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People v. Campbell

California Court of Appeals, Second District, Sixth Division

June 8, 2017

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
NATHAN LOUIS CAMPBELL, Defendant and Appellant.

         Superior Court County No. SA084351 of Los Angeles Kathryn A. Solorzano, Judge

          Matthew D. Alger, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

          Xavier Becerra, Attorney General, Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Lance E. Winters, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Victoria B. Wilson, Supervising Deputy Attorney General, Theresa A. Patterson, Deputy Attorney General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

          TANGEMAN, J.

         Angry about a failed drug deal, Nathan Louis Campbell drove his car onto the Venice Beach Boardwalk and plowed into 10 separate groups of people in close succession. A jury convicted him of one count of second degree murder (Pen. Code, § 187, subd. (a))[1]; 17 counts of assault with a deadly weapon (§ 245, subd. (a)(1)); 3 felony counts of leaving the scene of an accident; and 7 misdemeanor counts of leaving the scene of an accident (Veh. Code, § 20001, subd. (a)). The jury found true allegations that he used a deadly weapon in the murder and inflicted great bodily injury in three of the assaults. (§§ 12022, subd. (b)(1), 12022.7, subd. (a).) The trial court sentenced Campbell to 15 years to life plus 27 years in state prison. It stayed the sentence for all but one of the counts of leaving the scene of an accident pursuant to section 654.

         We conclude (1) the prosecutor's reference to Campbell's post-Miranda[2] silence was a fair response to Campbell's trial testimony that he cooperated fully with police, and (2) Campbell was properly convicted of 10 counts of fleeing the scene of an accident because there were 10 distinct accidents after which he could have stopped and rendered aid but did not.

         BACKGROUND

         Campbell drove to the Venice Beach Boardwalk, where his friend tried to buy methamphetamine. The dealer was gone a long time with the friend's money, and the friend went looking for the dealer. Campbell became agitated. He said to a bystander, “I'm going to hit them with my fucking car if [the] dude is not back, ” and “point them out and I'll hit them with the car.”

         After more time passed, Campbell got into his car and accelerated onto the boardwalk, guiding the car through a 10-foot gap between barriers. He drove into an ATM machine, pushing it into two people (count 19). He proceeded southwest and drove into a woman (count 20) and her boyfriend (count 21). He continued further into a group of vendor's stands on the west side of the boardwalk, hitting three more people (count 22). He turned back into the boardwalk and accelerated into two more people near the Titanic Boutique (count 23). He proceeded south and drove into two more people (count 24). He drove further south and steered into two people near the Venice Suites Hotel (count 25). He drove into concession stands near the hotel and then turned into two more people, killing one. He carried her body on his hood for some distance without stopping (count 18). He continued to the front of a Snapchat store where he ran into another person and dragged him 20 feet without stopping (count 26). After passing the Snapchat store, he hit his final victim (count 27). He then fled the boardwalk in his car.

         Video surveillance captured most of the collisions. Witnesses testified that Campbell accelerated and changed directions in order to hit people. A witness who watched from a hotel balcony said the car was aimed “where the people were, not where there was an open space.” Witnesses said Campbell seemed to be in control of the car and his face looked focused. He did not honk or wave people out of his way.

         After Campbell hit his last victim someone on a bike tried to flag him down and people yelled for him to stop, but he drove away. A few hours later, Campbell turned himself into the Santa Monica Police Department and told officers “I'm the one you are looking for, ” and “I hit all those people.” He asked them “how many people were hurt and how many children?”

         At the police station, Campbell waived his Miranda rights and answered an officer's questions. He was drunk, and said he drank a half-pint of vodka after he hit people on the boardwalk. He said he drank no alcohol beforehand. At trial, he said he drank two gulps of vodka before he drove onto the boardwalk, but said he was “okay” to drive.

         Campbell told the officer at the police station that he thought the car was in reverse and he just panicked. He said he honked and waved his hands to warn people. He gave the same account at trial. Video evidence and witness statements contradict that claim.

         Campbell gave similar explanations to two officers who drove him to another station that evening, and to a sergeant who questioned him when he arrived. He told the officers where to find his car. Campbell testified at trial that the car was in good operating order; there were no ...


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