People v. Ghebretensae, H038123

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtELIA
Citation222 Cal.App.4th 741,166 Cal.Rptr.3d 395
Decision Date16 April 2014
Docket NumberH038123
PartiesThe PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Samuel GHEBRETENSAE, Defendant and Appellant.

222 Cal.App.4th 741
166 Cal.Rptr.3d 395

The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
Samuel GHEBRETENSAE, Defendant and Appellant.

H038123

Court of Appeal,
Sixth District, California.

Filed December 30, 2013
Review Denied April 16, 2014



See 6 Witkin & Epstein, Cal.
Criminal Law (4th ed. 2012) Reversible Error, § 7 et seq.

Santa Clara County Superior Court, Hon. Joyce Allegro. (No. CC950489)

Attorney for Appellant: Emry J. Allen, Sacramento, Under Appointment By the Court of Appeal.

Attorneys for Respondent: Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Gerald A. Engler, Sr. Assistant Attorney General, Masha Dabiza, Alisha M. Carlile and Michael Chamberlain, Deputy Attorneys General.

ELIA, J.

[222 Cal.App.4th 746]

The Santa Clara County District Attorney charged Samuel Ghebretensae (appellant) with possession of cocaine base for sale (Health & Saf.Code, § 11351.5, count one) resisting arrest (Pen.Code, § 148, count two) and transportation of cocaine base (Health & Saf.Code, § 11352, subd. (a), count three). The information by which appellant was charged contained two prior conviction allegations within the meaning of Health and Safety Code section 11370, subdivision (c) and a prior prison term allegation within the meaning of Penal Code section 667.5, subdivision (b).

Following a jury trial, appellant was found guilty as charged and the jury found true the prior conviction allegations and the prior prison term allegation. Subsequently, the court sentenced appellant pursuant to Penal Code section 1170, subdivision (h) to a blended sentence of nine years—six years to be served in the county jail followed by three years of mandatory supervision by the probation department.

Appellant filed a timely notice of appeal. On appeal, appellant raises six issues, which we shall outline later. For reasons that follow we strike a supervision fee that the court imposed. As so modified, we affirm the judgment.

Facts and Proceedings Below

San Jose Police Officer Brian Winco testified that on July 25, 2009, he was assigned to patrol in downtown San Jose. At approximately 9:00 p.m. that evening he was conducting surveillance in Fountain Alley—an area well known for drug trafficking. Officer Winco was in plain clothes in an attempt to blend in with the surroundings. Officer Winco saw appellant loitering nearby. A bus pulled up close to appellant's location and a passenger got off the bus; this passenger was identified as Allen Talton. Talton walked up to appellant; they spoke briefly. Appellant showed Talton something he had in his hand and then retrieved something from his pocket. Talton moved closer to appellant and they exchanged something that each of them held. Immediately, the two separated and walked away from each other. Based on his training and experience, Officer Winco believed that the two men had engaged in a hand-to-hand drug transaction.

Officer Winco put on his police vest and made contact with Talton. He handcuffed him and searched his pockets. Officer Winco recovered a prescription Vicodin pill during the search. Talton admitted purchasing the pill from appellant. During the time that it took to detain Talton, appellant had walked about 20 to 25 feet away across the light rail tracks. Appellant looked back; according to Officer Winco he appeared startled when he saw that Talton was being detained. Immediately, appellant began jogging away.

[222 Cal.App.4th 747]

Officer Winco called for assistance; he left Talton with other officers and then set off to find appellant. When he failed to find him, Officer Winco returned to where Talton was being held. Ultimately, Officer Winco began driving around in his unmarked police car and continued to look for appellant. Shortly thereafter, he saw appellant outside a Jack–in–the–Box restaurant. Officer Winco radioed for assistance; Officer Rapp responded in his marked patrol car.1 Officer Rapp got out of his car and ordered appellant to stop; immediately, appellant turned and fled. Officer Rapp chased him as he fled through a parking lot. He did not follow appellant when appellant fled through a private backyard, rather, Officer Rapp used his police radio to inform other officers of appellant's position. A short time later Officer Winco saw appellant as he emerged onto a residential street; he ordered appellant to stop, but appellant climbed over a fence. Eventually, Officer Winco managed to detain appellant and force him to the ground while another officer handcuffed appellant. A search of appellant's person uncovered $241 in cash. At the time of his arrest, appellant was wearing a long-sleeved button-down checked shirt over a white t-shirt; at the time of the drug transaction appellant was wearing a white t-shirt and blue jeans.

