Supreme Court of California Justia
Citation 50 Cal. 4th 1082, 240 P.3d 204, 116 Cal. Rptr. 3d 723

People v. Bacon

Filed 10/21/10



IN THE SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA



THE PEOPLE,

Plaintiff and Respondent,

S079179

v.

ROBERT ALLEN BACON,

Solano County

Defendant and Appellant.

Super. Ct. No. F-C42606



A jury found defendant Robert Allen Bacon guilty of first degree murder

(Pen. Code, §§ 187, 189)1 and found true the special circumstance allegation that

he intentionally killed the victim by means of lying in wait (§ 190.2, subd.

(a)(15)). The jury found him guilty also of forcible rape (§ 261, subd. (a)(2)) and

forcible sodomy (§ 286, subd. (c)(2)). Defendant waived his right to a jury trial on

the additional special circumstance allegation that he was previously convicted of

murder (§ 190.2, subd. (a)(2)), and the trial court found that he was so convicted.

At defendant‟s penalty trial, the jury returned a verdict of death. The trial

court denied defendant‟s motions for a new trial (§ 1181) and for modification of

the penalty (§ 190.4, subd. (e)), and it sentenced him to death. This appeal is

automatic. (Cal. Const., art. VI, § 11; § 1239, subd. (b).)


1

All further statutory references are to the Penal Code unless otherwise

indicated.

1


We affirm the judgment.

INTRODUCTION

Deborah Sammons was brutally murdered and her body was placed in the

trunk of her car, which defendant tried to conceal by driving the car into a slough.

The last persons Deborah Sammons saw on the night of her murder were

defendant and her husband, Charles (Charlie) Sammons, from whom she had

recently separated, and who, along with defendant, was charged with her murder.

Defendant and Charlie Sammons both admitted that Charlie had asked defendant

to kill his wife and that each of them had taken part in disposing of the body and

concealing evidence of her murder. But their accounts of the murder itself varied

widely, with each casting the other as the actual killer. The victim‟s blood was

found on the shoes of both men, but physical evidence further linking defendant to

the victim was the presence of his semen in her vagina. Defendant had never met

the victim before the night of the murder.

Defendant and Charlie Sammons were tried separately. Defendant was tried

first, and, at his trial, Charlie Sammons testified for the prosecution.2 The

prosecutor‟s theory was that both defendant and Charlie committed the murder,

and that defendant had also raped and sodomized the victim. The defense theory

was that Charlie was the sole killer because he had the stronger motive due to his

jealousy and anger towards his estranged wife. The defense contended that

defendant‟s sexual acts with the victim before her murder were consensual.


2

After defendant‟s conviction, the prosecution dismissed the only special-

circumstance allegation (lying in wait) charged against Charlie Sammons, who
then pleaded no contest to first degree murder and received a sentence of 25 years
to life.

2

I. FACTS

A. Guilt Phase

1. The prosecution’s case

a. Discovery of the body

Around midnight on October 26, 1995, two California Highway Patrol

officers discovered the body of Deborah Sammons in the trunk of a white Mercury

Sable car that appeared to have been abandoned just off Grizzly Island Road in

Solano County. The officers arrived in response to the call of a local man who

had driven to Grizzly Island that night to fish. The man had first seen the white

car on Grizzly Island Road when it had passed his car at high speed. On reaching

the place on the road where a bridge crosses Montezuma Slough, the man found

the white car at the edge of the slough with its engine running and its lights on. As

recounted below, defendant ultimately confessed to police that he tried to drive the

car into the slough to sink it and conceal the body in the trunk, but the car became

stuck on the dirt embankment.

By running a check of the license plate, the officers determined that the car

was registered to a married couple, Charles and Deborah Sammons. In

preparation for towing and impounding the car, the officers conducted an

inventory search. Using the keys from the ignition, they opened the trunk and

discovered Deborah Sammons‟s body.

b. Investigation leading to the arrests

At the time of her murder, Deborah Sammons had separated from her

husband Charlie and was having a romantic relationship with Bill Peunggate. She

had begun the affair with Peunggate while she was still living with Charlie.

Charlie and Peunggate had come to blows in the summer of 1995 when Charlie

learned of the affair. Deborah told Peunggate that she intended to divorce Charlie.

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Deborah and Peunggate had planned to go shopping together on the evening

of October 26 (the day of the murder). In the afternoon, however, Deborah called

Peunggate and told him that, at Charlie‟s request, she was first going to Charlie‟s

house in Vacaville to take care of some bills. Deborah‟s timecard from her

employer showed that she left work at 5:28 p.m. Around midnight, when Deborah

still had not shown up for their planned shopping trip, Peunggate drove to

Charlie‟s house. Charlie answered the door; he appeared to have just taken a

shower. Peunggate used the phone, but neither of the men discussed Deborah‟s

whereabouts.

About 6:00 a.m. on October 27, Solano County Sheriff‟s deputies visited

Charlie Sammons at his house to tell him that his wife was dead. Initially he

appeared shocked at the news, but, according to one of the officers, his shock

“lasted not more than a minute,” and he resumed cooking his breakfast. When

asked whether or not he had been involved in the death of his wife, he responded,

“Not quite.” Based on that response, the officers asked for and received Charlie‟s

permission to search his home. On the washing machine in the garage, they

discovered a couple of drops of what appeared to be blood, which tested positive

with Hemastix, a testing chemical. The officers told Charlie to accompany them

to the station for further questioning, and he began to put on a pair of tennis shoes.

Noticing bloodstains on the tennis shoes, one of the officers seized them.

Subsequent DNA testing revealed that the blood was Deborah Sammons‟s.

On October 28, the day after Charlie Sammons was arrested, sheriff‟s

deputies obtained a warrant for and searched his house. In the master bedroom,

they discovered numerous traces of blood, including a smear on the bed frame, a

drop inside the dresser cabinet, a smear on the dresser, and small stains on the

closet door. In the living room, they found small bloodstains on the brickwork in

front of the fireplace. Inside the fireplace, they discovered burnt fabric and the

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underwire and clasps of a bra. In the kitchen, they found a single-edged, wood-

handled steak knife in the dishwasher.

After Charlie made statements to investigators implicating defendant,

sheriff‟s deputies obtained a warrant for and searched defendant‟s residence,

where they found and seized a tire iron.

c. Autopsy and sexual assault examination

The victim‟s body was clad in a floral print dress, a short sleeve blouse, and a

half-slip, but no other underclothing. It bore three types of injuries: strangulation,

blunt force, and sharp force. The strangulation injuries consisted of multiple

ligature furrows on the neck and hemorrhaging of the eyes. The blunt force

injuries included a broken nose and lacerations on the eyebrow and the bridge of

the nose. On the face there was a rectangular bruising pattern that, according to

the trial testimony of Dr. Brian Lee Peterson, the pathologist who performed the

autopsy, “matched very nicely the general width and shape” of the tire iron that

had been found in defendant‟s apartment.

The sharp-force injuries included two stab wounds to the face and two stab

wounds to the left side of the chest, one of which went through the lung and into

the abdomen, and the other of which penetrated the heart, injuring the ventricle.

According to Dr. Peterson, the steak knife that was found in the dishwasher at

Charlie Sammons‟s house could have been used to inflict all of the stab wounds.

Dr. Peterson took swabs from the mouth, vagina, and rectum for evidence of

rape, although he found no evidence of trauma to the victim‟s vagina or rectum.

The swabs were tested by a criminalist, who found evidence of spermatozoa on the

vaginal swab. The swabs were also sent to a Department of Justice laboratory in

Berkeley for DNA analysis. The laboratory confirmed the presence of

spermatozoa and performed two rounds of DNA testing on it. The testing

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excluded Bill Peunggate (Deborah Sammons‟s boyfriend at the time of the

murder) and Charlie Sammons, but not defendant, as possible sources of the

sperm. DNA analysis of the bloodstain on defendant‟s shoe excluded Charlie

Sammons, Peunggate, and defendant as possible sources, but included the victim.

Elizabeth Ann Cassinos, a sexual assault nurse examiner, performed a

colposcopic examination of the genital and anal areas of the victim‟s body. (A

colposcope is a microscope that magnifies 15 times normal vision.) Cassinos

discovered an abrasion or slight tear at the edge of the vaginal opening. This type

of injury could be consistent with consensual sexual relations. The victim‟s anal

cavity exhibited “more trauma” than the vaginal area. Past the sphincter, the anal

cavity was purple and bruised looking on the right-hand side, which was

consistent with blunt force trauma to the rectum caused by something being forced

in from the outside. Cassinos did not offer an opinion as to whether the condition

of the victim‟s genital and anal areas was the result of consensual or

nonconsensual sexual relations.

d. Charlie Sammons’s testimony

Charlie Sammons testified for the prosecution. At the time, he was also

charged with the murder of Deborah Sammons, and he was in custody awaiting a

separate trial. His attorney had approached the prosecution about Charlie‟s

testifying, but Charlie had made no plea agreements or deals with the prosecution.

Charlie hoped, however, that the prosecution would show him some consideration

after the conclusion of defendant‟s case.

On the day of the murder, Charlie and Deborah Sammons had been separated

for about a month. Charlie was living at the Vacaville house that the couple had

formerly shared. Charlie had been suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS) for

about 17 years, with varying degrees of impairment over that time. When he

6

testified at defendant‟s trial, Charlie was using a wheelchair, but at the time of the

murder, about three and a half years earlier, he had been able to walk.

Charlie had met defendant through Charlie‟s daughter, who knew

defendant‟s stepmother. On the day of the murder, defendant was helping Charlie

paint the house and had been there for three days, working on the project. During

the first day of painting, Charlie mentioned that he and his wife were separated

because of “sexual problems,” namely, she no longer wanted to have sex with him.

Charlie told defendant, “I‟d like to have her out of the picture.” Defendant replied

that “he could take care of it for a price.” Charlie thought defendant “was joking

around” because defendant was laughing when he said it.

Charlie had called Deborah several times that week, asking her to come to

the house to pay the bills, something she often did even after their separation. She

finally agreed, and Charlie told defendant she was going to come. Defendant

replied that, upon her arrival, he would go to the bedroom to wait, and that, if

Charlie “wanted her taken care of,” he should knock on the door as a signal.

Charlie testified that he did not really know what defendant meant and that he

thought defendant was still joking.

Deborah arrived about 6:00 p.m. on the day of the murder, and for several

hours she and Charlie talked while she paid the bills at the kitchen table. Charlie

asked whether she was coming back, and she responded she did not know, which

was her usual response to this question. When she finished paying the bills,

Deborah went to the bedroom to put away the receipts and the checks. Charlie

then heard a scream “like she [had] seen a mouse.” Because the scream was not

loud, Charlie waited a few minutes, then yelled to ask whether everything was all

right. Hearing no response, he went to the bedroom and saw defendant beating

Deborah. Defendant held her up with one hand around her neck. She was

bleeding from the side of her head and begged Charlie to help her. When Charlie

7

asked defendant what he was doing, defendant pointed a gun at Charlie and told

him to go back to the kitchen.

