California Court of Appeals, Second District, Seventh Division
FOR PARTIAL PUBLICATION [†]
from a judgment of the Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No.
BA394178, Henry J. Hall, Judge.
H. Goldsen, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for
Defendant and Appellant.
Becerra, Attorney General, Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant
Attorney General, Lance E. Winters, Assistant Attorney
General, Shawn McGahey Webb and David A. Voet, Deputy
Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.
morning of February 16, 2012 Minifie forced his ex-girlfriend
Lillian Pleitez into the passenger seat of his vehicle and
drove away. After a witness called 911, Minifie was followed
by two police cars. A high-speed chase ensued through the
streets just west of downtown Los Angeles, with Minifie
running through multiple red lights. The chase ended when
Minifie swerved into oncoming traffic and collided with
another vehicle head-on. Pleitez died on the way to the
jury found Minifie guilty of second degree murder (Pen. Code,
§ 187, subd. (a); count 1),  kidnapping (§ 207,
subd. (a); count 2), and evading an officer causing injury
(Veh. Code, § 2800.3, subd. (a); count 3). Minifie
waived his right to a jury trial on his alleged prior
convictions, and admitted he had suffered three prior
convictions. The court found that Minifie had served three
prior separate prison terms within the meaning of section
667.5, subdivision (b).
count 1 the trial court sentenced Minifie to an indeterminate
term of 15 years to life. On count 2 the trial court
sentenced Minifie to the upper term of eight years, to run
consecutively. The trial court imposed three one-year prior
prison term enhancements under section 667.5, subdivision
(b), on both counts 1 and 2. On count 3 the trial court
sentenced Minifie to a consecutive term of one year eight
months (one-third the middle term). Minifie was sentenced to
an aggregate state prison term of 30 years eight months to
unpublished part of the opinion, we conclude that
Pleitez's statements expressing her fear to her daughter
approximately two hours before the kidnapping were properly
admitted under the state of mind exception to the hearsay
rule. We also reject Minifie's claims of instructional
error and prosecutorial misconduct.
published part of the opinion, we address whether a trial
court may impose prior prison term sentence enhancements
under section 667.5, subdivision (b), separately to an
indeterminate term of imprisonment and a determinate term of
imprisonment as part of the defendant's aggregate
sentence. We conclude the trial court properly imposed the
enhancements on both the indeterminate and determinate terms.
The Prosecution's Case
February 2012 Minifie had been dating Lillian Pleitez for
eight to 12 months. Minifie lived in an apartment on Wilshire
Boulevard (the Building), just west of downtown Los Angeles.
Pleitez lived with her daughter, J.P.
about 8:00 a.m. on February 16, 2012 Jeffery and Angela Cho,
who also lived at the Building, were attempting to leave the
Building's parking lot using the Ingraham Street exit.
Minifie's sport utility vehicle (SUV) was blocking the
exit. Jeffery observed Minifie and Pleitez standing outside
the SUV, arguing. Minifie was substantially taller than
Pleitez. Minifie put his hands on Pleitez, and
pushed her toward the passenger side of the vehicle. Pleitez
appeared to be resisting him.
opened the front passenger door, pushed Pleitez into the
seat, and closed the door. As Minifie walked back to the
driver's side, the passenger door opened, and Pleitez
tried to get out. Minifie returned to the passenger side, and
got in. He sat on top of Pleitez while she struggled; he shut
the door, and then slid over Pleitez to the driver's
made eye contact with Jeffery, and appeared to be asking for
help. She held up her arm and showed Jeffery a white band on
her wrist. At this point Jeffery told Angela to call 911.
then drove out of the garage with Pleitez in the passenger
seat. He turned left, and headed east on Ingraham Street.
Jeffery followed him, while Angela called 911 from the
passenger seat. While the SUV was moving, the passenger door
opened, then the SUV stopped, and the door closed. The SUV
continued driving. The SUV turned on Lucas Street, but got
stuck in stop-and-go traffic. Jeffery honked his horn to let
Minifie know he was following him. Minifie then began driving
erratically, weaving in and out of traffic. At some point the
SUV made a turn, and Jeffery lost sight of the vehicle.
Shortly thereafter the 911 operator directed Jeffery to the
scene of a traffic accident on Sixth Street, and he saw the
same SUV was there.