While Officer Winco was chasing appellant he saw what he thought was a piece of plastic fall from appellant's pocket and hit the sidewalk. After he apprehended appellant, Officer Winco returned to the spot where he saw the object fall; he recovered a piece of plastic wrap tied in a knot. When it was examined, it was determined to contain 14 individually packaged “twists” of cocaine base.

Discussion
I. Exclusion of Impeachment Evidence

At trial, appellant sought to introduce evidence of two incidents that involved Officer Winco for purposes of impeaching his credibility. Trial

[222 Cal.App.4th 748]

counsel asserted that the incidents demonstrated Officer Winco's willingness to lie. After conducting several Evidence Code section 402 hearings, the court excluded the evidence pursuant to Evidence Code section 352. Appellant argues that the court abused its discretion in so doing.

Background

Trial counsel sought to impeach Officer Winco with evidence that he had falsely arrested a probationer by the name of Gary Arthur. Arthur was on felony probation for a drug conviction; as part of his probation he was participating in a rehabilitation program through the Salvation Army. According to Arthur, on January 24, 2008, Officer Winco and another officer took him out of the program and asked him to become an informant; they threatened to arrest him on a probation violation if he refused. Arthur said that when he was unable to provide the information they wanted, the officers took him into custody and obtained a probation hold. A few days later, the probation hold was dropped and he was released from custody.

Gustavo Sotelo was Arthur's probation officer at the time of Arthur's arrest in January 2008. Sotelo was not working on the day Arthur was arrested. However, Edna Thomas, a probation supervisor, responded to the officers' call about Arthur. She placed a probation hold on Arthur. Arthur's file did not reflect any information as to why Arthur was arrested and Thomas could not remember any of the circumstances leading to the probation hold. She testified that in general the arresting officer provides the probation department with background about the alleged violation. While she notes information about the probation hold in the case file, sometimes, if she gets busy she is unable so to do. Although Thomas could not recall any of the circumstances leading to the hold, she testified that she would not have authorized a hold if she did not believe it was legitimate.

Sotelo testified that when he returned to work a few days after Arthur's arrest, he decided to drop the probation hold because he wanted Arthur to continue in the Salvation Army program. Sotelo did not think finding a violation was necessary; he was concerned that Arthur would be cut from the rehabilitation program if he was found to be in violation of his probation.

The trial court excluded Arthur's testimony. The court explained, “The rule in a trial is that all relevant evidence should be admissible. But relevance requires more than some vague suggestion that an officer may have made a false arrest in the past. [¶] I don't think you have shown that. [¶] It would require a mini-trial to determine a matter of minimal importance. [¶] I think it would create a substantial danger of confusing the jury. [¶] I think it would definitely require undue time consumption. [¶] And I don't think it would establish anything—that Officer Winco did anything wrong.”

[222 Cal.App.4th 749]

In addition to the foregoing evidence, appellant sought to introduce evidence that during a recess in his preliminary hearing, Officer Winco engaged in a conversation about the facts of appellant's case with another officer and when confronted by appellant's attorney, lied about what he was doing.

