Supreme Court of California Justia
Citation 51 Cal. 4th 1040, 253 P.3d 239, 126 Cal. Rptr. 3d 65

People v. Tran

Filed 6/10/11

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA

THE PEOPLE,
Plaintiff and Respondent,
S176923
v.
Ct.App. 4/3 G036560
QUANG MINH TRAN,
Orange County
Defendant and Appellant.
Super. Ct. No. 01WF0544

The California Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act (the
STEP Act; Pen. Code, § 186.20 et seq.)1 criminalizes active participation in a
criminal street gang (§ 186.22, subd. (a)). A criminal street gang is any ongoing
association that has as one of its primary activities the commission of certain
criminal offenses and engages through its members in a “pattern of criminal gang
activity.” (§ 186.22, subd. (f); see People v. Loeun (1997) 17 Cal.4th 1, 4.) A
pattern of criminal gang activity is “the commission of, attempted commission of,
conspiracy to commit, or solicitation of, sustained juvenile petition for, or
conviction of two or more” specified criminal offenses within a certain time
frame, “on separate occasions, or by two or more persons” (the “predicate
offenses”). (§ 186.22, subd. (e); see Loeun, at p. 4.) We hold that a predicate
offense may be established by evidence of an offense the defendant committed on

1
All further undesignated statutory references are to the Penal Code.


a separate occasion. Further, that the prosecution may have the ability to develop
evidence of predicate offenses committed by other gang members does not require
exclusion of evidence of a defendant‟s own separate offense to show a pattern of
criminal gang activity.
I.
On May 6, 1997, Duc Vuong, a member of OPB (Oriental Play Boys), a
criminal street gang, was accosted at a gas station by members of the rival
criminal street gang VFL (Vietnamese for Life). The VFL members fled when
Vuong fired a warning shot at their car. Later that day, three armed and masked
men chased Vuong through his apartment complex, shooting at him and wounding
him in the shoulder. A short time later, two masked men fired shots at 18-year-old
Lon Bui as he was crossing the street to the apartment complex, killing him. Bui
was not a member of any gang.
Qui Ly, a member of V (Vietnamese Boys), a gang affiliated with VFL,
testified about the attacks. He stated defendant Quang Minh Tran was a “shot-
caller” for VFL. Defendant called Ly a few hours after Vuong fired the warning
shot, telling Ly he needed guns to retaliate against OPB for the disrespect Vuong
had shown VFL. Ly brought two guns to a meeting with defendant and several
other V and VFL members. Defendant armed himself with a TEC-9 automatic
weapon, choosing it for himself because it tended to jam after a round was fired
and he knew how to clear it. They drove to Vuong‟s apartment complex, where
Ly, defendant and “Uncle Dave,” another VFL member, donned masks and went
to look for Vuong. They found him attempting to retrieve something from the
trunk of his car. All three men began shooting at Vuong, who ran to his
apartment, chased by defendant and his companions. Someone inside the
apartment opened the door, kicking it closed after Vuong ran inside. One of the
men chasing Vuong kicked the door open, fired several shots into the apartment,
2
and ran off. Vuong‟s only injury was a bullet graze to his shoulder. Defendant
and Ly ran to the front gate of the apartment complex where they saw Bui.
Defendant said, “That‟s him, that‟s him, that‟s Play Boy,” apparently believing
Bui was a member of OPB. Defendant then crouched, took aim, and shot Bui in
the back as Bui attempted to run away. When defendant later learned the man he
killed was not an OPB member, he responded, “Fuck it, like oh well.”
Other evidence also linked defendant to the attacks on Vuong and Bui.
Hanh Dam, a V member, testified that a few days after Bui‟s murder, defendant
warned him to be careful if he saw any OBP members, telling Dam about the
incident at the gas station, explaining that defendant had learned where Vuong
lived, and telling Dam “they” had shot at Vuong and killed Vuong‟s friend. The
bullet that killed Bui was consistent with a bullet fired from a TEC-9, and was of
the same make as several live rounds recovered from the apartment complex that
could have been ejected from a TEC-9 if the weapon had jammed or misfired.
A witness who heard shooting saw several men run out of the complex and jump
into cars. One of the cars, a burgundy four-door Acura with tinted windows and
shiny chrome wheels, met the description of the car defendant drove at that time.
Officer Ronnie Echevarria, a police expert on criminal street gangs, was
familiar with VFL, V and OBP, and with the members of each gang. Echevarria
testified he knew defendant and knew that on May 6, 1997, defendant was an
active participant in VFL, a gang that engaged in extortion, prostitution, robberies,
and burglaries as its primary activities. Echevarria was also familiar with gang
culture. He stated that respect is of paramount importance to gangs, and that gang
members will shoot members of a rival gang to enhance the reputation of their
own gang, to benefit their gang‟s recruitment processes, and to send the message
that gang members will react violently to acts of disrespect committed against the
gang.
3
To establish the predicate offenses required to show a pattern of criminal
gang activity, Echevarria testified about Noel Jesse Mata, a VFL member who in
1996 shot three men he believed to be members of OPB to retaliate for the 1992
death of another VFL member. Over defendant‟s objection, Echevarria also
testified about a series of extortions defendant and several other VFL members
had undertaken in 1993 and 1994 against Vietnamese businesses. Echevarria
stated that VFL members had fired shots into some businesses and had made
threats against others. Defendant, defendant‟s brother, and another VFL member
had been arrested and prosecuted as the result of a “sting” in which a cooperating
business owner paid protection money to defendant. The prosecution also
provided the jury with certified copies of court records establishing that Mata had
been convicted of offenses arising from the 1996 shootings, and that defendant, on
a plea of guilty, had suffered a conviction resulting from a 1994 extortion.2
Defendant was convicted, following a jury trial, of first degree murder
(§ 187, subd. (a)), attempted premeditated murder (§§ 187, subd. (a), 664), and
active participation in a criminal street gang (§ 186.22, subd. (a)). The jury also
found defendant had personally used a firearm in the commission of a felony or
attempted felony (§ 12022.5, subd. (a)) and had committed the murder and the
attempted murder for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a
criminal street gang (§ 186.22, subd. (b)). The trial court sentenced defendant to a
term of 25 years to life for murder and a consecutive term of life for attempted
murder, adding a 10-year enhancement to each term for the use of a gun and a
three-year enhancement to each term for the gang enhancement. It imposed an

