People v. Inman, C051199 (Cal. App. 8/20/2007), C051199

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Decision Date20 August 2007
Docket NumberC051199
PartiesTHE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. SHELDON LYNN INMAN, Defendant and Appellant.

Appeal from the Super. Ct. No. CRF05177.


Defendant was convicted by a jury of four counts of assault with a firearm (Pen. Code, § 245, subd. (a)(2)) and one count each of assault of a peace officer (id. at § 245, subd. (d)(1)), discharge of a firearm at an occupied vehicle (id. at § 246), possession of a firearm by a felon (id. at § 12021, subd. (a)(1)), possession of ammunition by a person prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm (id. at § 12316, subd. (b)(1)), and reckless driving while fleeing a peace officer (Veh. Code, § 2800.2). He was acquitted of two other counts of discharging a firearm at an occupied vehicle but, on each count, was convicted of the lesser included offense of negligent discharge of a firearm. (Pen. Code, § 246.3.) Finally, defendant was acquitted of attempted murder. (Id. at §§ 664/187, subd. (a).)

Following discharge of the jury, the court found defendant had a prior strike (Pen. Code, § 1170.12, subds. (b) and (c)), was convicted of a prior serious felony (id. at § 667, subd. (a)), and served a prior prison term (id. at § 667.5, subd. (b)).

Defendant was sentenced under the three strikes law to an aggregate, unstayed term in state prison of 54 years. He appeals, contending: (1) the jury was improperly admonished to conceal misconduct; (2) the conviction for assault on a peace officer is not supported by substantial evidence; (3) the jury was improperly instructed on an element of the charge of fleeing a peace officer; (4) the trial court improperly polled the jury; (5) the prior strike finding is not supported by substantial evidence; (6) imposition of the upper term on two of the offenses violated his Sixth Amendment rights; and (7) the abstract of judgment must be corrected. We agree the abstract of judgment must be modified to reflect accurately the sentence imposed by the court but otherwise affirm the judgment.


At approximately 10:30 p.m. on March 11, 2005, Katie Stockton, her husband, and their two-year-old son (the Stocktons) were traveling north on Marysville Road in Yuba County in their Dodge Neon. Behind them was Katie's brother-in-law, Jacob Stockton, in his Toyota pickup.

A "gunmetal gray" Nissan pulled onto the road in front of the Stocktons and began driving erratically. It slowed down and then speeded up and swerved. Later, the Nissan pulled to the side of the road and let the Stocktons pass. As they did so, Katie Stockton saw defendant in the driver's seat of the Nissan holding up a shotgun and smirking at her.

The Nissan pulled back onto Marysville Road between the Dodge and the Toyota. It began riding the rear of the Dodge and then backing off. The Stocktons pulled over to let the Nissan pass. When the Nissan got back in front, it continued to slow down and speed up. Eventually, the Nissan sped away around a corner and out of the Stocktons' sight.

When the Stocktons next saw the Nissan, it had come to a stop in the southbound lane of Marysville Road and was pointing at an angle back toward them with its rear end partially in the northbound lane. There was a cloud of dust around it. The Stocktons thought there had been an accident and slowed down to lend assistance. However, as they got closer and the dust cleared, they saw defendant pointing a gun at them over the hood of the car.

As the Stocktons tried to speed away, they heard the sound of a gunshot.

When Jacob Stockton passed the Nissan, he too saw defendant pointing a gun at him and heard a shot.

After the Stocktons reached home, they called the police and reported the incident. The call was received at 10:47 p.m. Both the Stocktons and Jacob Stockton examined their vehicles and found no gunshot damage.

Deputy Daniel Cross of the Yuba County Sheriff's Department received a call regarding the incident and proceeded to the area where it occurred. He was in uniform and driving a marked police vehicle. He was accompanied by Reserve Deputy Ersel Frailey.

Cross saw a Nissan coming toward him that matched the description he had been given of the suspect vehicle. He turned his patrol car around and followed. After waiting for a safe area to pull the Nissan over, Cross activated the overhead lights on his patrol car. However, instead of slowing down and pulling over, the Nissan sped up. It also swerved across the yellow line onto the opposite lane of traffic. Cross turned on his siren, but the Nissan sped up even more. At 11:01 p.m., Cross reported that he was in pursuit.

