Wednesday, June 29, 2005

People v. Banuelos (Cal. Ct. App. - June 22, 2005)

Here are the (somewhat bizarre) facts of this case:

Jorge Orozco owns a small market in the Wilmington area that sells prepared food. He was working one morning with his wife and 21-year-old daughter when appellant entered the market and claimed he had been robbed. . . . Appellant said he was hungry but had no money, and he tried to give Orozco an identification card in exchange for some food. Orozco told appellant to leave and he eventually did so. Appellant reentered the market about ten minutes later. This time he was wearing a shirt. He again asked for food and Orozco told his wife to give him two tamales to make him go away. Appellant wanted to eat the tamales at the inside counter, but Orozco told him to leave. Appellant took the food outside. After another ten minutes or so, appellant returned, again not wearing a shirt. He said he was a health inspector and demanded to know whether Orozco had washed his hands before giving him the tamales. Appellant's demeanor was aggressive and he held his hands in fists in front of his chest. He asked Orozco whether he could wash his hands, but Orozco did not want him to use the sink in the kitchen area of the market because his wife was back there. Orozco told appellant he could not go into the kitchen without a shirt. Appellant, who was much younger and larger than Orozco, responded by pulling a health department sign from the wall and throwing it on the counter. He moved closer to Orozco, who told his wife to call the police. Appellant said, "The police coming [sic]. Call the police." He left the market, telling Orozco, "Come out. I'll wait for you outside." As he spoke these last words, he held one hand up in the air in a fist and waved his other arm. . . . Police arrived and contacted appellant outside the market after interviewing Orozco. Officer Liavva Moevao and two other officers approached appellant and asked to speak to him, but appellant just swore at them. Moevao decided to do a weapons patdown and told appellant to put his arms behind his back. Appellant said, "What the fuck for?" and assumed a fighting stance while resisting Moevao's attempt to restrain his arm. Moevao and other officers restrained appellant's arm and forced him to the ground. Appellant continued to struggle and kick until he was placed in handcuffs and leg restraints. He was arrested and taken into custody.

Okay, so he's guilty. And is sentenced to 11 years in prison as a result.

But looking at the facts, does anyone other than me have any concerns regarding the defendant's sanity? I mean, what the guy does is hardly what I'd call normal.

But no one says anything at all about this, or raises any issue about it. And Justice Coffee's opinion is published, but he decides not to publish the portion of the opinion that recites these underlying facts.

You've got to feel at least a little bad for this guy, who's obviously got some mental health issues and who's sentenced to 11 years in prison as a result. Or at least I do. Sure, he committed a crime, but 11 years is a pretty long time for what he did, particularly given his mental problems. Which a decade in prison will likely only make worse.