Charlie returned to the kitchen and started to go to the phone, but defendant,

who was still in the bedroom, yelled, “I told you not to try to do anything.”

Charlie testified that “it was like [defendant] knew everything I was doing,” and

he said he was too scared to leave the house to seek help. After about five

minutes, Charlie returned to the bedroom to see what was happening. Defendant

was bent over the bed, standing over Deborah, who was bleeding. Charlie did not

know whether she was alive. He saw her bra or panties or pantyhose near the end

of the bed. Defendant again told Charlie to go back to the kitchen, and again he

complied. A few minutes later, defendant called him back to the bedroom.

Deborah was on the bed, dressed, apparently dead. Defendant told Charlie to help

him wrap the body in a tarp, which Charlie obtained from the backyard. After

they had wrapped Deborah‟s body, defendant told Charlie to help him put it in the

trunk of a red car in the garage. Charlie did so, and defendant asked him where

they could dump the body. When Charlie had trouble thinking of a place,

defendant threatened to shoot him. Charlie then thought of Grizzly Island,

because he had previously towed cars from there.

Defendant told Charlie to lead the way. Charlie drove the red car, with

Deborah‟s body in the trunk, and defendant followed in Deborah‟s car, the white

Mercury. When they reached Grizzly Island Road, defendant flashed his lights for

Charlie to stop. Defendant told Charlie to help him put the body in the white car.

They removed the body from the tarp and threw the tarp over the side of a hill.

Defendant then drove the white car, now containing Deborah‟s body, off the side

of a bridge towards the water. Defendant rejoined Charlie, who was waiting in the

red car, and told him, “Let‟s go back and I‟ll clean up the mess.”

8

On cross-examination, Charlie acknowledged that, around the time of the

murder, he was not confined to a wheelchair. Although Charlie had been

receiving Social Security disability payments, he was doing construction jobs,

such as installing sprinkler systems. He had also constructed a patio cover in his

backyard, a task requiring hammering and sawing.

Charlie also acknowledged that he was jealous and upset about Deborah‟s

affair with Peunggate, and that he had asked people to watch her house and her

place of work to keep track of her activities. During the last period in which

Charlie and Deborah lived in the house, she had refused to have sex with him, and

they slept in different bedrooms. Deborah moved out of the house because she

was tired of refusing his demands for sex, and her refusals had angered him.

e. Defendant’s statements to investigators

Defendant‟s videotaped custodial interview, which occurred around 11:00

a.m. on October 28, 1995, was introduced through the testimony of Solano County

Sheriff‟s Detective Patrick Grate, the interrogating officer. The videotape was

played to the jurors, who were given transcripts that the parties stipulated were

true and accurate, and which contained a few statements that had been

inadvertently deleted from the videotape.

Detective Grate began the interview by informing defendant of his rights

under Miranda v. Arizona (1966) 384 U.S. 436, and defendant agreed to talk.

Grate asked defendant about his schedule during the last week, and defendant said

he had taken Wednesday and Thursday off from work to help Charlie Sammons

paint his patio. Grate told defendant, “We think Charlie offed his wife,” and asked

defendant whether he knew her. Defendant initially denied ever meeting her.

Grate then told defendant that Charlie had said defendant had helped Charlie move

the body. Grate said that DNA testing was being done, and he urged defendant to

9

tell his version of what had happened that night. Defendant eventually

acknowledged that Deborah had come to Charlie‟s house on Thursday night at

about 6:00 p.m., and he said, “You‟re gonna find my semen samples in her . . . .

Cause I fucked her.”

Detective Grate told defendant that Charlie had said that defendant had

committed the murder all on his own, for reasons unknown to Charlie. In

response, defendant told this story: Defendant saw Deborah arrive and was

immediately attracted to her. He overheard Deborah and Charlie in the kitchen

discussing their separation. Deborah told Charlie she did not want the house, but

she also did not want other women living there because they would take things

that belonged to her. Charlie then went to the garage, which defendant took as his

“opportunity to check her out.” After some conversation lasting “five minutes at

the most,” inexplicably (“I don‟t know how it happened or why it happened”) and

quickly (“next thing I know”), defendant and Deborah began to have sex. Charlie

did not interrupt them, and, after they had finished engaging in sex (which took

about 10 or 15 minutes), defendant went back outside to continue painting the

house.

About 15 minutes later, Charlie yelled for defendant to come inside. Charlie

had blood on his hands and shirt, and defendant “knew” what had happened.

Defendant went to the bedroom and saw Deborah‟s dead body on the bed. When

asked to describe the condition of the body, defendant said, “I didn‟t want to fuck

her” and “there was blood everywhere.” Based on his prior conversations with

Charlie, defendant assumed Charlie had killed her because they were separating

and “she was gonna take everything.”

Charlie told defendant that if he did not help him move the body, Charlie

would call defendant‟s father and tell him that defendant had just killed Deborah.

Defendant and Charlie then moved the body onto a tarp. Defendant got Deborah‟s

10

blood on his shoes when he stepped on the tarp. Charlie tossed something in the

fireplace, which might have been rags or a blanket or a sheet. Defendant

eventually admitted that he helped Charlie to burn Deborah‟s underwear and to

clean the bloody sheets.

They put the body in the trunk of the red car, which Charlie drove.

Defendant followed in the white car. At some point, they stopped; Charlie

switched the body into the white car; and defendant tried to drive the car into the

slough, but it got stuck on a big dirt hump. Charlie drove defendant home. At

some point, defendant washed his bloody clothes at Charlie‟s house, which was

how the blood got on the washing machine.

At this point in the interview, Detective Grate left defendant alone in the

room with the videocamera still recording. Defendant engaged in an obscenity-

filled soliloquy in which he cursed Charlie for getting him involved and for

pinning the crime on him. He also wondered aloud why Charlie had killed

Deborah. Detective Grate returned to the interview room and announced that the

district attorney was going to charge defendant with “rape/murder.” Grate

explained that the rape charge was based on the improbability of defendant‟s story

that Deborah had engaged in consensual sex five minutes after meeting him for the

first time. Grate urged defendant to tell him anything more that might clarify what

had happened that night.

Defendant then said that Charlie had asked him to kill Deborah. Defendant

maintained that he never said he would kill her but acknowledged that he believed

Charlie assumed he would. After Deborah arrived, Charlie left the house to go to

the store, saying, on his way out the door, that defendant “knew what had to be

done.” Defendant claimed that he did not realize the significance of Charlie‟s

comment, despite his earlier conversation with Charlie about killing Deborah.

After Charlie left, defendant talked to Deborah for about five minutes. The “next

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thing [he] knew,” he was kissing her, and “she didn‟t struggle.” They ended up in

the bedroom, where defendant performed oral sex on her. They engaged in

vaginal intercourse and then in anal intercourse, when she said she did not mind it.

Defendant adhered to the rest of his earlier story that Charlie killed Deborah all on

his own and that defendant played no role beyond helping to dispose of the body

and clean up the evidence.

f. Testimony of jailhouse informant

Martin L‟Esperance testified about statements defendant had made to him

about the murder while they were both prisoners in the Solano County jail.

L‟Esperance had many theft-related convictions and was then serving a sentence

for either petty theft or robbery. Defendant told L‟Esperance he had “stabbed a

lady to death” in “the back room” of her house in Vacaville, had “fucked the bitch

in the ass,” and had made her husband help him get rid of the body. Defendant

also said that murder produced a better “high” than shooting methamphetamine

and that “sex after death” was “better than regular sex.” Defendant did not say

whether his sex acts with the victim occurred before or after her death.

Almost a year after hearing defendant‟s statements, L‟Esperance decided to

go to the authorities with the information because Charlie Sammons was still in

custody and L‟Esperance thought Charlie was being imprisoned for a crime he had

not committed. At the time, L‟Esperance had a case pending, but he had already

entered into a plea agreement for it. He said he neither asked for nor received any

consideration for his pending case when he reported defendant‟s statements.

2. The defense case

Through the testimony of Charlie Sammons‟s relatives and neighbors, the

defense sought to establish that he had been physically capable of killing his wife

and that he was motivated to do so because of his anger over their separation.

12

Several witnesses testified that although Charlie had MS, he was a healthy

and active person around the time of the murder. Charlotte and David Hedrick

had been neighbors of Charlie and Deborah Sammons for 12 years. They were

upset that Charlie was defrauding the government by drawing Social Security

disability payments for his MS while doing construction jobs. Intending to reveal

this fraud, David Hedrick had taken photographs of Charlie cutting wood with a

power saw and nailing boards while standing on a ladder. Deborah‟s sister,

Lynette Holsey, testified that she saw Charlie digging trenches two feet deep and

20 feet long to install sprinkler systems.

Several witnesses testified about Charlie Sammons‟s jealousy and anger

toward Deborah. Charlotte Hedrick testified that Charlie was jealous and

suspicious of his wife. Lynette Holsey and Sheila Shelley, a family friend,

testified that Charlie had people checking to see whether Deborah was really at

work. Holsey said Charlie told her that, if he could not have Deborah, no one

could. Family friends Cletus June Wilkerson and her husband, Howard

Wilkerson, each testified they heard Charlie arguing with Deborah, and he was so

angry he twice said, “I‟m gonna kill her.”

To counter Dr. Petersen‟s testimony that Deborah‟s facial bruises matched

the tire iron found in defendant‟s dwelling, pathologist Dr. Paul Hermann testified

that, based on Deborah‟s autopsy reports and photographs, her blunt force injuries

could have been inflicted by blows with the barrel of a handgun that belonged to

Charlie Sammons and that had been found in a cabinet under a bathroom sink in

the Sammons‟s house. Dr. Hermann acknowledged that since the handle of the

tire iron was about the same size as the slide on the gun, he could not rule out the

tire iron as the source of the injuries. But he thought it more likely that the gun

had caused the injuries because he would have expected to see more damage to the

bones of the face if the tire iron had been used. Deborah‟s nose was broken, but

13

the bones of the nose are more fragile than the other bones of the face. As to the

prosecution‟s medical testimony that there were microabrasions to Deborah‟s

vagina, Dr. Hermann stated that these could have been caused by the rubbing of

underwear or sanitary pads.

Charles Morton, a forensic scientist and criminologist, examined Charlie

Sammons‟s handgun for signs of blood. Inside the barrel was a small reddish stain

about two millimeters long. A test by Morton indicated that the stain could be

blood but did not exclude mold or bacteria. Later DNA testing failed to detect any

quantity of human DNA.

DNA analyst Lisa Calandro determined that the DNA of the blood found

under Deborah‟s fingernails matched Deborah‟s DNA but not defendant‟s DNA or

Charlie‟s DNA.