When Cross got within 20-25 yards of the Nissan, the driver pointed a gun out the window toward the police car and fired. Cross saw a flash of light and heard what sounded like BB's hitting the windshield of his vehicle. However, none penetrated the glass. Cross slammed on the brakes to put some distance between his patrol car and the Nissan.

Another deputy, Mike Marsh, later joined in the chase with his own marked patrol car.

Cross pursued the Nissan for approximately 28 miles during a period of 30 to 40 minutes. The Nissan continued to swerve into the opposite lane and oncoming cars pulled over to let them pass.

At approximately 11:33 p.m., the Nissan came to a stop against a snow embankment. The driver got out and ran into the woods carrying a shotgun. Deputy Cross took several shots at the driver but missed. After the driver disappeared into the trees, Cross called for him to come out with his hands up.

At approximately 11:39 p.m., defendant yelled that he was coming out and emerged from the woods. He did not have the shotgun and was not wearing a plaid shirt he had on when he ran into the woods. While defendant was being arrested, he said to the officers, "You won't believe the kind of day I've had."

Deputy Frailey searched the woods and found lying in the snow the plaid shirt, the shotgun and two rounds of ammunition. The shotgun had rounds in the chamber and two rounds in the magazine. There were five more rounds in a nylon pouch attached to the stock of the gun. Inside the Nissan, officers found an expended shotgun shell. The officers also examined Deputy Cross's patrol car and found a dent the size of a BB on the driver's side front quarter panel and scrapes on the windshield.

While defendant was being transported to the hospital for a blood draw, he said, "It was fun while it lasted."

I Instruction on Receipt of Media Reports

Defendant contends the trial court inadvertently instructed the jury to conceal misconduct, thereby denying him due process. He cites the following admonition prior to opening statements:

"Between now and when this trial is over, do me a favor. If you have to look at a local newspaper, and I'm including the Sacramento Bee, Appeal-Democrat, have somebody look at it first. If there is something about this case in the newspaper, put it aside. Don't read it. Remember, you can only hear evidence in the courtroom. Sometimes our local radio station and local TV carries reports of what is going on in this county and Sutter County both. If something comes up, turn it off. Don't listen to it. The only thing that happens if you do that is you will end up delaying things once somebody finds out about it." (Italics added.)

Defendant contends the last sentence of the court's admonition implied three things: (1) it is unimportant if the jurors happen to receive media reports about the case; (2) if it is revealed that a juror received a media report about the case, this will only delay the trial, not cause a mistrial; and (3) jurors should make sure that nobody finds out if they receive a media report about the case. Defendant argues that by suggesting no harm will be done if jurors receive media reports about the case, "the court increased the likelihood that jurors would read and listen to such reports." Defendant further argues that by informing the jury there will be delays if the court learns they have received media reports, "the court decreased the likelihood that such misconduct would be revealed."

Defendant reads much more into the court's admonition than is actually there. Rather than suggesting it is unimportant if the jurors receive media reports about the case, the court told the jurors four times in this short admonition not to listen to media reports. This admonition was repeated two more times during the trial. Soon after the admonition quoted above, the court told the jury: "You must not read or listen to any account or discussion of the case reported by any newspaper or news media." The court later said: "Please remember to stay away from the news media."

There is also nothing in the admonition that can arguably be read to suggest jurors should conceal the receipt of media information about the case. At most, the admonition suggested the only thing that would happen if media information is received is that the trial will be delayed. However, rather than suggesting the receipt of media reports should be concealed, this suggests such misconduct can safely be revealed because there will be little harm in doing so.

Defendant argues the above admonition is comparable to those found erroneous in People v. Mello (2002) 97 Cal.App.4th 511 (Mello) and People v. Abbaszadeh (2003) 106 Cal.App.4th 642 (Abbaszadeh). It is not.

In Mello, the trial judge instructed the jury as follows: "I don't want any racism in my court, which most of you know by now, but I go a little further than that. [¶] I recognize that most people in today's age don't want to raise their hand and say [`]I am a bigot['] or [`]I'm a racist[']. So what I'm going to do, if any of you have the slightest doubt that you might not, for racial reasons, be able to give this defendant a fair trial, I'm going to give you permission to lie. [¶] I want you to tell me—there's plenty of other...

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