People v. Boji

Decision Date26 October 2020
Docket NumberE071285
PartiesTHE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. HOUSTON MICHAEL BOJI, Defendant and Appellant.
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals


California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.


APPEAL from the Superior Court of Riverside County. Samuel Diaz, Jr., Judge. Affirmed.

Wallin & Klarich and Stephen D. Klarich for Defendant and Appellant.

Xavier Becerra, Attorney General, Lance E. Winters, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Julie L. Garland, Assistant Attorney General, Michael P. Pulos and Joseph C. Anagnos, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

Defendant, Houston Michael Boji, went to the home of his friend, Nicholas M., with his father's shotgun. While there, defendant shot Nicholas, but he gave several inconsistent versions of what transpired leading up the shooting, which resulted in Nicholas's death. Defendant was charged with murder. (Pen. Code, §187, subd. (a).)1 It was further alleged that in committing the murder, he intentionally and personally discharged a firearm causing death or great bodily injury. (§ 12022.53, subd. (d).) Following a jury trial, the jury found defendant guilty of second degree murder and made a true finding on the gun discharge enhancement. Defendant appealed.

On appeal, defendant argues (a) the admissibility of statements he made to officers outside Nicholas's residence without Miranda2 advisement; (b) the admissibility of his statements given at the police station as being involuntary; (c) the trial court ruling on the relevance of the victim's mental health; (d) the admissibility of a law enforcement officer's opinion on the sincerity of defendant's emotional display at the scene of the shooting; (e) the trial court's ruling allowing law enforcement witnesses to refer to the location where Nicholas died as a "crime scene"; (f) the trial court's ruling limiting his cross-examination of a prosecution witness comparing the percentage of all the text messages to the number of messages in which defendant made threats to the victim; (g) the prosecutor committed misconduct during closing argument; and (h) the cumulative effect of the errors deprived defendant of a fair trial. We affirm.


Defendant and Nicholas McCauley were best friends. Nicholas's mother, Ana McCauley, considered defendant to be like a second son. Defendant was permitted to come to the residence when she was not there because she cared for and trusted him. Defendant confided in Ana and asked her how she felt about homosexuality. Ana told defendant she would have no problem if Nicholas were gay, she would love him regardless. Defendant told her that his father would kill him. Ana did not observe anything that indicated defendant had romantic feelings for Nicholas. Instead, she thought both Nicholas and defendant had girlfriends.

Ana was aware of only one occasion when Nicholas went to a shooting range with the defendant and his father. She did not allow defendant to bring guns into her home because Nicholas was bipolar, and she had told defendant previously not to bring firearms into her house.

Ana had access to some text messages sent to Nicholas during a time when she had taken his phone away from him and allowed him to use hers. She also had access to instant messages sent to her son. Defendant had sent the messages through his iPhone's instant messenger, not realizing that Nicholas had been forced to use his mother's cell phone when his own phone privileges had been restricted. Although Ana could not receive text messages sent to Nicholas's cell phone, if someone sent an instant message, it would show up on her phone because they were on a shared plan.

In one such message, defendant stated he would find Nicholas "and make you my bitch." Ana was concerned about the messages and spoke to Nicholas about them, but she did not talk to defendant about them and Nicholas said not to worry because he was no longer friends with defendant.

On November 10, 2015, when Nicholas's mother left for her teaching job at about 8:10 or 8:15 a.m., Nicholas was still asleep in his room. As she drove away, she saw defendant's car on the other side of the block. However, she thought perhaps her neighbor had bought a new car.

By 8:30 that morning, Gabriella Miller, a neighbor of the McCauley's, saw a man running back and forth, yelling, "Help, my friend's been shot. Call the police."

Another neighbor, Fernando Juarez, on whose door defendant had banged, heard defendant yelling for help. This neighbor followed defendant into the house where defendant's friend was, saw the victim and called the police. When they went into the bedroom, defendant sat by the victim and cried like someone who has lost a brother, loud and uncontrollably. Defendant told Juarez he thought the victim had shot himself, repeating it two or three times.

