People v. I.F. (In re I.F.)

Decision Date22 February 2018
Docket NumberC080658
Citation20 Cal.App.5th 735,229 Cal.Rptr.3d 462
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
Parties IN RE I.F., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. The People, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. I.F., Defendant and Appellant.

Marcia C. Levine, Truckee, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

Kamala D. Harris and Xavier Becerra, Attorneys General, Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Michael P. Farrell, Assistant Attorney General, Kathleen A. McKenna and Angelo S. Edralin, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

RENNER, J.

Appellant I.F., then age 12, and his sister L.F., age 8, were home alone on the morning of April 27, 2013. During the course of the morning, someone entered L.F.'s bedroom and stabbed her to death. Later that day, and in the days that followed, I.F. made a series of inconsistent and cumulatively incriminating statements to police.

On May 14, 2013, a petition was filed under Welfare and Institutions Code section 602 alleging that I.F. committed murder ( Pen. Code, § 187, subd. (a) ),1 and personally used a knife in the commission of the offense (§ 12022, subd. (b)(1)). Following a contested jurisdictional hearing, the juvenile court sustained the petition and found true the allegation that I.F. personally used a knife in the commission of the crime.

I.F. appeals, arguing the juvenile court erroneously admitted his pre-arrest statements in violation of Miranda v. Arizona (1966) 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 ( Miranda ). We agree that two of four challenged statements were inadmissible. Because the Miranda error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt under Chapman v. California (1967) 386 U.S. 18, 87 S.Ct. 824, 17 L.Ed.2d 705 ( Chapman ), we reverse and remand for further proceedings.

I. BACKGROUND

B.F. and C.W. lived in Calaveras County with a blended family that included six children, ranging from one to 15 years of age.2 Most of the family attended a Little League baseball game on April 27, 2013, leaving the house at approximately 7:00 a.m. I.F. and his sister L.F. stayed home.

C.W. received a call on her cell phone from I.F. at 12:06 p.m. I.F. told her that someone had come into the house, hit L.F., and then run out. C.W. and B.F. hurried home, leaving the rest of the children at the baseball field with C.W.'s grandmother. C.W. called 911 on the way home. She told the 911 operator that the children were okay, but "really scared." The 911 operator dispatched police officers to the house, and then called I.F. A recording of the 911 operator's call to I.F. was admitted into evidence at the jurisdictional hearing.

During the call, a distraught I.F. reported that he was in the bathroom when he heard a door slam. He then heard someone yelling and banging on the bathroom door. He emerged from the bathroom and saw a "Mexican" man running out the sliding glass back door. The man had long gray hair and was wearing blue "work pants" or jeans and a black shirt. Approximately 90 seconds into the call, I.F. told the 911 operator that the man "stabbed [L.F.] a bunch of times," adding, "she's like dead."

When they reached the house, I.F. was in the living room with a phone in one hand and a baseball bat in the other. L.F. was lying on the floor of her bedroom. Her legs were buckled as though she had collapsed. As B.F. approached, he saw that L.F. had a bloody cut on her forehead and blood on her shirt. When he lifted L.F.'s shirt, he saw multiple stab wounds. Although B.F. could see that L.F. was hurt, he did not know the extent of her injuries—or realize that she had been stabbed—until he lifted her shirt.

B.F. scooped L.F. up and carried her down the hall and out the front door. There, he was met by Calaveras County Sheriff's Deputy Shawn Cechini, who instructed B.F. to set L.F. down on the porch. Paramedics arrived, and determined that L.F., who was cool to the touch, had no pulse and was not breathing.

While paramedics attempted to revive L.F., Cechini spoke with I.F. I.F. told Cechini that he had been using the bathroom. He emerged from the bathroom and saw a man running towards the sliding glass back door. I.F. said that he chased the man to the back door, and then, upon hearing L.F. call out, turned around and went to check on her. As they talked, Cechini noticed that there was blood smeared across I.F.'s right forearm.

L.F.'s lifeless body was transported to the hospital. An autopsy would later reveal that L.F. suffered 22 stab wounds, mainly in the chest area. Three of the stab wounds were potentially lethal.

A. The First Interview: At the Hospital on April 27, 2013

Detective Wade Whitney of the Calaveras County Sheriff's Department responded to the hospital on the day of the murder. Whitney contacted B.F. in the parking lot near the ambulance bay. Whitney asked B.F. for permission to interview I.F., which B.F. gave. At the time, police were trying to get additional information about the intruder, who was already the subject of an intensive manhunt.

