People v. Villa, E074417

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtSLOUGH, J.
Citation270 Cal.Rptr.3d 46,55 Cal.App.5th 1042
Parties The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Dagoberto Shoreque VILLA, Defendant and Appellant.
Decision Date16 October 2020
Docket NumberE074417

55 Cal.App.5th 1042
270 Cal.Rptr.3d 46

The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
Dagoberto Shoreque VILLA, Defendant and Appellant.

E074417

Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division 2, California.

Filed October 16, 2020


Richard Jay Moller, 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, Assistant Attorney General, Steve Oetting and Daniel J. Hilton, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

OPINION

SLOUGH, J.

55 Cal.App.5th 1044

While driving with his girlfriend, Jane Doe, and their infant child, Dagoberto Shoreque Villa, who was heavily intoxicated, began punching Doe and pulling out her hair in a fit of jealousy. When a police officer pulled them over after seeing him run a red light, he found Doe injured and bleeding and asked Villa to exit the vehicle. Villa identified himself using a false driver's license and resisted taking a blood alcohol test. Later, Doe accused Villa of having previously beat her with a belt buckle and threatening to have her deported if she disclosed the abuse. Villa denied these last charges but said he didn't remember the events on the night of the drunken driving.

A jury convicted Villa of inflicting corporal injury, child endangerment, driving under the influence of alcohol, driving with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or more, falsely identifying himself to a police officer, giving false information to a police officer, and intimidating a victim.

On appeal, he argues the trial judge abused her discretion by excluding evidence Doe had applied for a visa available only to victims of domestic violence who cooperate in prosecuting their abusers.

270 Cal.Rptr.3d 48

Though the evidence was relevant, we conclude the trial judge didn't abuse her discretion by excluding it. Doe gave a statement to police and testified against Villa at the preliminary hearing, when she didn't know about the visa program, and her trial testimony was the same except for some unimportant details. That fact makes the probative value of the evidence minimal, easily outweighed by the

55 Cal.App.5th 1045

potential for wasted time and jury confusion. Moreover, the physical evidence of the abuse was overwhelming, so any error was harmless.

Villa also argues his defense counsel violated his right to self-determination when she conceded some of the charged offenses during closing argument. Assuming for the sake of argument that counsel did concede certain counts, there's no evidence Villa disagreed with her strategy, and his trial testimony suggests he supported the decision.

We therefore affirm the judgment.

I

FACTS

A. The Offenses

At the time of these events, Villa was around 28 years old, and Doe was 18 years old. They had recently had a child together and had lived together briefly.

On the evening of December 30, 2018, they went to a party held by Doe's aunt. Doe and Villa were outside by a fire, and the baby was sleeping inside. Doe left Villa a couple times to check on the baby. Around 11:00 or 11:30 p.m., after Doe returned from checking on the baby the second time, Villa abruptly indicated he wanted to leave. Doe said she got back, and he stood up and said, "I will wait for you in the car." Doe retrieved the baby and put him in a car seat in the back of his truck, and they left for their home in Perris.

According to Doe, Villa drank a lot of tequila at the party and was driving erratically. Doe complained about his driving, and Villa began yelling at her. He accused her of flirting with her cousins when she was checking on the baby. He then began hitting Doe and pulling her hair hard enough to take clumps out of her scalp. According Doe, he hit her too many times to count.

Although they were on the freeway, Villa ordered Doe to get out of his truck. As Villa slowed the truck, Doe got the baby from the back. However, instead of stopping to let them out, Villa continued driving and grabbed the baby. When the baby started crying, he placed the baby on the center console between himself and Doe. Doe picked up the baby and held him.

Someone in another vehicle saw the truck swerving between lanes on the freeway. The witness testified that, though it wasn't raining, the truck's

55 Cal.App.5th 1046

windshield wipers were on. He also said the truck was using its turn signals erratically and the truck would slow to 45 miles per hour and then speed up to 80 miles per hour. He reported the driver to the authorities and began following them.

Eventually, Villa got off the freeway and ran a red light. A California Highway Patrol officer who was responding to the drunk driver report saw the infraction and pulled him over. When the officer approached the vehicle, he smelled alcohol and noticed Doe was holding a baby and saw she had suffered an injury to her face. The officer said Villa's right hand was visibly swollen. Villa gave the officer a Mexican driver's license with a false name.

The officer said it was evident Villa had been drinking. He had red, watery eyes and smelled of alcohol, and his speech was

270 Cal.Rptr.3d 49

slow and slurred. When he got out of the truck, his gait was unsteady. About 45 minutes after police had detained him, Villa took a breath test that registered a .20 percent blood alcohol level. Villa refused to submit to any other testing. Officers got a warrant to conduct a blood test. Villa struggled with the officers, but they held him while a phlebotomist drew his blood. That time, his blood registered a .184 percent blood alcohol content, which an expert said meant Villa had a blood alcohol content between .211 percent and .239 percent when he was driving.

Doe had suffered several injuries, including a bloody lip, swollen nose, a lacerated and swollen hand, and a bloody and bruised eye. Some of her hair had been pulled out of her scalp. Three days after she was released from the hospital, she met with a representative from the district attorney's office and they documented her injuries. She later testified that her eye had stayed red for 15 days, and it took months for her hair to grow back.

