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61B Wednesday, July 15, 2009 Bulletin, Progressive, Record, Reporter Gang violence: lJqto's liable when a gangfight turns deadly? Watts gang of Los Angeles-- Jose "Tiny" Medina, George Marron and Raymond Valle- ,o--were partying at the home LEGAL MUSINGS STEVE BRENNEMAN steve.brenneman@jud.ca.gov If you haven't realized by now that criminal street gangs are a problem in this country, you probably aren't paying attention. Not that this is anything new. When I lived in Atlanta, Ga., in the early '80s, there were places south of Interstate 20 you just didn't go without a police escort. No matter what we do to try and stem the tide of violence, things just continue to get worse. The war zones keep ex- panding. Now, with local gov- ernments strapped for cash and trying to balance budgets by cutting back on public safe- ty rather than the ever-ex- panding welfare state, don't expect things to get any bet- ter. This is the backdrop for a recent decision by the Califor- nia Supreme Court. In People v. Medina, the court consid- ered how far responsibility could be spread for a murder that occurs following a gang- related fight. The facts of the case are illuminating for those not versed in gang cul- ture. On the evening of Jan. 2, 2004, three members of the Lil of Manuel Ordenes and Amelia Rodriguez. They were drinking and using drugs. Around 11 p.m., Ernie Bar- ba and Krystal Varela arrived at the home to pick up a CD from Ordenes. Barba knocked on the door and either Or- denes or Rodriguez answered. To understand the rest of what happened, you have to understand gangspeak. Barba said to whoever answered the door, "What's up?" This means, "Hello, how are you? I'm here to pick up the CD." From inside the house, some- one said, "Where are you from?" This means, "What gang are you affiliated with?" This is considered an aggres- sive move, in the nature of an invitation to fight. At this point, Ordenes de- cided his house was about to be trashed and said, "Take that into the streets, go out- side; don't disrespect the house." I suppose this is self- explanatory. Medina, Marron and Vallejo went outside and confronted Barba, continuing to ask where he was from. Barba replied. "Sanfer," which signi- fies a San Fernando Valley gang. Vallejo then said, "Lil Watts," to let Barba know he had unwittingly strayed into dangerous territory. Medina asked, "What fool, you think you crazy?" I suppose this could mean a host of things, but in the context it probably translates to, "You have made a tactical error coming here and are about to pay a heavy price for it." Vallejo punched Barba, and the other two gang members joined in. However, Barba held his own against the three and eventually was separated from the others by Ordenes. Ordenes escorted Barba to his car, and Barba and Varela drove away. However, before they could, someone said, "Get the heat," which I'm pretty sure did not mean one of the Lil Watts members needed a heating pad. As Barba drove away, Medi- na stepped into the middle of the street and shot repeatedly at the car. Barba was hit in the head and killed. Under the foregoing circum- stances, there is no question Medina is guilty of murder. However, the issue for the Supreme Court was whether Marron and Vallejo could also be convicted of murder. Under the law, a person who knowingly aids and abets a crime is also guilty of the crime even though he did not directly commit it. Thus, the driver in a bank robbery is guilty of robbery even though he stayed in the car the whole time. However, it gets a little trickier when the actual per- petrators commit other crimes. For example, what if the guys who go into the bank shoot someone? Is the driver guilty of murder? It depends. Under the law, an aider and abettor will be held liable not only for the target offense (robbery) but also for any oth- er offense that is a "natural and probable consequence" of the intended crime. Normally, when armed men enter a bank to rob it, someone's death is a natural and probable conse- quence. However, if one aids and abets a burglary for the pur- pose of stealing jewelry and other property, a sexual as- sault on one of the occupants during the home invasion may not be considered a nat- ural and probable conse- quence. So back to our case. The question is whether the death of Barba was a natural and probable consequence of the gang assault. In the world where I grew up, a fistfight did not normally escalate into a shooting. However, that's not the world populated by the likes of Marron and Val!ejo. Marron and Vallejo were charged with murder and con- victed by a jury. However, the Court of Ap- peal in Los Angeles concluded there was not enough evi- dence to sustain the convic- tions. Among other things, the court found there was no evi- dence Marron and Vallejo knew there was a gun avail- able. The Supreme Court con- cluded otherwise. One factor the court noted was that, in the fisffight, Barba had held his own against the other three. In the gang world, this vir- tually mandated retaliation, ff Barba had been permitted to walk away, the other three would have lost face. In addition, somebody said, "Get the heat." I'm guessing at this