People v. Vaughn

Decision Date09 May 1968
Citation68 Cal.Rptr. 366,262 Cal.App.2d 42
PartiesPEOPLE of the State of California, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Calvin B. VAUGHN, Defendant and Appellant. Cir. 6400.
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals

Jules F. Bonjour, Jr., Oakland, under appointment by Court of Appeal, for appellant.

Thomas C. Lynch, Atty. Gen., Robert R. Granucci, Joyce F. Neede, Deputy Attys. Gen., San Francisco, for respondent.

SIMS, Associate Justice.

Defendant has appealed from an order denying his application for a writ of Coram nobis. 1 On December 15, 1964 the defendant, with counsel, entered his plea of guilty to two counts of a seven-count amended complaint which had charged him with violations of the provisions of subdivision 1 of section 261 and of sections 285, 288 and 288a of the Penal Code, in connection with acts involving his daughter. The charges of incest (Pen.Code, § 285) and rape (Pen.Code, § 261, subd. 1), to which he pleaded guilty were certified to the superior court, and the remaining counts were dismissed. A hearing was held pursuant to the provisions of sections 5500 et seq. of the Welfare and Institutions Code and the court found that defendant was a mentally disordered sex offender, but that he would not benefit from treatment in a state hospital. Thereafter, on January 18, 1965 defendant was sentenced to imprisonment in the state prison.

On September 28, 1965 the defendant filed his original application for a writ of error Coram nobis. Thereafter, the proceedings recounted in People v. Vaughn (1966) 243 Cal.App.2d 730, 52 Cal.Rptr. 690, to which reference is hereby made, ensued. By the terms of this court's remittitur the trial court was instructed 'to appoint counsel and proceed with a hearing on the merits of the petition upon the issues tendered by the allegation of insanity and the induced plea of guilty.'

Counsel was appointed, and filed an 'Amended Petition for Issuance of Writ of Error Coram Nobis' in which defendant purported to attack the reference to 'Section 261.1' of the Penal Code as a form of reference to subdivision 1 of section 261 of the Penal Code, and the sufficiency of the alleged hearing under the provisions of section 5500 et seq. of the Welfare and Institutions Code. He alleged that he did not commit the acts charged; that he was legally insane at the time of the alleged offenses and at the time his plea was entered; that his capacity to commit the offenses and to defend against the charges was impaired by the ingestion of tranquilizers, pain killing drugs, sedatives and mental depressant drugs, and by physical agony and pain; that his pleas were induced by promises of treatment for his illness; and that the personal history on which the court acted in sentencing him was spurious. A hearing was held on the amended petition and relief was denied.

On this appeal defendant contends (1) that the lower court erred in excluding testimony of witnesses as to his innocence of the offenses charged, because the testimony was relevant to the issue of insanity; (2) that the court erred in the nature of its consideration of the evidence of the mentally disordered sex offender proceedings, because the record of the proceedings was introduced solely to show the proceedings were improperly conducted and should therefore not be accorded any weight on the merits; and (3) that the court erred in drawing a negative inference from the defendant's failure to introduce any evidence of the results of an examination by a psychologist which had been furnished at his request. As outlined below these contentions are found to be without merit, and the order must be affirmed.

Alleged failure to admit relevant evidence

At the time of the hearing the question of relevancy was governed by the provisions of former sections 1868 and 1870 of the Code of Civil Procedure. 2 In Larson v. Solbakken (1963) 221 Cal.App.2d 410, 34 Cal.Rptr. 450, this court observed as follows 'The problem presented by the case at bench is one of relevancy. The meaning of relevancy is stated thusly by Witkin in his work entitled 'California Evidence' (1958) in section 111, on page 133: '(c) Relevancy. In its more precise sense, relevancy is concerned with the probative quality of the evidence offered. Relevant evidence is defined as 'evidence having any tendency in reason to prove any material fact.' * * * ('Relevancy, as the word itself indicates, is not an inherent characteristic of any item of evidence but exists as a relation between an item of evidence and a proposition sought to be proved'); * * * ('Relevancy, as employed by judges and lawyers, is the tendency of the evidence to establish a material proposition'); * * * ('Evidence is relevant not only when it tends to prove or disprove the precise fact in issue, but when it tends to establish a fact from which he existence or nonexistence of the fact in issue can be directly inferred'); * * *.' (And see Code Civ.Proc., § 1868.) The concept of relevancy has been a subject of considerable discussion and review by legal writers and judicial decisions. From all that has been said and written, certain fundamental principles can be gleaned. These are: (1) that all relevant evidence is admissible unless some specific rule forbids or unless excluded for some special reason (citations); (2) that "(n)o precise or universal test of relevancy is furnished by the law," but the question in each case is to be determined "according to the teachings of reason and judicial experience" (Moody v. Peirano, 4 Cal.App. 411, 418, 88 P. 380, 382; Witkin, Cal. Evidence, § 113, pp. 135--136); and (3) that a wide discretion is left to the trial judge, which discretion will not be disturbed unless there is a clear showing of abuse thereof. (Citations.)' (221 Cal.App.2d at pp. 419--420, 34 Cal.Rptr. at pp. 455--456, fns. omitted. See also People v. Soto (1966) 245 Cal.App.2d 401, 406, 53 Cal.Rptr. 832; and People v. Lint (1960) 182 Cal.App.2d 402, 415, 6 Cal.Rptr. 95.)