Kathy Allison, one of Charlie Sammons‟s neighbors, testified that on the

evening of the murder, while driving by his house, she saw Charlie out front

talking to an elderly man while Deborah Sammons‟s white car was in the

driveway. This defense was presented to corroborate defendant‟s statement during

the custodial interview that Charlie had left the house at one point, which,

according to defendant, had given defendant and Deborah an opportunity to

engage in consensual sex.

B. Trial on Prior-murder Special-circumstance Allegation

Defendant waived his right to a jury trial on the prior-murder special-

circumstance allegation, which had been bifurcated from the guilt phase. Based

on the prosecution‟s documentary evidence, the trial court found that on June 17,

1983, defendant had been convicted in Arizona of second degree murder, and that

the prior-murder special-circumstance allegation was therefore true.

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C. Penalty Phase

1. Prosecution case

a. Defendant’s prior murder in Arizona

The prosecution presented evidence of the facts underlying defendant‟s

Arizona murder conviction. Sheriff‟s deputies from Pima County, Arizona,

testified about the murder of John Noble, who, around noon on October 26, 1982,

was found dead in bushes beside an interstate highway. Noble‟s autopsy revealed

slash wounds to his neck and numerous blunt force injuries to his head and upper

body. (At the conclusion of the penalty phase, the parties stipulated that the cause

of Noble‟s death was “a sharp injury to the right neck that pierced his right

external carotid artery.”) At the scene, investigators found a broken beer bottle

that was covered with blood.

Around 9:20 a.m. that day, a deputy sheriff had stopped and questioned two

hitchhikers at that same location. One was the victim, John Noble; the other was

defendant. Between 10:15 and 10:30 a.m., several drivers on the interstate

reported seeing, at the side of the highway, one man hitting and kicking another

man who was on the ground. When sheriff‟s deputies arrived, they found Noble‟s

dead body and arrested defendant, who was about 100 feet from the body.

Defendant appeared to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

At the station, defendant waived his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, supra,
384 U.S. 436, and spoke to an investigating officer. Defendant did not have many

injuries, but he did have dirt and blood on his person. He also had the murder

victim‟s wallet. Defendant initially denied any involvement with the murder, but

ultimately he confessed that he had fought with Noble. Defendant said he had

been hitchhiking with his dog, who was pregnant. He had met Noble, a fellow

hitchhiker, and drank some alcohol with him. Noble said they might find work in

Phoenix as grooms at a racetrack. Noble lay down for a nap, and defendant left to

15

catch a ride, but he returned to get the piece of paper from Noble‟s wallet on

which the job address was written. As defendant was preparing to get the wallet,

defendant‟s dog woke Noble, who lashed out and kicked the dog. Defendant

warned Noble about kicking the pregnant dog, but Noble kicked the dog again,

and defendant fought with him.

During the interview, defendant gave several different accounts of the fight.

At one point, he said he hit Noble in the neck and thought he cut Noble‟s neck

because Noble started bleeding and fell down. At another point, however,

defendant said that Noble had cut his neck by falling on the broken beer bottle.

No fingerprints were ultimately recovered from the bottle. But when defendant

was asked whether his fingerprints would be found on it, he said they would

because he had picked up the bottle and thrown it away. Defendant said that he

never intended to steal Noble‟s wallet and that he had merely wanted the job

information.

b. Parole violation

For killing Noble, defendant pleaded guilty to second degree murder and

robbery, and he was sentenced to prison. He was paroled in April 1994. On

February 24, 1995, during a parole search of defendant‟s bedroom, his parole

officer found a loaded .25-caliber pistol under defendant‟s pillow. In the drawer

of a table beside the bed, additional ammunition for the gun was found. Defendant

denied the gun was his and said he had no idea how it had gotten there. Defendant

was returned to prison for violating his parole. He was again released on July 24,

1995, after which he failed to report to his parole officer. (According to

defendant‟s police interview, he came to California in August 1995. Deborah

Sammons was murdered on the evening of October 26, 1995.)

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2. Defense case

Several of defendant‟s relatives testified about his impoverished and unstable

childhood, and about his abuse at the hands of his stepfather, Bill Garlinghouse.

Defendant‟s mother, Kathleen Scott, was continuously hospitalized between

the ages of six and 12 for a severe heart condition and as a result received little

formal education. When she was 16, defendant‟s mother married Robert Bacon, a

sailor in the United States Navy, and moved with him from Washington State to

California. She became pregnant with defendant as the result of an affair with

another man while her husband was at sea. Robert Bacon realized that the child

was not his, and the couple separated. Defendant‟s mother moved back to

Washington and for a time lived again with her family. She became a prostitute

and was jailed for about six months.

During this time, defendant, then six months old, was placed in foster care

with Julie Joy Waldrop, the sister-in-law of defendant‟s maternal grandmother.

When Waldrop first received him, defendant was a “pitiful” baby. He was

“catatonic,” could not sit up, and had no facial expression. Although defendant

made progress under Waldrop‟s care, defendant‟s mother regained custody of him

after about six months.

Defendant‟s mother then had a series of unstable relationships and eventually

married Bill Garlinghouse, who brought with him three children from previous

relationships. Defendant‟s mother told her sister, Glenna Healy, that Garlinghouse

beat defendant frequently and put cigarettes out on him. She also said that

defendant had told her that Garlinghouse had sodomized him. Healy had observed

bruises on defendant‟s face and arms and a cigarette burn on his arm.

Ruth Garlinghouse, Bill Garlinghouse‟s sister, came to know defendant when

she was about 13 or 14 and defendant was about three or four. She was a

babysitter for her brother‟s family. When Garlinghouse and defendant‟s mother

17

were dating, he treated defendant well. But after they were married, Garlinghouse

began to pick on defendant and would slap him periodically. By the time

defendant was four or five, Ruth began to notice cigarette burns on him, as well as

on Garlinghouse‟s younger son Billy, who was about the same age. At one point,

defendant looked like he had been “slammed into a wall,” and the whole left side

of his face was cut and severely bruised. On another occasion, when defendant

was about six, Ruth saw Garlinghouse beat defendant severely with a board that

was some 18 inches long, a half-inch thick, and three inches wide.

Bill Garlinghouse‟s daughter, Elizabeth, and Billy also testified about how

their father abused them and defendant while they were growing up in his

household. To inflict beatings, Garlinghouse generally used a belt, but sometimes

he had the victim pick a switch from a tree for him to use. Defendant was

punished more frequently, and often with more force, than the other children.

Garlinghouse sexually abused Elizabeth. He shot and killed many of the family

pets, afterwards forcing the boys to bury them.

Garlinghouse moved the family frequently from town to town. Defendant‟s

mother eventually left Garlinghouse after he hit her in the chest, which caused her

to have a heart attack. While she was hospitalized, Garlinghouse moved out of the

house, taking his children but leaving defendant behind. When defendant was 11

or 12 years old, his mother reunited with her former husband, Robert Bacon.

About a year later, they at last told defendant that Robert Bacon was not his

biological father, which caused defendant to become very angry. Like

Garlinghouse, Robert Bacon moved the family frequently. Defendant eventually

ended up in juvenile institutions.

18

II. DISCUSSION

A. Guilt Phase Issues

1. Exclusion of defense evidence

Sustaining the prosecutor‟s relevancy objection, the trial court excluded a

note, written in defendant‟s handwriting, that contained the victim‟s name, her

work address, and an unidentified telephone number. Defendant asserts the note

was relevant and admissible evidence that would have corroborated his claim of

consensual sex with the victim. He contends that the exclusion of the note

violated state law and his rights under the Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth

Amendments to the federal Constitution.3 As we conclude below, the trial court

did not err in excluding the note.

During cross-examination of the criminalist who helped collect evidence

during the search of Charlie Sammons‟s house, defense counsel asked about some

items, apparently belonging to defendant, that were found in one of the bedrooms

in the house. One item was an athletic bag containing men‟s shaving items and a


3

Regarding this claim and other claims raised on appeal, defendant contends

the asserted error or misconduct violated several constitutional rights. In many
instances in which defendant raised the issues at trial, however, he failed to
explicitly make some or all of the constitutional arguments he now asserts on
appeal. Unless otherwise indicated, his appellate claims either required no action
by him to preserve them, or they involved application of the same facts or legal
standards defendant asked the trial court to apply, accompanied by a new
argument that the trial error or misconduct had the additional legal consequence of
violating the federal Constitution. “To that extent, defendant has not forfeited his
new constitutional claims on appeal.” (People v. Guerra (2006) 37 Cal.4th 1067,
1084, fn. 4.) On the merits, no separate constitutional discussion is required, or
provided, when rejection of a claim that the trial court erred on the issue presented
to that court necessarily leads to rejection of any constitutional theory or
“ „gloss‟ ” raised for the first time here. (People v. Boyer (2006) 38 Cal.4th 412,
441, fn. 17.)

19

note on which were written a name, an address, and a phone number. The

prosecution objected to admission of the note for lack of relevance, and the trial

court heard argument on the issue outside the jury‟s presence. Defense counsel

made an offer of proof that the note was found in defendant‟s bag and bore, in

defendant‟s handwriting, the name of the victim, her work address, and a phone

number that was as yet unidentified. Defense counsel argued that the note was

relevant to show that on the night of the murder the victim had voluntarily given

her personal contact information to defendant, which in turn could support the

defense version of events that the victim consented to sexual acts with defendant.

The prosecutor objected that, without further evidence, the mere presence of the

victim‟s name and contact information in defendant‟s handwriting on the note did

not show that she had voluntarily given him the information. The trial court

agreed with the prosecutor‟s objection, observing that an equally reasonable

inference was that Charlie had provided the information when he solicited

defendant to kill his wife. The court left open the possibility, however, that the

defense could seek admission of the note after Charlie Sammons had testified and

was questioned about whether he had given defendant the information in question.

When Charlie Sammons testified, he denied giving defendant any

information about his wife, such as a phone number or an address. The defense

then renewed its request to admit the note, and the trial court held another hearing

outside the presence of the jury. Since the first hearing on the note, the prosecutor

had obtained phone company records, and now made an offer of proof that the

phone number on the note was not linked to the victim. The trial court again

denied the motion to admit the note, explaining that “the defense has not

established a sufficient foundation to conclude, other than by pure speculation,

that the victim is the volunteer source of information on the note.” The court also

explained that, even assuming for the sake of argument the foundational fact that

20

the victim had been the source of the information on the note, it would be

unreasonable, without an explanation as to why the information was given to

defendant, to infer that the sexual contact between defendant and the victim was

consensual.

Defendant contends that admission of the note would have supported his

version of events — namely, that the victim consented to their sexual acts —

which would have been helpful to him not only on the sexual assault charges but

also on the murder charge. As defendant puts it, “it would be paradoxical to the

point of absurdity to believe that a man would take the trouble to induce (or

seduce) the consent of a woman he intended to murder immediately afterwards in

any event.” As recounted, the trial court gave two reasons for not admitting the

note: (1) defense counsel had not met his burden, under Evidence Code section

403, subdivision (a)(1), of establishing the foundational fact that the victim had

voluntarily given him the information on the note, and (2) even if that foundational

fact were established, it was not relevant, under Evidence Code section 210, to the

issue of whether defendant and the victim had engaged in consensual sex. We

consider the foundational issue first.

