People v. Jimenez

Decision Date14 December 2021
Docket NumberE074849
Citation287 Cal.Rptr.3d 484,73 Cal.App.5th 862
Parties The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Enrique Mayorga JIMENEZ, Defendant and Appellant.
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals

Certified for Partial Publication.*

Cynthia M. Jones, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

Xavier Becerra, Attorney General, Lance E. Winters, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Julie L. Garland, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Arlene A. Sevidal, Randall D. Einhorn and Susan Elizabeth Miller, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

OPINION

RAMIREZ, P.J.

A police officer spotted defendant Enrique Mayorga Jimenez and his two teen-aged sons by some trash cans in a field. They jumped into an SUV and drove away. The officer, believing that they had committed illegal dumping, tried to pull them over. Instead, defendant dropped off his sons near his house, then led the police in a pursuit that went from Highland to Downey. When the police took a closer look at the trash cans, they found that one contained a dead body. Defendant confessed that he made a considered decision to kill the victim and then intentionally stabbed him to death.

In a jury trial, defendant was found guilty of first degree murder (§ 187, subd. (a), 189),1 with an enhancement for personal use of a deadly weapon (§ 12022, subd. (b)(1)); recklessly evading an officer ( Veh. Code, § 2800.2, subd. (a) ); and two counts of aggravated assault on a peace officer (§ 245, subd. (c)). As a result, he was sentenced to a total of 29 years to life, plus the usual fines, fees, and ancillary orders.

Defendant contends, among other things, that his confession was involuntary because the police induced it by threatening to charge his sons with the murder.

We agree. As a general rule, "[a] confession coerced by a threat to arrest a near relative is not admissible. [Citations.]" ( People v. Matlock (1959) 51 Cal.2d 682, 697, 336 P.2d 505.) There is an exception to this general rule when the police have probable cause to charge the relative. In other words, when it is simply a fact that they could charge the relative, it is not unduly coercive to point that out. Here, however, the interrogating officer told defendant that he knew defendant's sons were innocent of murder, but he intended to charge them anyway — unless defendant confessed. Hence, the general rule applies.

We cannot say, beyond a reasonable doubt, that if defendant's confession had been excluded, he would still have been convicted of first degree murder. Indeed, it is reasonably probable that the jury would have found him guilty of a lesser offense, such as second degree murder or involuntary manslaughter, or acquitted him on this count.

ISTATEMENT OF FACTS
A. The Corpus Delicti.

On the night of May 19-20, 2016, around midnight, Sheriff's Deputy Jeffrey Casey was on patrol in Highland when he noticed a white Chevy Suburban, with an attached trailer, parked next to an open field. He then saw three males and two trash cans in the field. The males ran to the Suburban, got in, and drove away.

Deputy Casey suspected that they had committed illegal dumping. He followed the truck and started to make a traffic stop by turning on his flashing overhead lights.

The Suburban "sped away." After going a few blocks, however, it made a U-turn and went back to where the trash cans were. The driver leaned out the window, lifted the lid of one of the trash cans, and used a lighter to set fire to the contents. To stop him from destroying evidence, Deputy Casey rammed the back of the Suburban. The driver dropped the lid, which extinguished the fire.

The Suburban drove off again. Deputy Casey followed, with his lights flashing and his siren on. At Elmwood Road, the Suburban stopped and dropped off the two passengers. Officers at the scene chased them and arrested them. They were identified as defendant's sons, E.J. (aged 14) and J.P. (aged 17). Defendant lived on Elmwood Road.

The Suburban then drove off again. After it got onto the I-210 Freeway, the California Highway Patrol joined in the pursuit. The Suburban continued onto the I-10, I-710, and I-105 Freeways. It finally got off the freeway at Lakewood Boulevard, in or near Downey.

During the pursuit the Suburban sometimes exceeded the speed limit and sometimes went through red lights and stop signs. Once, it drove on the wrong side of the road.

The police traced the license number of the trailer to an address in Downey.2 Accordingly, two Downey police officers were stationed in an intersection near that address. Their patrol cars were parked side by side, an estimated five to fifteen feet apart, pointed north. A time-stamped video from a camera in one of the cars was played for the jury.

