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People v. Washington

California Court of Appeals, Second District, Second Division

September 5, 2017

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
MICHAEL SHANE WASHINGTON, Defendant and Appellant.

         CERTIFIED FOR PARTIAL PUBLICATION [*]

         APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County No. TA135789 Eleanor J. Hunter, Judge. Affirmed.

          Ralph H. Goldsen, 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, Steven D. Matthews, Supervising Deputy Attorney General, and Joseph P. Lee and Ryan M. Smith, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

          HOFFSTADT, J.

         Under the so-called Aranda/Bruton doctrine, a trial court may generally not allow a jury in a joint criminal trial of a defendant and codefendant to hear the unredacted confession of the codefendant that also directly implicates the defendant-even if the jury is instructed not to consider the confession as evidence against the defendant. (People v. Aranda (1965) 63 Cal.2d 518, 529-531 (Aranda), abrogated in part by Cal. Const., art. I, § 28, subd. (d); Bruton v. United States (1968) 391 U.S. 123, 128-136 (Bruton).) Such a confession is so “powerfully incriminating, ” the doctrine provides, that the jury cannot be expected to heed the court's instruction and put it out of its collective mind when evaluating the defendant's guilt. (Bruton, at pp. 129, 135.) Thus, unless the codefendant testifies and is subject to cross-examination, the admission of the codefendant's unredacted confession at the joint trial violates the defendant's Sixth Amendment right to confront and cross-examine witnesses. (Bruton, at pp. 128-136; Aranda, at pp. 529-531.) Has the United States Supreme Court's subsequent narrowing of the Sixth Amendment right to confront and cross-examine witnesses to protect against only “testimonial” statements-as accomplished in Crawford v. Washington (2004) 541 U.S. 36 (Crawford) and its progeny-also narrowed the Aranda/Bruton doctrine? We hold that the answer is “yes.” We further hold that the admission of the codefendant's unredacted confession at a joint trial with an appropriate limiting instruction does not violate due process. In the unpublished portion of the opinion, we finally hold that severance of the trials in this case would not have been warranted. Consequently, we affirm defendant's murder conviction in this case.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         I. Facts

         At almost midnight on a Saturday night in November 2014, Michael Shane Washington (defendant) walked into the Avalon Gardens housing complex in Los Angeles, knocked on the door of an apartment, asked the 20-year-old man who answered, “Where you from?, ” and when the man responded, “Avalon, ” defendant shot him through the chest and killed him.

         Defendant was at the time a member of the 89 Family Swans street gang, which is affiliated with the Bloods street gang. The Avalon Gardens Crips gang claimed the Avalon Gardens housing complex as its territory, and the victim's response to defendant's question indicated that the victim was aligned with the Avalon Gardens Crips street gang. The 89 Family Swans and the Avalon Gardens Crips are rivals.

         Four months before the shooting, defendant posted on his Facebook account, “On bl89d”-“blood” using an “89” instead of “oo”-“ima have to kill a nigga.”

         Defendant was with two others, Keon Scott (Scott) and Kevin Kendricks (Kendricks), at the time of the shooting. Scott and Kendricks were members of the West Side Piru street gang, which is a Bloods street gang allied with the 89 Family Swans.

         Defendant was arrested minutes after the shooting fleeing from the Avalon Gardens housing complex. He was wearing red shorts, a color affiliated with the Bloods street gang. He was also carrying a gun with cartridges that matched the cartridge found near the victim's body. When questioned by police after his arrest, defendant told the police that he traveled to Los Angeles that day to meet a girl he met over the Internet, that he found the gun police recovered from him somewhere near the girl's house, that he had never been to the Avalon Gardens housing complex, and that he did not know Scott or Kendricks.

         Scott and Kendricks were also arrested soon after the shooting and were placed in the same jail cell along with a hidden recording device. During the 55 hours they were in the cell, they made several statements implicating themselves and defendant in the shooting: At one point, Kendricks said, “That nigga said, [‘]Blood, where you from?['] He said, “[‘]I'm from'” either “‘Outlaw'” or “‘Avalon'”; in another exchange, Scott asked, “Did you even see where he hit him though?” and Kendricks responded, “In the chest.” Scott commented, “like I ain't trying to throw Shaggy under the bus like that, but he threw his self [sic] under the bus.” Defendant goes by the name “Shaggy.”

         II. Procedural Background

         The People charged defendant, Scott, and Kendricks with murder (Pen. Code, § 187, subd. (a)).[1] The People further alleged that defendant personally discharged a firearm causing death or great bodily injury (§ 12022.53, subd. (d)), and that the murder had been committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a criminal street gang (§ 186.22, subds. (b)(1)(C) & (b)(5)). The People additionally alleged that defendant had served a prior prison term for his 2012 assault with a deadly weapon conviction (§ 667.5, subd. (b)).

         The trial court admitted snippets of the jailhouse recordings of Scott's and Kendricks's conversations, but only against Scott and Kendricks; the court expressly instructed ...


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