After Flip Flops, California Judges Decide if a Balcony is Part of a Residence


Around midnight on Aug. 5, 2009 in Los Angeles, Jammal Haneef Yarbrough climbed nine feet to a second story residential balcony containing two bicycles and was clinging to a four-foot high steel railing when a dog in the home began barking and the resident emerged to confront him.

Yarbrough fled and, though he didn't take anything, was arrested. After Superior Court Judge Ronald S. Coen declared the balcony part of the residence, a jury convicted the defendant of burglary.

The defendant appealed his case to a California Court of Appeal based in Los Angeles and got his conviction reversed.
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In a six-page, March 2011 opinion written by Justice Robert M. Mallano–a
former LA prosecutor and superior court judge, the appellate court
decided that the second-floor balcony was not an enclosed area of the
residence and therefore by definition a burglary couldn't have occurred.

Mallano felt so sure of his stance that he published his opinion for official use in future cases.

But thankfully last week the California Supreme Court applied common sense and reversed the reversal. 

“Whenever
a private, residential apartment and its balcony are on the second or a
higher floor of a building, and the balcony is designed to be entered
only from inside the apartment (thus extending the apartment's living
space), the balcony is part of the apartment,” Justice Joyce L. Kennard
wrote for the Supreme Court. “The railing of such a balcony marks the
apartment's outer boundary, any slight crossing of which is an entry for
purposes of the burglary statute.”

Yarbrough, 26, remains locked up inside the California Medical Facility, a medical/psychiatric prison in Vacaville.

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R. Scott Moxley’s award-winning investigative journalism has touched nerves for two decades. An angry congressman threatened to break Moxley’s knee caps. A dirty sheriff promised his critical reporting was irrelevant and then landed in prison. The U.S. House of Representatives debated his work. Federal prosecutors credited his stories for the arrest of a doctor who sold fake medicine to dying patients. Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; and hailed by two New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing Southern California law enforcement corruption.

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