Whitney interviewed I.F. in the airlock vestibule between the emergency room and the ambulance bay. The exterior doors leading to the ambulance bay are equipped with a keypad combination lock. A combination, which is known to law enforcement, is required to enter the airlock vestibule from the ambulance bay. No combination is required to leave the airlock vestibule; the glass double doors open automatically when a person stands in front of them. Both sets of doors, the interior doors leading to the emergency room and the exterior doors leading to the ambulance bay, were open and unlocked during the interview.

The interview lasted approximately 16 minutes. B.F. was present the entire time. Whitney wore his detective's uniform, which consists of a black polo shirt and khaki pants. Whitney also wore a holstered gun and badge. Whitney did not handcuff I.F. or direct his movements. Whitney did not tell I.F. he was under arrest or not free to leave.

During the interview, I.F. explained that he woke up between 9:00 and 9:30 a.m. and made breakfast. I.F. and L.F. ate and then watched a movie. After the movie, L.F. retired to her bedroom and I.F. went to the bathroom. While in the bathroom, I.F. heard a door slam. He then heard someone yelling in heavily accented English, " ‘Hey I know you're in here, come out.’ " He then heard L.F. scream. Although I.F. told the 911 operator that the intruder struck the bathroom door, he did not mention this detail during his conversation with Whitney.

I.F. said that he opened the door to the bathroom in time to see a man running toward the sliding glass back door. I.F. told Whitney that he followed the man to the door, and then realized that L.F. might need help. He stopped, turned around, and ran towards his sister's bedroom, grabbing a knife from the kitchen counter, "just in case there's anyone else." When he reached the bedroom, I.F. saw L.F. lying on the floor, her shirt covered in blood. He dropped the knife, and then picked it up. He then went back to the kitchen, returned the knife to the counter, and called C.W.

Whitney showed I.F. photos of possible suspects, but none of them resembled the alleged intruder. Whitney then said, "Okay. And I'm gonna tell your dad that I wouldn't be doing my job, if I didn't ask this next question. And I will tell you, [I.F.], that you are not required to answer this question. Do you understand that? Okay. [¶] You absolutely have the right to say, ‘I'm not saying a word.’ And if you want ... you know where I'm going with this, right? Okay. You do not have to answer my question, do you understand that? You're not under arrest, you're not in trouble. But I have to ask. Okay? Okay. [¶] Did you do anything to harm your sister?" I.F. said, "no." Whitney then concluded the interview. After the interview, I.F. rejoined his family in the parking lot.

B. The Second Interview: At the District Attorney's Office on April 27, 2013

Later, while still at the hospital, Whitney asked B.F. for permission to interview I.F. a second time. During the hearing on I.F.'s subsequent motion to suppress, Whitney explained that the purpose of the second interview was to get more information about the intruder. No one asked I.F. whether he wanted to submit to a second interview.

B.F. drove I.F. to the district attorney's office, a short distance from the hospital. Whitney and Gary Sims, an investigator with the district attorney's office, showed I.F. to an interview room in a portable trailer near the district attorney's office. The interview room was equipped with cameras and audio recording equipment, and was accessible by means of two doors, one leading to an adjoining observation room and another leading outside. Both doors were open during the second interview, which B.F. watched via closed circuit television from the observation room. B.F. was not allowed to join I.F. in the interview room.3

As before, Whitney wore a black polo shirt and khaki pants, and a holstered gun and badge. Sims wore jeans and a long sleeve shirt, with a gun and badge. Neither Whitney nor Sims handcuffed I.F. or placed him under arrest.

The second interview lasted approximately 77 minutes. At the beginning of the interview, Whitney explained: "[I.F.] we brought you here today because you witnessed or were at home when your sister was ... seriously injured. [¶] ... [¶] Okay. So we want to talk to you as a witness in that case. Please understand both of these doors are open, you are not under arrest, you're not being detained, you're here on your free will. So you can get up, walk out anytime you need to, if you don't want to talk to us. Your dad is in the other room okay?" Within the first fifteen minutes of questioning, a cat entered or attempted to enter the interview room from outside. Throughout the interview, Whitney, who took the lead in the questioning, encouraged I.F. to let them know if he wanted to take a break. I.F. declined...

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