People v. Romero

81 Cal. Rptr. 2d 823 (1999)

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People v. Romero

California Court of Appeal
81 Cal. Rptr. 2d 823 (1999)

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Facts

Michael Romero (defendant), a Hispanic man, along with his younger brother and several other men, crossed a street when a vehicle driven by Alex Bernal came around a corner at a high rate of speed and had to quickly brake to avoid hitting the men walking. Romero and Bernal exchanged words. Bernal parked his car and approached the men. Romero, feeling he had to protect his brother, began fighting with Bernal. Bernal struck Romero on the back of the head and attempted to kick him. Romero produced a knife and stabbed Bernal in the chest, killing him. The State of California (plaintiff) charged Romero with murder. At trial, Romero testified that he did not intend to kill Bernal and that he did not feel he was in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury at the time he stabbed Bernal. Defense counsel sought to introduce expert testimony from Martin Jankowski, a sociology professor who specialized in Hispanic culture, poverty, and street violence. Professor Jankowski sought to testify that a Hispanic street fighter did not retreat out of a duty of honor. Additionally, Jankowski proposed to testify that Romero, as the older brother, assumed a paternalistic role. The trial court rejected Romero’s claim that he acted in self-defense. The trial court concluded that Jankowski’s testimony was irrelevant as to whether Romero believed he was in imminent danger of death or great bodily injury. A jury convicted Romero, and he appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Wiseman, J.)

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