Monday, October 29, 2018
Court of Appeal:
Lie Elicited by Police Was Improperly Admitted Into Evidence
Conviction for Attempted Murder Is Reversed
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Sixth District Court of Appeal has reversed a conviction for attempted murder and shooting from a motor vehicle because the defendant’s post-arrest statement to police at his workplace, before he was Mirandized, that his wife dropped him off that day was admitted into evidence, allowing the prosecution to point to his mendacity in light of police finding a key in his pocket which they found started an automobile in the parking lot.
Justice Franklin D. Elia wrote the opinion, filed Thursday and not certified for publication. He rejected the notion stated by Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Daniel Nishigaya that questioning by the officer amounted merely to soliciting “routine identifying information.”
The victim had told police that he had been shot at by Gerardo Aboytes Madriz Jr.—with whom he was well acquainted—from a black Saturn or Subaru.
Elia recited the arguments of the Office of Attorney General that the query as to how Madriz got to work served “basic identification purposes” because “the presence of a vehicle among other things implied a driver’s license,” and officers needed “to ensure defendant was the subject of the arrest warrant (he did not appear to be associated with a Saturn or Subaru).”
Defies Common Sense
The jurist commented:
“The record and common sense contradict these claims.”
He said police, having searched Madriz, “likely already knew whether he had a driver’s license on his person” but, “[i]n any event, the idea that they would have attempted to locate defendant’s driver’s license by asking how he got to work that day is, at best, implausible.”
Elia noted that the car key in Madriz’s pocket had a Nissan emblem on it and the car it started was a Nissan. He remarked:
“If officers in fact believed they needed to link defendant to a Saturn or a Subaru to identify him as the subject of the arrest warrant, then, upon discovering the Nissan, they would have released him. That they did not do so establishes officers were not asking about defendant’s mode of transportation to confirm that he was their man.”
The question posed to Madriz was improper prior a rendition of the Miranda warning because, he said, because police should have realized it was apt to result in an incriminating statement.
Not Harmless Error
Elia also spurned the argument of the Attorney General’s Office that any error was harmless because it “admitted nothing about a crime” and in no way led to the police finding a gun in the Nissan.
“[T]these arguments,” he said, “ignore the reason the statement was damaging to the defense—as the prosecutor argued forcefully in his closing argument, jurors could consider defendant’s apparent lie as evidence of consciousness of guilt.”
The prosecutor told jurors that Madriz’s “false statement” to police was “critical” in deciding whether he the defendant was guilty, Elia noted, observing:
“In the context of this case, it may well have been the deciding factor.”
The case is People v. Madriz, H044665.
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