People v. James, F081219

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtMEEHAN, J.
Decision Date23 February 2022
PartiesTHE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. JASON JAMES, Defendant and Appellant.
Docket NumberF081219

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,

JASON JAMES, Defendant and Appellant.


California Court of Appeals, Fifth District

February 23, 2022


APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Merced County. No. 19CR-00344 Steven K. Slocum, Judge.

Brad J. Poore, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

Xavier Becerra, Attorney General, Lance E. Winters, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Michael P. Farrell, Assistant Attorney General, Catherine Chatman and Harry Joseph Colombo, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.





Defendant Jason James was charged with damaging a truck during an argument with his former girlfriend, Ashley C., and was convicted by jury of felony vandalism. (Pen. Code, § 594, subds. (a), (b)(1).)[1] The trial court suspended imposition of sentence and admitted defendant to felony probation for 36 months, with the first 120 days to be served in jail.

On appeal, defendant claims the trial court erred when it excluded evidence that the owner of the truck, Dennis R., assaulted him and vandalized his truck months after the crime and he claims that it was error to admit one of Ashley's video-recorded statements to police as a spontaneous statement. He also claims the trial court's instructions to the jury were not sufficient to cure the errors that resulted from admission of a video-recorded statement containing inculpatory hearsay in the background and from allowing the deliberating jury to view a cell phone video containing audio that had been excluded from evidence. With respect to sentencing, defendant claims that the trial court improperly delegated its discretionary authority to impose conditions of probation to the probation officer, and that the search and seizure condition is unconstitutional. To the extent we conclude defendant forfeited any claims for failure to object in the trial court, he claims defense counsel was ineffective. Finally, in supplemental briefing, defendant requests we modify his probation term to two years pursuant to Assembly Bill No. 1950 (2019-2020 Reg. Sess.) (Assembly Bill No. 1950).

The People concede defendant is entitled to relief under Assembly Bill No. 1950, but otherwise dispute his claims of error.

We conclude that no reversible error occurred with respect to the admission or exclusion of evidence. However, defendant is entitled to relief under Assembly Bill No. 1950, and the trial court's express statement that it did not have before it the


conditions of probation precludes a finding that the court exercised discretion in imposing those conditions. Therefore, we shall remand the matter so the court may modify defendant's probation term to two years and exercise its discretion in imposing the conditions of probation. This disposition renders defendant's constitutional challenge to the warrantless search and seizure condition moot, and we do not reach it. The judgment is otherwise affirmed.


I. Prosecution Evidence

A. Ashley's Testimony

The events at issue took place in Merced. Ashley, a single stay-at-home mother with three children, started dating defendant in November 2016. At the end of September 2018, she took a trip to Reno with her two aunts, her uncle, and her uncle's wife and two children. Because of her son's serious medical needs, which included frequent seizures at night, she was never away from him and wanted to take advantage of the rare opportunity to take a trip with her family. She grew irritated with defendant, who repeatedly called and texted to check up on her, and she told him she wanted to enjoy her trip, which meant staying off of her phone. He seemed to think that because she did not want to be on the phone with him, she was cheating on him. He ended the relationship while she was gone, a decision with which she agreed.

Ashley returned home from her trip at the end of September and was not initially in contact with defendant. She testified she was still upset because she felt disrespected by his accusations of infidelity. However, she had been helping defendant with documents regarding his child custody case in Missouri and his mail was coming to her house, so she began communicating with defendant again during the second week of October.

Toward the end of October, after Ashley made clear she was not going to jump back into the relationship with him, their conversations became less friendly. On


October 27, 2018, she planned to have around 15 people come over for a family dinner, which was a weekly occurrence that had included defendant before they broke up. She and her aunt, Andrea A., were close friends, and Andrea's longtime friend, Dennis, joined them for dinner. Ashley testified that she and Dennis began dating in mid-November, but at the time of the family dinner, they were just friends.