2
Felony extortion is one of the offenses enumerated in section 186.22,
subdivision (e).
4


additional consecutive term of three years for active participation in a criminal
street gang. The Court of Appeal modified the judgment to stay the three-year
term imposed for active gang participation and affirmed the judgment as modified.
II.
We have not directly considered whether a defendant‟s offense on a
separate occasion might qualify as a predicate offense to establish a “pattern of
criminal gang activity” under the STEP Act. In People v. Gardeley (1996) 14
Cal.4th 605, 625, however, we held a predicate offense may be established by
evidence of the charged offense (see People v. Loeun, supra, 17 Cal.4th at p. 9).
We thus found a predicate offense can be established by proof of an offense
committed by the defendant. That the STEP Act allows a predicate offense to be
established by proof of an offense the defendant committed on a separate occasion
is implicit in that finding. We explicitly so hold here.
III.
Defendant contends that even if the STEP Act allows a predicate offense to
be established by evidence of a defendant‟s offense on a separate occasion, the
inherent prejudice in such evidence generally requires its exclusion under
Evidence Code section 352, which provides: “The court in its discretion may
exclude evidence if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the
probability that its admission will . . . create substantial danger of undue prejudice,
of confusing the issues, or of misleading the jury.”
Without doubt, evidence a defendant committed an offense on a separate
occasion is inherently prejudicial. (See People v. Ewoldt (1994) 7 Cal.4th 380,
404; People v. Thompson (1980) 27 Cal.3d 303, 318.) But Evidence Code section
352 requires the exclusion of evidence only when its probative value is
substantially outweighed by its prejudicial effect. “Evidence is substantially more
prejudicial than probative . . . [only] if, broadly stated, it poses an intolerable „risk
5
to the fairness of the proceedings or the reliability of the outcome‟ [citation].”
(People v. Waidla (2000) 22 Cal.4th 690, 724.)
In Ewoldt, for example, a prosecution for lewd acts committed against a
child under the age of 14 years, we concluded that the trial court had not abused its
discretion by admitting evidence the defendant had committed other, uncharged
lewd acts against the victim and her sister. Although the evidence was prejudicial
to the defendant, it was also probative, strongly suggesting a common design or
plan. (Evid. Code, § 1101, subd. (b); People v. Ewoldt, supra, 7 Cal.4th at p. 404.)
We identified several factors that might serve to increase or decrease the probative
value or the prejudicial effect of evidence of uncharged misconduct and thus are
relevant to the weighing process required by Evidence Code section 352.
The probative value of the evidence is enhanced if it emanates from a
source independent of evidence of the charged offense because the risk that the
witness‟s account was influenced by knowledge of the charged offense is thereby
eliminated. (People v. Ewoldt, supra, 7 Cal.4th at p. 404.) On the other hand, the
prejudicial effect of the evidence is increased if the uncharged acts did not result in
a criminal conviction. This is because the jury might be inclined to punish the
defendant for the uncharged acts regardless of whether it considers the defendant
guilty of the charged offense and because the absence of a conviction increases the
likelihood of confusing the issues, in that the jury will have to determine whether
the uncharged acts occurred. (Id. at p. 405.) The potential for prejudice is
decreased, however, when testimony describing the defendant‟s uncharged acts is
no stronger or more inflammatory than the testimony concerning the charged
offense. (Ibid.)
In Ewoldt, we concluded that the totality of the circumstances supported the
trial court‟s decision to admit the evidence of the defendant‟s uncharged criminal
acts. And we so concluded even though not all of the listed factors weighed in
6
favor of admitting the evidence. Thus, we found the evidence admissible although
the source of the testimony relevant to the uncharged acts was not wholly
independent of the evidence of the charged offense, and the uncharged acts had
not resulted in a criminal conviction. (People v. Ewoldt, supra, 7 Cal.4th at
p. 405.)
In cases such as Ewoldt, where evidence is admitted under Evidence Code
section 1101, subdivision (b), the evidence is probative because of its tendency to
establish an intermediary fact from which the ultimate fact of guilt of a charged
crime may be inferred. (People v. Ewoldt, supra, 7 Cal.4th at p. 393; People v.
Thompson, supra, 27 Cal.3d at pp. 315-316 & fns. 14, 15.) In prosecutions for
