People v. Valle

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
PartiesTHE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. JONATHAN FRANCISCO VALLE, Defendant and Appellant.
Docket NumberB279935
Decision Date07 February 2018

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
JONATHAN FRANCISCO VALLE, Defendant and Appellant.



February 7, 2018


California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

(Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. BA408877)

APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Katherine Mader, Judge. Affirmed.

Donna L. Harris, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

Xavier Becerra, Attorney General, Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Lance E. Winters, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Paul M. Roadarmel, Jr., and Alliaon H. Chung, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

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Appellant Jonathan Francisco Valle appeals his conviction of second degree murder. Appellant contends: (1) the trial court improperly restricted his expert's testimony with respect to the effect of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); (2) the trial court erred in giving CALCRIM No. 360 and in independently advising the jury midtrial that his expert's testimony repeating statements appellant made during the diagnostic interview should not be considered for the truth of the matters asserted; and (3) the trial court erred in refusing to instruct on self-defense. We find no error in any of the trial court's actions and affirm.


A. Information

Appellant was charged with the willful, deliberate and premeditated murder of Marco Blanco and of personally discharging a firearm in committing the crime.

B. Evidence at Trial

1. Prosecution Case

Tannia Sanchez and her sister Alicia Sanchez testified on behalf of the prosecution. Tannia testified that on March 10, 2013, she and her sister were visiting a relative in the vicinity of Blanco's home. They left between 7:00 and 8:00 p.m. As they were walking to their car, Tannia saw an unoccupied Taurus that appeared to have crashed into a nearby fence. She also saw two men, one standing inside the fence -- later identified as Blanco -- and one outside it -- later

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identified as appellant. Appellant asked the sisters for money for gas. He looked like he was "on something." Blanco walked toward the fence gate, talking on a cell phone. After the sisters got into their car, appellant drew a gun from his pocket and pointed it at the sisters, but then turned and shot Blanco multiple times. Tannia observed no weapon in Blanco's possession.1

Blanco was dead when officers arrived.2 His body was lying approximately a foot from the gate. There was a cell phone near the right side of his body and keys in his left hand. There were no weapons found on or near him. Blanco's children, who were inside the house, told officers that their father had brought home a pizza and then gone back outside.

The day after the shooting, appellant went to the police station where he agreed to be interviewed. The interview was played to the jury. In it, appellant said he had done "the wrong thing to prove a point, to make it right" and that he "took it upon [himself]" to "do[] what [he] thought was right." He also said "my mind was playing tricks on me" and "little

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things triggered me." He claimed to have heard voices telling him to "break 'em" and "smoke 'em," and to "just bam." Appellant said he had bought the gun and a bag of bullets years earlier for self-protection.

During the interview, appellant made inconsistent statements about his use of drugs. He said he was a regular user of crystal methamphetamine, which he had used the morning of the shooting. He later said he had not used drugs, only alcohol. When directly asked why he shot Blanco, appellant said "because I was on drugs." Moments later, he said drugs had nothing to do with it, and that the shooting occurred because Blanco "tried to call the cops on me for something" and because "some voices . . . told me." Still later, asked if drugs had anything to do with the shooting, appellant said "to tell you the truth, I don't know, I don't think so," and answered affirmatively when the officers asked if the real cause was his concern over "getting [into] trouble because [he] crashed the car and the police were going to come and arrest [him] for drunk driving or being under the influence or something."

Describing the sequence of events, appellant said that when he first saw Blanco, Blanco was walking into his house with his son and a pizza, and that voices told him to wait until "the right time, the right place, at the right time." Appellant said he believed he had scared Blanco and "thought . . . he was reaching for something." Appellant "calmed [him]self down," but then saw Blanco "calling somebody, talking to somebody" and said "what the fuck."

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After the shooting, appellant wanted to "get out of there -- to get gone" because he "did something wrong."

