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People v. Bernal

California Court of Appeals, Sixth District

December 5, 2019

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
RAMON HERNANDEZ BERNAL, JR., Defendant and Appellant.

          Monterey County Superior Court, Case No. SS161881 Hon. Andrew G. Liu Trial Judge

          Attorneys for Plaintiff/Respondent: The People XAVIER BECERRA Attorney General of California GERALD A. ENGLER Chief Assistant Attorney General JEFFREY M. LAURENCE Senior Assistant Attorney General ERIC D. SHARE Supervising Deputy Attorney General ALISHA M. CARLILE Deputy Attorney General

          Attorneys for Defendant/Appellant: Ramon Hernandez Bernal, Jr. Frank J. McCabe

          Grover, J.

         A jury convicted defendant Ramon Bernal, Jr. of 10 offenses, including residential burglary and assault with a deadly weapon. Because of his criminal record he was sentenced under the three strikes law to 85 years to life in prison. Defendant contends his constitutional rights were violated when his attorney conceded guilt on certain charges in closing argument. He further contends there is insufficient evidence to support two of his convictions, and that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance. He also challenges his sentence. We find no error but will remand for resentencing so the trial court can exercise its discretion regarding prior conviction enhancements under Penal Code section 667, subdivision (a) (mandatory at the time of sentencing but now discretionary).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Defendant committed home and auto burglaries in Monterey County throughout 2016. In March of that year he broke into a house and stole jewelry, computers, wallets, a camera and other belongings, including children's piggy banks. Security cameras captured him on video ransacking the home.

         In June, defendant broke into a car parked in a home driveway, which a neighbor witnessed and reported to 911. When defendant was arrested later that day, he had in his possession the items taken from the car, as well as other stolen property. Defendant was released on bail.

         In August, a local business owner reported stolen from his car two briefcases containing computers, cash, and credit cards. Purchases were made with the credit cards, including one of over $500 at a nearby grocery store. Security video from the store showed defendant making that purchase.

         In October, a man with his fiancée and newborn baby returned to their car in a supermarket parking lot to find defendant inside, rifling through the center console. The man grabbed defendant, told him to empty his pockets, then blocked his path when he tried to leave. Defendant took out a folding knife, displayed it and asked, “Do you want to do this?” Defendant then fled to his car and drove away. He was arrested a week later and again released on bail. Days later, a woman returned to her car after shopping and noticed several things missing that had been inside, including her work identification badge and a personal check. The badge and check were found in defendant's pocket when he was arrested later that day on a warrant from the August incident. He was again released on bail.

         In December, defendant broke into two more cars: one in a shopping center parking lot and another outside a gym. From the car outside the gym he stole a wedding ring and other jewelry. Three days before Christmas, police obtained a warrant to search defendant's apartment for stolen property. When the warrant was executed, defendant was there with his girlfriend and two children--a six-year-old and a one-month-old. Along with jewelry, multiple driver's licenses, and numerous other stolen items, police found two methamphetamine pipes; one in a bathroom drawer showed signs of recent use.

         The District Attorney charged defendant with residential burglary (Pen. Code, § 459); identity theft (Pen. Code, § 530.5, subd. (a)); assault with a deadly weapon (Pen. Code, § 245, subd. (a)(1)); three counts of auto burglary (Pen. Code, § 459); tampering with a vehicle (Veh. Code, § 10852); two counts of receiving stolen property (Pen. Code, § 496, subd. (a)); and child endangerment (Pen. Code, § 273a, subd. (b)). The information also alleged two prior serious felonies (Pen. Code, §§ 667, subd. (a)(1), 1170.12, subd. (c)(2)), prior prison terms (Pen. Code, § 667.5, subd. (b)), and committing new offenses while released on bail (Pen. Code, § 12022.1, subd. (b)). The case was tried to a jury and defendant was convicted of all charges. In a bifurcated phase, the court found true all special allegations.

         Defendant moved at sentencing to strike the two prior strikes under People v. Superior Court (Romero) (1996) 13 Cal.4th 497. The trial court denied the motion, finding that “the defendant's record is simply too significant, and the unrelenting behavior that's present in this case is also too significant for the Court to say that this is outside the spirit of the Three Strikes Law.” Because of the two prior strike offenses, defendant was sentenced to 85 years to life: 35 years to life for the residential burglary with two prior serious felony enhancements; a fully consecutive ...

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