Wednesday, April 04, 2018

In Re White (Cal. Ct. App. - March 6, 2018)

It's a slow news day in the appellate courts.  Nothing at all from the California Supreme Court or Court of Appeal.  And only an amendment to an opinion from the Ninth Circuit.  Zzzzzzz.

Though it does give me a chance to go back a tiny bit.

See what you think about this opinion from last month.  The question is whether the defendant is such a threat to public safety that he should be denied bail entirely.  (The California Constitution says that you can only deny bail in this setting if  "the court finds based on clear and convincing evidence that there is a substantial likelihood the person's release would result in great bodily harm to others.")

You could see strong feelings being raised on both sides.  Do you think there's "clear and convincing" evidence that there's a "substantial likelihood" that this guy will reoffend while on bail?

"Fifteen-year-old J.D. lived with her family near the beach in Encinitas, California. On July 26, 2017, she was staying with friends because her family had been on vacation. In the afternoon, she rode her bicycle to her family's house to get her surfboard and go surfing. Across from her house she saw two men standing near a blue truck. They were playing loud music and looked out of place. J.D. felt like they were watching her.

A woman loading her car nearby saw the two men and thought they looked "creepy." The men were staring at her as well. She was concerned that they might burglarize her vacation rental after she left. The woman's son thought they were being "creepy" also, so he took a Snapchat video of them. He told police he was worried about the men wanting to kidnap his younger brothers.

J.D. had a bad feeling about the men, so she went through a gate into her neighbor's yard, hopped over the fence, and went into her garage. She later said she was trying to prevent the men from seeing where she lived. J.D. retrieved her surfboard from the garage, went out front, and left the surfboard in her driveway. The men were still staring at her, which made her feel uncomfortable.

J.D. went inside, but she became concerned that someone would try to steal her surfboard. She grabbed some surfboard wax, went back outside, and started to wax the surfboard. The men were still standing by their truck. J.D. noticed a few people walk by, and a surfer came up from the beach and asked to borrow some wax. This request was normal, so J.D. agreed.

J.D. continued to wax her surfboard in the driveway. At some point, when she had her back to the road, one of the men from the truck came up behind her and grabbed her neck "like a pressure lock." The man—later identified as White's roommate Jeremiah Owens—shoved J.D.'s face toward the driveway, but J.D. managed to catch herself with her hands. Owens said, "All right. Let's do this." He tried to pull her upright and toward the truck. J.D. repeatedly told him "no" and "stop."

J.D. managed to fight Owens off and step away from him. She saw the other man—later identified as White—still standing by the truck, looking up and down the street. She told Owens and White, "That's not cool. You can't do that." White said, "We're sorry" or "Sorry," and J.D. backed away toward her house. But then, while J.D. was watching them, White looked at Owens and said, "Go in the house." J.D. thought Owens would try and attack her again.

J.D. went through the gate, locked it "as fast as [she] could," and ran into the house. Her neighbor's dog was barking near the gate. J.D. was "really scared" and locked both doors into the house. She thought Owens and White were going to follow her inside. She thought they might break the lock on the gate or hop over the fence. She was going to hide, but she heard the truck's engine start. She looked outside and saw White in the driver's seat. Owens ran around to the passenger side. J.D. thought they looked scared, and they drove quickly away. She started hyperventilating and crying. She tried and eventually succeeded in calling her parents, who told her to call the police. She called 911, and police responded.

The police began an investigation and detained White. In two interviews with police, White denied knowing that Owens intended to attack J.D. White said Owens told him he thought J.D. was pretty. White admitted he "might have said go and get her" to Owens, but he said he meant go "talk to her." Owens then told him "hey watch out" or "watch this" and walked over to J.D. White said he thought Owens was just going to talk to her. White claimed that, when the attack began, he yelled at Owens to stop and told J.D. he was sorry. White said Owens told him afterwards that a "primal instinct" came over him. White was concerned that Owens had mental health issues. Forensic examination of White's mobile phone revealed an internet search history in the days after the attack that included the questions, "Why would someone act on their primal instinct?," "How can you tell if someone you know is being brain washed?," and "What to do if someone you know is being brainwashed?" Owens was later arrested as well. . . .

The court then heard White's request for bail. White's counsel argued that White was a high school graduate, was gainfully employed as a cable installer, and had the support of family and friends. He requested that bail be set at $50,000. Owens requested bail as well. The prosecution opposed. As to White, it argued, "I will submit to the Court that Mr. White did, in fact, aid and abet, encouraged this very violent crime. And I believe the Court is on sound legal ground to deny bail to him. I'll submit to the Court as to whether you would like to set bail, given the fact that he is not as culpable perhaps as Mr. Owens in being the direct perpetrator.""

I live in a beach community -- and have a sixteen-year old daughter -- so the facts of this case (from San Diego, no less) definitely strike home.  Yet, at the same time, the facts involving the defendant (and his subsequent Internet search) are definitely not the stuff of your usual attempted rape case.

What do you think?  A case to deny bail entirely, or not?