California v. MartinezAnnotate this Case
A jury found defendant-appellant Hector Martinez guilty of: (1) driving or taking a vehicle valued at over $950, without the owner’s consent; and (2) possessing burglary tools. In regard to the vehicle offense, the jury found true the allegation that the crime was committed in association with a criminal street gang. The court found true the allegations that defendant suffered a prior conviction for driving or taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent, and that defendant suffered three prior convictions for which he served prison terms. The trial court sentenced defendant to prison for a term of eight years. Defendant argued on appeal that the gang enhancement should have been reversed due to the gang expert’s reliance on testimonial hearsay and case-specific hearsay. The People conceded the gang expert’s testimony included inadmissible hearsay, but asserted the errors were harmless. The Court of Appeal reversed the judgment in part. With respect to the harmless error argument, the People contended: (1) defendant was arrested with a member of the Chino Sinners (street gang); (2) defendant was arrested in Chino Sinners’ territory; (3) vehicle theft was a primary activity of the Chino Sinners; and (4) the vehicle theft would permit defendant to commit additional crimes in support of the gang. The Court concluded the People failed to explain what properly admitted evidence supported a finding that the person defendant with whom defendant was arrested was a member of the Chino Sinners; the record reflected only inadmissible hearsay establishing that person's gang membership. Without that evidence, the record reflected that defendant committed a crime in gang territory and that gang members tended to commit the same crime. This evidence failed to establish that defendant had the specific intent to promote, further, or assist in any criminal conduct by gang members because it failed to show defendant had any knowledge or awareness that he was in gang territory committing a crime that gang members tend to commit.