[UPDATED] Edgar Calvillo Loses Appeal in Murder After Spat Over Girl and Vandalized Car

Categories: Crime-iny
UPDATE, MARCH 28, 1:39 P.M.: The same day the third and final defendant was sentenced in the 2008 shooting death of a 22-year-old Lake Forest father, the shooter in that case lost an appeal over his confession.

The California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, disagreed with the contentions of Edgar Calvillo's lawyers that their client confessed involuntarily and was improperly read his Miranda rights. Appellate justices confirmed the trial court's murder conviction and the judge's sentence of 40 years to life in state prison for the 22-year-old Santa Ana resident.

According to court documents, a day after the murder of Luis Alejandro Rivera, Calvillo engaged in small talk with Orange County sheriff's investigators, who did not bring up the crime on the way to a police interrogation room.

In the room, Calvillo, who was not handcuffed, was introduced by sheriff's investigator Spencer to investigators Terry Todd and Ray Wert. Spencer told Calvillo: ""Like I told you before, honest, truthful, everything's going to be all right. Start playing games with us, it doesn't look good. You know what I'm saying?" Spencer then apparently left the room because he does not pop up again in the recording of the interrogation that was later played for jurors at trial.

"Obviously, it's very serious, okay?" Wert tells Calvillo. "And, we don't want to waste any time. We don't want to waste any more time tonight."
Wert then read Calvillo his rights to remain silent and have a lawyer present, etc. Calvillo said he understood all these rights. The officers did not ask him if he waived these rights, the court documents indicate.
Calvillo went on to give a complete account of what happened before and after the shooting. He even told the investigators where the rifle was located (in his bedroom), where he had bought it (a hunting store) and how he practiced with it in the desert.
"Do you know how bad you hurt him?" Todd asked.

"I don't even know if I got him or not," Calvillo replied.

"Well, you winged him," Todd informed.

Calvillo had been accompanied by
Alfredo "Freddy" Cruz, 23, of Aliso Viejo, and Santos Escamilla, 22, of Santa Ana, that fateful night. Calvillo told the sheriff's investigators that Cruz asked him why he shot Rivera, and Calvillo answered that he did not think he "got him." The trio figured no one would investigate the shooting since Rivera was not hit.
"We're just trying to figure out why you're the only guy that wants to take the fall on this," Todd told Calvillo.

"I'm not taking the fall for it," Calvillo answered. "I'm telling you exactly what happened."

After the shooting, at Calvillo's home, he told investigators Cruz panicked and told him, "I can't believe you did that."

Calvillo said he replied, "Well, regardless if I did do that, [it will not] get to you. I didn't do anything to you. It's going to happen to me."

That was followed by this key exchange in the interrogation room:

"Investigator Wert: Do you know he's dead?
"[Defendant]: No, he's not dead. I know he's not dead.
"Investigator Wert: He's dead.
"[Defendant]: He's dead?
"Investigator Wert: Yep.
"[Defendant]: He's not dead.
"Investigator Wert: He's dead. . . . I wouldn't lie to you, man.
"Investigator Todd: Do you read English?
"[Defendant]: Yeah.
"Investigator Terry Todd: This says homicide. We work homicide.
"Investigator Wert: He's dead.
"Investigator Todd: Yeah. You caught him once. I told you you winged him."

Calvillo's lawyers filed an appeal claiming their client never waived his Miranda rights, that he was youthful during the interview, that the officers promised him leniency and that his Miranda and Fifth Amendment rights were violated.

Noting that Calvillo is making an issue out of his Miranda rights for the first time in his appeal, the justices wrote in affirming the trial court ruling:

The record reflects defendant was willing to speak with the officers and to take responsibility for his decision to bring a gun to Lake Forest and shoot at the victim. He said he was not taking the fall for his cohorts, but simply stating what happened. He did not want Freddie to be punished for defendant's actions; defendant's emphasis on this point suggests it motivated, at least in part, his confession. In contrast, the record reveals no causal link between (1) defendant's choice to confess and (2) his youth and unfamiliarity with interrogation, or any police pressure. The record does not reflect that defendant's youth and unfamiliarity with the legal system prevented him from understanding the investigators' statements and questions. And although Investigator Spencer's statement (that things would be all right if defendant told the truth) was vague and might be interpreted as a veiled offer of leniency, defendant was promptly told by the interrogating officers (as opposed to Spencer, who was not present during the interview) that his statements could be used against him in court. Defendant stated he understood. Moreover, the trial court listened to the recording of Spencer's statement, heard the tenor and inflection of his voice, and impliedly found the officer made no improper promise of leniency to defendant. In sum, defendant's confession was voluntary and the court did not err by denying his Evidence Code section 402 to suppress his statement.

The same day the justices filed their ruling, Cruz was sentenced to 15 years to life in state prison. A jury in December found him guilty of one felony count of second-degree murder. That's the same sentence given to Escamilla, who pleaded guilty last year to voluntary manslaughter and aggravated assault in Rivera's slaying.

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