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People v. Trout-Lacy

California Court of Appeals, Sixth District

December 13, 2019

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
TYRON JACOB TROUT-LACY, Defendant and Appellant.

          Santa Clara County Super. Ct. No. C1882419 Trial Judge: Honorable Matthew S. Harris

          Counsel for Plaintiff and Respondent: THE PEOPLE Xavier Becerra Attorney General Jeffrey M. Laurence Senior Assistant Attorney General René A. Chacón Supervising Deputy Attorney General Bruce L. Ortega Deputy Attorney General

          Counsel for Defendant and Appellant: TYRON JACOB TROUT-LACY Jennifer Bruno Sixth District Appellate Program People v.

          ELIA, ACTING P. J.

         Defendant Tyron Jacob Trout-Lacy and the victim, who was high on methamphetamine and had heart disease, fought. Defendant punched the victim in the face multiple times and slammed his head against the ground. A witness called 911 to attend to the victim's injuries. First responders restrained the uncooperative victim in an effort to render medical aid. Shortly thereafter, the victim became unresponsive and died. At issue on appeal is whether the trial court abused its discretion in concluding, in the context of a victim restitution order, that defendant's conduct caused the victim's death. We find no error and affirm.

         I. Background

         Late on the night of January 27, 2018, the victim and defendant got into a physical fight outside the San Jose home of a mutual friend. The victim reportedly had been using methamphetamine and had not slept in days. Defendant punched the victim in the face five times and slammed his head against the ground before leaving the scene. Emergency personnel arrived in response to a 911 call for medical assistance. They handcuffed the victim because he was uncooperative. Shortly after being restrained, the victim became unresponsive. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.

         An autopsy was conducted on the victim. According to the coroner's report, the autopsy revealed that the victim had “hypertensive (high blood pressure) changes of the heart, kidneys and brain[;] hypoxic-ischemic neuronal change in the hippocampus[;] fluid in the lungs[;] hepatitis[;] and hepatic fibrosis. Although abrasions and contusions were noted, there were no lethal traumatic injuries. The toxicology testing of postmortem blood revealed the presence of methamphetamine and its metabolite amphetamine.” The coroner identified the cause of death as “[m]ethamphetamine toxicity complicating hypertensive cardiovascular disease following and during physical encounters.” The report classified the manner of death as “undetermined” because the coroner was unable to determine “[t]he relative individual contributions of... the reported physical altercation [with defendant], physical restraint [by emergency personnel], presence of methamphetamine... in blood with underlying heart disease and evidence of recent... lack of oxygen....” to the victim's death.

         A felony complaint filed on January 31, 2018 charged defendant with murder (Pen. Code, § 187)[1] and alleged that he had a prior strike conviction (§§ 667, subd. (b) (i); 1170.12). On July 11, 2018, the complaint was amended on the People's motion to add a second count, assault by force likely to produce great bodily injury (§ 245, subd. (a)(4)), and an associated allegation that defendant personally inflicted great bodily injury on the victim (§ 12022.7, subd. (a)). That same day, defendant pleaded no contest to the newly added count 2 and admitted the great bodily injury and strike prior allegations in exchange for the dismissal of count 1 and a four-year prison term.

         The trial court sentenced defendant to the agreed-upon four-year term on September 7, 2018. The court imposed a term of four years on count 2-the low term of two years, doubled by the strike. The court struck the additional punishment associated with the great bodily injury enhancement pursuant to section 1385, subdivision (b)(1).

         The court held a restitution hearing on November 16, 2018, after which it ordered defendant to pay $4, 169.11-the amount of the victim's funeral expenses-in victim restitution. Defendant timely appealed from that order.

         II. Discussion

          A. Legal Principles and Standard of Review

         Except in circumstances not relevant here, “in every case in which a victim has suffered economic loss as a result of the defendant's conduct, the court shall require that the defendant make restitution to the victim or victims in an amount established by court order, based on the amount of loss claimed by the victim or victims or any other showing to the court....” (§ 1202.4, subd. (f).) We apply tort principles of causation to determine whether a loss was a result of the defendant's conduct. (People v. Holmberg (2011) 195 Cal.App.4th 1310, 1321 (Holmberg).) “Legal causation in tort law has traditionally required two elements....” (South Coast Framing, Inc. v. Workers' Comp. Appeals Bd. (2015) 61 Cal.4th 291, 298 (South Coast Framing).) The first is cause in fact. (Ibid.) “ ‘ “An act is a cause in fact if it is a necessary antecedent of an event.”' [Citation.]” (State Dept. of State Hospitals v. Superior Court (2015) 61 Cal.4th 339, 352 (State Hospitals).) “[T]he ‘but for' test governs questions of factual causation” except in cases involving concurrent independent causes, in which case the “substantial factor” test applies. (Id. at p. 352, fn. 12.) “[C]oncurrent independent causes... are multiple forces operating at the same time and ...

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