People v. Aranda

Citation407 P.2d 265,47 Cal.Rptr. 353,63 Cal.2d 518
Decision Date12 November 1965
Docket NumberCr. 9078
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Parties, 407 P.2d 265 The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. John Mark ARANDA and Henry Ruiz Martinez, Defendants and Appellants.

Caryl Warner and Charles Hamel, Los Angeles, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for defendants and appellants.

Stanley Mosk and Thomas C. Lynch, Atty. Gen., William E. James, Asst. Atty. Gen., and George J. Roth, Deputy Atty. Gen., for plaintiff and respondent.

TRAYNOR, Chief Justice.

Defendants appeal from judgments of conviction entered after a jury found them guilty of robbery in the first degree. (Pen.Code, § 211a.)

About 4:30 p.m., July 10, 1962, Louis Luna was watching television with Betty Holbrook in the back room of his jewelry store on North Main Street in Los Angeles. Luna heard the door buzzer and went into the front room of the store where he saw two men. One was holding what appeared to be a nickel-plated .25 caliber automatic in one hand and a lunch box in the other. The gunman ordered Luna to 'put the money in the box,' and when Luna replied that he had none, the man told him to give him his keys. He then took Luna into the back room, tied his hands with a piece of cord, and forced him to lie face down on the floor. He ordered Miss Holbrook to face the wall and then returned to the front of the store.

At this juncture, Alex Salgado entered the shop to have his watch repaired. He saw the back of one man by the open safe and another man holding what he thought was a .38 or a .45 caliber gun. Salgado could see only the gunman's face since his body was hidden by the safe. The latter pointed the gun at Salgado and spoke to him, and Salgado left, went across the street, and called the police.

Police officers found two fingerprints, later identified as those of defendant Martinez, on a black box containing a lighter. The men had taken money, new jewelry, several customers' watches, and a Smith and Wesson gun.

About week later at approximately 2:30 a.m. Police Officer Collier and his partner saw Martinez walking along Emma Street. Officer Collier knew Martinez and offered him a ride, which he accepted. Martinez said that he was going to defendant Aranda's apartment. The officers let him out of the car at Lincoln Park Avenue and watched where he went. They followed him to Aranda's apartment, where they arrested both defendants. Officer Collier told Martinez that he had been identified as one of the perpetrators of an armed robbery.

In a later search of Aranda's apartment, which he shared with his mother, the police found three .25 caliber shells in a bedroom. The gun used in the robbery was never found.

Luna was not able to make more than a tentative identification of Martinez either at the police lineup or at the trial. The only other evidence against Martinez was his fingerprints and a confession that he made after a series of interrogation sessions with the police on July 17, the day of his arrest. Officer Becker testified that Martinez voluntarily confessed that he and Aranda committed the robbery. 1 Officer Becker, who was alone with Martinez at the time, made notes of the conversation but he neither made a tape recording of it nor had Martinez sign a confession.

Martinez testified on his own behalf and denied committing the robbery or making a confession to the police. To explain the fingerprints in Luna's office, he testified that he had gone to the shop on several occasions before the robbery and once while looking for a gift for his cousin, had handled the lighter and the box on which his fingerprints were found.

At the time of Martinez's confession, the investigation into the robbery had ceased to be a general inquiry into an unsolved crime and had focused on him and Aranda. Martinez had been taken into custody and was being interrogated for the purpose of eliciting incriminating statements. Nothing in the record indicates that he had been advised of his rights to counsel and to remain silent or that he had waived those rights. Under such circumstances the confession obtained was inadmissible by virtue of the decision of the United States Supreme Court in Escobedo v. State of Illinois, 378 U.S. 478, 84 S.Ct. 1758, 12 L.Ed.2d 977. (People v. Bilderbach, 62 Cal.2d 757, 761-762, 44 Cal.Rptr. 313, 401 P.2d 921; People v. Lilliock, 62 Cal.2d 618, 621-622, 43 Cal.Rptr. 699, 401 P.2d 4; People v. Stewart, 62 Cal.2d 571, 576-581, 43 Cal.Rptr. 201, 400 P.2d 97; People v. Dorado, 62 Cal.2d 338, 42 Cal.Rptr. 169, 398 P.2d 361.) Since this case was tried before the Escobedo decision, Martinez's failure to object to the admission of the confession into evidence does not preclude his raising the question on appeal. (People v. Davis, 62 Cal.2d 791, 796, 44 Cal.Rptr. 454, 402 P.2d 142; People v. Hillery, 62 Cal.2d 692, 711, 44 Cal.Rptr. 30, 401 P.2d 382.) The judgment against defendant Martinez must therefore be reversed.

