People v. Duran

Citation16 Cal.3d 282,90 A.L.R.3d 1,127 Cal.Rptr. 618,545 P.2d 1322
Decision Date27 February 1976
Docket NumberCr. 18573
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court
Parties, 545 P.2d 1322, 90 A.L.R.3d 1 The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Bernardo Guiterrez DURAN, Defendant and Appellant.

Clyde M. Blackmon, Sacramento, and Norman W. De Carteret, Sherman Oaks, for defendant and appellant.

Evelle J. Younger, Atty. Gen., Jack R. Winkler, Chief Asst. Atty. Gen., S. Clark Moore, Asst. Atty. Gen., William R. Pounders and Karen R. Smith, Deputy Attys. Gen., for plaintiff and respondent.

WRIGHT, Chief Justice.

Defendant Bernardo Guiterrez Duran appeals from a judgment upon jury convictions of assault with a deadly weapon by a life-term prisoner (Pen.Code, § 4500) and possession of a dirk or dagger when confined in prison (Pen.Code, § 4502). 1 He contends that the trial court committed prejudicial error in denying his motion to appear before the jury in street clothes and without handcuffs or other shackles, in prohibiting cross-examination intended to show the bias of a prosecution witness and in erroneously excluding evidence on hearsay grounds. We conclude, based upon the nature of the total evidence adduced in the instant case, that the errors complained of by defendant were prejudicial and require reversal of the judgment. 2 Some 40 inmates were present in the plaza area of the California Men's Colony during an afternoon laundry exchange in April 1973. The inmates were supervised by guards in the plaza area, including Officers Martin and Santana. A guard in an observation tower, who had not theretofore observed any unusual activity, suddenly saw an inmate clutch his stomach and fall to his knees. Using the public address system the officer in the tower directed Martin to assist the fallen inmate and ordered Santana to stop another inmate who was running from the scene. The officer in the tower did not recognize the fleeing inmate. Santana apprehended defendant after the latter fell when he bumped a door frame through which he was attempting to flee. A single scissor blade was found approximately three feet from where defendant fell. The inmate victim, Sprague, sustained four wounds, two of which were deep punctures that could have been inflicted by the scissor blade. There were no identifiable fingerprints on the blade and the small amount of dried blood on the blade could not be identified by blood type.

No witness testified that he saw a stabbing or identified defendant as having attacked the victim with a weapon. 3 Each of the guards who testified stated that defendant was the inmate who ran from the scene. Sprague testified that although he did not see who perpetrated the attack he was certain defendant was not his assailant since the only person nearby when he was stabbed had a distinguishable hair style unlike that of the defendant. Inmate Gallegos, who was standing near the victim when the stabbing occurred, testified that he saw defendant swing his arm several times in Sprague's direction just before Sprague fell to his knees. However, Gallegos stated that he did not see a scissor blade or other weapon in defendant's hand. Defendant testified that he hurriedly left the scene to avoid any connection with the incident after seeing Sprague stagger and fall.

Defense counsel made a motion prior to trial that defendant and his inmate witnesses be allowed to appear before the jury in civilian clothes and without wrist and ankle restraints. 4 The motion was summarily denied. Counsel then asked if defendant could have one hand freed in order to take notes during the trial. This request was granted but the court stated that defendant's wrists and ankles would be shackled when he testified.

The rules governing the imposition of physical restraints 5 upon criminal defendants find their origin in the English common law. Thus Blackstone wrote, '. . . though under an indictment of the highest nature, (the prisoner) must be brought to the bar without irons or any manner of shackles or bonds, unless there be evident danger of an escape, and then he may be secured with irons.' (4 Blackstone's Commentaries 322; see also 2 Hale's Pleas of the Crown 219, which reiterates Blackstone's observation and adds, '(b)ut Note, at this day (prisoners) usually come with their shackles upon their legs, for fear of an escape, but stand at bar unbound, till they receive judgment'; 2 Bishop, New Commentaries on the Law of Pleading and Evidence and the Practice in Criminal Cases (2d ed. 1913) 955, which states that the prisoner should be unshackled in the courtroom so as to have "use of his reason, and all advantages, to clear his innocence" Krauskopf, Physical Restraint of the Defendant in the Courtroom (1971) 15 St. Louis U.L.J. 351.)

