P. v. Castro


P. v. Castro

Filed 1/14/13 P. v. Castro CA6


California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.




Plaintiff and Respondent,



Defendant and Appellant.

(Monterey County
Super. Ct. Nos. SS100498,
SS100751, & SSC110040)

A jury convicted Ricardo Garcia Castro, the defendant herein, of unlawful possession of ammunition (Pen. Code, former § 12316, subd. (b)(1); Stats. 2009, ch. 628, § 5) and a controlled substance (Health & Saf. Code, § 11377, subd. (a)). On appeal, he claims that the court erred and infringed on his constitutional rights in allowing the jury to receive evidence about the nature of certain prior convictions, which evidence he claims was substantially more prejudicial than probative and for that reason should not have been received by the jury.
Defendant’s claim fails on the merits. We will affirm the judgment.
Police conducted a probation search of the residence defendant shared with his mother and found ammunition and methamphetamine in his bedroom. Possessing ammunition was illegal in defendant’s case because he had prior convictions for battery resulting in serious injury (Pen. Code, § 243, subd. (d)) and for dissuading a witness from reporting a crime (id., § 136.1, subd. (b)(1)). (Id., former § 12316, subd. (b)(1); Stats. 2009, ch. 628, § 5; Pen. Code, former § 12021, subd. (c)(1); Stats. 2010, ch. 689, § 3.)
To prove the prior-conviction element of the illegal possession of ammunition charge, the prosecution introduced in evidence and the parties agreed to show to the jury two four-page documents. The first page of the first document showed that defendant had been convicted, as relevant here, of “PC243(d).” In similar fashion, the first page of the second document showed that defendant had been convicted of “PC136.1(b)(1)” and “PC136.1(b)(2).” The description of these offenses, which were, respectively, battery with serious bodily injury (Pen. Code, § 243, subd. (d)) and dissuading a witness (id., § 136.1, subd. (b)), were removed, and the offenses were not described anywhere in the documents except for two mentions in each document that they were misdemeanors.
Defendant claims that the trial court abused its discretion under state law and infringed on his right to due process of law under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution by allowing the jury to see the documents described above.
Defendant presents two arguments in support of this claim. First, he argues in his opening brief that the jury was improperly allowed (see People v. Sapp (2003) 31 Cal.4th 240, 261, 262) to learn the nature of his prior convictions, i.e., that they were for battery with serious bodily injury and dissuading a witness. In his reply brief, though, and with commendable candor, he acknowledges that the record obviates this claim: the jury did not learn the nature of the prior offenses. We agree. Not only were the documents received by the jury edited to remove the nature of the prior offenses, but the instructions also avoided telling the jury what crimes the Penal Code sections referred to. The prosecutor was just as careful during closing argument. Therefore, the part of defendant’s claim relating to the disclosure of the nature of his prior convictions lacks a factual basis and this issue must be resolved against him.
But defendant also argues that the rest of the two documents contained prejudicial information and the jury should not have been allowed to see their content. In his view, the documents showed that he had committed other crimes and that the documents’ listing of a number of probation conditions portrayed him as a dangerous individual. He raised this issue in a motion in limine, asking that the jury not be allowed to learn of his probationary status.
Even if the court abused its discretion in allowing the jury to see the documents’ probation-related text, there is no reasonable probability of a different outcome absent any such error (People v. Watson (1956) 46 Cal.2d 818, 836) because the jury was presented with strong evidence that defendant unlawfully possessed the ammunition.
Defendant argues that he did not mention the ammunition during a recorded phone call to his mother, the recording of which was played to the jury. He also contends that he was not the sole resident of the house where the ammunition was found; his mother lived there too. None of this, however, translates into a reasonable probability that the jury’s seeing court probation orders in prior cases led to his conviction. A Soledad police officer testified matter-of-factly that he found the ammunition in defendant’s bedroom. Defendant argues that some evidence showed the ammunition was partly concealed by clothing, but the officer testified that he immediately spotted it without even entering the closet and the clothing did not block his view. Given this evidence, the jury was not likely to believe that defendant did not know about the presence of the ammunition in his bedroom. The logical inference was that the ammunition belonged to him. There is no reasonable probability that, had the jury not seen the probation orders, it would have acquitted defendant of unlawfully possessing ammunition.
As for defendant’s due process claim, our rejection of his state law claim yields the answer. “[R]ejection on the merits of a claim that the trial court erred . . . necessarily leads to rejection of the newly applied constitutional ‘gloss’ as well. No separate constitutional discussion is required in such cases, and we therefore provide none.” (People v. Lewis and Oliver (2006) 39 Cal.4th 970, 990, fn. 5.)
The judgment is affirmed.

Márquez, J.


Elia, Acting P. J.

Bamattre-Manoukian, J.

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