You work in a law firm that handles criminal defense work. Samantha Santos, your supervising attorney, has asked you to research the law in a new case. The case is entitled People v. Jafari. Your firm will be representing the defendant, Fareed Jafari. Your attorney needs you to conduct legal research and prepare a memorandum of law in which you analyze the strength of the prosecution’s case against Jafari + any possible arguments for Jafari. The facts in the case appear below. Your attorney summarized these facts based on interviews with our client and the police report, so please assume that there is no additional information in that report. The People v. Jafari scenario is fictional, but for purposes of this memo assignment, please assume that these facts are true and that the information below is all you have.
On the night of June 11, 2015, San Jose police officers were called to investigate reports that a group of young men were defacing street signs at the intersection of Yerba Buena and San Felipe Roads. Arriving at the intersection at 11:55 p.m., SJPD Officers Palaleama and Brown observed that two stop signs had been painted over with a large amount of graffiti. The officers cruised the area in their squad car. About two blocks north on San Felipe Road, the officers spotted three young men walking away from the intersection on the left side of the street.
The squad car approached the young men from behind, then made a sharp left turn as it passed them, blocking the men’s path on the sidewalk in front of them. While making the left turn, Officer Brown (the driver of the car) saw one of the young men throw a large object into the bushes next to the sidewalk. Officer Brown stated that the tallest of the young men was the one who threw the object, and he clearly saw the underhanded motion of the man’s arm, since that part of the sidewalk was illuminated by a powerful streetlight. The object in the bushes was later recovered and found to be a half-empty can of black aerosol spray paint.
The officers detained the suspects, one of whom was our client, Fareed Jafari, age 18. Jafariis six feet tall, nearly three inches taller than either of the other two young men. Following a check of their backgrounds, all three men were found to have prior juvenile arrest records and were known members of the Cherry Hill Gang, a criminal street gang whose primary purpose was to conduct petty thefts and spray paint property in the area with their trademark “I Love Cherries” graffiti. Officers in the San Jose Gang Task Force are prepared to testify that all three young men are noted gang members and that their gang has been under surveillance for its illegal activities, including littering the sidewalks with cherry pits. The three were arrested and charged with two misdemeanor violations of California Penal Code § 594 (one violation for defacing each of the two signs painted). A four-inch long standard head screwdriver was found in Fareed Jafari’s jacket pocket upon his arrest. The next day, Jafari was told that the two misdemeanor charges would be consolidated into one felony vandalism charge under § 594, and that this would be enhanced by an additional charge of involvement in a criminal street gang under California Penal Code § 186.22.
Because the paint was still fresh, an emergency street crew was able to remove it immediately and completely from the two signs, leaving no permanent damage from the graffiti defacement. The total cost of cleanup (for both signs together) was $490.
Over the course of the next two weeks, you obtain some additional knowledge of the case:
Update 1: As you finish reading these facts, you receive an e-mail from Attorney Samantha Santos. The e-mail reads: “Thanks for taking on this research project. After thinking about it again, there are a couple of things here that really bother me. First, there was less than $500 in total property damage. A misdemeanor charge is understandable, but is this enough damage to constitute a felony? Second, this gang enhancement charge: please find out whether a conviction is needed before this charge is added, or whether they can prosecute him at the same time on both the 594 and 186.22 violations. The DA may be moving too fast on this.”
Update 2: You accompany the attorney to the jailhouse to meet with the client, Mr. Jafari. He tells you that he and his friends were drinking heavily on the night they were arrested. He says that he did not paint any graffiti and only has a vague recollection that his two friends, Jonathan and Eduardo, were spraying signs with paint. He says they were drinking beer and that he had thrown a beer can into the bushes when the police arrived. He never picked up a paint can, he says. After sobering up at the police station, he tried to explain this and asked the officers to check his hands for paint residue, but they never did so. He says he is a member of the Cherry Hill Gang. However, he describes the gang as a skateboarding club in which the members have a common interest in eating cherries while they skate. He says his previous juvenile arrest and conviction (misdemeanor battery) was for throwing cherry seeds in the yards of nearby homes, since his gang hopes to plant many new cherry trees in the area.
Update 3: Attorney Santos asked your firm’s investigator to drive to the scene of the arrest and search the bushes next to the sidewalk on the left side of Yerba Buena Road, two blocks north of the intersection with San Felipe. The investigator, Ace Wong, used gloves and a plastic trash bag to collect 14 soda and beer cans and bottles from a 50-foot section of bushes, which he will testify included other trash such as old batteries, syringes, fast food wrappers, spark plugs, gloves, and plastic bags. Using an industry-standard fingerprint kit, Ace obtained 10 usable fingerprint samples from the various cans. These were taken to a local crime lab, where they were digitally scanned and compared with the fingerprints of our client, Fareed Jafari.
Update 4: Attorney Santos tells you that she checked with the crime lab regarding the paint can. Eduardo’s fingerprints were all over it; there also was only one print that was partially matched with our client, and it was not good enough to be conclusive. There was, however, a good deal of smudging that may indicate someone wore gloves or attempted to wipe it down. The Assistant D.A. called Santos with an offer to drop the gang enhancement charge and recommend a minimum sentence if Mr. Jafari pleads guilty to felony vandalism (§ 594). Santos tells you she needs the research done quickly so we can decide how to proceed with this case.
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