Tuesday, September 25, 2012

People v. Gutierrez (Cal. Ct. App. - Sept. 24, 2012)

Two things about this case.

First, it's certainly in the running for "Worst Story Ever By Defendant Attempting To Claim He's Innocent."

Gutierrez murders his aunt by sneaking into her bedroom and stabbing her 28 times.  A family member sees Gutierrez immediately after he commits the murder and notices that his right hand is bleeding, at which point Gutierrez flees.  They then find the victim naked, face down on the floor with her legs spread apart, with a large knife protuding from her back and fresh bruises on her face and body and stab wounds to her back, shoulder, hands, chest, face and neck.

Gutierrez then admits himself to the hospital for his bloody hand, saying that he was stabbed by a gang member.  But a nurse finds blood on the tip of his penis.  Presumably not put there by the gang.  The police also find Gutierrez's DNA on the victim's perianal area, her buttocks and inner thighs, and on the bathroom wall by the light switch.  The police also search Gutierrez's bedroom and discovered bloody socks, shoes and jeans, as well as blood on the outside and inside of Gutierrez's car and a blooy dress shirt inside the car.

So a bloody glove and a dead stabbing victim.  Just like OJ.  But so much more.

The police interrogate Gutierrez.  He continues to insist that his hand was cut up in a fight with a gang member after leaving a party.  But the police tell him that they had that particular party under surveillance and didn't see a fight.  At which point Gutierrez changes his story, saying that, yeah, he entered his aunt's room and saw her, but she attacked him with a knife, not the other way around.  Also claiming that the victim stabbed herself with the knife in order to implicate him.  Yep.  Stabbed herself 28 times.  Leaving that huge knife in her own back to finish the job.  Makes sense.

What about the blood on his penis?  Oh, yeah.  She sexually assaulted him too.  What about the DNA?  Oh, that?  Yeah, well, during the struggle, Gutierrez says he "fell down," and when he did so, it's possible his penis might have penetrated his aunt's vagina.  Just maybe.  No explanation for why Gutierrez is apparently aroused and erect during a fight with his aunt in which she's stabbing herself.

Needless to say, Gutierrez gets convicted at trial.  Sentenced to LWOP.  If only because his story's so incredibly bad.

Second point. Justice Yegan affirms the conviction, holding that Gutierrez's Miranda rights weren't violated.  Gutierrez, who's 17 or 19, claims that he repeatedly asked to speak with his father during the interview, but that these requests were denied.  Justice Yegan says that these requests were unclear and equivocal.  Here's how Justice Yegan describes those requests in the text of the opinion:

"Appellant said, 'I wish by Dad could be here with me,' and 'Where is my father?' but did not ask the officers to stop the interview. . . . Appellant did not say he wanted to stop the interview, wanted his father to be present, or wanted his father to call an attorney."

Okay.  Those two statements quoted by Justice Yegan do indeed seem to be equivocal, and I agreed they don't clearly say that Gutierrez "wanted his father to be present."

But then check out footnote four.  Where Justice Yegan identifies two more statements by Gutierrez.  In which he asks "Does my father know I'm here?" and then expressly tells the police "I would like to see my dad," informing them that his father was working at Marie Calendar's.

Well, geeze.  Those other statements might well have been unclear.  But it's hard to argue that Gutierrez never said that he wanted his father to be present when we have a DVD of him expressly saying "I would like to see my dad."

Don't bury inconvenient facts in a footnote.  Address 'em head on.  Otherwise it looks like you're hiding stuff.

And, while we're at it, don't stab a relative to death and come up with a super-lame story to try to explain things.