College of San Mateo Juvenile Fitness Hearing the People V. Edsel Phillip Bryant

On May 1, 1984, at approximately 0100 hours, the Contra Costa Sheriff’s office received reports of a prowler outside of Lelinda Garcia’s residence in Rodeo, CA. Garcia described the prowler as an 18-year-old Filipino male and claimed that he had made threats at her life. Deputy Sheriffs Nunes, Olivera, and Gray responded to the call and arrived at the scene three minutes later. While at the scene, Deputy Nunes spotted what appeared to be a minor sitting in a Chevrolet Chevette parked near Garcia’s residence. Deputy Nunes approached the vehicle to question the minor and noticed that the minor was fumbling with an object. Deputy Nunes asked the minor what he was doing but received no response, and then without warning, the minor drew a shotgun at the deputy. The minor ignored Deputy Nunes’ commands to drop the firearm which caused Nunes to discharge his service Revolver at the minor. The bullet grazed the minor’s right temple causing him to fire one shell from his shotgun. No deputies were injured during the incident and the minor was the only casualty.

The minor was taken by ambulance to the hospital and was later identified as 17-year-old Edsel P. At the hospital, Deputy Gray advised Edsel of his Miranda rights in which he waived. Edsel stated to the deputy that he was involved in an affair with Lelinda Garcia, and when her husband, Peter Garcia, discovered their relationship he threatened Edsel. Edsel told Deputy Gray that he took his brother’s shotgun and drove his parent’s Chevette to Garcia’s residence with every intention to kill Peter Garcia. He further stated that he would’ve killed Deputy Nunes during their confrontation if the deputy had not shot first. A possible suicide note was also found on Edsel’s person which read: “”Dear Mom, Dad, and the family. I love you all, I’m sorry I did this because I have too many problems in life. I don’t want to give you any more problems, I love you all and I’m very sorry. Love Edsel.””

During the investigation of the incident, Lelinda Garcia told detectives that she did not know that the prowler was Edsel. She had also revealed that Peter did not know about Edsel and stated that Edsel had threatened to kill Peter if she did not leave her marriage. Since the incident took place before Proposition 21 was in effect, Edsel was admitted to a fitness hearing. The fitness hearing was held to determine whether Edsel would be fit or unfit for Juvenile Court. According to 707 (a)(1) WIC under subsections (A-E), a minor may be deemed unfit based on any one or a combination of the following five criteria: The degree of criminal sophistication exhibited by the minor. Whether the minor can be rehabilitated prior to the expiration of the juvenile court’s jurisdiction. The minor’s previous delinquent history. Success of previous attempts by the juvenile court to rehabilitate the minor. The circumstances and gravity of the offense alleged in the petition to have been committed by the minor.

Probation Officer Birss interviewed Edsel and his family to better help with the recommendation of Edsel’s fitness. He found that Edsel is a mild individual, had no criminal record, attends SF State University, comes from a religious family, and works part-time in the family business. Despite the observations, Officer Birss’ probation report concluded with the recommendation that Edsel would be declared unfit for Juvenile Court based solely on the seriousness of the alleged offense described in the police reports. At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge found Edsel unfit for Juvenile Court due to the “”circumstances and gravity of the offense alleged to have been committed.”” On May 24, 1984, a complaint was filed in Municipal Court charging Edsel with two counts of attempted murder with a firearm.

I noticed that Edsel’s case was similar to Shawn’s case because both of them involved attempted murder. Shawn was arrested for repeatedly stabbing his sleeping father on December 1998. Edsel and Shawn differ because Edsel had no criminal record and caused no injury during the commission of his offense, while Shawn had a prior criminal record for a Strong-Arm Robbery and actually inflicted great bodily injury to his victim. Yet Shawn was still allowed to remain in Santa Clara County’s Juvenile Hall and was able to leave the facility to attend community college, private counseling sessions, and Narcotics Anonymous meetings. It is unknown whether or not Edsel’s Filipino background and Shawn’s Caucasian background had any effect on their judges’ decisions, but a direct comparison of both cases clearly show that there is some form of racial inequity in our Juvenile Justice System.

In my opinion, Edsel should’ve been deemed fit for Juvenile Court. He had no prior criminal record and there was no great degree of criminal sophistication behind his offense; only bad judgment. I believe that Edsel’s judgment was clouded because of the poisonous love triangle he was involved in. Edsel was still an immature 17-years-old and Lelinda Garcia was most likely his first love. The two met on October 1983 and began dating in January 1984. Lelinda was involved in an affair with Edsel for a total of five months which is a reasonable amount of time for a man to develop strong feelings for a woman. Edsel’s “”possible”” suicide letter showed me that he was hopeless, had a death wish, and remorseful about what he was planning to do. Edsel clearly did not have any peers to express his feelings to and help him come to reason. He was the average 17-year-old that attended college and worked part-time. Edsel only formed this violent criminal behavior after becoming involved with Lelinda. The incident could’ve served as a wake-up call to Edsel and help him realize that his actions over a woman were a mistake. Edsel could have been rehabilitated prior to the expiration of the Juvenile Court’s jurisdiction because of his favorable background and clean record; however, I also understand the severity of displaying hostile act/intent towards a peace officer and that should never be taken lightly.

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