When the relevance of proffered evidence depends on the existence of a

preliminary fact, the proponent of the evidence has the burden of producing

evidence as to the existence of that preliminary fact. (Evid. Code, § 403, subd.

(a)(1).) The proffered evidence is inadmissible unless the trial court finds

sufficient evidence to sustain a finding of the existence of the preliminary fact.

(Ibid.; see also People v. Marshall (1996) 13 Cal.4th 799, 832 [“the trial court

must determine whether the evidence is sufficient to permit the jury to find the

preliminary fact true by a preponderance of the evidence”].) “The decision

whether the foundational evidence is sufficiently substantial is a matter within the

21

court‟s discretion.” (People v. Lucas (1995) 12 Cal.4th 415, 466; accord, People

v. Guerra, supra, 37 Cal.4th 1067, 1120.)

Here, the preliminary fact for which defendant had the burden of producing

evidence was that murder victim Deborah was the source of the information on the

note. Although some of that information was about Deborah (her name and work

address, but apparently not the telephone number), the defense produced no

evidence adequately supporting an inference that she was the source of the

information. Significantly, the note was in defendant’s handwriting. As the trial

court observed, if the victim had provided the information, one would normally

expect the note to be in her handwriting. In his testimony, Charlie Sammons

denied giving his murdered wife Deborah‟s address or phone number to defendant.

We assume the truthfulness of Charlie‟s testimony on this point for the purposes

of the Evidence Code section 403 analysis. (See Assem. Com. on Judiciary com.,

29B pt. 1 West‟s Ann. Evid. Code, foll. § 402 , pp. 356-357 [trial court does not

resolve conflicts in the evidence submitted on preliminary facts questions

determined under Evid. Code, § 403]; id. at p. 403 [same]; see also 3 Witkin, Cal.

Evidence (4th ed. 2000) Presentation at Trial, § 52, p. 85 [trial court cannot weigh

the evidence and resolve the conflict against admissibility].) But even so

assuming, Charlie‟s testimony was merely compatible with the theory that

Deborah had supplied the information; it did not specifically show that she had

done so. Charlie was not the only possible source of the information. As the trial

court observed, Deborah had recently lived in the house, and defendant (who had

spent several days at the house) could have come across documents there

containing her personal information. The trial court therefore acted within its

discretion in finding defendant‟s showing for this preliminary fact too weak to

meet his burden under Evidence Code section 403.

22

Because the trial court did not err in excluding the note on the basis of

Evidence Code section 403, we need not evaluate the court‟s alternate rationale for

exclusion, namely, that, even assuming the foundational fact, the note was not

relevant to the issue of consensual sex. (See Evid. Code, § 210 [“ „Relevant

evidence‟ means evidence . . . having any tendency in reason to prove or disprove

any disputed fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action”].) In

any event, we see no abuse of discretion in the trial court‟s relevancy analysis. As

the court reasoned, even if what had been found in defendant‟s bag was an item

clearly likely to have been volunteered by the murder victim, such as her business

card, it would have strained common sense to conclude that the presence of such

an item indicated an agreement to engage in consensual sex.

Finally, assuming for the sake of argument that the trial court erred in

excluding the note, we see no prejudice. Defendant merely speculates that

admitting the note would have helped his defense. Had the note been admitted,

the jury might have considered it as supporting defendant‟s statement that he and

the victim engaged in consensual sex within five minutes of their meeting for the

first time (even though none of defendant‟s various accounts of events described

any such exchange of personal information). But in light of admissions by both

defendant and the murder victim‟s husband, Charlie, that they discussed having

defendant kill Deborah, the jury was more likely to have considered the note as

supporting the prosecution‟s theory that Charlie had given Deborah‟s personal

information to defendant to facilitate a murder for hire. In any event, the possible

exculpatory value of the note was slight when viewed in light of the strong

23

evidence of defendant‟s guilt, and we therefore conclude that its exclusion was

harmless.4

2. Motion to suppress defendant’s statements

Two days after the murder, defendant was interviewed by a sheriff‟s

detective. (Ante, at pp. 9-12.) Before trial, defendant challenged the admissibility

of a large portion of this interview under Miranda v. Arizona, supra, 384 U.S. 436

(Miranda), arguing that the interrogating officer had failed to honor defendant‟s

request for counsel. After a hearing on the matter, the trial court rejected

defendant‟s claim. Defendant renews his argument on this appeal. As we

conclude below, defendant‟s Miranda rights were not violated. Viewed in

context, his statement (“I think it‟d probably be a good idea for me to get an

attorney”) was an ambiguous or equivocal reference to an attorney, which did not

require the interrogating officer to cease questioning him. (Davis v. United States

(1994) 512 U.S. 452, 459 (Davis).)

Under Miranda and its progeny, “a suspect [may] not be subjected to

custodial interrogation unless he or she knowingly and intelligently has waived the

right to remain silent, to the presence of an attorney, and, if indigent, to appointed


4

Defendant contends that prejudice from the note‟s exclusion must be

assessed by the standard for federal constitutional error, namely whether the error
was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. (Chapman v. California (1967) 386
U.S. 18, 23-24.) We reject defendant‟s attempt “to inflate garden-variety
evidentiary questions into constitutional ones.” (People v. Boyette (2009) 29
Cal.4th 381, 427.) The proper standard for review of the assumed evidentiary
error here is that for state law error under People v. Watson (1956) 46 Cal.2d 818,
836 (whether “it is reasonably probable that a result more favorable to [defendant]
would have been reached in the absence of the error”). As defendant
acknowledges, we have held that only evidentiary error amounting to a complete
preclusion of a defense violates a defendant‟s federal constitutional right to
present a defense. (People v. Boyette, supra, 29 Cal.4th at pp. 427-428.)

24

counsel.” (People v. Cunningham (2001) 25 Cal.4th 926, 992.) If at any point in

the interview the suspect invokes the right to remain silent or the right to counsel,

“the interrogation must cease.” (Miranda, supra, 384 U.S. 436, 474; see id. at

pp. 444-445, 473-475, 479.) But, as the high court has stated, an officer is not

required to stop questioning a suspect when “a suspect makes a reference to an

attorney that is ambiguous or equivocal.” (Davis, supra, 512 U.S. at p. 459.) The

suspect “must articulate his desire to have counsel present sufficiently clearly that

a reasonable police officer in the circumstances would understand the statement to

be a request for an attorney.” (Ibid.) Davis noted that “when a suspect makes an

ambiguous or equivocal statement it will often be good police practice for the

interviewing officers to clarify whether or not he actually wants an attorney,” but

declined “to adopt a rule requiring officers to ask clarifying questions.” (Id. at

p. 461.)

In reviewing a trial court‟s Miranda ruling, we accept the court‟s resolution

of disputed facts and inferences and its evaluations of credibility, if supported by

substantial evidence, and we independently determine, from the undisputed facts

and facts properly found by the trial court, whether the challenged statement was

illegally obtained. (People v. Gonzalez (2005) 34 Cal.4th 1111, 1125.) Because

what defendant here said during his police interview is undisputed, we engage in a

de novo review of the legal question of whether the statement at issue was

ambiguous or equivocal.

Defendant contends that on its face his statement (“I think it‟d probably be a

good idea for me to get an attorney”) is sufficiently clear to be understood as a

request for an attorney. Defendant compares his statement to “similar locutions”

that courts in other states and some federal appellate courts have held to be

unambiguous and unequivocal invocations of the right to counsel under Davis. As

defendant acknowledges, however, other state and federal courts have found

25

similar statements to be ambiguous or equivocal. Because defendant‟s statement

contains several ambiguous qualifying words (“I think,” “probably,” and “it‟d”),

we do not consider defendant‟s statement to be sufficiently clear in and of itself.

(See Davis, supra, 512 U.S. at p. 455 [“ „Maybe I should talk to a lawyer‟ ”];

People v. Stitely (2005) 35 Cal.4th 514, 534 [“ „I think it‟s about time for me to

stop talking‟ ” (italics omitted)].)

Alternatively, defendant contends his statement was sufficiently clear given

the circumstances of his interview. Accordingly, we turn to the details of

defendant‟s questioning. (See Davis, supra, 512 U.S. at p. 459 [admissibility

depends on what “a reasonable police officer in the circumstances would

understand”]; see also People v. Crittenden (1994) 9 Cal.4th 83, 131 [Davis

analysis is conducted “in view of the entire record”].) Here defendant‟s reference

to an attorney occurred about 30 minutes into his interview with Detective Grate.

Initially, defendant denied ever meeting the murder victim. But when Grate told

him the investigators were conducting DNA testing, defendant said: “You‟re

gonna find my semen samples in her . . . . Cause, I fucked her.” Defendant

claimed that the sexual acts were consensual, but he gave no further details. Grate

urged defendant to give him more information, asking, “What did he do, man?

What the fuck did Charlie [Sammons] do?” This led to the following exchange:

Defendant: “I don‟t know. I don‟t know. I‟ve been asking myself that same

question since we‟ve been in this room and you told me this. What the fuck did

Charlie do? Oh, my God.”

Grate: “Ain‟t no doubt you‟re in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Defendant: “(Positive response)”

Grate: “With the wrong people, man.”

Defendant: “____. Yeah, I think it‟d probably be a good idea . . .”

Grate: “Well listen, listen.”

26

Defendant: “. . . for me to get an attorney.”

Grate: “Alright. It‟s up to you.”

Defendant: “____ tell me . . .”

Grate: “Hmm?”

Defendant: “Listen, what?”

Grate: “It‟s up to you if you, you know, if you want an attorney, I mean I‟m,

I‟m giving you the opportunity to talk.”

Defendant: “Well . . .”

Grate: “You know . . . _____”

Defendant: “. . . that‟s what you‟re gonna say. I mean talk to me, okay?”

Grate: “Hmm?”

Defendant: “Talk to me.”

Grate: “Talk to you?”

Defendant: “Talk to me.”

Considering the totality of this exchange, we conclude that defendant‟s

reference to an attorney was equivocal or ambiguous. Defendant‟s “attorney”

reference occurred during a rapid and sometimes confusing series of exchanges

with Detective Grate. We note that defendant‟s phrase, “talk to me,” is open to

two possible interpretations. It could express defendant‟s willingness to talk to

Grate or it could express what defendant thought Grate wanted him to do. This

possible ambiguity is most evident the first time defendant used the phrase

(“That‟s what you‟re gonna say. I mean talk to me, okay?”) and perhaps explains

Grate‟s puzzled response (“Hmm?”). Whatever ambiguity there might be in the

first instance of “talk to me,” however, is dispelled by defendant‟s use of the

phrase two more times, which indicates that defendant was indeed asking Grate to

talk to him, rather than parroting what he thought Grate wanted him to do.

