Tuesday, November 30, 2010
C.A. Affirms Conviction in 13-Year-Old Carson Robbery-Murder
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district has affirmed the second conviction of one of two men tried for a 1997 Carson murder, after having reversed the original conviction seven years ago.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell, sitting on assignment in Div. Eight, Wednesday rejected a claim of instructional error at Eleazar De Santiago’s second trial for the murder of Charlie Yim.
Yim was shot twice in the parking lot of his business, Village Liquor. Yim, who provided a check cashing service at the store and was carrying $24,000 in a bag, was returning from the bank when he was shot.
The bag was taken, and witnesses suggested that the robbers may have been two Hispanic men who traveled to the store in a red car and entered it an hour or two before the shooting. Police found a red Honda in the area, with its license plate bent in a way that made the number difficult to read, and found gloves and other evidence inside suggesting the occupants may have been involved in a robbery.
The lifted a number of fingerprints, which were later identified as belonging to De Santiago and Francisco Marin. The two were arrested and placed in the back of a patrol car, where their conversation was recorded.
Marin referred in that conversation to a robbery and murder at a store, even though the police said they told the men only that they were charged with murder and never mentioned a robbery or a store. They also found $2,700 in $100 bills in a search of the home of De Santiago’s uncle, who claimed the money came in part from his employer and in part from his mother, but no documentation was provided.
The defense argued that the crime may have been committed by a man named Pablo Hernandez, who was a suspect in other liquor store robberies, was living with De Santiago’s half sister at the time of the Village Liquor robbery, allegedly owned a red car, and was arrested while possibly planning to rob another Carson liquor store a few months later.
The defense noted that at the time of his arrest, there were two Motorola two-way radios in the car, similar to a radio found in the car from which De Santiago’s prints were lifted.
De Santiago and Marin’s original convictions for first degree murder, with a r and second degree robbery were thrown out in 2003 because a defense expert was improperly excluded. The second jury in De Santiago’s trial reached the same verdicts.
On appeal, De Santiago’s court-appointed attorney, Eric R. Larson, argued that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Bob Bowers committed reversible error by rejecting the defendant’s proposed instruction on third party culpability.
The proposed instruction read:
“Defendant has introduced evidence to show that some other persons committed the charged offenses. The prosecution has the burden of establishing beyond a reasonable doubt that it was the defendant who committed the charged offense.
If after consideration of all the evidence, you have a reasonable doubt that the defendant was the person who committed the charged offense, you must find the defendant not guilty.”
O’Connell, in her unpublished opinion for the Court of Appeal, said the proposed instruction was unnecessary and duplicative of the standard instructions on burden of proof, reasonable doubt, and identity.
A pinpoint instruction on third-party culpability, O’Connell elaborated, is only necessary where the third party is actually linked to the crime. Here, the defense evidence showed at most that Hernandez may have planned or committed similar crimes, and nothing linked him to the Village Liquor robbery and murder, the jurist said, whereas there was a good deal of evidence, including his own statements, tying De Santiago to the robbery and shooting of Yim.
Bowers told the jury all they needed to know about the defense theory by explaining that the prosecution bore the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that De Santiago, not Hernandez or his associates, committed the robbery and murder, O’Connell said.
O’Connell did, however, identify a couple of sentencing errors, saying the trial judge erroneously denied presentence conduct credit, based on a law enacted after the murder took place, and imposed a parole revocation fine that does not apply because De Santiago was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Deputy Attorneys General Roberta L. Davis and Marc A. Kohm represented the state on appeal.
The case is People v. De Santiago, B220070.
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company