Recognizing these common law pronouncements, we held over 100 years ago in People v. Harrington (1871) 42 Cal. 165, that 'any order or action of the Court which, without evident necessity, imposes physical burdens, pains and restraints upon a prisoner during the progress of his trial, inevitably tends to confuse and embarrass his mental faculties, and thereby materially to abridge and prejudicially affect his constitutional rights of defense; and especially would such physical bonds and restraints in like manner materially impair and prejudicially affect his statutory privilege of becoming a competent witness and testifying in his own behalf.' (Id., at p. 168.) We held accordingly that it was prejudicial error, a violation of the common law rule and a violation of section 13 of the Criminal Practice Act, for the trial court to refuse to allow the defendant to appear before the jury without physical restraints unless there was 'evident necessity' for the restraint. 6

We have subsequently adhered to the Harrington rule. In People v. Kimball (1936) 5 Cal.2d 608, 55 P.2d 483, which involved a defendant who was handcuffed to an officer throughout the trial, we held that a defendant could not ordinarily be restrained when appearing in court. However, we held the defendant's expressed intention to escape, his threats to kill three or four witnesses, and the discovery of a homemade weapon in his boot on the first day of trial to constitute sufficient justification for the use of handcuffs. In People v. Ross (1967) 67 Cal.2d 64, 60 Cal.Rptr. 254, 429 P.2d 606 (revd. on other grounds, Ross v. California (1968) 391 U.S. 470, 88 S.Ct. 1850, 20 L.Ed.2d 750) we stated, citing Harrington, that unless there is a danger of escape, 'an accused is entitled to appear during the progress of his trial free of shackles.' (People v. Ross, supra, 67 Cal.2d 64, 72, 60 Cal.Rptr. 254, 260, 429 P.2d 606, 612.) We noted, however, that it was permissible to transport the prisoner to court in handcuffs and to keep him in such restraints until he entered the courtroom. (Id.; see also People v. Hillery (1967) 65 Cal.2d 795, 806, 56 Cal.Rptr. 280, 423 P.2d 208.) The physical restraint issue was most recently addressed in People v. Chacon (1968) 69 Cal.2d 765, 73 Cal.Rptr. 10, 447 P.2d 629, wherein we stated that a 'defendant may be required to undergo reasonable restraints when they are necessary to assure his detention or to maintain order in the courtroom.' (Id., at p. 778, 73 Cal.Rptr. at p. 18, 447 P.2d at 237.) Chacon also emphasized the necessity of objecting to use of physical restraints and noted that not only was the limited restraint of handcuffing justified for defendant Chacon, but also that defense counsel had voiced no objections to the restraints. 7 (Id.) Numerous Court of Appeal decisions have also adhered to a physical restraint rule which is consistent with Harrington. People v. Burnett (1967) 251 Cal.App.2d 651, 59 Cal.Rptr. 652, citing Harrington, states that '(t)he courts have always recognized that unnecessary show of restraint of an accused in the presence of the jurors is prejudicial. Ordinarily, the defendant should not be manacled or unduly restrained.' (Id., at p. 655, 59 Cal.Rptr. at p. 654; see also People v. Ray (1967) 252 Cal.App.2d 932, 973, 61 Cal.Rptr. 1; People v. Thompson (1937) 23 Cal.App.2d 339, 341, 72 P.2d 927.)

Little has been written since Harrington about the reasons for limiting the use of physical restraints. We believe that it is manifest that the shackling of a criminal defendant will prejudice him in the minds of the jurors. When a defendant is charged with any crime, and particularly if he is accused of a violent crime, his appearance before the jury in shackles is likely to lead the jurors to infer that he is a violent person disposed to commit crimes of the type alleged. (See Illinois v. Allen (1970) 397 U.S. 337, 344, 90 S.Ct. 1057, 25 L.Ed.2d 353; Odell v. Hudspeth (10th Cir.1951) 189 F.2d 300.) The removal of physical restraints is also desirable to assure that 'every defendant is . . . brought before the court with the appearance, dignity, and self-respect of a free and innocent man.' (Eaddy v. People (1946) 115 Colo. 488, 492, 174 P.2d 717, 719; see also Illinois v. Allen, supra, 397 U.S. 337, 350--351, 90 S.Ct. 1057, 25 L.Ed.2d 353 (Brennan, J. concurring); Kennedy v. Cardwell, supra, 487 F.2d 101, 104; Helwig, Coping With the Unruly Criminal Defendant: The Option of the Allen Case (1971) 7 Gonzaga L.Rev. 17.) Finally, the United States Supreme Court has acknowledged that physical restraints should be used as a last resort not only because of the prejudice created in the jurors' minds, but also because 'the use of this technique is itself something of an affront to the very dignity and decorum of judicial proceedings that the judge is seeking to uphold.' (Illinois v. Allen, supra, 397 U.S. 337, 344, 90 S.Ct. 1057, 1061.)

We believe that possible prejudice in the minds of the jurors, the affront to human dignity, the disrespect for the entire judicial system which is incident to unjustifiable use of physical restraints, as well as the effect such restraints have upon a defendant's decision to take the stand, all support...

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