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People v. Roberts

California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, First Division

July 18, 2017

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
ANTWAREN LAMONT ROBERTS, Defendant and Appellant.


         APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of San Diego County No. SCD252523, Lorna Alksne, Judge. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded with instructions.

          Patrick Morgan Ford for Defendant and Appellant.

          Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Julie L. Garland, Assistant Attorney General, Barry Carlton and James H. Flaherty III, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

          DATO, J.

         A jury convicted defendant Antwaren Lamont Roberts of attempted murder and related offenses arising out of an incident in which he shot Krystal Sharkey with a handgun. It also found that Roberts committed the crimes for the benefit of a criminal street gang within the meaning of section 186.22 of the Penal Code.[1] In the published portion of this opinion, we address Roberts's contention that the California Supreme Court's recent decision in People v. Elizalde (2015) 61 Cal.4th 523 (Elizalde) precludes the admission of certain un-Mirandized[2]statements Roberts made during custodial booking interviews in which he admitted gang membership. Although these interviews occurred years before the crimes with which Roberts is now charged, when he was under arrest for other crimes, we conclude that a Miranda violation does not evaporate with the passage of time such that the statements become cleansed and admissible as to future misdeeds. Accordingly, we reverse the jury's findings as to the gang enhancement. In all other respects we affirm the judgment after addressing Roberts's additional contentions in the unpublished portion of the opinion.



         Roberts was convicted of attempted murder in violation of sections 664 and 187, assault with a semiautomatic firearm in violation of section 245, subdivision (b), and possession of a firearm by a felon in violation of section 29800, subdivision (a)(1). As to all three counts, the jury found true the allegations that Roberts committed the crime with the intent to promote, further or assist in criminal conduct by gang members, within the meaning of section 186.22, subdivision (b)(1). The jury found his commission of the attempted murder was willful, deliberate, and premeditated within the meaning of section 189, and that he used a firearm, proximately causing great bodily injury to the victim, within the meaning of section 12022.53, subdivision (d). The jury also found Roberts personally used a firearm within the meaning of section 12022.5, subdivision (a), and personally inflicted great bodily harm upon the victim within the meaning of section 12022.7, subdivision (a), in connection with the assault with a semiautomatic firearm. The trial court sentenced Roberts to a determinate term of five years in state prison and a consecutive term of 40 years to life.

         A. The Shooting

         Sharkey, who had ties to the West Coast Crips (WCC) street gang, was playing dice in downtown San Diego when Roberts, known as "Scrappy, " shot her twice in the chest. In addition to Sharkey's trial identification of Roberts as the shooter, Sharkey also told a police officer immediately after the shooting (while at a hospital prior to surgery) that "Scrappy" shot her.

         Laticia Nelson was standing with the group of dice players when Sharkey arrived and joined the dice game. Nelson testified Roberts approached the group of dice players and stood with the group for a while. Roberts, who Nelson knew but not very well, briefly spoke to Nelson and then pulled a gun from his pocket and shot Sharkey. In addition to her trial identification of Roberts as the shooter, Nelson was shown some photographs by a police officer within an hour after the shooting and identified Roberts's photograph, telling the officer she was 100 percent sure Roberts was the shooter.[3]

         A third witness saw Roberts run from the scene just after the shooting and jump into a white car or truck. A fourth witness, a security guard, could not identify the shooter but saw a black male flee from the scene and get into a white pickup truck.

         B. The Alleged Motive

         One month before Sharkey was shot, police were investigating the murder of Chyrene Borgen. Roberts and Borgen had been involved in a romantic relationship that Borgen was working to terminate. Sharkey, a friend of Borgen's, believed Roberts was involved with Borgen's murder.

         Sharkey was at Borgen's residence on November 1, 2013, when police arrived to notify Borgen's family of her death. At that time Sharkey met Detective Lee Norton, the investigating detective. Norton worked to foster trust with Sharkey, and about 10 days later Sharkey "reached out" to police with information about Borgen's murder

         During that same time frame, Sharkey encountered Roberts at a memorial for Borgen. Roberts warned Sharkey that two other WCC members were out to get her. However, Sharkey had a developing suspicion Roberts was involved in Borgen's murder and told Borgen's sister of her suspicion. A few days before Borgen's funeral, Sharkey again encountered Roberts. Roberts angrily told Sharkey he had heard that Sharkey had accused him of being the last person to see Borgen alive. Sharkey claimed that Roberts pointed a gun at her face and said something to the effect of, "[k]eep my name out of your mouth." Roberts's act of pointing the gun at her infuriated Sharkey, who felt extremely disrespected by the act.

         Sharkey subsequently saw Roberts at Borgen's funeral on November 18, 2013. Sharkey stared at Roberts during the funeral, and Roberts angrily returned the stare, mouthing the words, "I'm going to kill you." This further infuriated Sharkey, who again perceived Roberts's actions as disrespectful.

         On learning that Roberts would be at a kind of wake attended primarily by WCC members, Sharkey decided to go and confront him about his threats to her. When Roberts came in and began laughing and socializing, Sharkey walked up and hit him in the face with a chain. Roberts was enraged. He pulled out a gun and told Sharkey he was going to kill her, and he ultimately left without further incident.

         Sharkey believed Roberts would seek revenge. "[H]e wanted his get back from me hitting him with that chain." Sharkey was shot approximately two weeks later.

