People v. Yuriar, B306024

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtBENDIX, J.
PartiesTHE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. JOSE GERARDO YURIAR, Defendant and Appellant.
Docket NumberB306024
Decision Date30 June 2021

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,

JOSE GERARDO YURIAR, Defendant and Appellant.


California Court of Appeals, Second District, First Division

June 30, 2021


APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. KA121893, Laura F. Priver, Judge.

Erica Gambale, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

Rob Bonta, Attorney General, Matthew Rodriguez, Acting Attorney General, Lance E. Winters, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Susan Sullivan Pithey, Assistant Attorney General, Paul M. Roadarmel, Jr. and Stephanie A. Miyoshi, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.


Defendant Jose Gerardo Yuriar challenges his conviction for assault with a deadly weapon. His principal argument is that the trial court erred in excluding evidence that the victim and an eyewitness requested a form to apply for an immigration visa available only to victims of certain crimes and certain family members of those victims, and requiring certification from a certifying agency, which includes a prosecutor. Defendant asserted the evidence was relevant to demonstrate the victim's and eyewitness's motive to shade their respective testimony to please the prosecutor. The trial court excluded the evidence under Evidence Code section 352.

We conclude the trial court did not abuse its discretion in excluding the evidence because the inference of motive was weak and the admission of the evidence would have been unduly prejudicial given the prospect of juror bias against undocumented immigrants. We also reject defendant's challenge based on the sufficiency of the evidence to the jury's true finding of the great bodily injury enhancement. Finally, we reject defendant's argument that the trial court erred in instructing the jury that defendant's flight may be evidence of consciousness of guilt. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment.


We set forth here background facts and a general description of the proceedings below. We describe additional facts and proceedings relevant to the issues addressed in our Discussion.

A jury convicted defendant of assault with a deadly weapon and found true a great bodily injury enhancement. (Pen. Code, §§ 245, subd. (a)(1) & 12022.7, subd. (a).) The jury acquitted defendant of two counts of committing criminal threats. Defendant admitted that he suffered a prior conviction for second degree robbery. The trial court found the prior robbery conviction true and that the robbery conviction fell within Penal Code sections 1170.12; 667, subdivision (a); and 667, subdivision (b). The trial court sentenced defendant to prison for nine years, which included three years for the great bodily injury enhancement.

On August 28, 2019, defendant approached the truck where Estrada and his father Mendez, were sleeping.[1] The truck was parked in Whittier Narrows Park. Defendant asked for assistance to repair his bike, which had a flat tire. Defendant startled Mendez, who asked defendant to leave. Defendant did not leave. When Estrada awoke, he exited the truck, and an altercation between defendant and Estrada ensued.

It is undisputed that defendant used a Leatherman multitool, similar to a pocket knife, to cut Estrada's left cheek. Defendant testified, “I swung and I skinned his cheek.” It is also undisputed that Estrada hit defendant with a metal pipe. Estrada required stitches to repair the wound on his cheek from defendant's Leatherman tool. A bystander, Acosta, called 911 and Deputy Sheriff Abel Morales responded to the call.[2] A search of defendant and the location where the incident occurred did not produce defendant's Leatherman tool.

The vigorously disputed issue was whether Estrada or defendant started the physical altercation. Estrada testified he did not try to punch, kick, or hit defendant before defendant cut his cheek with a knife. Estrada hit defendant with a metal pipe only when defendant raised his arm to hit Estrada in the face. Estrada acknowledged hitting defendant twice with the metal pipe.[3] Estrada's father, Mendez, testified that defendant tried to punch Estrada and Estrada returned the punches. Mendez further testified that defendant then retrieved a knife and cut Estrada's left cheek. Defendant swung the knife multiple times at Estrada before Estrada took a metal pipe from the truck and hit defendant on the arm with the pipe. Acosta, the eyewitness, testified that he saw defendant hit Estrada and saw defendant stab Estrada. Acosta stated that he did not see Estrada try to hit defendant. Acosta also acknowledged that he did not observe the entire incident because he was checking his phone.

