People v. Coffey

Decision Date28 July 1967
Docket NumberCr. 10930
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court
Parties, 430 P.2d 15 The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Odie Willard COFFEY, Defendant and Appellant. In Bank

Wiener & Weiss and Robert A. Chrisman, Covina, for defendant and appellant.

Thomas C. Lynch, Atty. Gen., William E. James, Asst. Atty. Gen., and Richard H. Cooper, Deputy Atty. Gen., for plaintiff and respondent.

SULLIVAN, Justice.

Defendant was charged by information with four counts of assault with intent to commit murder (Pen.Code, § 217); with four counts of assault with a deadly weapon upon the person of a police officer (Pen.Code, § 245, subd. (b)); with being armed at the time of said offenses with a pistol capable of being concealed upon the person without having a license to carry such pistol (see Pen.Code, § 12022); 1 and with having suffered a prior felony conviction in the State of Oklahoma.

At trial the prosecution produced substantial enidence to the following effect: On Saturday, October 31, 1964, about 5:30 p.m. Officers Norenberg and Martin of the Anaheim Police Department went to the home of defendant to question him about an alleged misdemeanor hit-run violation. Failing to see the vehicle reported to them as belonging to Coffey, the officers parked about a block away and waited. About 6 p.m. defendant drove up in a car answering the description given the police. The officers activated the red lights on their patrol car and followed defendant who parked in the driveway, emerged from the automobile, and started toward the door of his home.

Officer Norenberg called to defendant that they would like to speak to him. Defendant, ignoring the call, entered his home and closed the door. The officers walked up to the door and knocked upon it several times. Finally defendant's wife opened the door and asked what they wanted. Officer Norenberg then replied, 'We would like to speak to the man who was driving this car.' Mrs. Coffey inquired as to the purpose of their visit. At this point defendant himself appeared and told the officers that he would not speak to them unless they had an arrest warrant. Officer Norenberg replied 'that we could come in there and take him out, if need be.' Defendant disappeared into a room in the house and returned almost immediately with two pistols. Pointing them at the officers, who were standing on the steps, he told them to leave his property unless they had a warrant for his arrest. The officers began to withdraw, and as they did so defendant 'started shooting.' Officer Martin 'felt some debris hit (him) in the face' but he and Officer Norenberg retreated unhurt to their patrol car and called for assistance. 2

Support arrived almost immediately and a rather extended seige was laid to the Coffey residence by some 26 officers who proceeded to force defendant's surrender with tear gas. At one point defendant appeared on the back patio of his house carrying a pistol, whereupon Officer Thompson, stationed in this area, called out to him, 'Drop your gun and raise your hands.' In response defendant fired several shots at Officer Thompson and at Officer Wilcox standing nearby. Wilcox returned defendant's fire as the latter again withdrew into the house.

A short time later, after the police had begun to lob tear gas into the house, defendant began crawling out of a window. He appeared to have a weapon in his hand and Officer Wilcox called out to him to drop it and place his hands on his head. Defendant crawled back inside and fired several shots at Officer Wilcox and two other officers. Defendant was finally overcome by officers who entered the house with gas masks. In the final struggle, he received a superficial scalp wound; no officers were hurt.

Of the eight counts charged in the information four related to Officers Norenberg and Martin (2 counts, § 217; 2 counts, § 245, subd. (b)). The remaining four counts, charging the same crimes, related to Officers Thompson and Wilcox.

Defendant pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity to the offenses charged. He stood mute as to the allegation of being armed with an unlicensed concealable weapon, and it was stipulated that he therefore denied that allegation. He also denied the prior conviction.

Before the date set for trial defendant moved that the portion of the information charging him with a prior conviction be stricken on the ground that he had been denied his constitutional right to the assistance of counsel in the proceedings leading to that conviction. Filed in support of the motion was the sworn declaration of defendant's attorney, which set forth the minute entry reflecting defendant's arraignment on the 1949 charge 3 and summarized further proceedings wherein defendant, in propria persona, entered a plea of guilty and was sentenced to the state prison for five years. 4 In support of the motion defendant filed points and authorities which stated that he 'was indigent at the time of his plea,' that he 'did not understand his right to counsel,' and that he 'did not clearly and expressly and intelligently waive his right to counsel.' 5 Pursuant to stipulation the motion was placed off calendar, reserving to defendant the right to renew it at trial.

