Edsel P. v. Superior Court

Decision Date18 March 1985
Docket NumberNo. A027598,A027598
Citation211 Cal.Rptr. 869,165 Cal.App.3d 763
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
PartiesEDSEL P., a Minor, Petitioner, v. SUPERIOR COURT of the State of California For the County of Contra Costa, Respondent, PEOPLE of the State of California, Real Party in Interest.

Nella Bertin, San Francisco, for petitioner.

William A. O'Malley, Dist. Atty., Martinez, for respondent Contra Costa County.

John K. Van de Kamp, Atty. Gen., Thomas A. Brady, Cynthia Choy Ong, Deputy Atty. Gen., San Francisco, for real party in interest People of the State of California.

KLINE, Presiding Justice.

This case presents a due process challenge to application of the statutory presumption (Welf. & Inst.Code, § 707, subd. (c)) 1 that a minor alleged to have committed any of the serious offenses listed in subdivision (b) of section 707 is not a fit and proper subject to be dealt with under the juvenile court law. It is specifically asserted that when the minor challenges the sufficiency of the evidence that he committed a listed offense the presumption cannot be applied unless the prosecutor first establishes a prima facie case.

Petitioner, Edsel P., was 17 years old at the time of the commission of the offenses which led to the filing of a petition in the Juvenile Court of Contra Costa County on May 2, 1984. The petition, which alleged that Edsel came within the provisions of section 602, charged him with two counts of attempted murder (Pen.Code, §§ 6 64/187), and one count of assault with a firearm on a peace officer (Pen.Code, § 245(c).) It was further alleged that during the commission of the offense listed in Count I, petitioner was armed with a firearm within the meaning of Penal Code section 12022(a), and that during the commission of the offenses listed in Counts II and III, he used a firearm within the meaning of Penal Code section 12022.5.

On May 4, 1984, the People noticed a motion for a fitness hearing pursuant to section 707, subdivision (c), alleging that petitioner had been charged with criminal offenses among those enumerated in subdivision (b) of that section, that he was not a fit and proper subject to be dealt with under juvenile court law, and that he should therefore be tried as an adult.

Prior to the fitness hearing, a detention hearing was held on May 7, 1984. Neither of the alleged victims were present and the prosecution did not offer any other witnesses. After considering the views of the district attorney and defense counsel, the referee ordered petitioner detained pending the fitness hearing. The sole evidentiary basis for the order was a "Detention Warrant Information Sheet" prepared by the probation department, which was the only evidence received by the referee. As set forth in this one-page document, the probation department recommended that the minor be detained as it appeared there was "[a]n immediate and urgent necessity for the protection of the minor" and "a reasonable necessity for the protection of the person or property of another." 2

On May 17, 1984, petitioner filed an application for a detention rehearing alleging that the standards for detention of juveniles prescribed by section 635 had not been met, 3 that he had been denied his right to confront and cross-examine the probation and police officers who prepared reports on the case, and that the hearsay statements set forth in the reports were unauthenticated and unreliable. On the same day, petitioner filed a request for a probable cause hearing claiming that the prosecution had overcharged the case by alleging violations of offenses listed in section 707, subdivision (b), that were unjustified by the facts, and that this was done merely to trigger the presumption of unfitness prescribed in section 707, subdivision (c). 4

Petitioner maintained in his motion papers that this improper use of the statutory presumption denied him due process of law.

Hearings on petitioner's requests for a detention rehearing and a probable cause hearing were consolidated with the fitness hearing conducted by the juvenile court judge on May 22, 1984. At this hearing the court first addressed petitioner's request for a probable cause hearing. The court summed up petitioner's position as follows: "What [defense counsel] is alleging, I believe, is that there is no supporting basis whatsoever for the charges. The charges raise the presumption of unfitness, and the presumption is improperly raised, because the charge has no support." In response, the district attorney maintained that "there is absolutely no supporting law for this type of a [probable cause] motion. There is no statute that indicates that this is a proper procedure, and there is no case law that is cited by the moving party to have this type of a hearing, ... it is an attack on the executive authority of the District Attorney and his charging discretion, and there is no law to support this at all. All that has happened in the moving papers is that [defense counsel] has made an argument that she believes the charges are not supported, but the burden is on her to show the charges were not supported ..." In answer to this argument, the court noted that "[the] claim is not that section 707 requires a probable-cause determination, but that the section would be unconstitutional without such a requirement?" After considering further argument on the issue, the court finally stated, "I am not persuaded on this record that due process requires a probable-cause hearing concurrent with or prior to the fitness hearing in order to save section 707 from being declared unconstitutional; and, accordingly, the motion for a probable-cause hearing is denied." Reserving judgment on the remaining request for a detention rehearing, the court thereupon commenced the fitness hearing.