Jessica Burt–Smith, a public defender, testified that she was sitting in the courtroom during a break in appellant's preliminary hearing. Annrae Angel, appellant's counsel, had stepped out of the courtroom. Ms. Smith saw Officer Rapp, who was designated as the investigating officer, approach Officer Winco; Officer Winco had just completed his testimony. Ms. Smith testified that she overheard Officer Rapp and Officer Winco talk about appellant's case. Ms. Smith could not remember specifics of the conversation, but believed the conversation was “something about Officer Winco's testimony and ... how the officers recalled that [appellant] was the person that they believed committed the crime.” Ms. Smith saw the bailiff approach the officers and they began talking about something else. Ms. Smith alerted Ms. Angel about the conversation when Ms. Angel reentered the courtroom. According to Ms. Smith, Ms. Angel approached the officers and told them she thought it was inappropriate for them to be discussing the case. Ms. Smith heard Officer Winco say “we hadn't been talking about the case” or something to that effect.

Ms. Angel testified that Ms. Smith did not alert her to the conversation that had been occurring; rather, it was still ongoing when she entered the courtroom. Although Ms. Angel knew that the court had not admonished the witnesses not to discuss the case, nonetheless, she approached the officers...

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142 practice notes
  • People v. Winkler, C077992
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • November 2, 2020
    ...of other crimes evidence violated section 1101, it was not prejudicial based on the Watson standard]; People v. Ghebretensae (2013) 222 Cal.App.4th 741, 755, 166 Cal.Rptr.3d 395 [it is well-settled that claims of error in the admission of prior crimes evidence are evaluated under the Watson......
  • People v. Garcia, B270574
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • November 6, 2017
    ...991Standard of Review for Jury Instructions"We review a claim of instructional error de novo. ( People v. Ghebretensae (2013) 222 Cal.App.4th 741, 759, 166 Cal.Rptr.3d 395.) ‘ " ‘[T]he correctness of jury instructions is to be determined from the entire charge of the [trial] court, not from......
  • Maine v. Sherman, No. 1:17-cv-01307-AWI-JLT (HC)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • January 31, 2018
    ...would have resulted absent admission of the evidence. (People v. Welch (1999) 20 Cal.4th 701, 749-750; People v. Ghebretensae (2013) 222 Cal.App.4th 741, 755.)The jury was instructed with CALCRIM No. 303 that when evidence is admitted for a limited purpose, the jury must consider it for the......
  • Franco v. Espinoza, No. 1:18-CV-00057-DAD-SKO (HC)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • June 5, 2019
    ...define proximate causation.[] Standard of review"A claim of instructional error is reviewed de novo." (People v. Ghebretensae (2013) 222 Cal.App.4th 741, 759, citing People v. Guiuan (1998) 18 Cal.4th 558, 569570.) "'In considering a claim of instructional error [,] we must first ascertain ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
142 cases
  • People v. Winkler, C077992
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • November 2, 2020
    ...of other crimes evidence violated section 1101, it was not prejudicial based on the Watson standard]; People v. Ghebretensae (2013) 222 Cal.App.4th 741, 755, 166 Cal.Rptr.3d 395 [it is well-settled that claims of error in the admission of prior crimes evidence are evaluated under the Watson......
  • People v. Garcia, B270574
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • November 6, 2017
    ...991Standard of Review for Jury Instructions"We review a claim of instructional error de novo. ( People v. Ghebretensae (2013) 222 Cal.App.4th 741, 759, 166 Cal.Rptr.3d 395.) ‘ " ‘[T]he correctness of jury instructions is to be determined from the entire charge of the [trial] court, not from......
  • Maine v. Sherman, No. 1:17-cv-01307-AWI-JLT (HC)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • January 31, 2018
    ...would have resulted absent admission of the evidence. (People v. Welch (1999) 20 Cal.4th 701, 749-750; People v. Ghebretensae (2013) 222 Cal.App.4th 741, 755.)The jury was instructed with CALCRIM No. 303 that when evidence is admitted for a limited purpose, the jury must consider it for the......
  • Franco v. Espinoza, No. 1:18-CV-00057-DAD-SKO (HC)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • June 5, 2019
    ...define proximate causation.[] Standard of review"A claim of instructional error is reviewed de novo." (People v. Ghebretensae (2013) 222 Cal.App.4th 741, 759, citing People v. Guiuan (1998) 18 Cal.4th 558, 569570.) "'In considering a claim of instructional error [,] we must first ascertain ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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