The fact that defendant was innocent, if established beyond peradventure of a doubt, would tend to show that his guilty plea was the result of an unsound mind. In Estate of De Laveaga (1913) 165 Cal. 607, 133 P. 307, the court stated: 'Absolute acquiescence by the person whose soundness of mind is in question in a course of conduct on the part of those around him with relation to his property and personal affairs which no person of sound mind would tolerate or acquiesce in, is competent evidence tending to show an unsound mind.' (165 Cal. at p. 624, 133 P. at p. 315.)

In this case, however, the evidence offered is not necessarily inconsistent with guilt. The fact that the witnesses did not observe any abnormal conduct between defendant and his daughter, does not establish that such conduct did not occur unobserved. Nor does the proffered medical testimony require a finding of innocence. All the evidence offered was at best cumulative to defendant's own testimony.

The court had conducted the hearings which resulted in defendant's plea and sentence. It had before it the reports of examining psychiatrists and the probation officer which referred to contemporaneous declarations and admissions of the defendant. On this record it was no abuse of discretion to exclude the cumulative and remote evidence of defendant's innocence.

Alleged failure to evaluate the evidence in light of the purpose for which it was introduced

Section 5505 of the Welfare and Institutions Code provides: 'Each psychiatrist so appointed shall file with the court a separate written report of the result of his examination, together with his conclusions and recommendations and his opinion as to whether or not the person would benefit by care and treatment in a state hospital. At the hearing each psychiatrist shall hear the testimony of all witnesses, and shall testify as to the result of his examination and to any other pertinent facts within his knowledge.'

The record reflects that the two written reports filed with the court, although separately subscribed, are in the first person plural, and are apparently identical in content. If the stenographer's initialing is of any significance, it indicates that Dr. Klatte adopted the wording of the report of Dr. Hook. At the hearing before the court only Dr. Hook testified, and it appears that he was excused before the defendant testified on his own behalf.

Defendant offered the record of the proceedings held to determine whether the defendant was a mentally disordered sex offender in support of his contentions that the proceedings were erroneous because the doctors failed to file separate reports, and because both doctors failed to hear the testimony of all witnesses and only one testified.

An irregularity in proceedings to determine whether a defendant is a mentally disordered sex offender may be raised by appeal. (See People v. Succop (1967) 67 A.C. 808, 811--813, 63 Cal.Rptr. 569, 433 P.2d 473; People v. Austin (1968) 260 A.C.A. 696, 699--701, 67 Cal.Rptr. 391; People v. Brown (1968) 260 A.C.A. 451, 456, 67 Cal.Rptr. 238; People v. Thomas (1968) 260 A.C.A. 192, 195, 67 Cal.Rptr. 234; People v. Armstrong (1968) 260 A.C.A. 186, 192, 67 Cal.Rptr. 73; People v. Slutts (1968) 259 A.C.A. 949, 957--958, 66 Cal.Rptr. 862; People v. Gray (1968) 259 A.C.A. 901, 908--909, 66 Cal.Rptr. 654; People v. Berry (1968) 257 A.C.A. 831, 836--839, 65 Cal.Rptr. 125; and People v. Loignon (1967) 250 Cal.App.2d 386, 389--391, 58 Cal.Rptr. 866.) Where the defendant is held as a mentally disordered sex offender under an invalid commitment, he is also entitled to relief by writ of habeas corpus. (See People v. Thomas, supra, 260 A.C.A. at pp. 196--197, 67 Cal.Rptr. 234; In re Kramer (1967) 257 A.C.A. 319, 321--322, 64 Cal.Rptr. 686; and People v. Harvath (1967) 251 A.C.A. 911, 912, 60 Cal.Rptr. 15.) 3 Defendant's contentions, however, are predicated on facts which existed at the time...

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  • People v. Ham
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
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    ...that the comment by the court violated defendant's rights against self-incrimination. The People's reliance on People v. Vaughn, 262 Cal.App.2d 42, 68 Cal.Rptr. 366 is misplaced. That case did not involve a comment by the court in a jury trial on the defendant's failure to testify; rather i......
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