Tuesday, April 24, 2007

People v. Shadden (Cal. Ct. App. - April 24, 2007)

How can you not want to read this case? It's fun and interesting on so many different levels.

First, the sentence. Tom Shadden is angry at the mother of his children. Real angry. Not angry enough to do her personal harm. But, still, angry enough to do the equivalent of punching a wall. But instead of punching a wall, he takes out a gun and shoots her unoccupied car (and takes an ice pick to one of the tires).

N0t a good thing, obviously. What sentence would you impose? He's not shooting at anyone, mind you. Just whacking the car. Which, parenthetically, he and the mother jointly own. So he's basically whacking his (and his s.o.'s) own car. What the appropriate sentence?

Answer: 16 years in prison. Interesting, eh? Was that your call as well? Read the opinion for more. (Thomas obviously has an anger management problem, by the way. Duh.)

Second, the doctrine. Thomas gets convicted of, inter alia, violating Penal Code sect. 247(b), which penalizes a person from shooting at an unoccupied motor vehicle (or house). But Section 247(b) by its terms "does not apply to shooting at an abandoned vehicle, unoccupied vehicle, uninhabited building, or dwelling house with the permission of the owner.” Thomas argues that since he's the co-owner of the vehicle, Section 247(b) does not apply, and that he can no more be convicted of shooting up his own vehicle under Section 247(b) than he can be convicted of burglarizing his own home.

I thought that this was an interesting argument. Ultimately, Justice Wiseman rejects this contention, and her analysis in this regard is fairly good. But, honestly, from what Justice Wiseman said in the opinion, it also sounded like counsel for Shadden (Laura Gordon, a U. Conn. Law graduate down here in Escondido) didn't do the greatest job in the world of briefing this point, and I'd have liked so see the issue explored a bit more.

Third, the transcript. Look, I occasionally drop the f-bomb myself. But I try hard to do so no more than, say, two or three times a sentence. By contrast, here's a partial transcript of what Shadden said -- as he was being tape recorded on the telephone in prison -- to the mother of his child as he attempted to encourage her to try to get the charges dropped: "You need to f***in call. I don’t give a f*** if you call right now. First thing in the f***in morning. . . . You got mad cause you heard I was there and I broke that f***in baby thing [] and you f***in went out and you f***ing had your f***in friend do it." And, a few minutes later: "“Tell ‘em you were f***in’ mad 'cause I was there half hour previous and you heard I smashed the f***ing thing like I did, you know, I was going to f***in lie, I broke the baby’s (inaudible) f*** it. Dang, you f***in had your friend shoot it up hey.”

I think the f-words were a nice touch, don't you? I mean, I was initially totally unclear as to what he was saying. But then once he said the f-word so many times, I totally understood. "What baby thing?", I initially asked myself. "Oh, yeah. The f***in baby thing! Now I understand! And I take it by your reference I'm to call the first thing in the f***ing morning. That's a little bit before the regular morning, no?"

Yep, that word adds a lot. I'm gonna try to use it a lot more than I do. Oh, yeah. And I'm also going to make sure that all of my attempts to feloniously dissuade a witness from testifying are made on a recorded phone line from prison. Notwithstanding all those huge signs that say "NOTICE: ALL TELEPHONE CALLS FROM THIS LINE MAY BE RECORDED." Yep. Definitely a good plan.