Furthermore, even if we assume for the sake of argument that all instances of “talk

27

to me” were ambiguous, defendant‟s claim fails, because under Davis, a

defendant‟s invocation of the right to counsel must be clear and unambiguous.

(Davis, supra, 512 U.S. at p. 459.)

As a further alternative argument, defendant contends that, even assuming his

reference to an attorney was ambiguous, Detective Grate went beyond asking for

clarification to actively dissuading defendant from consulting counsel. Defendant

acknowledges that we rejected a similar argument in People v. Stitely, supra, 35

Cal.4th at page 534. There, in response to the defendant‟s ambiguous reference to

the right to silence, the officer stated: “ „It‟s up to you. Nobody ever forces you to

talk. I told you that. I read you all that (untranslatable).‟ ” (Ibid.) Defendant here

contends that Grate‟s comment (“I mean I‟m, I‟m giving you the opportunity to

talk”) is distinguishable from the language we analyzed in Stitely because Grate

implied that consulting an attorney would be a waste of an opportunity to

exonerate himself. But we see no substantial difference between this aspect here

and in Stitely, and consequently we reject defendant‟s claim that he was “badgered

into resuming the interrogation.” (Id. at p. 536.)5

Because there was no violation of defendant‟s Miranda rights, we need not

address his lengthy analysis of how his case was prejudiced by the statements he

made after his asserted invocation of the right to counsel. We note, however, that

defendant‟s argument for prejudice is questionable. As defendant acknowledges,

before his reference to an attorney, defendant had already told Detective Grate that

5

Defendant also argues that the United States Supreme Court, in Dickerson

v. United States (2000) 530 U.S. 428, impliedly overruled the holding in Davis,
supra
, 512 U.S. at page 461, that the federal Constitution does not require the
police to ask clarifying questions in response to an ambiguous reference to
counsel. In Berghuis v. Thompkins (2010) 560 U.S. ___ [130 S.Ct. 2250, 2260],
the United States Supreme Court has reaffirmed its holding in Davis and extended
it to ambiguous or equivocal invocations of the right to remain silent.

28

on the night of the murder he had engaged in sex with the victim at the house

where she was killed. Defendant contends that his crude remarks in the

challenged portion of the interview prejudiced his case. But the challenged

portion of the interview also added details that arguably bolstered his exculpatory

claim of consensual sex. (See ante, at pp. 10-12.)

3. Instructions on consciousness of guilt

Over defense objection, the trial court instructed the jury that it could infer

consciousness of guilt from efforts to suppress evidence (CALJIC No. 2.06) and

from the telling of a falsehood (CALJIC No. 2.03). Defendant contends that the

trial court erred in giving these instructions because they are logically circular. He

argues that for the jury to draw inferences of the consciousness of guilt permitted

by these instructions, it would first have to resolve the ultimate question of

whether defendant committed the charged crimes. He also contends that these

instructions are argumentative pinpoint instructions that suggest to the jury an

endorsement of the prosecutor‟s version of the case.

As defendant acknowledges, we have repeatedly rejected similar claims and

upheld the propriety of these and similar consciousness of guilt instructions.

Defendant‟s arguments do not persuade us to reconsider those decisions. (People

v. Jurado (2006) 38 Cal.4th 72, 125.)

4. “Acquittal first” instruction

Defendant contends that a special instruction on the alternative charge of

being an accessory after the fact to murder was erroneous because it improperly

limited the jury‟s order of deliberations for the charged offenses, thereby

prejudicially affecting the jury‟s consideration of his defense to the murder charge,

which was that he was not involved in the murder but merely helped the victim‟s

husband dispose of her body.

29

Count 1 of the information alleged murder, and count 4 alleged that

defendant was an accessory to murder. The trial court formulated this special jury

instruction concerning these alternative charges: “The defendant is accused in

Count 1 of having committed the crime of murder and in Count 4 of having

committed the crime of accessory after the fact of murder. The defendant cannot

be convicted as both a principal and as an accessory to the same crime. [¶] In

order to find the defendant guilty of the crime charged in Count 4, accessory after

the fact to murder, you must first unanimously find the defendant not guilty of the

crime charged in Count 1, murder of the first degree, and not guilty of the lesser

offense of murder of the second degree. [¶] If you unanimously find the

defendant guilty of murder of the first degree or the lesser offense of murder of the

second degree, you should not render a verdict on Count 4, accessory after the fact

of murder.”

The trial court gave this special instruction immediately after CALJIC No.

8.75, which concerns the so-called “acquittal-first” rule for lesser-included

offenses, which, in defendant‟s case, was second degree murder.6 As the court

6

As given, CALJIC No. 8.75 read: “If you are not satisfied beyond a

reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the crime of first degree murder as
charged in Count 1, and you unanimously so find, you may convict him of any
lesser crime provided you are satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that he is guilty
of the lesser crime. [¶] You‟ll be provided with guilty and not guilty verdict
forms as to Count 1 for the crime of murder in the first degree and lesser crimes
thereto. Murder in the second degree is a lesser crime to that of murder in the first
degree. Thus, you are to determine whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty of
murder in the first degree or any lesser crime thereto. [¶] In doing so, you have
discretion to choose the order in which you evaluate each crime and consider the
evidence pertaining to it. You may find it to be productive to consider and reach
tentative conclusions on all charged and lesser crimes before reaching any final
verdicts. [¶] Before you return any final or formal verdicts, you must be guided
by the following: [¶] Number one, if you unanimously find a defendant guilty of
first degree murder as to count 1, your foreperson should sign and date the

(Footnote continued on next page.)

30

explained to the parties during the discussion of jury instructions, count 4

(accessory after the fact) was an alternative charge to murder, not a lesser included

offense. But the court noted that the jurors would have to apply the same type of

“acquittal-first” concept and procedure to both the lesser included and alternative

charges. Because the same concept applied to both, the trial court treated the

special instruction concerning the alternative charge as a continuation of CALJIC

No. 8.75.

Under the acquittal-first rule, a trial court may direct the order in which jury

verdicts are returned by requiring an express acquittal on the charged crime before

a verdict may be returned on a lesser included offense. (People v. Fields (1996)

13 Cal.4th 289, 303-304.) Although the jurors must record their findings on the

verdict forms in this order, CALJIC No. 8.75 informs the jurors: “[Y]ou have

discretion to choose the order in which you evaluate each crime and consider the

evidence pertaining to it” and advises that it “may . . . be productive to consider

and reach tentative conclusions on all charged and lesser crimes before reaching



(Footnote continued from previous page.)

corresponding guilty verdict form; [¶] Number two, if you are unable to reach a
unanimous verdict as to the charge in Count 1 of first degree murder, do not sign
any verdict forms as to that count and report your disagreement to the court; [¶]
Number three, the court cannot accept a verdict of guilty of second degree murder
as to Count 1 unless the jury also unanimously finds and returns a signed verdict
form of not guilty as to murder of the first degree in the same count; [¶] If you find
the defendant — number 4, if you find the defendant not guilty of murder in the
first degree as to Count 1, but cannot reach a unanimous agreement as to murder
of the second degree, your foreperson should sign and date the not guilty of
murder in the first degree form and should report your disagreement to the court;
[¶] If — number five, if you unanimously find a defendant not guilty of first
degree murder, but guilty of second degree murder, your foreperson should sign
and date the corresponding verdict forms.”

31

any final verdicts.” (Italics added.) These advisements are designed to prevent

the jury from applying a strict acquittal-first rule, under which the jury would have

to acquit of the greater offense before even considering lesser included offenses.

(See People v. Kurtzman (1988) 46 Cal.3d 322, 329-331.) Here, CALJIC No.

8.75, as given, included these advisements. Defendant claims, however, that

because the trial court did not repeat them in the special instruction dealing with

the alternative charge, the special instruction was rendered ambiguous and

possibly “misled the jurors to believe that they were not free to order their

substantive deliberations the way they saw useful or proper.”

There was no error in the trial court‟s special instruction. When reviewing an

instructional ambiguity claim, we ask whether the jury was reasonably likely to

have construed the instruction in a manner that violated the defendant‟s rights.

(People v. Whisenhunt (2008) 44 Cal.4th 174, 214.) Here, the trial court

intentionally structured and read CALJIC No. 8.75 together with the special

instruction on the alternative charge. Thus, it was not reasonably likely the jury

would have failed to understand that it had the “discretion to choose the order of

evaluation” for the alternative charge of accessory after the fact to murder.

5. Accomplice testimony instruction

Defense counsel requested a special instruction that was directed at the

testimony of the murder victim‟s husband, Charlie Sammons, as a testifying

accomplice and that quoted a concurring opinion to this court‟s decision in People

v. Guiuan (1998) 18 Cal.4th 558 (Guiuan). The trial court refused this special

instruction and gave the standard cautionary instruction on accomplice testimony,

CALJIC No. 3.18, which the court augmented with several sentences suggested in

the special instruction. Defendant contends that the trial court erred in refusing to

give the special instruction in its entirety.

32

The trial court found that, for the purposes of jury instructions, Charlie

Sammons was an accomplice as a matter of law (because he was liable for

prosecution for the same crimes as defendant), and the court noted that it was

therefore required to give a cautionary instruction about the testimony of an

accomplice. The standard cautionary instruction on accomplice testimony,

CALJIC No. 3.18 (6th ed. 1996) (1999 rev.), reflects the language of the majority

opinion in Guiuan, supra, 18 Cal.4th at page 569, and states: “To the extent that

an accomplice gives testimony that tends to incriminate the defendant, it should be

viewed with caution. This does not mean, however, that you may arbitrarily

disregard that testimony. You should give that testimony the weight you think it

deserves after examining it with care and caution and in light of all the evidence in

this case.”

Defense counsel requested that the trial court instead give the cautionary

instruction proposed in one of the concurring opinions to this court‟s decision in

Guiuan, supra, 18 Cal.4th at page 576: “ „In deciding whether to believe

testimony given by an accomplice, you should use greater care and caution than

you do when deciding whether to believe testimony given by an ordinary witness.

Because an accomplice is also subject to prosecution for the same offense, an

accomplice‟s testimony may be strongly influenced by the hope or expectation

that the prosecution will reward testimony that supports the prosecution‟s case by

granting the accomplice immunity or leniency. For this reason, you should view

with distrust accomplice testimony that supports the prosecution‟s case. Whether

or not the accomplice testimony supports the prosecution‟s case, you should bear

in mind the accomplice‟s interest in minimizing the seriousness of the crime and

the significance of the accomplice‟s own role in its commission, the fact that the

accomplice‟s participation in the crime may show the accomplice to be an

untrustworthy person, and an accomplice‟s particular ability, because of inside

33

knowledge about the details of the crime, to construct plausible falsehoods about

it. In giving you this warning about accomplice testimony, I do not mean to

suggest that you must or should disbelieve the accomplice testimony that you

heard at this trial. Rather, you should give the accomplice testimony whatever

weight you decide it deserves after considering all the evidence in the case.‟ ”

(Ibid. (conc. opn. of Kennard, J.).) As authority for this instruction, defense

counsel quoted the concurring opinion‟s statement that “[a] cautionary instruction

is more helpful and more effective if it states the reasons why special caution is

warranted.” (Id. at p. 571 (conc. opn. of Kennard, J.).)

