At 4 a.m., Redondo Beach Police Officer Nelson responded to a call to investigate a subterranean parking lot below an apartment building. After arrival, the officer saw Thomas Chandler Parsons behind some shrubbery. Thomas Chandler Parsons was wearing swimming trunks with a screwdriver in his waistband. Officer Nelson ordered Thomas Chandler Parsons to come forward with his hands on his head. As Thomas Chandler Parsons complied, another officer arrived for assistance. Thomas Chandler Parsons was placed in the assisting officer’s custody as Officer Nelson investigated further.
Nelson spotted a late model Datsun with a suspicious license plate for a car of its year. The hood was warm. Nelson had the vehicle checked and felt that it was possibly stolen. Thomas Chandler Parsons was brought to the car. Using Thomas Parsons’s key, the car was unlocked and started. Inside the auto was Thomas Chandler Parsons’s wallet containing personal identification and obviously stolen credit cards. A California dealer’s license plate was on the floor. Thomas Chandler Parsons was arrested and booked; the car was impounded. An impound search revealed other stolen property.
In September 1982, a Pontiac dealer in Manhattan Beach was burglarized. Investigation showed that the rear door was broken and that a new Pontiac Trans Am was stolen. Thomas Parsons had worked for the Pontiac dealer until the late spring. On October 17, 1982, the Trans Am was found and Thomas Chandler Parsons’s fingerprints were lifted from items found in the Trans Am.
By way of information, the District Attorney of Los Angeles County charged Thomas Chandler Parsons with one count of receiving stolen property in violation of Penal Code section 496. Thomas Chandler Parsons pleaded not guilty.
By way of a second information, the District Attorney of Los Angeles County charged Thomas Chandler Parsons with one count of burglary in violation of Penal Code section 459 and a second count of grand theft auto in violation of Penal Code section 487, subdivision 3. Thomas Chandler Parsons pleaded not guilty to both counts.
The two informations were consolidated for trial.
Thomas Chandler Parsons was tried by jury. The jury found Thomas Chandler Parsons guilty of all counts as charged.
At trial, the prosecution, on direct examination of one of the police officers, elicited evidence that Thomas Parsons was arrested for auto burglary in addition to the grand theft auto charge. The trial court had already ruled that such evidence was inadmissible as irrelevant. The public defender objected and moved to strike evidence of this kind. The public defender also asked for and received jury admonishments from the court that they disregard that evidence.
However, the public defender failed to object to evidence that Thomas Parsons was carrying a screwdriver and was a suspect at the scene of the parking garage. Further, evidence that a “slim-jim” was found in the Pontiac was admitted without objection.
The jury was not instructed that they must unanimously agree on the particular items of property Thomas Parsons received in order to find him guilty of receiving stolen property.
In this case, the Court of Appeals of California foundnd that the Thomas Parsons was unable to proffer any defense, but merely put the prosecution to their proof.
The jurors, therefore, could not have reasonably disagreed as to which act the Thomas Chandler Parsons was guilty of and yet convict him, simply because there was no defense proffered to any one or more items of stolen property received.
The judgment of conviction was affirmed by the Court of Appeals of California, Second District, Division Seven.
The facts summarized above are excerpted from what was written by the Court of Appeals of California, Second District, Division Seven. More information is available from the source documents: 44212, Court of Appeals of California, Second District, Division Seven, June 8, 1984, opinion of Lew with Thompson and Johnson concurring.