Chang, who also lived at the Building, was in his car waiting
to exit the parking lot. He was behind two vehicles, one of
which was blocking the parking gate. He heard Minifie and
Pleitez yelling and screaming. He saw Pleitez try to get out
of the SUV. She then jumped out, and asked for help. Minifie
forced her back into the SUV, and drove away. Chang called
911, and reported the incident.
around 8:00 a.m. Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Officer
Jose Delgado was driving north on Bixel Street in his black
and white police car with his partner James Le when he saw
Minifie's SUV cross a double yellow line, make an illegal
U-turn, and drive onto the sidewalk. Delgado tried to get
closer to the SUV, but it sped off north on Bixel Street.
the SUV approached Wilshire Boulevard, the passenger door
opened, and Pleitez tried to jump out of the vehicle. Half of
her body was outside the vehicle. Minifie then drove through
a red light at the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and
Bixel Street, causing other vehicles to screech to a halt.
Sixth Street, the SUV's passenger door swung open again,
and Pleitez tried to “dive” out of the SUV.
Minifie made a left turn onto Sixth Street and pulled Pleitez
back into the SUV. Minifie went through another red light and
made a left turn, again causing cars to screech to a halt. At
this point Minifie was driving over 70 miles per hour.
Delgado activated his lights and sirens, and continued in
Sixth and Alvarado Streets, Minifie, who was driving
westbound, began swerving into the eastbound lane toward
oncoming traffic, to evade Delgado's police car. Minifie
did this two times, then jumped back into the westbound lane.
At the intersection of Sixth and Carondelet Streets, Minifie
swerved into the eastbound lane for the third time, and
collided head-on with a Volvo heading east on Sixth Street.
Minifie's SUV was upended and stood on its front two
wheels, then fell down onto all four wheels. As soon as the
car landed on its four wheels, Minifie got out of the
driver's side door and began running south on Carondelet
Street. Minifie did not check on his passenger or the driver
of the Volvo.
and Le pursued Minifie, following him in their vehicle.
Minifie pulled his wallet out of his pocket, threw it into
the bushes, then continued to run southbound. Delgado and Le
yelled at Minifie to stop, but he kept running. When Minifie
started running toward a fence, it looked like he was going
to jump over it. Delgado and Le got out of their vehicle, and
ran toward Minifie. Delgado told Minifie to get on the
ground, but he did not comply. Instead, Minifie clenched his
hands into fists and started walking toward Delgado. Delgado
struck Minifie across his abdomen with his baton. Other
officers arrived, and Minifie was taken into custody. Delgado
described Minifie as “altered, ” and he believed
Minifie was possibly under the influence.
Williams was the driver of the Volvo. She was stopped at a
red light with cars on either side of her. She saw
Minifie's SUV weaving in and out of traffic, with police
cars in pursuit. Then the SUV drove through a red light and
headed straight toward Williams. Williams attempted to change
lanes to get out of the way, but the SUV also changed lanes,
and hit her head-on at about 70 miles per hour. Williams
testified, “Whatever lane I was getting in he was
headed for me.” The SUV pushed her car backwards, and
she was seriously injured, including a severely broken arm,
three to four broken ribs, a broken sternum, and a punctured
Officer Nicholas Landry had been following Delgado in his
police car during the pursuit. He went up to the SUV after
the collision, and found Pleitez on the passenger side with
her shoulders and torso wedged against the floorboard. She
was bleeding profusely. She was still breathing, and appeared
to be asking for help.
was transported to the hospital, but bled to death due to
multiple traumatic injuries, including a torn aorta and
bleeding in her brain. According to Dr. Louis Pena, a
forensic pathologist who performed an autopsy, Pleitez's
traumatic injuries were consistent with the impact from a car
accident. She also had injuries that were not caused by the
collision, including bruised, swollen, and bloody eyes, which
were consistent with being hit in the face with an object or
a fist or elbow. Pleitez's upper and lower lips were
bruised and torn, consistent with her being hit in the mouth.
She had a two and a half-inch cut on her left wrist that was
covered by a bandage. The cut was caused by a straight
object, and had marks indicating it could have been a suicide
attempt. She had a small amount of cocaine in her system.
Officer Kamaron Sardar, a drug recognition expert, examined
Minifie at the hospital. Sardar was unable to conduct field
sobriety tests because Minifie was restrained in a bed.
However, Sardar examined Minifie, and checked his blood
pressure and pulse rate. He observed that Minifie had a
white, powdery substance in his nostrils, and his nostril and
the septum dividing the two parts of his nose were red and
inflamed, consistent with snorting cocaine. Sarder also spoke
with officers at the scene who described Minifie as agitated
and aggressive, with fidgety behavior.
stated that cocaine use causes impairment of reaction time,
excitement, and agitation, and increases aggressiveness.