The trial court declined to give the entire special instruction requested by

defense counsel, but it did modify the standard instruction by adding two

sentences, so that the instruction as given to the jury stated: “To the extent that

Charlie Sammons gives testimony that tends to incriminate the defendant, it

should be viewed with caution. You should consider the extent to which his

testimony may have been influenced by the receipt of or expectation of any

benefits in return for his testimony. You should also consider anything that has a

tendency in reason to prove or disprove the truthfulness of his testimony, including

but not limited to any interest he may have in the outcome of the defendant’s trial.

This does not mean, however, that you may arbitrarily disregard that testimony.

You should give that testimony the weight you think it deserves after examining it

with care and caution and in light of all the evidence in this case.”7 (Italics

added.)


7

As this quotation reveals, the trial court substituted Charlie Sammons‟s

name for the word “accomplice.” The court did so to avoid suggesting to the jury
that it should presume that defendant had committed the crime (namely, murder)
to which Sammons would be considered an accomplice for the purposes of jury
instructions. As defendant acknowledges, this use of the name was acceptable to

(Footnote continued on next page.)

34

Defendant acknowledges that CALJIC No. 3.18, which reflects the majority

opinion in Guiuan, is a correct statement of the law. He argues, however, that

otherwise correct statements of law may require amplification or explanation in

uncommon situations, and that here the standard accomplice instruction required

the amplification of his requested special instruction because Charlie Sammons

testified as a “volunteering accomplice.”

We have previously stated that, in appropriate situations, a trial court may be

required to give a requested jury instruction that pinpoints a defense theory of the

case, but the court need not give a pinpoint instruction that merely duplicates other

instructions. (People v. Whisenhunt, supra, 44 Cal.4th 174, 220.) Here,

defendant‟s proposed special instruction did not pinpoint a specific defense theory

not covered by CALJIC No. 3.18, but merely provided a lengthier and more

detailed expression of the law concerning accomplice testimony. Furthermore, the

trial court‟s additions to CALJIC No. 3.18 adequately addressed defense counsel‟s

concern that the instruction indicate the reasons the jury should view accomplice

testimony with special caution. Because the instruction given was correct and

adequate, the trial court did not err in refusing defendant‟s requested special

instruction.

6. Circumstantial evidence instruction

The trial court instructed the jury under CALJIC Nos. 2.00 and 2.01, the

standard instructions on circumstantial evidence.8 Defendant contends that the



(Footnote continued from previous page.)

all parties below, and on appeal defendant does not challenge this aspect of the
jury instruction.
8

“Circumstantial evidence is evidence that if found to be true proves a fact

from which an inference of the existence of another fact may be drawn. [¶] An

(Footnote continued on next page.)

35

court erred in giving the instruction, and that the error was prejudicial because it

may have caused the jury to reject as “unreasonable” defendant‟s version of events

— that he had spontaneous consensual sex with the victim minutes after first

meeting her — even though, as he further maintains, his version was supported by

enough evidence to raise a reasonable doubt as to the prosecution‟s case.

Defendant acknowledges that in People v. Wilson (1992) 3 Cal.4th 926, 943,

we rejected a claim that CALJIC No. 2.01 reduces the prosecutor‟s burden of

proof. (See also People v. D’Arcy (2010) 48 Cal.4th 257, 295-296.) Defendant

seeks to distinguish this case from Wilson. Unlike in Wilson, where a

circumstantial evidence instruction was required, he argues, here the necessary



(Footnote continued from previous page.)

inference is a deduction of fact that may logically and reasonably be drawn from
another fact or group of facts established by the evidence. [¶] It is not necessary
that facts be proved by direct evidence. They may be proved also by
circumstantial evidence or by a combination of direct evidence and circumstantial
evidence. Both direct evidence and circumstantial evidence are acceptable as
means of proof. Neither is entitled to any greater weight than the other. [¶]
However, a finding of guilt as to any crime may not be based on circumstantial
evidence unless the proved circumstances are not only consistent with the theory
that the defendant is guilty of the crime, but cannot be reconciled with any other
rational conclusion. [¶] Further, each fact which is essential to complete a set of
circumstances necessary to establish the defendant‟s guilt must be proved beyond
a reasonable doubt. In other words, before an inference essential to establish guilt
may be found to have been proved beyond a reasonable doubt, each fact or
circumstance upon which such inference necessarily rests must be proved beyond
a reasonable doubt. [¶] Also, if the circumstantial evidence is susceptible of two
reasonable interpretations, one of which points to the defendant‟s guilt and the
other to his innocence, you must adopt that interpretation which points to the
defendant‟s innocence and reject that interpretation which points to his guilt. [¶]
If on the other hand, one interpretation of such evidence appears to you to be
reasonable and the other interpretation appears to you to be unreasonable, you
must accept the reasonable interpretation and reject the unreasonable.”

36

factual basis for instructing the jury under CALJIC No. 2.01 was lacking because

the primary evidence against defendant was direct, not circumstantial. Because

CALJIC No. 2.01 should not have been given, defendant contends, its language

was particularly confusing to the jurors with respect to the prosecutor‟s burden of

proof. As we conclude below, however, there was a sufficient factual basis to give

CALJIC No. 2.01, and defendant‟s claim therefore fails.

“[W]e have consistently held that CALJIC No. 2.01 is not necessary unless

the prosecution substantially relies on circumstantial evidence to prove its case.”

(People v. Anderson (2001) 25 Cal.4th 543, 582, italics added.) This expression of

the rule concerning CALJIC No. 2.01 was made in the context of assessing error

in instances where CALJIC No. 2.01 was not given. Arguing that the same test

applies to determine error where the instruction was given, defendant notes here

that the most significant prosecution evidence in his case was the testimony of

Charlie Sammons, the murder victim‟s husband, and defendant‟s admission to

Detective Grate, neither of which is considered circumstantial evidence for the

purposes of jury instruction. (See People v. Gould (1960) 54 Cal.2d 621, 629,

630, overruled on other grounds in People v. Cuevas (1995) 12 Cal.4th 252, 257.)

But the prosecution did present important circumstantial evidence, including that

(1) the shape of the bruises on the victim‟s face and the shape of the tire iron

found in defendant‟s apartment were circumstantial evidence that the tire iron was

used to commit the murder; and (2) microabrasions in the victim‟s vagina and

rectum were circumstantial evidence of the rape. (See ante, at pp. 5-6.)

Defendant acknowledges that the prosecution did present this circumstantial

evidence, but he contends that it did not substantially rely upon that evidence.

Rather, he argues, the evidence was “simply subordinate and corroborative” of the

direct evidence of Charlie Sammons‟s testimony and defendant‟s admissions to

Detective Grate.

37

We disagree. This physical evidence was a substantial part of the

prosecution case and provided adequate justification for instructing the jury on the

consideration of circumstantial evidence. Because we conclude that CALJIC No.

2.01 was properly given and we reaffirm its general validity under People v.

Wilson, supra, 3 Cal.4th at page 943, we need not address defendant‟s further

arguments that the instruction prejudiced his case.

7. Cumulative prejudice from guilt phase errors

Defendant contends that the cumulative effect of the asserted guilt phase

errors requires reversal of his conviction, even if none of the errors was prejudicial

individually. Because we conclude there were no errors at the guilt phase, we

reject defendant‟s claim that any cumulative effect warrants reversal.

8. Lack of verdict on being an accessory to murder charge

As already stated (ante, at p. 30), defendant was charged with murder in

count 1, and with being an accessory to murder in count 4. The trial court

instructed the jury that “defendant cannot be convicted as both a principal and as

an accessory to the same crime.” The verdict forms told the jury to return a

verdict on count 4 only if it found defendant not guilty of both murder of the first

degree and murder of the second degree in count 1. The jury found defendant

guilty in count 1 of murder of the first degree. The jury left the verdict form for

count 4 blank.

Defendant contends that because he could not be convicted both of murder

and being an accessory after the fact to the same murder, if we affirm his

conviction for first degree murder we should also order “an express acquittal on

Count 4.” We do affirm his conviction for first degree murder, but we decline to

order an express acquittal on count 4. Defendant cites no authority indicating

whether or how an appellate court could issue such an order of acquittal.

38

Moreover, defendant fails to show how he is prejudiced by the lack of such an

acquittal. Defendant was not convicted of count 4. The jury correctly followed its

instructions and did not respond to count 4, precisely because it found defendant

guilty of count 1.9

9. Sufficiency of evidence for prior-murder special circumstance

As noted earlier (ante, at p. 14), defendant waived his right to a jury trial on

the prior-murder special-circumstance allegation, which had been bifurcated from

the guilt phase trial in this case, and he submitted the allegation to a trial by the

court. Based on documentary evidence of defendant‟s convictions for robbery and

for second degree murder in Arizona in 1983, the court found the allegation true.

In particular, the court ruled that defendant‟s Arizona murder conviction supported

the prior-murder special-circumstance allegation because, under section 190.2,

subdivision (a)(2), his Arizona offense would have been punishable as first or

second degree murder in California. Defendant contends this ruling was erroneous

because the elements of second degree murder are different in Arizona and

California. As we explain, defendant‟s Arizona offense would have been

punishable as first degree murder in California, and therefore defendant‟s Arizona

murder conviction properly supported the prior-murder special-circumstance

allegation.

Defendant filed a pretrial motion to strike his Arizona prior convictions on

the grounds that his counsel rendered ineffective assistance and that his plea was

not voluntarily entered. In support of that motion, defense counsel attached as


9

We note that under certain factual circumstances, a defendant can be

convicted as both a principal and an accessory to the same crime. (People v.
Jennings
(2010) 50 Cal.4th 616, 668.) We need not and do not reach the issue of
whether that was the case here.

39

exhibits hundreds of pages of documents from the Arizona proceeding, including

indictments, grand jury transcripts, defendant‟s plea agreement, and transcripts of

defendant‟s guilty plea and sentencing hearing. The trial court denied the motion

to strike, a ruling that defendant does not challenge on this appeal.

The prior-murder special-circumstance allegation, which was based on the

Arizona murder conviction, was bifurcated from the guilt phase of the trial in this

case. (See § 190.1, subds. (a), (b).) Defendant waived his right to a jury trial and

submitted the matter to a court trial. The prosecutor submitted documentary

evidence, including a certified copy of defendant‟s Arizona convictions and copies

of the relevant Arizona criminal statutes. The prosecutor also asked the court to

take judicial notice of certain exhibits to defendant‟s pretrial motion to strike the

prior convictions, including copies of the Arizona plea agreement, court minutes

of the entry of the plea and sentencing, and a transcript of the plea proceeding.