During the interview, appellant said he had thrown the gun in his "baby mama's" yard, and that he kept the extra ammunition at her place. After the interview, officers searched the residence and backyard of appellant's girlfriend's house -- located 150 feet from Blanco's -- and found the murder weapon in the yard and a bag of bullets inside the house. They also recovered a set of keys for the Taurus.

2. Defense Case

Appellant testified he was in the area visiting his pregnant ex-girlfriend. They argued, and he got into his car to leave. The car rolled backwards into the fence of the house next door. Appellant said that at the time he was homeless, had a substance abuse problem, and regularly used crystal methamphetamine. He had used methamphetamine the afternoon of the shooting. After his car hit the fence, appellant saw Blanco and one of his children enter the house. Blanco was talking on the phone and looking at appellant. Blanco came back out of the house at the same time the Sanchez sisters appeared. As appellant was asking them for help, he saw Blanco walking toward him out of the side of his eye. Blanco looked angry, which scared appellant. Blanco got within two feet of appellant.

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Contrary to what appellant told officers in the interview, Blanco was not talking on the phone at the time.3 They had a "stare-down," and appellant thought he saw Blanco reaching for something in his pocket. Something told him to shoot Blanco.

Appellant testified that he had purchased the gun he was carrying after being the victim in a 2010 incident. In that incident, he was returning home with a former girlfriend. Two men pulled up behind them and "told [him] where [he] was from." The men shot at them, leaving a bullet hole in his car. After that, appellant did not feel comfortable anywhere and believed he had to keep up his guard, "watch [his] back," and keep aware of his surroundings. He slept poorly. The circumstances surrounding the shooting of Blanco, "the way it happened[,] felt like it took [him] back" to the 2010 incident. The drugs he had taken contributed to making him feel paranoid.

The defense expert, Kevin Booker, Ph.D., a trauma specialist, testified that PTSD arises from experiencing a life-threatening incident which induces terror or horror. PTSD is characterized by flashbacks, nightmares and a desire to avoid anything representing the life-threatening event. Sufferers experience "hyper-arousal" or

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"hypervigilance," a feeling of always being on edge. They may worry about being attacked from behind. This leads to difficulty in forming interpersonal relationships or being in unfamiliar surroundings. The sufferer may turn to substance abuse as a form of avoidance, to numb his or her emotions related to the traumatic incident. The fear mechanism is activated unconsciously, overriding conscious decision-making, and may lead to a fight-or-flight response.

Dr. Booker interviewed appellant to determine whether he had experienced a traumatic event that led to his developing PTSD. Appellant told Dr. Booker about the 2010 shooting incident, and said he had flashbacks and nightmares about it "for weeks and even years" afterward. Appellant said it had caused worry about his personal safety when in public and led him to purchase the gun. Based on this information from appellant, Dr. Booker diagnosed PTSD.

Defense counsel asked how suffering from PTSD would "affect [appellant's] behavior." Dr. Booker replied that "any patient with [PTSD] may have a very difficult time engaging other individuals publically and, in some cases, even privately," and that PTSD "tends to cause individuals to become very much preoccupied with protecting themselves," interfering with interpersonal relationships and the ability to engage socially. It also causes sufferers to be "on edge" and "very jumpy." Dr. Booker was asked to explain "hypothetically" how "someone who has the symptoms or the diagnosis" of appellant would react "to the perception of a

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threat or a threat." Dr. Booker replied that such persons tend to overreact and engage in behavior "that seems to be beyond what you would expect from a person without an experience of trauma in terms of their perception or response to a threat" because the disease "can distort their interpretation of reality or of the world" and "can make them perceive that there is actually [imminent] danger or threat when, in fact, none objectively really exists." In other words, he explained, the disease can cause its sufferers to be "extremely overreactive." Asked how long after the traumatic incident the condition and its symptoms were likely to last, Dr. Book said: "If [PTSD] is untreated, there is a significant chance that the individual may continue to experience these symptoms . . . for the entirety of their lives


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