Juarez saw the victim's body on the ground and a shotgun on the bed, along with two shells about a foot away. Juarez is familiar with guns and immediately realized it was a shotgun. When he called 911, Juarez reported what defendant had said about the victim shooting himself.

Sheriff's Deputy White was on patrol at 8:37 a.m. when he was dispatched to the victim's residence after the 911 call had been made. He contacted defendant, who was covered in blood as well as some flesh; defendant's zipper was down. Deputy White entered the residence with defendant who approached the victim and appeared ready to begin to do chest compressions. The deputy told defendant to stop and instructed defendant not to touch anything. The deputy led defendant outside the residence. By this time, other officers were on the scene so Deputy White asked them to watch defendant while the deputy escorted the medical personnel into the residence. The deputy described defendant as being visibly distressed.

Deputy White observed several shotgun shells in the bedroom: one was under the bed, near the victim's left leg; one was on the box spring where the mattress was a little displaced; an expended casing was in the victim's right armpit area.

Sheriff's Deputy Kurylowicz was also dispatched to the victim's address at about 8:30 a.m., and arrived at the scene of the shooting, where he saw defendant sitting outside on the curb, covered with blood. The deputy went inside the residence where he saw the victim laying on the ground having been shot. The shotgun was in a black case but was not on the bed; it was on top of the dresser. The house was sealed. The deputy noticed an unspent shotgun shell in the area of the victim's armpit.

Outside, Deputy Kurylowicz spoke to defendant for about 15 or 20 minutes, and the interview was taped. Defendant was emotional during the interview but did not seemtoo convincing to the deputy. Additional information about defendant's statement to the deputy will be set out as necessary in the Discussion section.

In the meantime, other sheriff's deputies walked through and photographed the crime scene, identifying items of evidence. There were shotgun pellets and blood on top of the bed. The gun, a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun was on the dresser in a soft case. There was ammunition in the side saddle of the gun case, and blood smears throughout the house, on the walls in the hallway, and in the kitchen on appliances. Deputies recovered a total of six live shells on and under the bed, near the dresser and near the victim's leg. One spent round was located right next to the victim. The victim's cell phone was also found and logged into evidence.

An investigator assigned to the Technology Crime High-Tech Response Team extracted information from three devices: a ZTE cellular device,3 a Nokia device and an Apple iPhone. Defendant's father had identified the iPhone as belonging to defendant; it had been found in defendant's bedroom. Defendant's contact information was found on the ZTE device.

Among other messages found on the ZTE phone was a text message sent by defendant on November 6, 2015, saying, "Bro, you gave me a cole [sic] sore. My upper mouth region hurts." Later on that date, defendant texted, "Ima [sic] shoot you, I swear." Still later that same date, defendant texted, "Ok. You shut your phone off—shut your phone of. [sic] Idc, but I'm serious, I will shoot you when I see you, mother fucker."Messages sent on November 8, 2015 included the message in which defendant stated, "I make you my bitch,", and a subsequent message sent a few minutes later stating, "I will slowly take over your sole [sic]," followed by another message stating, "I am the sole eater, but be out Jacks @ 11:00." The phone number of the iPhone, as well as messages on that device, corresponded with the phone number and messages found on the ZTE device.

The autopsy of Nicholas revealed a gunshot wound on his right arm near the elbow, which was gaping; the wound had scalloped edges with destruction to the underlying tissues. The humerus was shattered just above the entrance wound and there was wadding from the shotgun shell in the right arm. Because wadding starts to fall off by 8 to 10 feet, the gun was fired from no more than 5 or 6 feet away.

There were six defects on the inside of the right upper arm that corresponded with five similar defects on the right lateral chest wall, where five shotgun pellets were retrieved, indicating that the pellets exited the arm and entered the chest. Some pellets traveled in the chest area, fracturing some ribs, damaging the lung and the upper chambers of the heart, hitting the aorta in two places and creating a defect in the left lung. Death was caused when a pellet traveled through the heart.

Based on trajectory, the shot...

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