In the Arizona plea proceeding, defense counsel and the prosecutor had

agreed that the grand jury transcript provided a factual basis for the plea, and the

trial court had both the prosecutor and defense counsel summarize the contents of

those transcripts. The facts recounted in the plea proceeding, which defendant

acknowledges in his own briefing, are that defendant, who was hitchhiking with

his dog, met victim John Noble, also a hitchhiker, and they drank alcohol together

by the side of a highway in Arizona. Noble said he was going to try to get a job in

Phoenix, Arizona, mentioned certain information about the job, then went to sleep.

To obtain the job information, defendant decided to take Noble‟s wallet. As he

was doing so, Noble awoke and a struggle ensued in which defendant fought to

keep the wallet, to stop Noble from kicking the dog, to punish Noble for kicking

the dog, or some combination of all three purposes. An artery in Noble‟s neck

was severed and Noble bled to death.

40

Section 190.2, subdivision (a)(2), states that, for the purpose of defining a

prior murder special circumstance, “an offense committed in another jurisdiction

. . . shall be deemed murder in the first or second degree” if the offense “if

committed in California would be punishable as first or second degree murder.”

Pointing to the elements of Arizona second degree murder, defendant contends

that its “least adjudicated form” includes knowingly causing serious physical

injury that leads to the death of a person.10 Defendant contends this conduct falls

short of the requirements of implied malice (second degree) murder in California,

which is “ „ “an intentional act, the natural consequences of which are dangerous

to life,” ‟ ” and which “ „ “was deliberately performed by a person who knows that

his conduct endangers the life of another and who acts with conscious disregard

for life.” ‟ ” (People v. Martinez (2003) 31 Cal.4th 673, 684.)

We need not resolve, however, whether the elements of the least adjudicated

form of Arizona second degree murder constitute implied malice murder in

California. As we conclude below, because defendant pleaded guilty in the

Arizona case not only to murder but to robbing the murder victim, and because the

undisputed facts demonstrate that the robbery and the killing occurred during a


10

Arizona Revised Statutes, section 13-1104, defines three forms of second

degree murder: “A person commits second degree murder if without
premeditation: [¶] 1. Such person intentionally causes the death of another person
. . . ; or [¶] 2. Knowing that the person’s conduct will cause the death or serious
physical injury, such person causes the death of another person
. . . ; or [¶]
3. Under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life, the person
recklessly engages in conduct that creates a grave risk of death and thereby causes
the death of another person . . . .” (Italics added.) Arizona Revised Statutes 13-
105 defines “[s]erious physical injury” as “includ[ing] physical injury that creates
a reasonable risk of death, or that causes serious and permanent disfigurement,
serious impairment of health or loss or protracted impairment of the function of
any bodily organ or limb.”

41

continuous transaction, his Arizona murder would be punishable in California as

first degree murder under the felony-murder rule. (People v. Cavitt (2004) 33

Cal.4th 187, 206-207; §§ 187, 189.)

As defendant acknowledges, under California and Arizona law all of the

elements of robbery are the same, including the intent to deprive permanently. In

California, robbery is defined as “the felonious taking of personal property in the

possession of another, from his person or immediate presence, and against his will,

accomplished by means of force or fear.” (§ 211.) Theft and robbery have the

same felonious taking element, which is the intent to steal, or to feloniously

deprive the owner permanently of his or her property. (People v. Montoya (2004)

33 Cal.4th 1031, 1037.) We have held that the intent to deprive permanently is

satisfied by the intent to deprive temporarily but for an unreasonable time so as to

deprive the person of a major portion of the value or enjoyment. (People v. Avery

(2002) 27 Cal.4th 49, 58.) In Arizona, robbery is defined as follows: “A person

commits robbery if in the course of taking any property of another from his person

or immediate presence and against his will, such person threatens or uses force

against any person with intent either to coerce surrender of property or to prevent

resistance to such person taking or retaining property.” (Ariz. Rev. Stats. § 13-

1902.) In Arizona, as in California, the felonious taking element of robbery

includes the “intent to deprive” a person of his or her property, which is stated in

the Arizona definition of theft. (State v. Celaya (Ariz. 1983) 660 P.2d 849, 852-

853, quoting Ariz. Rev. Stats., § 13-1802(A)(1).) In Arizona, as in California,

intent to deprive means “to withhold the property interest of another either

permanently or for so long a time period that a substantial portion of its economic

value or usefulness or enjoyment is lost . . . .” (Matter of Appeal in Maricopa

County Juvenile Action (Ariz.Ct.App. 1984) 687 P.2d 412, 414.) The elements of

California robbery for California felony murder are thus established by

42

defendant‟s guilty plea to the charge of Arizona robbery contained in defendant‟s

indictment.

In considering a foreign murder conviction under section 190.2, subdivision

(a)(2), we analyze both the elements of the crime of murder under which the

defendant was charged and the facts shown in defendant‟s indictment. (People v.

Martinez, supra, 31 Cal.4th at p. 688.) Both the grand jury indictment and

defendant‟s plea agreement indicate that defendant robbed and killed the victim,

John Noble, on the same day. These facts from the indictment provide the

necessary conditions for California felony murder but are not sufficient to

establish it. What must be further established is that defendant robbed and killed

victim Noble during the course of a continuous transaction. (See People v. Cavitt,

supra, 33 Cal.4th at pp. 206-207; cf. People v. Ford (1966) 65 Cal.2d 41, 55-57

[felony-murder rule not applicable when the defendant, after committing a

robbery, drove aimlessly around and many hours later shot a police officer],

overruled on other grounds in People v. Satchell (1971) 6 Cal.3d 28, 35-41.) In

order to establish that a continuous transaction occurred here, we need to consider

the circumstances of the crime in the record beyond the mere facts contained in the

indictment. Defendant contends, however, that we must make our analysis solely

on the basis of the general elements of the theory of murder in question, and that

we cannot consider any references to the specific facts and circumstances of the

offense beyond those indicated in the indictment. Whether we may properly

consider such further facts and circumstances in our analysis of a foreign murder

conviction under section 190.2, subdivision (a)(2), is a question we have

previously left open. (People v. Martinez, supra, 31 Cal.4th at p. 688.) We now

conclude that we may properly consider at least the uncontested facts and

circumstances of the offense in the record, which here establish that the robbery

and killing occurred during the course of a continuous transaction, and which

43

therefore establish that this crime “would be punishable” as first degree felony

murder in California.11 (§ 190.2, subd. (a)(2).)

Defendant objects to our concluding that his Arizona prior murder would be

felony murder under California law, because, citing our decision in People v.

Monterroso (2004) 34 Cal.4th 743, 766-767, and People v. Green (1980) 27

Cal.3d 1, 59-62, defendant contends that “in the description of the underlying

conduct by the prosecutor and defense counsel at the plea hearing, the relation of

the robbery to the homicide was described in a way that renders the homicide

unrelated or co-incidental to the robbery, which, in California, negates a finding of

felony murder.” But both Monterroso and Green concern the robbery-murder

special circumstance, not liability for first degree murder under the felony-murder

rule. Defendant cites no authority that the felony-murder rule is inapplicable when

the murder is “incidental” to the robbery. Indeed, we have recently affirmed that

we have never construed the felony-murder rule to require that the killing advance

or facilitate the felony. (People v. Cavitt, supra, 33 Cal.4th at p. 198.)


11

This conclusion is consistent with the approach taken in determining

whether foreign convictions qualify as prior serious felonies under the California
“Three Strikes” law or other enhancements based on prior convictions: “If the
enumeration of the elements of the offense does not resolve the issue, an
examination of the record of the earlier criminal proceeding is required in order to
ascertain whether that record reveals whether the conviction realistically may have
been based on conduct that would not constitute a serious felony under California
law.” (People v. McGee (2006) 38 Cal.4th 682, 706.) We do not reach the issue
of whether or how the contested circumstances of a foreign conviction should be
considered under section 190.2, subdivision (a)(2).


44

B. Penalty Phase Issues

1. Absence of factor (b) instruction for prior murder

As stated earlier (ante, at pp. 15-16), at defendant‟s penalty phase trial the

prosecutor introduced evidence of two aggravating circumstances: (1) defendant‟s

prior convictions for murder and robbery in Arizona, and (2) defendant‟s

possession of a gun while on parole. As to defendant‟s prior convictions for

murder and robbery, the trial court instructed the jury under section 190.3, factor

(c) (factor (c)) (prior felony conviction) that, before it could consider these

convictions as an aggravating circumstance, it must first be satisfied beyond a

reasonable doubt that defendant had in fact been convicted of those crimes. As to

defendant‟s possession of a firearm while on parole, the trial court instructed the

jury under section 190.3, factor (b) (factor (b)) (prior criminal act involving the

threat of force or violence) that before it could consider this prior conduct as an

aggravating circumstance, it must first be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that

defendant had in fact committed the criminal act.

Defendant contends that the trial court erred in its instructions concerning

defendant‟s Arizona prior murder conviction because the prosecutor used that

conviction not only as evidence of a prior felony conviction under factor (c), but

also as evidence of other violent criminal activity under factor (b). Therefore,

defendant contends, the trial court should have additionally instructed the jury that

before it could consider his prior murder conviction under factor (b), it had to be

satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that he had in fact committed the violent

conduct underlying that conviction (as distinct from the fact of his conviction).

Defendant further contends that a special instruction the trial court gave

concerning his Arizona prior convictions exacerbated this alleged instructional

error. As we conclude below, however, the trial court‟s instructions were correct.

45

Furthermore, even if we assume for the sake of argument that there was

instructional error, we discern no prejudice.

The trial court‟s penalty phase instructions on the aggravating circumstances

reflected accommodations to requests by both the defense and the prosecution. In

connection with the trial court‟s instruction on defendant‟s Arizona convictions as

factor (c) prior felony convictions, defense counsel had asked the trial court to

instruct the jury on the elements of robbery and second degree murder under

Arizona law. The prosecutor objected, stating that the proposed instruction might

mislead the jury into concluding that it had to retry defendant for these Arizona

prior crimes. The trial court then said it would instruct the jury on the elements

and definitions of second degree murder and robbery under Arizona law, but

added that it would make clear to the jury that it was not to determine whether or

not defendant was factually guilty of those crimes. The court further stated it

would instruct the jury that it could consider the facts and circumstances

underlying the Arizona convictions in determining what weight to give them as an

aggravating circumstance.

