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People v. Cuiriz

California Court of Appeals, First District, Third Division

February 14, 2017

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
DEYANIRA CUIRIZ, Defendant and Appellant

         As modified Mar. 13 and Mar. 15, 2017.

          Superior Court of Contra Costa County, No. 51306067, Trevor White, Judge.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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          Kamala D. Harris and Xavier Becerra, Attorneys General, Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Jeffrey M. Laurence, Assistant Attorney General, Donna M. Provenzano and Arthur P. Beever, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

         Robert H. Derham and Tiffany J. Gates for Defendant and Appellant.

         Pollak, Acting P. J., with Siggins and Jenkins, JJ., concurring.


          [213 Cal.Rptr.3d 725] POLLAK, Acting P. J.

          Defendant Deyanira Cuiriz appeals a judgment sentencing her to imprisonment for 27 years to life following her conviction for attempted voluntary manslaughter, shooting at an occupied vehicle and mayhem. She contends that she did not voluntarily and knowingly waive her right to remain silent when she spoke to the police after having been advised of her rights under Miranda v. Arizona (1966) 384 U.S. 436');">384 U.S. 436 [16 L.Ed.2d 694, 86 S.Ct. 1602] ( Miranda ), and that the trial court erred in admitting her statements made during the police interrogation and in refusing to excise from the evidence presented to the jury a statement by the interrogating detective. She also contends the sentence imposed constitutes constitutionally prohibited cruel and unusual punishment. We shall affirm the conviction but conclude this is the rare case in which there is merit to defendant's constitutional challenge to the sentence imposed.


         The record contains extensive testimony from numerous witnesses describing the incident that culminated in the shooting that rendered the victim a quadriplegic. However, a detailed recitation of the evidence is unnecessary in view of the issues raised on appeal.

         In brief, the shooting occurred after midnight on August 19, 2012, during the course of defendant's 19th birthday party, outside the Richmond home where she lived with her parents. Although there was conflicting evidence as to what precipitated the incident, it is undisputed that a confrontation occurred between defendant's father (who, like others, had been drinking at the party) and the victim Oscar Barcenas and his friend Miguel Magdaleno. The father and others were outside in front of the house when Barcenas and Magdaleno [213 Cal.Rptr.3d 726] drove by in a truck and (for disputed reasons) exited the truck and engaged in a physical confrontation with defendant's father. Defendant emerged from the house, observed the two men hitting and pushing her father and, according to defendant, pushed her when she attempted to separate the

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men. Defendant testified that she saw her father on the floor with " his face full of blood," she was scared, and yelled at the two men to leave and they threatened to return, telling her they were gang members. Defendant was handed a gun by her boyfriend[1] and approached the truck to which Barcenas and Magdaleno had retreated preparing to leave, and fired one shot into the cab of the truck, piercing Barcenas's spinal cord.

         About a half-hour after police responded to the scene, defendant approached an officer and, as the officer testified without objection, acknowledged that she had shot the victim. As the officer was handcuffing her, she explained that " she was defending her father and that's why she shot the subject in the vehicle." At trial she testified that as she was standing next to the driver's side of the truck, Barcenas " was coming outside of the truck towards me." She continued, " He looked like he just turned around from looking in his center console. When I turned around, he was already coming out. I was scared." She said she shot " [b]ecause I seen him come out the car and I thought he had something, he was gonna do something to me. I was already scared because he was saying that he's in a gang, and that's really scary to me."

         Over defendant's objection, the recording of her interrogation by two detectives at the police station that began at 6:50 that morning was played for the jury. At one point during the questioning, defendant stated that when Barcenas and Magdaleno returned to the truck " and they're like, 'Oh I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry,' I was like, 'What the fuck do you mean you're sorry?' ... [¶ ] ... [¶ ] ... I was like 'What the hell?' I was like, 'How are you gonna say you're sorry after you come and beat someone's dad not knowing what the fuck is going on?' I was like, 'Fuck that.' And then they were just like, man. They were just saying some of this ignorant stuff. They got on my nerves. And then I just shot the dude. I was like what the hell? Like 'cause he was gonna--he was, like, he was gonna come back outside so I was scared. I was like, 'What the hell?' I just shot him cause he was gonna come back and argue with me." Later in the interrogation: " like we're at the point where I was--where I grabbed--where my hand started shaking. 'Cause like I got mad. Like I got mad and I knew like, I never did nothing to anyone before. But like they were being really ignorant. Like ... [¶ ] ... I don't know why people. And I usually talk about ... people being ignorant. But my anger got to me. [¶ ] ... [¶ ] Like in desperation and I didn't want them to come back outside and keep doing stuff." When asked why she shot the victim, defendant answered: " Because I was mad. Like I was telling you I was [upset] (unintelligible) he was saying sorry. And the more he said sorry the more he got me mad. 'Cause like it doesn't make sense for you to come

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hit somebody and say you're sorry and I don't know what you're doing. I knew he was like threatening me, and everything. So I was like, 'What the hell are you talking about.' That's when he was gonna come outside, so I'm guessing he was gonna do something to me. So I just shot him. Like I didn't want anything to happen to me."

          [213 Cal.Rptr.3d 727] Towards the end of the interrogation, defendant volunteered, " It was easily self defense. That's what I chose to do." This prompted additional questions and then the following exchange:

         " Q. So you decided to take it into your own hands?

         " A. I blacked out, like honestly my temper is ...

         " Q. Hey wait, and real quick, just so you understand ...

         " A. Yeah ...

         " Q. This blacking out thing is a bunch of garbage. You tell me you black out, but you've already ...

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