Dennis parked his new GMC Denali pickup truck on the street in front of Ashley's house. Ashley had seen defendant in person several days earlier because he needed to sign some paperwork related to his child custody case. He was fine then, and things were friendly. However, on the day of the family dinner, he called repeatedly. Numerous times, Ashley hung up on him after telling him her family was there and she was "not doing this with [him]" then, meaning engage with or fight with him. At other times that day, she spoke to him and although she did not recall specifics, he was asking questions she did not want to answer since they were not together anymore.

Defendant sent Ashley numerous texts that day and three screenshots from Ashley's phone were entered into evidence. In the first screenshot, defendant texted, "Okay you just ignore me[.] I'll just come over then." "I'll just wait for him to leave." Ashley responded, "Ur being crazy please stop." Defendant then texted, "Crazy's what you've made me you f****** talk to Xavier that whole time we were together and I knew that fool kind of cupcake with you the whole f****** time his ass is getting beat bad." "Javier."

In the second screenshot, defendant texted, "I will be there in 10 seconds if you don't come over here." Ashley responded, "U better stop jason." "U better not come I can't come I'm Sorting candy." Defendant then texted Ashley a photograph of herself and Dennis in front her house. They were near his dark truck parked on the street and the photo appeared to have been taken from inside a vehicle.

In the third screenshot, Ashley texted, "Not Javier." "Shut up please." Defendant responded, "Walk your ass out around the corner let me talk to you I'm not joking I will


wait all f****** week path you for this dude." "Not happen I'll come to the front door." "I'm not playing." Ashley then texted, "Ur being stupid."

Ashley testified Javier, referred to by defendant in his text, was a man she had been best friends with since she was 16 years old. She also stated that she did not know what time the photo of her and Dennis was taken, but it had to be on the day of the family dinner because that was the first time Dennis had been to her house. Ashley was "really annoyed" by defendant's behavior that day, which included accusing her of things she was not doing, and in "the midst of it all," she saw defendant drive by while her son was outside playing basketball with his cousins. Defendant yelled something out the window as he drove by and, angry, she cussed him out. Uncomfortable, Ashley and the group playing basketball went back inside the house. Defendant "came right back" and, by then, her cousin was on the phone with 911.

Ashley testified that she was standing near the front door and her family was holding her back. Defendant was outside the house "ranting and raving, and [she] was yelling back," because he wanted to talk and she did not. It was chaotic, emotions were running high, and everything was happening fast, but Ashley, whose view was partially obstructed by a pillar, testified defendant was near Dennis's truck and it looked like he made contact with the truck. She said she kept turning around to get her family to back off and she heard something. "[She] thought [she] saw him do it, but [was] not sure." Once the incident ended, Dennis's truck was damaged.

B. Dennis's Testimony

Dennis testified that he and Andrea were longtime friends. He and Ashley later dated for a while, but on the night his truck was vandalized, he had only known Ashley for a week and a half and they were not dating yet. Ashley invited him to her house for dinner that night and he arrived earlier in the day.

Dennis did not know defendant and testified he did not see defendant at all that night. He was inside the house talking to a family member and there were children


running around so he did not realize anything was going on outside until someone called 911 and the children became frightened. When the police arrived, he went outside and saw his truck, with the passenger door and grille "kicked in."[2] On cross-examination, Dennis said defendant was gone by the time he went outside. He denied he ran up and pushed defendant.

C. Andrea's Testimony

Although Ashley testified that defendant did not like Andrea and Andrea thought she could do better than defendant, Andrea denied she had any problem with Ashley's and defendant's relationship. Andrea testified that defendant was good to Ashley and the children, and Ashley liked him. However, during their trip to Reno, defendant kept calling Ashley and behaving manipulatively because she went away for the weekend and "wasn't on social media enough to prove that she wasn't doing anything wrong." Defendant's behavior upset Andrea and, after that, Andrea told Ashley she needed to get as far away from defendant as she could.

Earlier on the day of the incident, Andrea saw defendant parked down the street from Ashley's house. That...

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