point Marron and Vallejo knew a gun was about to ap- pear. There was expert testi- mony that Lit Watts members regularly commit gun offens- es. The question for the high court was not whether the evi- dence proved guilt, but whether there was sufrmient : lessons tend to learned. From our time as babes-in-arms, or two years old and getting into every- thing, or to the age when we were so smart (or so we thought) that we could trick or outsmart her. WORDS OF WISDOM RED PERKETT Many times in the days of yore we came upon wsdom that was given to us by some- thing called common sense. It came to us naturally and along the way it was over- shadowed by two words: right and wrong. Many times our mother re- peated, "Now you know that is not right." or "You know it's wrong to do that." Age had little to do with the time or year in which we How did she, from the back room where the canned foods were stored, know when to say, "Get your fingers away from the chocolate icing on that cake, young man."? Did she have eyes in the back of her head, or could she see through solid walls? We knew nothing about intuition, but it sure worked wonders! So we grew up and always in the shadows of our minds we knew morn might be watching. Although she might be miles away we had that imprint in our minds, evidence to allow a jury to make that decision. In other words, if reasonable minds could differ on the outcome, we must leave it to the jury to decide. Nevertheless, a three-judge dissent concluded the evi- dence showed only that a murder was "possible," whereas the natural and probable consequences doc- trine requires that the crime be "probable." Yes, there's a difference be- tween possible and probable. As many have often said, in an uncertain world anything is possible. It is possible for me to win the lottery or be elected president, but it's not very probable. However, when several gang members.pick a fight with a rival gang member; the gangs' members regular- ly commit gun crimes; and someone says, "Get the heat," past experience says a death is not only possible, but prob- able. Perhaps the dissenters need to spend a little more time out on the streets. stay learne, t and thus was our character shaped and we became better men or women because of it. Perhaps this ability was lost because of the busy lives of parents in this day and age, and just maybe that is why we have so many troubled young children in our society today. I'm sending this little col- umn here with the hope that other seniors will take my lead and come up with their own little words of wisdom. This column is yours, you know, so give it a try. I leave you with this thought: Whatever you can do, or think you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. A good day to all, Red Perkett / TUESDAY, JULY 14TH Miss Lassen County 8 PM Sponsored by Ace Hardware. The Beauty Corral, Realty World/Lassen Land Homes and Banner Lassen Medical Center WEDNESDAY, JULY 15TH Special People's Day THURSDAY, JULY 16TH Kiddies Day 12 yr & Under FREE Admission and adults only $2 until 6 pm 2 day sponsored by Haws, Theobald & Auman JDX Country Showdown FRIDAY, JULY 17TH Old Timers Day SEATING FESTIVAL ............... *32 BOX .................. 27 RESERVE ............... 22 GENERAL ............... 17 Sponsored by D&L Distributing Buy today for best seats/ [] [] NO CHECKS ORDER BY PHONE ] 251-8900 SAFE, from page 5B protection area. Residences on the interior of larger communities such as Graeagle, Greenville or Quincy that are more than about three blocks from forested lands generally will not qualify for use of federal funds. Other funds, if avail- able, may be used. The Plumas County Fire Safe Council will inspect property to determine eligi- bility; oversee contractors and others providing one-day cleanup to create defensible space for homeowners who qualify; work with homeown- ers to determine work that contractor will do; identify vegetation the owner does not want trimmed or cut; meet with homeowner and contractor to insure scope of work to be done; pay (or co- pay with property owners) for the contracted work. Rob Gimbel, coordinator of the program, said the fire safe council assisted 35 peo- ple last year. This year, the program has funds to reach out to about 50 residents. So far this year the council has completed three projects in the Chester-Lake Almanor area and has a dozen more underway. "That means we can serve another 35 or so in the next few months," Gim- bel said. For more information, con- tact Gimbel at rgimbel@plumascounty.org or Plumas County Fire Safe Council, P. O. Box 1225, Quin- cy, CA 95971; 283-0829 or 283- 3739; plumasfiresafe.org This program is funded by grants from the U.S. Forest Service, the Plumas County Resource Advisory Commit- tee, Plumas Rural Services and the Plumas County Board of Supervisors. Yearly income Co-pay for I person Co-pay for 2 person Co-pay for 2+ household household person household $0-$12,000 0% 0% 0% $12,001-$16,000 5% 0% 0% $16,001 -$20,000 10% 0% 0% $20,001 -$24,000 20% 10% 10% $24,001 -$28,000 40% 30% 25% $28,001 -$32,000 50% 40% 35% $32001 -$36000 60% 50% 45% $36001 -$40000 80% 70% 60% $40,001 + 100% 100% 100% REPLACEMENT ? -SAL!-20% 0FF PLUS No Payments for 4-7 months