Doe testified against Villa at a preliminary hearing, where she recounted the abuse in the truck and a second incident of abuse from earlier the same month. She said Villa argued with her, became jealous, and hit her leg with his belt buckle three times. The blows left a scar still visible a month later. She said she didn't report the attack because she was afraid he would hit her again. Doe shut herself in a room with the baby, but was cut off from help because Villa wouldn't allow her to have her own phone. He told her things "could get worse" if she told anyone, warned she could be deported to Mexico, and said he could take the baby away from her.

Villa admitted attending the party and drinking. He said he couldn't remember leaving the party, driving home, being pulled over, identifying himself to the officer, or taking a breath test. He said he did remember that the police later drew his blood. Villa also said he had no memory of the

55 Cal.App.5th 1047

earlier incident where he hit Doe with his belt and threatened her. He said he didn't know how she got the scar on her leg.

On cross-examination, he denied arguing with Doe at any time during December 2018, denied hitting her with his belt and said he hadn't threatened her. He said they had a good relationship, he trusted and loved her, and there was no turmoil in their relationship. However, he admitted the events Doe had testified about from the night of the party could have happened, though he insisted he had no memory of the events.

B. Excluding Evidence of Doe's U Visa

Before trial, defense counsel asked to be allowed to cross-examine Doe about the circumstances behind her request for U visa, which allows an alien who is a victim of certain crimes and who assists law enforcement to remain temporarily in the United States.

The trial judge noted there was little published authority on the issue in California and the few recent unpublished opinions were divided. The prosecutor explained the district attorney's office had received an application regarding Doe's U visa on May 21, 2019. The prosecutor objected to admitting the evidence on the ground it was irrelevant and, if relevant, wasteful, confusing, and unduly prejudicial. Defense counsel argued the evidence should be admitted because it was highly probative of Doe's motivation to lie. She argued the U visa operated as "almost a quid pro quo" because the government was allowing Doe to stay in the country as long as she continued assisting in the prosecution.

270 Cal.Rptr.3d 50

The trial judge said it seemed likely the evidence could be probative to show Doe's mental state and "whether or not there is bias to...

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9 practice notes
  • People v. James, F081219
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • February 23, 2022
    ..."[a] party may cross-examine a witness about the witness's motive and bias. (Evid. Code, § 780, subd. (f).)" (People v. Villa (2020) 55 Cal.App.5th 1042, 1050.) "However, the right to cross-examine a witness on potential bias, prejudice, or ulterior motive isn't absolute. 'A trial court may......
  • People v. Jackson, A157033
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • June 18, 2021
    ...repeatedly have held that [the] case applies only where defendant actively opposes counsel's concession.” (People v. Villa (2020) 55 Cal.App.5th 1042, 1056 (Villa); see People v. Bernal (2019) 42 Cal.App.5th 1160, 1166 [“McCoy does not assist defendant because the record here does not refle......
  • People v. Yuriar, B306024
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • June 30, 2021
    ...the time she filed her U Visa application (State v. Buccheri-Bianca (Ariz.Ct.App. 2013) 312 P.3d 123, 127). In People v. Villa (2020) 55 Cal.App.5th 1042, our colleagues in the Fourth District affirmed a trial court's decision to exclude evidence that a victim had an outstanding application......
  • People v. Anguiano, B304946
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • August 24, 2021
    ...at trial, and is “always relevant as discrediting the witness and affecting the weight of his testimony.”' ” (People v. Villa (2020) 55 Cal.App.5th 1042, 1051 (Villa), quoting Davis v. Alaska (1974) 415 U.S. 308, 316 [94 S.Ct. 1105, 39 L.Ed.2d 347]; see People v. Whisenhunt (2008) 44 Cal.4t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
9 cases
  • People v. James, F081219
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • February 23, 2022
    ..."[a] party may cross-examine a witness about the witness's motive and bias. (Evid. Code, § 780, subd. (f).)" (People v. Villa (2020) 55 Cal.App.5th 1042, 1050.) "However, the right to cross-examine a witness on potential bias, prejudice, or ulterior motive isn't absolute. 'A trial court may......
  • People v. Jackson, A157033
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • June 18, 2021
    ...repeatedly have held that [the] case applies only where defendant actively opposes counsel's concession.” (People v. Villa (2020) 55 Cal.App.5th 1042, 1056 (Villa); see People v. Bernal (2019) 42 Cal.App.5th 1160, 1166 [“McCoy does not assist defendant because the record here does not refle......
  • People v. Yuriar, B306024
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • June 30, 2021
    ...the time she filed her U Visa application (State v. Buccheri-Bianca (Ariz.Ct.App. 2013) 312 P.3d 123, 127). In People v. Villa (2020) 55 Cal.App.5th 1042, our colleagues in the Fourth District affirmed a trial court's decision to exclude evidence that a victim had an outstanding application......
  • People v. Anguiano, B304946
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • August 24, 2021
    ...at trial, and is “always relevant as discrediting the witness and affecting the weight of his testimony.”' ” (People v. Villa (2020) 55 Cal.App.5th 1042, 1051 (Villa), quoting Davis v. Alaska (1974) 415 U.S. 308, 316 [94 S.Ct. 1105, 39 L.Ed.2d 347]; see People v. Whisenhunt (2008) 44 Cal.4t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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