On the morning of the trial, and prior to its commencement, the motion was heard in the judge's chambers without a reporter. Though the proceedings at that time are therefore not set forth in the trial transcript, the court's ruling is recited in the minutes: 'The Court denies the motion without a hearing on grounds that under California law, no such motion can be entertained as it is irregular (People v. Sullivan, 206 Cal.App.2d 36 at p. 44, 23 Cal.Rptr. 558).' The reporter's transcript indicates that this ruling was based on the lack of statutory authority for such a motion.

Upon denial of the motion, the court asked defendant whether he would like to admit the prior, which he had earlier denied. Counsel for defendant replied as follows: 'We want to admit it reserving the right to pursue whatever remedy is available on the motion heretofore heard by the Court with respect to striking the priors (sic).' The court thereupon stated: 'The record will so indicate that you are now admitting the prior, but that it is not a waiver of any rights that you have on motions heretofore made in denying this or otherwise attack the validity of this prior.' Defendant then, upon advice of counsel, admitted the prior conviction.

In the course of the trial defendant testified in his own behalf. Upon cross-examination he was asked whether he had been convicted of a felony, and his counsel promptly objected: '* * * I would like to rephrase the objection we originally made on this particular matter for the purposes of the record that we might refer to.' The court asked whether counsel would like to 'incorporate by reference.' Counsel replied in the affirmative, and the court overruled the objection. Defendant then admitted that he had been convicted of larceny sixteen years before in Oklahoma. In response to further questions, by which the prosecutor apparently sought to establish that defendant harbored some animosity toward police officers in general, defendant represented that he had been 'railroaded' in the proceedings leading to the Oklahoma conviction.

The jury found defendant not guilty of the charges set out in counts 1 and 2 of the information (assault with intent to commit murder upon Officers Thompson and Wilcox). Defendant was found guilty of the charges set out in counts 3 and 4 of the information (assault with intent to commit murder upon Officers Norenberg and Martin) and it was also found that at the time of committing These offenses (i.e., counts 3 and 4) defendant 'was armed with a pistol capable of being concealed upon the person, without having a license or permit to carry such firearm.' Defendant was also found guilty of the charges set out in counts 5 to 8 (assault with a deadly weapon upon the persons of all four officers named in the first four counts). Having waived trial by jury on the insanity defense, defendant was found by the court to have been sane at the time of the offenses and at the time of trial.

Defendant made a motion for a new trial, the grounds of which do not appear in the instant record. At his request the hearing on the motion was advanced, whereupon the following took place:

'MR. COLLINS (Attorney for defendant): * * * The Court is familiar with the situation here. I believe the People have a motion which will issue to Part Four, Title Two, Chapter--

'MR. ENRIGHT (Deputy District Attorney): Yes, your Honor, People wish at this time to strike the allegations of the Deadly Weapons Section, where there was a separate finding on the 12022. 6

'THE COURT: The motion has been read, and let it be stricken from the record, and the judgment entered, then.

'MR. COLLINS: Waive any further time your Honor, and request sentence at this time.'

After further colloquy between court and counsel, defendant's counsel withdrew his motion for a new trial and the court imposed sentence on count 5 (assault with a deadly weapon upon Officer Thompson) and suspended imposition of sentence on all other counts. 7 It appears that the court at the time of pronouncing sentence or shortly thereafter, purported to amend the information on its face in accordance with the above-mentioned motion of the district attorney. We have set forth the information as amended in the footnote. 8

The minutes of the court reflect the motion of the district attorney, the amendment of the information, and the rendition of judgment, in the following language: 'Motion by the People to strike the deadly weapon section. Motion granted. The information was amended by striking 'deadly weapon' and inserting the words 'dangerous weapon.' The motion for a new trial is withdrawn. No legal cause appearing why judgment should not...

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