Wednesday, May 30, 2018

People v. Brunton (Cal. Ct. App. - May 30, 2018)

It's never all that fun to be booked into jail.  Maybe you've been driving while impaired.  Maybe you've shoplifted.  Maybe you're innocent.  Regardless, before you have a hearing and make bail, you're going to spend a cozy evening in a local jail cell.

Or maybe not so cozy.

Here's Christopher G.'s experience.  He was booked into the local jail here in San Diego.  They give him a random cellmate, a guy named Richard Brunton.  Just another guy spending the evening in jail.

But things go downhill quickly.  Immediately, even.  The victim, Christopher, could be just about any of us.  A guy who's had a bad day and yet it's about to get much, much worse:

"When Christopher entered the cell, Brunton "star[ed] [him] down." Seeing that Brunton already had the top bunk, Christopher placed his bedding on the bottom bunk and his toiletries on an adjacent desk. [Seems reasonable to me.]

Brunton said, "Don't put your fuckin' stuff there. I stand there to get up on the bed." [Not exactly the way you want to begin your interactions with your new cellie.  And pretty unreasonable; exactly where does Brunton want Christopher to sleep?!] Christopher apologized, adding, "You don't have to be so rude about it." Brunton replied, "You calling me rude?" Christopher responded, "No, I'm not calling you rude. I said you don't have to be so rude about it, though." Christopher got into his bunk and pulled his blanket over his head. [Yeah, the blanket over the head is definitely going to solve the problem.]

Brunton then punched Christopher hard twice in the back of his head and asked, "You calling me rude?" Christopher responded, "No, man. I want to get the fuck out of here. What are you doing?" He got out of bed and started pushing a button by the cell door to summon a guard. Christopher added, "All I want to do is eat breakfast." Brunton responded, "It's going to be hard to eat without no teeth. . . . I'm going to kill you today. I'm going to murder you. . . . You're going to meet Jesus today." Christopher kept pressing the call button, but no one responded—the communication device in this cell apparently was inoperative. [Seriously?! The urgent call button in the cell is just for show?!]

Brunton kicked and kneed Christopher in the ribs. Christopher screamed for the guards to help him. Brunton grabbed a bath towel, twisted it tightly like a rope, and wrapped it around Christopher's neck. Brunton kneed Christopher in the ribs, dropping him to his knees. Brunton kneed him again and cinched the towel tight. Christopher could not breathe and was "on the cusp of going unconscious." He thought he was going to die.

A guard heard Christopher's "desperate, . . . urgent" yelling, and investigated. The guard observed Brunton standing over and forcefully choking Christopher with a towel. Christopher was "completely limp" and appeared to be unconscious. The guard banged on the cell door with his flashlight and ordered Brunton to let go of Christopher and back away. Brunton did not comply. The guard opened the food port on the cell door and repeated his commands. Again, Brunton did not comply.

The guard radioed to the guard tower to have the cell door opened. With the door open, the guard pointed his Taser at Brunton and ordered him to let go of Christopher. Brunton let go and backed away. The guard ordered Brunton to get on the floor, but Brunton instead stepped on the desk and climbed into his top bunk.

The guard dragged Christopher out of the cell, and another guard handcuffed Brunton and escorted him out of the cell. Christopher was removed from the housing module by gurney and transported to a hospital for medical evaluation."

For all this, Brunton gets a total of six years in prison.  (Which may even go down a year after today's opinion.)  Whereas Christopher gets a terrifying story about his night in the local jail.