active participation in a criminal street gang, the probative value of evidence of a
defendant‟s gang-related separate offense generally is greater because it provides
direct proof of several ultimate facts necessary to a conviction. Thus, that the
defendant committed a gang-related offense on a separate occasion provides direct
evidence of a predicate offense, that the defendant actively participated in the
criminal street gang, and that the defendant knew the gang engaged in a pattern of
criminal gang activity.
At the same time, the inherent prejudice from a defendant‟s separate gang-
related offense typically will be less when the evidence is admitted to establish a
predicate offense in a prosecution for active participation in a criminal street gang,
than when it is admitted to establish an intermediary fact from which guilt may be
inferred. “Prejudice for purposes of Evidence Code section 352 means evidence
that tends to evoke an emotional bias against the defendant with very little effect
on issues, not evidence that is probative of a defendant‟s guilt.” (People v. Crew
(2003) 31 Cal.4th 822, 842.) As we explained in People v. Doolin (2009) 45
Cal.4th 390: “ „The prejudice that section 352 “ „is designed to avoid is not the
prejudice or damage to a defense that naturally flows from relevant, highly
7
probative evidence.‟ [Citations.] „Rather, the statute uses the word in its
etymological sense of “prejudging” a person or cause on the basis of extraneous
factors.‟ ” ‟ ” (Id. at p. 439.) That the evidence provided direct evidence of some
of the elements of the prosecution‟s case thus does not weigh against its
admission. In addition, because the prosecution is required to establish the
defendant was an active participant in a criminal street gang and had knowledge of
the gang‟s criminal activities, the jury inevitably and necessarily will in any event
receive evidence tending to show the defendant actively supported the street
gang‟s criminal activities. That the defendant was personally involved in some of
those activities typically will not so increase the prejudicial nature of the evidence
as to unfairly bias the jury against the defendant. In short, the use of evidence of a
defendant‟s separate offense to prove a predicate offense should not generally
create “an intolerable „risk to the fairness of the proceedings or the reliability of
the outcome.‟ ” (People v. Waidla, supra, 22 Cal.4th at p. 724.)
Defendant argues that evidence of a defendant‟s separate offense on
another occasion should not be admitted when it is “cumulative.” By this he
seems to mean that the evidence should not be admitted when the prosecution has
the ability to develop evidence of offenses committed on separate occasions by
other gang members. But defendant cites no authority for the argument that the
prosecution must forgo the use of relevant, persuasive evidence to prove an
element of a crime because the element might also be established through other
evidence. The prejudicial effect of evidence defendant committed a separate
offense may, of course, outweigh its probative value if it is merely cumulative
regarding an issue not reasonably subject to dispute. (People v. Ewoldt, supra,
7 Cal.4th at pp. 405-406; People v. Williams (2009) 170 Cal.App.4th 587, 610-
611.) But the prosecution cannot be compelled to “ „present its case in the
sanitized fashion suggested by the defense.‟ ” (People v. Salcido (2008) 44
8
Cal.4th 93, 147.) When the evidence has probative value, and the potential for
prejudice resulting from its admission is within tolerable limits, it is not unduly
prejudicial and its admission is not an abuse of discretion. Further, a rule
requiring exclusion of evidence of a defendant‟s separate offense on the theory the
prosecution might be able to produce evidence of offenses committed by other
gang members would unreasonably favor defendants belonging to large gangs
with a substantial history of criminality. That the prosecution might be able to
develop evidence of predicate offenses committed by other gang members
therefore does not require exclusion of evidence of a defendant‟s own separate
offense to show a pattern of criminal gang activity.3
That evidence of a defendant‟s separate offense may be admissible to prove
a predicate offense does not mean trial courts must in all cases admit such
evidence when offered by the prosecution. Considerations such as those described
in People v. Ewoldt, supra, 7 Cal.4th at pages 404-405, will still inform the trial
court‟s discretion and in an individual case may require exclusion of the evidence.
Further, although the court need not limit the prosecution‟s evidence to one or two
separate offenses lest the jury find a failure of proof as to at least one of them, the
probative value of the evidence inevitably decreases with each additional offense,