         C. The Gang Evidence

         The prosecution's gang expert on the WCC, San Diego Police Department Detective Juan Cisneros, had never heard of Roberts being a member or associate in WCC prior to Borgen's murder, but nevertheless opined Roberts was a member of the WCC gang.[4] Cisneros apparently based his opinion on several indicia. First, after a defense in limine motion was overruled, Cisneros testified that Roberts admitted his association with WCC during jailhouse intake interviews in 2004 and 2006. Second, Cisneros noted several photographs depicting Roberts in the company of gang members. Third, Cisneros observed that Roberts had a nickname. Finally, Cisneros relied on the fact that, while in jail in February 2014, Roberts participated with another alleged WCC member in assaulting a fellow inmate (also an alleged WCC member) for whom Cisneros testified a "green light... to be assaulted" had allegedly been authorized.

         Cisneros also testified that if a WCC member were disrespected in front of other WCC members, the disrespected and humiliated member would have no choice but to retaliate violently, because failure to retaliate would equate to a complete loss of respect and status in the gang and could also lead to rival gang members targeting the disrespected gang member. Given a hypothetical composed of facts mirroring the evidence elicited in this case (including the snitching and chain assault), Cisneros opined the disrespected gang member's act of shooting the person who had disrespected him would benefit the WCC gang.

         D. The Defense

         The defense maintained Roberts wasn't present at the shooting. Although a witness saw Roberts riding the trolley in the vicinity of the shooting around 6:00 p.m. on the night of the shooting, and the shooting occurred about 6:15 p.m., Raheem Jackson (who had known Roberts for about 20 years and thought of him as a "nephew") testified Roberts was at Jackson's house some distance from the shooting site for about two hours, from about 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Jackson also testified that Roberts then used Jackson's cell phone to call for a ride, and cell phone records confirmed Jackson's phone was used to call Dwayne Shepard, a pastor, at 7:19 p.m. Pastor Shepard then picked up Roberts at Jackson's house and they went to the movies.

         The defense portrayed Sharkey as a vengeful person. She claimed Roberts had tried to rape her 13 years earlier, and she wanted police to go after Roberts for the murder of Borgen. The defense theory of the case was that once Sharkey told police Roberts shot her, they never considered the possibility of other suspects. Defense counsel also argued that even if Roberts was the shooter, the shooting involved an incident of personal revenge rather than being gang related.



         A. Alleged Witness Intimidation

         Roberts contends he was denied a fair trial because a witness who may have provided Roberts with helpful evidence was purportedly intimidated by police into leaving the courthouse before the defense could call him as a witness.

         During trial testimony, the defense sought to impeach Sharkey with a document (an alleged posting she made on her Facebook page in a "conversation" between herself and an unidentified third person) in which she supposedly conceded she did not know who "did it." The prosecutor objected, arguing the document should be excluded because it was undated, was merely a snippet and therefore lacked context, and the name of the third person to the conversation had been blocked out. The court excluded the document for lack of foundation and also noted the comments discussed may have been taken out of context.

         Nine days later, as the defense was about to rest, defense counsel (Pamela Lacher) informed the court there was a person in the courtroom who might be the third person to that conversation, and the court recessed the proceedings to allow the defense to interview him and determine whether he wished to testify. Lacher subsequently informed the court she had given the witness "the option, and he declined to testify, " and the court noted the witness was not "under subpoena [and] was free to go...."

         After a brief presentation by the prosecution of rebuttal witnesses, Lacher stated she "wanted to put something on the record" concerning the witness who departed. Lacher claimed that person, who might have been the third person to the Facebook conversation, spoke with the defense and prosecution in the hallway before he left. The witness later contacted Lacher and stated he had gone into the bathroom but was followed by law enforcement officers who surrounded him, tapped him on the shoulder while he was urinating, and spoke to him. The witness claimed he felt threatened by the officers in the bathroom, who purportedly called him a liar and said they would arrest him if he testified. They also purportedly photographed him and completed an "FI, " which they told him they could do since he was in public. As a result, he left the courthouse.

         Roberts argues his Sixth Amendment rights were violated because the state interfered with the exercise of that right by law enforcement's intimidation of a potential witness. (People v. Warren (1984) 161 Cal.App.3d 961, 971-976.) He relies on In re Martin (1987) 44 Cal.3d 1. There, a favorable defense witness was arrested (after he testified for the defense) in the presence of three other defense witnesses, which intimidated those subpoenaed witnesses into refusing to provide material testimony for the defense. (Id. at pp. 28, 35.) The court found this amounted to prosecutorial interference with the defendant's constitutional right to present the testimony of witnesses at trial, and ordered that the defendant be given a new trial. (Id. at pp. 36-56.) Roberts contends those authorities control and entitle him to a new trial here.

         To the contrary, however, we agree with the Attorney General that Roberts's claim cannot be resolved on appeal, but must instead be pursued (as in In re Martin, supra, 44 Cal.3d 1) in writ proceedings because the critical issues are (1) did police in fact intimidate the witness; (2) was the witness's election not to testify caused by such intimidation; and (3) would the witness have provided material testimony? (Id. at pp. 31-32.) None of those facts are determinable from the record on appeal. Because this appeal is "limited to the four corners of the [underlying] record on appeal" (In re Carpenter (1995) 9 Cal.4th 634, 646), while writ proceedings are not (People v. Waidla (2000) 22 Cal.4th 690, 703, fn. 1), Roberts's claim cannot be addressed in this appeal (People v. Merriam (1967) 66 Cal.2d 390, 396-397, disapproved on other grounds in People v. Rincon-Pineda (1975) 14 Cal.3d 864, 882) but must be pursued, if at all, by way of a writ petition.

         B. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

         Roberts contends he was denied effective counsel at his preliminary hearing because his attorney failed to conduct adequate discovery and use the facts the attorney would have found to ...

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