Friday, April 07, 2017

People v. Sharpe (Cal. Ct. App. - April 7, 2017)

This opinion is devastatingly concise.  It rejects defendant's arguments on appeal quickly, easily, and with the precision of a surgeon.

The basic underlying facts are that some people crept into an outdoor marijuana garden in the middle of the night, the owner confronted them, the invaders fled, and the owner ran after them.  Here are the arguments and the court's rejoinder:

"Defendant claims that, although there was evidence of the use of force (knocking Smith down) and fear (in response to brandishing of the gun), there was no evidence that defendant or his coperpetrators were in the act of taking the marijuana or attempting to flee with it when force was applied or fear was caused. We disagree. The men were in the marijuana garden cutting the marijuana. They had already stacked some of it outside the garden. When Smith confronted them, they ran out of the garden and down the driveway. In the darkness, Smith could see that they had something in their hands, yet he testified that he did not see marijuana in their hands. In the morning, Smith saw that there were pieces of marijuana scattered down the driveway. Despite Smith’s inability to identify what was in the men’s hands as they were fleeing, it was reasonable for the jury to infer from the circumstances that the men had marijuana in their hands. Based on this inference, there was sufficient evidence that defendant and his coperpetrators used force and fear as they took and fled with the marijuana, thus supporting a robbery conviction.

Defendant argues that “the circumstantial evidence suggested only that the perpetrators had been cutting and piling up marijuana to steal it, but from the moment Smith interrupted the theft their only aim was to get away.” However, as noted above, the circumstances also suggested that the perpetrators were carrying marijuana down the driveway.

Defendant asserts that the sheriff’s deputy did not see the marijuana scattered down the driveway.  But Smith testified that he saw it.

Defendant also asserts that precisely where in the driveway the marijuana was found was never established. But Smith testified he saw “little pieces of marijuana cascaded down [the] driveway like bread crumbs.”

Defendant claims that there was no evidence concerning how or when the marijuana was deposited on the driveway. But a reasonable inference from the evidence is that the marijuana on the driveway was deposited there as the men fled.

Defendant argues: “It would be rank speculation to leap from the evidence of marijuana pieces on the ground near the garden gate and plant pile (where pieces would have naturally fallen as the perpetrators hacked down 11 plants and their bamboo framing and piled up the marijuana) to the conclusion that some marijuana bits on the ground must have landed there because the perpetrators, in their rush to flee after being interrupted by Smith, were attempting to carry away marijuana but dropped some.”

This argument does not give the evidence its due. Smith testified that there were pieces of marijuana scattered down the driveway. That there were also marijuana pieces by the pile of marijuana does not mean that the jury was constrained to believe that the spread of marijuana was limited to the pile by the garden or immediately around it.

Since the jury could reasonably infer that the perpetrators were carrying marijuana as Smith confronted them and chased them down the driveway, the evidence was sufficient to support the robbery conviction."

Sounds right to me.