3
People v. Leon (2008) 161 Cal.App.4th 149, relied on by defendant, is
distinguishable because the court in that case considered only if the evidence was
admissible under Evidence Code section 1101, subdivision (b), governing
admission of “other crimes” evidence to prove an intermediary fact. (Leon, at pp.
168-169.) Here, evidence of defendant‟s offense was admitted to prove an
ultimate fact necessary for conviction. Further, the court in Leon found the
evidence unduly prejudicial because it was cumulative to other evidence that had
already been admitted. (Id. at p. 169.) Leon therefore provides no authority for
the argument that evidence of a defendant‟s separate offense must be excluded if
the prosecution has the ability to develop evidence of predicate offenses
committed by other gang members.
9


while its prejudicial effect increases, tilting the balance towards exclusion. And
the trial court of course retains discretion to exclude details of offenses or related
conduct that might tend to inflame without furthering the purpose for admitting the
evidence.
IV.
Turning to the present case, we find the admission of evidence of
defendant‟s conviction of extortion and related activities in 1993 and 1994 to have
been a proper exercise of the trial court‟s discretion under Evidence Code section
352. The evidence was highly probative on several issues relevant to the charge of
active participation in a criminal street gang, providing direct evidence of a
predicate offense, that defendant actively participated in VFL, and that defendant
knew VFL engaged in a pattern of criminal gang activity. Defendant‟s conviction
of extortion occurred several years before his arrest on the current charges. The
probative value of the evidence accordingly was enhanced because the evidence
emanated from independent sources that could not have been influenced by
knowledge of the charged offenses. (People v. Ewoldt, supra, 7 Cal.4th at pp.
404-405.) Further, as the prosecution‟s evidence of predicate offenses consisted
only of evidence of the charged offenses, evidence Noel Jesse Mata shot three men
in 1996, and evidence of defendant‟s extortion activities and conviction in 1993-
1994, the evidence of defendant‟s extortion activities and conviction was not
particularly cumulative and certainly not so cumulative as to lack probative value.
Nor was the evidence unduly prejudicial. As we have explained, that the
evidence tended to establish elements of the prosecution‟s case did not render it
prejudicial for purposes of Evidence Code section 352. (People v. Doolin, supra,
45 Cal.4th at p. 439; People v. Crew, supra, 31 Cal.4th at p. 842; People v. Karis
(1988) 46 Cal.3d 612, 638.) Looking again to the factors identified in Ewoldt,
because defendant stood convicted of the extortion, there was little danger of
10
confusing the issues by requiring the jury to determine if defendant was guilty of
both the charged offenses and the extortion, and no risk the jury might convict
defendant to prevent him from escaping punishment for the extortion. The
evidence of defendant‟s extortion activities was less inflammatory than the
testimony about the charged offenses (see People v. Ewoldt, supra, 7 Cal.4th at
p. 405): although Officer Echevarria stated that shots were fired during the 1993-
1994 extortions, there was no evidence anyone was killed or injured or that
defendant personally shot at or threatened anyone. And finally, the court gave a
limiting instruction, telling the jury evidence of separate criminal acts by gang
members could not be considered to prove defendant was a person of bad
character or had a disposition to commit crimes.
The probative value of the evidence thus far outweighed its prejudicial
effect, justifying the trial court‟s decision to admit it.

CONCLUSION
The judgment is affirmed.
WERDEGAR, J.
WE CONCUR:
CANTILE-SAKAUYE, C. J.
KENNARD, J.
BAXTER, J.
CHIN, J.
CORRIGAN, J.
BLEASE, J.*

*
Associate Justice of the Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, assigned
by the Chief Justice pursuant to article VI, section 6 of the California Constitution.
11



See next page for addresses and telephone numbers for counsel who argued in Supreme Court.

Name of Opinion People v. Tran
__________________________________________________________________________________

Unpublished Opinion


Original Appeal
Original Proceeding
Review Granted
XXX 177 Cal.App.4th 138
Rehearing Granted

__________________________________________________________________________________

Opinion No.

S176923
Date Filed: June 13, 2011
__________________________________________________________________________________

Court:

Superior
County: Orange
Judge: Robert R. Fitzgerald*

__________________________________________________________________________________

Counsel:

Marleigh A. Kopas, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant.

Edmund G. Brown, Jr., and Kamala D. Harris, Attorneys General, Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant
Attorney General, Gary W. Schons, Assistant Attorney General, Steve Oetting, Lise S. Jacobson and
Collette C. Cavalier, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

*Retired judge of the Orange Superior Court, assigned by the Chief Justice pursuant to article VI, section 6
of the California Constitution.



Counsel who argued in Supreme Court (not intended for publication with opinion):

Marleigh A. Kopas
Post Office Box 528
Ponderay, ID 83852
(310) 455-3651

Collette C. Cavalier
Deputy Attorney General
110 West A Street, Suite 1100
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 645-2654


Petition for review after the Court of Appeal modified and affirmed a judgment of conviction of criminal offenses. The court limited review to the following issue: Did the trial court abuse its discretion in allowing the prosecution to introduce evidence of defendant's own uncharged criminal acts in order to prove a pattern of criminal activity for purposes of Penal Code section 186.22, subdivisions (a) and (e)?