The officers saw the Suburban coming south toward them, at either 30 to 40 miles an hour (according to one officer) or 45 miles an hour (according to the other). They turned on their headlights and their flashing overhead lights. They did not think there was enough room for the Suburban to go between their cars. They got out and ran to opposite sides of the street.

At the last moment — about 10 seconds after the officers turned on their lights, and about 5 seconds after they got out — the Suburban finally slowed down. Two seconds later, it drove through the gap between the cars, scraping the front fender of one of them.

An officer in the leading pursuit vehicle did not believe that he had room to go between the cars. However, there was room to go around them on the right. All of the pursuit vehicles did so and continued the chase.

Finally, the Suburban stopped. The driver got out and ran; officers ran after him and arrested him. Defendant was the driver. The Suburban was registered to him.

The two trash cans in the field were "generic" city-issued residential green waste containers. In the partially burnt trash can, the police found a dead body, head downward and feet upward. A pair of sunglasses was by its side. It was identified as that of Morris Barnes, with an address on Elmwood Road.

Barnes had been stabbed once in the upper back and three times in the front of the neck, causing death within minutes. The police found a hunting knife, in a sheath, inside his jacket, tucked into his pants.

Gasoline had been poured on the body. Inside the unburnt trash can, the police found, among other things, a half-full gas can.

On the floor of defendant's garage, the police found "potential blood stains" that appeared to have been partially wiped up.

Defendant's stepmother-in-law testified that, sometime in May 2016, defendant said "he was hearing on the streets that there was going to be a home invasion." While on that topic, defendant said "he was going to take care of" someone named "Maurice."

B. Defendant's Confession.

When Detective John Munoz interviewed defendant, defendant admitted killing the victim.

Defendant referred to the victim as "Maurice." The victim lived seven or eight houses away. He and the victim were friends.

The victim, however, was a gang member. About a week earlier, defendant had heard that the victim told some fellow gang members who "do home invasions" that defendant grew marijuana in his home. He also told them that defendant and his children were often away from home. At one time, defendant grew marijuana for his own personal use, but he had stopped. He lived with his elderly mother, who was disabled; he thought the robbers would enter after they saw him leave the house, find nothing, and hurt her.

Defendant was already under stress, because his wife was in the hospital, paralyzed from the neck down, following an accident the preceding month in which defendant was driving.

Two nights before the police pursuit, the victim walked by defendant's house, on his way to buy some beer. He asked for a ride, so defendant drove him to the liquor store and dropped him off.

Defendant was outside his house when the victim came walking back with his beer. As defendant put it, the victim was still "trying to be my friend like nothing [happened]." Defendant thought about killing him but could not make up his mind.

He invited the victim to "kick it" in his garage. After the victim drank a beer, defendant said, "I don't understand how can you tell my business to other people and put my mom and my family in harm's way." The victim said, "What are you talking about?" Defendant kept insisting that he knew; the victim kept denying it. Defendant decided, "[If] you're gonna play stupid with me, then instead of go along with [t]hat I think that I need to make sure that nothin' happens to my mom."

Defendant went into his house and got a kitchen knife, with a black handle. Defendant "grabbed him [in] a headlock" and stabbed him "[t]owards his neck." He put the dead body in a trash can. The victim was wearing glasses, and these also went in the trash can. There was some blood on the ground, but defendant cleaned it up. He poured gas from a gas can onto the body.

Defendant left the trash cans in an open area that he knew about. When he saw an officer, he fled, but then he realized he had not set fire to the body. He made a U-turn. He "flicked" a lighter. At some point, he told his sons "this guy had run his mouth and I couldn't afford that."

There were several discrepancies between defendant's confession and the physical evidence.

Defendant said he stabbed the victim only once, in the front. When Detective Munoz said the victim had been stabbed in the back, defendant repeated that he stabbed him only once, but he suggested that maybe the knife came out the back. Then, when Detective Munoz asked, "Do you think that maybe ... you stabbed him again?," he agreed that he stabbed him twice. Finally, Detective Munoz asserted that defendant stabbed the victim twice in the neck and once in the back, and defendant agreed.

Defendant gestured as if stabbing upward. However, all of the victim's...

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