People v. Saldana

Filed 1/12/18 CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION COURT OF APPEAL, FOURTH APPELLATE DISTRICT DIVISION ONE STATE OF CALIFORNIA THE PEOPLE, D071432 Plaintiff and Respondent, v. (Super. Ct. No. SCS277981) MANUEL SALDANA, Defendant and Appellant. APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of San Diego County, Dwayne K. Moring, Judge. Reversed. Charles M. Sevilla for Defendant and Appellant. Xavier Becerra, Attorney General, Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Julie L. Garland, Assistant Attorney General, Charles C. Ragland and Meredith S. White, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent. This Miranda1 case involves Manuel Saldana, a 58-year-old legal Mexican immigrant with a sixth grade education who, with no notable criminal history, was 1 Miranda v. Arizona (1966) 384 U.S. 436. charged with committing lewd acts on three girls, G.H. (age 11), M.H. (age 8), and Y.H. (age 6) (collectively the children), who live in the trailer park where he resides. From the outset, the veracity of the children's claims was open to question. Left mostly unsupervised, the eight year old and the 11 year old watched a daily television soap opera which frequently depicts adult themes. After watching, the girls acted out episodes themselves. The day before accusing Saldana of molesting them, they watched an episode involving child molestation. In a police station interrogation—with no Miranda advisements—Saldana confessed to inadvertently touching G.H. and M.H. on the vagina, outside their clothes. The jury watched a video of his confession and during deliberations asked to watch it again. About two hours later, the jury found Saldana guilty of four counts of committing lewd acts, violating Penal Code section 288, subdivision (a). The court sentenced Saldana to six years in prison. Saldana raises numerous issues on appeal; however, the heart of this case is whether Saldana was subjected to a custodial interrogation—because if he was, the court erred in allowing the jury to hear Saldana's confession over his Miranda objection. Except for being captured red-handed, a confession is often the most incriminating and persuasive evidence of guilt—an "evidentiary bombshell" that frequently "shatters the defense." (People v. Cahill (1993) 5 Cal.4th 478, 497.) In response to police request, Saldana voluntarily went to the station for questioning. He was not handcuffed and when questioning started the detective told Saldana he could leave when he wanted and would not be arrested—"right now." 2 However, once the detective closed the door and began interrogating Saldana, the interrogation was persistent, confrontational, and accusatory. For about 40 minutes, the detective utilized classic interrogation techniques designed to convey two things. The first is the interrogator's rock-solid belief the suspect is guilty and all denials will fail. "'Such tactics include making an accusation, overriding objections, and citing evidence, real or manufactured, to shift the suspect's mental state from confident to hopeless.'" (See In re Elias V. (2015) 237 Cal.App.4th 568, 583 (Elias V.).) The second is to provide the suspect with moral justification and face-saving excuses for having committed the crime, a tactic that "'communicates by implication that leniency in punishment is forthcoming ...

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