Opinion Information
Date:Citation:Docket Number:Category:Status:Cross Referenced Cases:
Mon, 06/13/201151 Cal. 4th 1040, 253 P.3d 239, 126 Cal. Rptr. 3d 65S176923Review - Criminal Appealsubmitted/opinion due

http://caselaw.findlaw.com/ca-court-of-appeal/1408188.html


Parties
1The People (Plaintiff and Respondent)
Represented by Collette Catherine Cavalier
Office of the Attorney General
P.O. Box 85266
San Diego, CA

2The People (Plaintiff and Respondent)
Represented by Lise Simons Jacobson
Office of the Attorney General
P.O. Box 85266
San Diego, CA

3Tran, Quang Minh (Defendant and Appellant)
C.S.P. C-6-F-170up
P.O. Box 921
Imperial, CA 92251

Represented by Marleigh A. Kopas
Attorney at Law
P.O. Box 528
Ponderay, ID


Opinion Authors
OpinionJustice Kathryn M. Werdegar
ConcurChief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Justice Carol A. Corrigan, Justice Joyce L. Kennard, Justice Marvin R. Baxter, Justice Ming W. Chin

Dockets
Oct 7 2009Record requested
 
Oct 7 2009Received oversized petition for review
Defendant and Appellant: Tran, Quang MinhAttorney: Marleigh A. Kopas  
Oct 7 2009Petition for review filed with permission
Defendant and Appellant: Tran, Quang MinhAttorney: Marleigh A. Kopas  
Oct 13 2009Received Court of Appeal record
  file jacket/briefs
Dec 2 2009Petition for review granted
  Votes: George, C.J., Kennard, Baxter, Werdegar, Chin, Moreno, and Corrigan, JJ.
Dec 4 2009Received additional record
  one full box
Jan 13 2010Counsel appointment order filed
  Upon request of appellant for appointment of counsel, Marleigh A. Kopas is hereby appointed to represent appellant on the appeal now pending in this court. Appellant's brief on the merits must be served and filed on or before thirty (30) days from the date of this order.
Feb 8 2010Filed:
  Letter from counsel for appellant requestig clarification of ruling on Petition for Review. Quang Minh Tran, defendant and appellant Marleigh A. Kopas, counsel
Feb 10 2010Request for extension of time filed
  to and including March 15, 2010 to file appellant's opening brief on the merits. Marleigh A. Kopas, Supreme Court-appointed counsel
Feb 10 2010Issues ordered limited
  Briefing and argument is limited to the following issue: Did the court abuse its discretion in allowing the prosecution to introduce evidence of defendant's own uncharged criminal acts in order to prove a pattern of criminal activity for purposes of Penal Code section 186.22, subdivisions (a) and (e)? (See Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.561, subd. (a)(1).)
Feb 19 2010Extension of time granted
  On application of appellant and good cause appearing, it is ordered that the time to serve and file the Opening Brief on the Merits is extended to and including March 15, 2010.
Mar 12 2010Request for extension of time filed
  to and including 4/14/2010 to file appellant's opening brief on the merits
Mar 22 2010Extension of time granted
  On application of appellant and good cause appearing, it is ordered that the time to serve and file the Appellant's Opening Brief on the Merits is extended to and including April 14, 2010. No further extensions of time are contemplated.
Apr 14 2010Opening brief on the merits filed
Defendant and Appellant: Tran, Quang MinhAttorney: Marleigh A. Kopas  
May 7 2010Request for extension of time filed
  to and including June 14, 2010, to file respondent's answer brief on the merits.
