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United States v. Estrada

filed: March 12, 1993.


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California. D.C. No. CR-91-0417-DT-1. Dickran M. Tevrizian, District Judge, Presiding

Before: D.w. Nelson, Wiggins, and Leavy, Circuit Judges


Defendant David Estrada was charged with two counts of armed bank robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a)(d). A jury convicted Estrada on both counts. The district court had jurisdiction pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3231. We have jurisdiction over this timely appeal pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3742 and 28 U.S.C. § 1291. We affirm.


On April 8, 1991, at approximately 1:30 p.m., Estrada approached teller Mary Ellen Harrison of the Security Pacific National Bank in Long Beach and presented her with a note and deposit envelope. The note read in part: "Don't say anything . . . cash." Estrada pointed a gun at her and said: "Give me your cash. Hurry. Hurry it up. Give me all of it. I mean it." After Ms. Harrison gave Estrada all the cash in her drawer, he exited the bank.

On April 26, 1991, at approximately 12:05 p.m., Estrada approached teller Gloria Celaya of the Bank of America in Whittier and advised her that he wished to make a withdrawal. Ms. Celaya turned to retrieve a withdrawal slip. As she returned, she noticed that Estrada was pointing a small steel revolver at her. Estrada then showed her a note, which she did not read, and ordered her to "Give me your money. I want one hundred and fifty dollar bills." Ms. Celaya gave defendant all the cash in her drawer, including bait money and an Emergency Tracking System ("ETS") pack. As Estrada exited the bank, Ms. Celaya activated the bank's surveillance cameras and alarm.

A Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department helicopter, equipped to detect signals emitted by an ETS pack, tracked Estrada to the southbound 605 Freeway. Deputy Joe Lomonaco responded to the report from the helicopter. His patrol car too was equipped to detect signals emitted by an ETS pack. He, as well as Deputy George Berumen and other units, followed the signal and determined that the ETS pack was located in a black pickup travelling southbound on the 605 Freeway. Estrada was driving the pickup. Codefendant Josie Macias was travelling with Estrada.

Deputy Berumen was following directly behind the black pickup at speeds approaching 90 miles per hour and saw Macias look over her shoulder several times. The pickup then attempted to elude Deputy Berumen. Macias also began throwing pieces of paper and money out of the passenger window of the pickup. After the pickup was disabled and Estrada and Macias apprehended, the officers found on the floor of the pickup $859 in cash, two bills imprinted with the ETS pack number, and a cap and sunglasses that fit the teller's description of items worn by the bank robber.

Both Estrada and Macias were indicted for armed bank robbery. A jury subsequently convicted Estrada on two counts. Estrada now appeals.


I. The Evidence Supports Estrada's Convictions On Both Counts of Armed Bank Robbery

At the close of the government's evidence, Estrada moved for a judgment of acquittal on both counts of armed bank robbery. The trial court denied the motion.

In considering a motion for judgment of acquittal, the trial court must determine "whether, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the government, the jury could reasonably find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt." United States v. Hazeem, 679 F.2d 770, 772 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 848 (1982). We use the same test on appeal to review the trial court's decision. Id. Moreover, we "must respect the exclusive province of the jury to determine credibility of witnesses, resolve evidentiary conflicts, and draw reasonable inferences from proven facts, by assuming that the jury resolved all such matters in a manner which supports the verdict." United States v. Ramos, 558 F.2d 545, 546 (9th Cir. 1977).

To support Estrada's conviction on count one, the government first offered the eyewitness testimony of Mary Ellen Harrison, the Security Pacific National Bank teller who was robbed. Ms. Harrison testified that the robber was approximately two feet from her as he demanded the money and that she had approximately one minute to concentrate on the robber's face during the robbery. She also testified as to what the robber was wearing, to his physical features, to what he said to her during the robbery, to what the demand note looked like, and to what the gun looked like. Finally, Ms. Harrison made an in ...

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