Four witnesses testified at the fitness hearing: Richard Birss, the probation officer assigned the case; Dr. Martin Fink, a licensed psychologist who testified for the minor, and the minor's mother and father.

The probation report, which was received in evidence, describes the circumstances of the offenses alleged to have been committed by petitioner essentially as follows:

At approximately 1:00 a.m. on the morning of May 1, 1984, Lelinda Garcia phoned the Contra Costa Sheriff's office reporting a prowler at her home in Rodeo. She described the prowler as an 18-year-old Filipino and said he had threatened her life. Deputy Sheriffs Nunes, Olivera and Gray arrived at the scene in about three minutes. Shortly thereafter, Deputy Nunes noticed what appeared to be a minor sitting in a Chevette parked nearby. The deputy approached the car, saw the minor fumbling with an object, and asked him what he was doing. Receiving no response, Nunes then saw a shotgun. When the minor failed to drop the weapon as directed, Deputy Nunes drew his service revolver and fired a shot, grazing the minor's right temple. Apparently, as he was struck, the minor fired one round from the shotgun, which inflicted no harm.

The minor was taken by ambulance to the hospital and given Miranda warnings en route by Deputy Gray. According to the probation report, Edsel waived his rights and stated to the deputy that he had been having an affair with Lelinda Garcia and that her husband, Peter, had learned of the relationship and threatened the minor. Edsel told the deputy that "he had to get Peter before Peter got him." According to the report, "[Edsel] stated that he took his brother's shotgun and drove his parents' car to the 300 block of 4th Street. [He] stated that he exited the car with the loaded shotgun and checked Linda's house. He said he was looking for an open window. [Edsel] was unable to get inside so he knocked on Linda's front door. [He] indicated that when he was confronted by Deputy Nunes he ( [the minor] ) was going to kill the officer, but the officer got the first shot. [Edsel] further stated that he had every intention of killing Peter Garcia if he could get inside the house."

The probation report also discloses that a "possible suicide letter" was found in the minor's pocket which stated as follows: " 'Dear Mom, Dad and the family: I love you all, I'm sorry I did this because I have too much problems in life. I don't want to give you any more problems, I love you all and I'm very sorry. Love Edsel.' "

Lelinda Garcia later stated to investigating detectives that at the time she contacted the sheriff's office she did not know the prowler was Edsel. She said she met Edsel the previous October and started seeing him in January. Denying that her husband knew about Edsel, she stated that Edsel had recently threatened her by saying that if she did not leave her husband, he (Edsel) would "get him."

Probation officer Birss states in his report that he "would not describe the offense as one with a great degree of criminal sophistication, but one where the minor used extremely unsound judgment [sic], was totally unrealistic, and bordered on lunacy. The minor armed himself with a shotgun, with a great degree of preparation, and he placed himself and others in great danger. In Edsel's own admission he indicated that he planned to kill [Peter] Garcia initially, and later the deputy sheriff when he approached Edsel in the Chevette. Edsel's letter to his parents found on his person could be interpreted as a death wish, which Edsel attempted to carry out by drawing the shotgun towards the sheriff's deputy."

The probation officer testified that all of the statements of fact he set forth in the probation report were made exclusively in reliance on unspecified police reports, and that he had not interviewed the victims or any other witnesses and had no independent knowledge of the events described. However, with respect to other considerations relevant to the determination of fitness, the probation officer did interview Edsel, his parents, and his older brother and sister. As a result of these interviews the...

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  • Bravo v. Superior Court
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    ...discretion, including murder as charged here. (§ 707, subd. (b).) 4. We reject petitioner's reliance on Edsel P v. Superior Court (1985) 165 Cal.App.3d 763, 211 Cal.Rptr. 869 as similarly misplaced. Edsel P. examined the practice of allowing a district attorney to prevent a trial court from......
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