In contrast, defendant testified that within two minutes of exiting the truck where he had been sleeping, Estrada took a metal pipe from the back of the truck. According to defendant, defendant did not retrieve his Leatherman multitool until after Estrada hit him twice with the metal pipe. Defendant elaborated that Estrada hurt him by hitting him with the pipe, causing defendant's arms to swell and defendant to lose feeling in his hands. Defendant testified that peace officers were unable to handcuff him after the incident because of the swelling in his arms. Defendant further testified that he received four or five stitches in his arm as a result of the altercation with Estrada. A defense investigator testified that in a pretrial interview, Acosta reported Estrada swung a metal pipe at defendant several times and hit defendant with it twice.

There also was disputed testimony as to whether defendant threatened to kill Estrada and Mendez.

The trial court instructed the jury on self-defense. Defense counsel argued that defendant acted in self-defense.


1. Defendant Does Not Demonstrate the Trial Court Abused Its Discretion in Excluding Evidence that Acosta and Estrada Asked for the Form to Apply for a U-Visa

Relying on Evidence Code section 352, the trial court rejected defendant's request to cross-examine Acosta and Estrada on their request to the prosecutor for a form to apply for a U Visa, a type of visa we describe below. On appeal, defendant contends the trial court erred in excluding this evidence: “[T]he evidence was relevant and probative of both Acosta's and [Estrada]'s bias, motive to testify, and motive to exaggerate... the incident and benefit the prosecution.” Defendant adds that Estrada and Acosta “had a bias in that they had a legitimate stake in the outcome of the trial; they were seeking legal status in this country under the U-VISA program.” Defendant further argues the trial court's ruling denied him his right to present a defense, due process, and a fair trial.

The Attorney General counters with the trial court's discretion under Evidence Code section 352 to “exclude evidence that is of marginal impeachment value if it would result in an undue consumption of time, confuse the issues, or create a substantial danger of undue prejudice.” The Attorney General argues the trial court did not abuse that discretion given the “limited probative value” of the evidence, the prejudice resulting from informing the jury that Estrada and Acosta were undocumented immigrants; and the undue consumption of time required to explain complex immigration laws and processes. Finally, the Attorney General argues defendant does not have a constitutional right to admit evidence of limited probative value.

We begin with additional factual background and then turn to the parties' arguments. We conclude defendant demonstrates no evidentiary or constitutional error.

a. Additional facts

In their trial brief, the People asked the trial court pursuant to Evidence Code section 352, to exclude any evidence of Acosta's and Estrada's request for a U-Visa application form (Form I-918). The People reported that on January 16, 2020, approximately three months after Estrada testified at the preliminary hearing, Acosta approached the prosecuting attorney outside the courtroom on the day the case was set for trial. Acosta asked the prosecutor for the U-Visa application paperwork. Estrada overheard Acosta's request and also requested the paperwork.

When Acosta and Estrada requested the application, the prosecutor “advised Mr. Acosta that [he] did not think he [Acosta] was eligible as he was not a victim” but that Estrada might be eligible. The prosecutor told Estrada and Acosta that they could submit the forms to the prosecutor for certification but he “could not guarantee” certification because “there are very strict requirements and not all people or all cases qualify.” The prosecutor thereafter mailed the U-Visa application forms to Acosta and Estrada. As of January 21, 2020, the prosecutor had not received an application from either of them.

In a motion in limine, defendant sought permission to cross examine Estrada and Acosta on their request for the U-Visa application form. Defendant claimed the evidence was relevant as to “Acosta's and Mendez's bias, motive to testify, and motive to exaggerate both the incident and benefit the prosecution.” Defendant added that the evidence was essential to evaluating credibility: “The fact that the witnesses are seeking substantial personal gain from their participation in this case bears on their credibility. Just as the Court would permit cross-examination on an expert witness's fees, it should permit cross-examination on [Mr. Estrada]'s and Mr. Acosta's efforts to obtain immigration benefits from their involvement in this case.” Defendant explained that an immigration expert would not be required because the issue was “what benefits [Mr. Estrada] and Mr. [Acosta] believe[d] they may be eligible for....” Defendant relied solely on the prosecutor's statements regarding his conversations with Acosta and Estrada, and did not offer any evidence in support of his argument. Nor did he request an Evidence Code...

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