do what you have to do. I don't know what to tell you.”

         Dunn asked Corbett if he lived with his parents. Corbett said, “Uh, no. I don't-I don't want to talk about it.” Dunn said, “You don't want to talk about anything?” Corbett said no.

         Dunn continued anyway, telling Corbett that this was his one chance to clear the air and tell his story. He reminded Corbett that they had read his letter and his notes. Corbett said, “I, obviously, got issues.” Dunn then began asking about Corbett's mental health history, which Corbett told the police was his own business. Dunn responded that it was not exclusively Corbett's business because now he was in custody. Corbett responded, “[S]he's an innocent victim. And you guys do what you have to do. That's all I have to say.”

         “An innocent victim of what?” Dunn asked, and Corbett began responding in a limited and brief manner to questions about Bullock and his belief that she was not being protected adequately by her security staff. Corbett acknowledged being at Bullock's home and that he would be going to jail. He denied intending to hurt Bullock and said he was devastated that he had made her cry.

         Dunn told Corbett that he knew Corbett was a good guy who had no prior felony convictions, because if he had convictions, he would not be permitted to have the handguns and long guns that he knew Corbett had. “Right?” asked Dunn. “Mmnh-mmnh, ” Corbett said.

         Dunn asked more questions about Corbett's relationship with Bullock, and then returned to Corbett's weapons, saying, “So, what do you want me to do about your guns?” Corbett responded unintelligibly. Dunn said, “I need to get my hands on them until this whole thing is resolved. Okay?” Corbett did not reply.

         Dunn told Corbett, “And you can get them back. But, we got to go through this whole process first. So, I can either go there with your permission, or I'll have to write a search warrant and I'll have to go there with a team and do what we got to do to find them.” Corbett responded, “Can I make a phone call? I haven't had a phone call, yet.”

         Dunn told Corbett he could place a call after the interrogation and then asked if he had roommates. Corbett's response was transcribed as “Uhn-uhn.” “No?” said Dunn. Corbett made no audible response.

         “I know your mom and dad live locally, right?” asked Dunn. Corbett said, “I guess. I don't know.” Dunn asked if Corbett's parents had his guns, and Corbett said he did not know. “You don't know where your guns are?” asked Dunn, and Corbett was silent. Dunn said, “So, you're going to make me go to your mom and dad's house and serve a search warrant on your mom and dad's house, too?” ...

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