May 14 2010Extension of time granted
  On application of Respondent and good cause appearing, it is ordered that the time to serve and file the Answer Brief on the Merits is extended to and including June 14, 2010. No further extensions of time are contemplated.
Jun 15 2010Answer brief on the merits filed
Plaintiff and Respondent: The PeopleAttorney: Collette Catherine Cavalier  
Jun 15 2010Request for judicial notice filed (Grant or AA case)
Plaintiff and Respondent: The PeopleAttorney: Collette Catherine Cavalier  
Jun 30 2010Request for extension of time filed
  Appellant is asking for an additional 45 days, to August 19, 2010, to file Reply Brief on the Merits.
Jul 2 2010Extension of time granted
  On application of Appellant and good cause appearing, it is ordered that the time to serve and file the Reply Brief on the Merits is extended to and including August 19, 2010.
Jul 21 2010Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Kopas
Aug 12 2010Received:
  Letter from counsel for appellant, Marleigh A. Kopas, stating they will not be opposing Request for Judicial Notice filed 6/15/10.
Aug 16 2010Request for extension of time filed
  Appellant requesting additional 45 days to October 4, 2010 to file Reply Brief on the Merits
Aug 16 2010Extension of time granted
  On application of appellant and good cause appearing, it is ordered that the time to serve and file the Reply Brief on the Merits is extended to and including October 4, 2010. No further extensions will be granted.
Oct 4 2010Application to file over-length brief filed
  Reply brief on the merits.
Oct 6 2010Reply brief filed (case fully briefed)
Defendant and Appellant: Tran, Quang MinhAttorney: Marleigh A. Kopas   Filed with permission. CRC 8.25(b)
Feb 16 2011Justice pro tempore assigned
  Hon. Coleman Blease Third Appellate District
Mar 9 2011Case ordered on calendar
  to be argued Tuesday, April 5, 2011, at 2:00 p.m., in Los Angeles
Mar 22 2011Supplemental brief filed
Plaintiff and Respondent: The PeopleAttorney: Collette Catherine Cavalier  
Mar 18 2011Application filed
  by appellant for later transmittal of exhibits. by counsel, Marleigh A. Kopas.
Mar 24 2011Filed:
  Letter from Marleigh A. Kopas, counsel for appellant Tran, requesting to reschedule oral argument to a future month.
Mar 24 2011Order filed
  The application of appellant for transmittal of exhibits is hereby granted. Sent fax request and order to Orange County Superior Court requesting the following exhibits: 17A, 17B, 18A, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, B.
Mar 24 2011Order filed
  Appellant's request, filed March 24, 2011, to reschedule oral argument (set for April 5, 2011), is denied. If counsel deems it advisable, counsel may file a request for extension of time in which to file a response to respondent's supplemental brief, which was filed on March 22, 2011. (See Cal. Rules of Court, rules 8.520(d)(2) [limited supplemental brief concerning new authorities]; id., rule 8.60 [extension of time].)
Mar 29 2011Supplemental brief filed
Defendant and Appellant: Tran, Quang MinhAttorney: Marleigh A. Kopas   In response to supplemental brief filed by respondent. Filed with permission.
Apr 1 2011Exhibit(s) lodged
  Trial exhibits lodged pursuant to order of this court filed March 24, 2011. Two photo albums, three envelopes, one accordian folder.
Apr 5 2011Cause argued and submitted
 