On the day that defendant Aranda was arrested, Luna and Salgado identified him at a police lineup as one of the robbers. Both men repeated their identification at the trial. 2 Luna also stated that the cord used to tie him smelled of perfume. Aranda testified in his own behalf and denied committing the robbery. He had never owned a .25 caliber nickel-plated automatic gun and had never seen the bullets found in his apartment. His mother, however, picked up a great many things and left them all over the house. He was at Chaleco's Bar late in the afternoon of the day of the robbery where he met Miss Holbrook, with whom he was slightly acquainted. They left the bar sometime after 8 p.m. to visit Miss Holbrook's boy friend, Luna. On a corner opposite the jewelry store, they met Luna and stopped to talk to him. Luna pointed out the store to Aranda, which was the first time that Aranda saw it. While the three were talking, a police officer came by and called defendant and Miss Holbrook aside to talk to them. 3

On rebuttal the prosecution called Aranda's mother, who testified that she had not brought the bullets into the house or seen them there. Aranda was also impeached by evidence of three prior felony convictions and testimony of a police officer that on the day of his arrest Aranda denied knowing where the Luna jewelry store was located.

Aranda contends that the error in admitting Martinez's confession into evidence was also prejudicial to him. The Attorney General contends that the error did not prejudice Aranda on the ground that the trial court instructed the jury on several occasions that the confession was to be considered as evidence only against Martinez, the declarant. To hold otherwise, he asserts, would be inconsistent with the rule permitting joint trials in such cases.

This court has consistently held that a joint trial is permissible under Penal Code section 1098 even though the prosecution has obtained a confession from one defendant inculpating both defendants and intends to introduce that confession into evidence (e.g., People v. Ketchel, 59 Cal.2d 503, 532-533, 30 Cal.Rptr. 538, 381 P.2d 394; People v. Turville, 51 Cal.2d 620, 636, 335 P.2d 678; People v. Perry, 195 Cal. 623, 633, 234 P. 890). The rationale of these cases is that a jury will comprehend and apply instructions to limit the effect of a confession to the particular declarant. (See People v. Pike, 58 Cal.2d 70, 85, 22 Cal.Rptr. 664, 372 P.2d 656; People v. Chavez, 50 Cal.2d 778, 790, 329 P.2d 907; People v. Isby, 30 Cal.2d 879, 897, 186 P.2d 405.) In the absence of a showing of some positive act of misconduct it is presumed that the members of the jury performed their duties with fidelity to their oaths and that they obeyed the admonitions of the judge. (See People v. Turville, 51 Cal.2d 620, 636, 335 P.2d 678; People v. Santo, 43 Cal.2d 319, 332, 273 P.2d 249; People v. Kramer, 117 Cal. 647, 649-650, 49 P. 842.)

In Delli Paoli v. United States, 352 U.S. 232, 77 S.Ct. 294, 1 L.Ed.2d 278, the Supreme Court of the United States approved this rule in joint trials in the federal courts. In justifying its decision, the court said: 'It is a basic premise of our jury system that the court states the law to the jury and that the jury applies that law to the facts as the jury finds them. Unless we proceed on the basis that the jury will follow the court's instructions where those instructions are clear and the circumstances are such that the jury can reasonably be expected to follow them, the jury system makes little sense.' (P. 242, 77 S.Ct. p. 330.)

To some judges, however, the procedure cannot be justified. It 'results in serious impairment of the rights of an accused to a fair consideration by an impartial jury of the competent evidence produced against him.' (People v. Fisher, 249 N.Y. 419, 428, 164 N.E. 336, 339 (Lehman, J., dissenting); see People v. Buckminster, 274 Ill. 435, 446-448, 113 N.E. 713, 715-716; United States v. Delli Paoli (2d Cir.) 229 F.2d 319, 322 (Frank, J., dissenting).) It is a 'fiction' and a 'naive assumption' about the way juries can function. (See Krulewitch v. United States, 336 U.S. 440, 453, 69 S.Ct. 716, 93 L.Ed. 790 (Jackson, J., concurring); People v. Chambers, 231 Cal.App.2d 23, 33, 41 Cal.Rptr. 551.) The rule calls upon the jury to perform 'a mental gymnastic which is beyond, not only their powers, but anybody's else.' (Nash v. United States (2d Cir.) 54 F.2d 1006, 1007; see Meltzer, Involuntary Confessions: The Allocation of Responsibility between Judge and Jury, 21 U.Chi.L.Rev. (1954) 317, 326.) Writing for the four dissenters in Delli Paoli v. United States, 352 U.S. 232, 77 S.Ct. 294, 1 L.Ed.2d 278, Justice Frankfurter stated: 'The fact of the matter is that too often such admonition against misuse is intrinsically ineffective in that the effect of such a nonadmissible declaration cannot be wiped from the brains of the jurors. The admonition therefore becomes a futile collocation of words and fails of its purpose as...

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