Based on Minifie's actions and his statements to Sarder
and to officers at the scene, Sardar opined that Minifie was
under the influence of and impaired by cocaine, but he was
not suffering from a cocaine overdose. Blood tests confirmed
that Minifie had ingested a “high” amount of
testified that her mother, Pleitez, was dating Minifie.
Pleitez often went out with Minifie at night, but she usually
returned home after seeing him. On February 15, 2012 Pleitez
went out, but did not return home. J.P. tried calling her,
but she did not answer. When J.P. got up at about 6:00 a.m.
the morning of February 16, she saw five or six missed calls
from Pleitez on her phone. Sometime between 6:18 and 6:30
a.m. J.P. called her mother back, and talked to her on the
phone. Pleitez sounded scared and spoke in
“code.” Pleitez told J.P. that Minifie had hit
her and that “her life was in [J.P.'s]
hands.” She asked J.P. to come with J.P.'s aunt to
pick her up. J.P. and her aunt went to Minifie's
apartment, but no one was there when they arrived.
The Defense Case
Terrence McGee, an expert in drug addiction, testified about
the effects of cocaine. He reviewed the results from the drug
tests given to Minifie at the hospital, and stated that
Minifie had ingested “an enormous amount of cocaine,
” which amount would cause a person to behave
irrationally and violently. Dr. McGee was asked a
hypothetical question about an individual evading the police
by driving recklessly at high speeds with officers pursuing
him, getting into a traffic collision, fleeing on foot, then
challenging the officers to a fight. Dr. McGee opined that if
this individual had ingested the amount of cocaine reflected
in Minifie's test results, he would have been clearly
under the influence of cocaine, which would have affected his
judgment and his ability to form an intent or plan to do
testified on his own behalf. He had been dating Pleitez for
around eight months. He loved her and they planned to get
married. However, they used to argue. He admitted he had four
convictions for crimes of “moral turpitude” over
the prior 11 years.
night of February 14, 2012 Minifie had taken Pleitez out to
dinner for Valentine's day. The following day he picked
her up at the car dealership in Studio City where she worked,
and took her back to his apartment. Pleitez left her car at
the dealership. Pleitez took a shower, and Minifie snorted
“a little bit” of cocaine. He used cocaine
regularly because it made him “high, ” and gave
her shower, Pleitez told Minifie that he should return the
wedding dress he had bought for her to wear at their wedding.
He was angry, but responded, “okay, whatever.” He
explained that Pleitez sometimes said things like that to get
a reaction out of him, so he acted like he did not care.
Pleitez then told Minifie that he should give the dress to
his friend Daisy. Minifie described Daisy as “just a
friend, ” but Pleitez was jealous of his relationship
with her. Minifie got mad and slapped Pleitez across the face
with his hand two or three times. In response, Pleitez picked
up a wine or champagne glass, and hit Minifie on the head.
then lay down on Minifie's bed, crying, and said she
wanted to kill herself. Minifie was still angry, so he told
her, “okay.” He went to the kitchen, got a knife,
and handed it to her. He said, “Here, go ahead.”
She took the knife and cut her left wrist open. Minifie was
shocked; there was a lot of blood. He took the knife from
Pleitez, and used napkins and tape to bandage her wrist. He
did not call 911 or take her to the hospital.
Minifie and Pleitez left his apartment, Pleitez called her
daughter, and spoke to her in Spanish. Minifie did not know
what she was saying. Minifie and Pleitez both snorted some
cocaine. Minifie then took Pleitez out for breakfast at
McDonald's. During the drive back to Minifie's
apartment, Pleitez got mad at Minifie because he had given
away two cases of makeup that he previously had in his car.
Minifie told Pleitez he gave the makeup to Daisy to sell, but
Pleitez began yelling at him that he was a liar. According to
Minifie, Pleitez got angry because she was jealous of Daisy.
decided to take Pleitez back to her car. They were at the
gate to Minifie's parking garage when Minifie told this
to Pleitez. Pleitez started acting “crazy” and
yelled at him. She got out of the car. Minifie also got out
of the car, grabbed Pleitez, and said, “Come on,
let's go. I'm taking you back to your car.”
They got back in the car, and Pleitez tried to rip the
bandage off her wrist, causing her wrist to bleed again. She
then got out of the car and said, “This is your
fault.” She was holding her wrist and trying to take
off the tape. This scared Minifie, and ...