May 11 2011Request for judicial notice granted
  The People's motion for judicial notice filed on June 15, 2010, is granted.
Jun 10 2011Notice of forthcoming opinion posted
  To be filed Monday, June 13, 2011 at 10 a.m.

Briefs
Apr 14 2010Opening brief on the merits filed
Defendant and Appellant: Tran, Quang MinhAttorney: Marleigh A. Kopas  
Jun 15 2010Answer brief on the merits filed
Plaintiff and Respondent: The PeopleAttorney: Collette Catherine Cavalier  
Oct 6 2010Reply brief filed (case fully briefed)
Defendant and Appellant: Tran, Quang MinhAttorney: Marleigh A. Kopas  
Brief Downloads
application/pdf icon
S176923-1-appellants-petition-for-review.pdf (1206489 bytes) - Appelant's Petition for Review
application/pdf icon
S176923-2-appellants-opening-brief-on-the-merits.pdf (746521 bytes) - Appellant's Opening Brief on the Merits
application/pdf icon
S176923-3-respondents-answer-brief-on-the-merits.pdf (428446 bytes) - Respondent's Answer Brief on the Merits
application/pdf icon
S176923-4-respondents-request-for-judicial-notice.pdf (144994 bytes) - Respondent's Request for Judicial Notice
application/pdf icon
S176923-5-appellants-reply-brief-on-the-merits.pdf (1008999 bytes) - Appellant's Reply Brief on the Merits
application/pdf icon
S176923-6-respondents-supplemental-brief.pdf (114379 bytes) - Respondent's Supplemental Brief
If you'd like to submit a brief document to be included for this opinion, please submit an e-mail to the SCOCAL website
Jun 20, 2011
Annotated by daniel rojas

Facts:

On May 6, 1997, members of the street gang Vietnamese for Life (VFL) accosted Duc Vuong, a
member of rival street gang Oriental Play Boys (OPB), at a gas station. Upon being confronted by the VFL members, Vuong produced a firearm and fired a warning shot at the rival gang members’ car.

Hours later, three masked men chased Vuong into his apartment and shot him in the shoulder. After Vuong was shot, two masked men shot Lon Bui, an 18-year-old man who was not gang affiliated, as he attempted to enter Vuong’s apartment complex.

According to Qui Ly, a member of Vietnamese Boys (VB), a gang affiliated with VFL, defendant Quang Mingh Tran was responsible for the attack against Duc Vuong and the subsequent shooting of Lon Bui.

Ly stated that he, Tran, and “Uncle Dave” donned masks, obtained guns, and drove to Vuong’s apartment complex to retaliate against him for the warning shot he fired earlier that day. The three men found Vuong outside of the complex retrieving something from his car and chased Vuong into his apartment. After kicking down his door, the men fired several rounds, one of which grazed Vuong’s shoulder.The three men then fled the apartment complex. Upon exiting, Ly and Tran mistook Bui for Vuong. As Bui tried to escape, Tran crouched and fired a fatal shot at Bui’s back.

During Tran’s trial, Officer Ronnie Echevarria, a police expert on street gangs, testified that he knew that Tran was an active VFL member. Echevarria also testified about a series of extortions Tran and several other VFL members had undertaken in 1993 and 1994 against Vietnamese businesses.

The prosecution provided the jury with certified copies of court records establishing that defendant pled guilty and was convicted on charges stemming from a 1994 extortion.

Procedural History:

The trial court sentenced Tran to a term of 25 years to life for murder and a consecutive term of life for attempted murder. The trial court also added a 10-year enhancement to each term for gun use and a three-year enhancement to each term for gang activity.
The Court of Appeal modified the judgment to stay the three-year term imposed for active gang activity and affirmed the judgment as modified.

Issues:

Is evidence of a separate criminal act committed by a defendant admissible for the purpose of proving engagement in “ a pattern of criminal gang activity” under the California Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act, codified at California Penal Code Section 186.22? If so, is such evidence generally excludable under Evidence Code Section 35 because its probative value is substantially outweighed by its prejudicial effects?

Holding:

The Court held that “a pattern of criminal gang activity” under the California Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act may be established by evidence of an offense that defendant committed on a separate occasion, and that such evidence is not generally excludable under Evidence Code Section 35.

Reasoning:

1) In the past, the California Supreme Court has held that “a pattern of criminal gang activity” may be established by introducing evidence of the charged offense. Thus, a pattern of criminal activity can be established by proof of an offense committed by the defendant. That the STEP Act also allows a pattern of criminal gang activity to be established by proof of offenses committed by the defendant on a separate occasion is implicit in that holding.

2) The inherent prejudice created by admission of evidence of past offenses committed by the defendant does not indicate that such evidence should be generally excluded under Evidence Code Section 352. The prejudicial effect of this type of evidence does not substantially outweigh its probative value. That the defendant committed a gang-related offense on a separate occasion provides direct evidence that the defendant actively participating in a criminal street gang and that the defendant knew that the gang engaged in a pattern of criminal gang activity.

3) Admission of evidence of defendant’s separate criminal offenses for the purpose of establishing “a pattern of criminal gang activity” is appropriate even if a prosecutor can establish this requirement by introducing the separate criminal offenses of other gang members. The prosecution cannot be compelled to present its case in the sanitized fashion suggested by the defense.

Ruling:

Reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeal.

Tags:

Street gangs, admissibility, California Street Terrorism and Enforcement Protection Act, pattern of criminal gang activity, prejudicial effects, predicate offense