The trial court instructed the jury on the Arizona prior convictions as follows:

“Evidence has been introduced for the purpose of showing that the defendant,

Robert Allen Bacon, has been convicted of the crimes of murder in the second

degree and robbery prior to the offense of murder in the first degree of which he‟s

been found guilty in this case. [¶] Before you may consider any of the alleged

crimes as an aggravating circumstance in this case, you must first be satisfied

beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant, Robert Allen Bacon, was in fact

convicted of the prior crimes. [¶] It is alleged as an aggravating circumstance that

on or about August 17, 1983, the defendant suffered a felony conviction in the

state of Arizona for a violation of Arizona Revised Statutes Section 13-1104,

second degree murder . . . [and] for a violation of Arizona Revised Statues Section

46

13-1902, robbery . . . . [¶] You have been instructed on the elements of the

crimes of second degree murder and robbery under Arizona law. The sole purpose

of these instructions is to provide you with a better understanding of the conduct

which constitutes those crimes in Arizona. [¶] While you must first be satisfied

beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was, in fact, convicted of those prior

crimes before you may consider them as an aggravating circumstance, the People

need only prove in these proceedings that the defendant was convicted of those

crimes. However, to the extent evidence was introduced concerning the

commission of those crimes, you may consider that evidence in determining the

weight to which you believe such circumstance is entitled.”

The court then gave this instruction as to defendant‟s possession of a firearm

while on parole: “Evidence has been introduced for the purpose of showing that

the defendant, Robert A. Bacon, has committed the following criminal act,

possession of a firearm, which involved the threat of force or violence. Before a

juror may consider any criminal act as an aggravating circumstance in this case, a

juror must first be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant, Robert

A. Bacon, did in fact commit the criminal act. A juror may not consider any

evidence of any other criminal act as an aggravating circumstance. [¶] It is not

necessary for all jurors to agree. If any juror is convinced beyond a reasonable

doubt that the criminal act occurred, that juror may consider that act as a fact in

aggravation. If the juror is not so convinced, that juror must not consider that

evidence for any purpose.”

Thereafter, in their closing arguments to the jury, both the prosecutor and

defense counsel discussed the Arizona murder. After concisely reviewing the

testimony of one of the investigating officers who had testified, the prosecutor

argued: “Mr. Bacon is unable to see the world through anyone‟s eyes other than

Mr. Bacon‟s and so he felt justified in beating and taking a broken beer bottle to

47

the throat of some man because „he hit my dog.‟ ” Later in his argument, the

prosecutor contrasted defendant‟s murder of Deborah Sammons with the Arizona

murder, stating that her murder “was not a spur of the moment killing” like “the

killing in Arizona,” which “was done without premeditation.” The prosecutor

argued that defendant had not learned anything from having spent 11 years in

prison for the Arizona murder, and that, not only did defendant kill again, “he

plotted and planned and premeditatedly killed someone again.”

In his closing argument to the jury, defense counsel argued that the Arizona

prior killing was not premeditated, referring to the part of the definition of

premeditation under Arizona law specifying that “an act is not done with

premeditation if it is the instant effect of a sudden quarrel or heat of passion.” He

argued that the killing was the result of a fight that started when the victim kicked

defendant‟s dog. He characterized the fight as a “drunken brawl” “involving two

transients on a rural highway in the middle of Arizona, one with a .18

blood/alcohol.” He acknowledged that “it appears . . . that a beer bottle was . . .

involved,” but he argued there was no evidence that defendant “somehow held that

bottle and wielded it in some vicious fashion.”

Defendant‟s argument for prejudicial error in the trial court‟s jury

instructions on factors (b) and (c) is based on these assertions: (1) The Arizona

prior murder conviction was used by the prosecutor not only as factor (c) evidence

pertaining to recidivism, but as factor (b) evidence pertaining to defendant‟s

propensity for violence; (2) the trial court‟s instructions referenced the Arizona

murder only in the instructions for factor (c), improperly omitting it from the

instructions for factor (b); and (3) the trial court‟s special instruction on the

Arizona murder conviction led the jury to believe that finding beyond a reasonable

doubt the fact of the Arizona prior murder conviction (as factor (c) evidence) was

also sufficient to allow it to consider the violent conduct underlying the conviction

48

(as factor (b) evidence), thereby relieving the jury of having to first determine

beyond a reasonable doubt whether that prior violent conduct had in fact

happened. Defendant contends that the cumulative effect of the asserted

instructional errors prejudiced him because “it buffered the jurors from

considering specifically and carefully the actual level of moral aggravation

imported by appellant‟s acts underlying the conviction itself.”

The Attorney General disputes the first of these assertions, arguing that the

prosecutor‟s references to the facts and circumstances underlying the Arizona

murder were used, not to show defendant‟s propensity for violence under factor

(b), but rather to show the absence of the mitigating factor of remorse. We

disagree. The closing arguments of both the prosecution and the defense

described the conduct underlying the Arizona murder, and both therefore raised in

some fashion the issue of violence. As recounted above, the prosecutor also raised

the factor (c) issue of recidivism by arguing that defendant had learned nothing

from his 11 years in prison for the Arizona murder. But we cannot conclude, as

respondent urges, that nothing in the prosecutor‟s remarks implicated factor (b).12

As to defendant‟s second assertion — that the trial court‟s instructions

mentioned the Arizona murder only in relation to factor (c), and not factor (b) —

we agree that the trial court did not list defendant‟s prior convictions in Arizona in

the portion of the instructions pertaining to factor (b) evidence. In its factor (b)

instruction, the trial court specified only defendant‟s gun possession while on

parole. A trial court is under no obligation, however, to specify for the jury the


12

To be clear, defendant does not argue that the jury should not have been

allowed to consider his Arizona murder under both factors (b) and (c). As we
have held, and as defendant acknowledges, a prior felony conviction involving
violence or threat of violence can be considered for its relevance under both factor
(b) and factor (c). (People v. Melton (1988) 44 Cal.3d 713, 764.)

49

violent criminal activity that may be considered. (People v. Lewis (2001) 25

Cal.4th 610, 666.) It is incumbent on defense counsel to point out an omitted

incident and request a more complete instruction on the subject. (Ibid.)

Defendant therefore has forfeited this contention.

As to defendant‟s third assertion — that under the trial court‟s special

instruction on the Arizona prior murder conviction, a finding that defendant had

suffered that conviction would also permit the jury to consider the violent conduct

underlying the conviction without first determining beyond a reasonable doubt

whether that violent conduct had in fact happened — the court‟s special

instruction on the Arizona prior convictions certainly allowed the jury to consider

evidence “introduced concerning the commission of those crimes.” Indeed, most

of the prosecution‟s evidence at the penalty phase pertained to the conduct

underlying the Arizona prior murder conviction, not merely the fact of the

conviction itself. Thus defendant‟s claim turns on whether the trial court had a

duty to instruct the jury that, before it could consider the conduct underlying

defendant‟s Arizona murder conviction in aggravation under factor (b), it had to

find beyond a reasonable doubt that the conduct had in fact occurred. We have

previously rejected such an argument. (People v. Ashmus (1991) 54 Cal.3d 932,

1000-1001 (Ashmus), disapproved on other grounds in People v. Yeoman (2003)

31 Cal.4th 93, 117.) In Ashmus, the trial court instructed the jury that it had to

find beyond a reasonable doubt the fact of defendant‟s conviction of the felony of

assault with intent to commit rape, but it did not instruct the jury that it had

additionally to find beyond a reasonable doubt the conduct underlying the

conviction. (Ashmus, supra, at p. 1000.) A reasonable doubt instruction as to the

underlying conduct is not necessary, we held, when the defendant has already been

convicted of the crime in question. (Ibid.) We explained that a reasonable doubt

instruction is required for unadjudicated violent criminal acts because the lack of a

50

conviction raises reliability concerns, implying that these concerns are not present

with respect to incidents for which there was a prior conviction. (Ibid.)

Ashmus left open the question of “whether a reasonable-doubt instruction

remains necessary when the People seek to prove conduct underlying the

conviction other than the facts necessarily established.” (Ashmus, supra, 54

Cal.3d at p. 1001, fn. 25.) In dicta, Ashmus answered the question in the

affirmative, citing People v. Kaurish (1990) 52 Cal.3d 648, 707 (Kaurish), and

People v. Morales (1989) 48 Cal.3d 527, 566 (Morales) (disapproved on another

ground in People v. Williams (2010) 49 Cal.4th 405, 459).13 In Kaurish, the

prosecution introduced evidence of the defendant‟s prior conviction for armed

robbery, which included testimony that the defendant had choked the store‟s

proprietor during the robbery. (Kaurish, supra, 52 Cal.3d at p. 707.) We held that

the choking incident constituted separate violent criminal activity under factor (b)

that required a reasonable-doubt instruction in addition to the reasonable-doubt

instruction given as to the prior conviction for armed robbery under factor (c).

(Kaurish, supra, at p. 707.) In Morales, similarly, the People introduced evidence

that during a robbery, for which the defendant was convicted, the defendant

committed a separate assault for which he was not charged. (Morales, supra, 48

Cal.3d at pp. 565-566.) We stated that a reasonable-doubt instruction for the


13

In People v. Williams, supra, 49 Cal.4th 405, 459, we held that a

reasonable-doubt instruction is always required for factor (c) evidence,
disapproving some prior decisions that were inconsistent on that point, including
People v. Morales, supra, 48 Cal.3d 527. Williams is not implicated here because
a reasonable-doubt instruction was given for the factor (c) evidence. As discussed
above, defendant‟s contention is that an additional reasonable-doubt instruction
should have been given for the factor (b) use of factor (c) evidence, an issue we
did not reach in Williams.

51

conduct “should be given where the penalty phase evidence discloses a crime in

addition to the one of which the defendant was convicted.” (Id. at p. 566.)

In Kaurish and Morales, the assaultive conduct described went beyond the

elements of the crime of robbery for which those defendants had been convicted,

and therefore it was a separate unadjudicated criminal act for which a separate

reasonable-doubt instruction under factor (b) was required. In contrast, in this

case, the conduct the prosecutor described was not “violent criminal activity that

did not result in a conviction” (Kaurish, supra, 52 Cal.3d at p. 707) or “a crime in

addition to the one of which the defendant was convicted.” (Morales, supra, 48

Cal.3d at p. 566.) Rather, the conduct described was precisely the basis for

defendant‟s Arizona prior conviction for second degree murder. As recounted

above, defense counsel disputed to some degree the prosecutor‟s description of

defendant‟s conduct, specifically whether defendant intentionally used the broken

bottle as a weapon to slit the victim‟s throat. The disputed conduct, however, was

part of the conduct that formed the basis of the crime of which defendant was

convicted, not some other crime with which he could have been charged but was

not. The trial court therefore was not required to give an additional reasonable-

doubt instruction concerning this conduct as factor (b) evidence.

Finally, even if we assume for the sake of argument that the trial court should

have given an additional reasonable-doubt instruction about the conduct

underlying the Arizona prior murder conviction, we see no prejudice under the

facts here. “[T]he absence of the instruction is not prejudicial when the evidence

of defendant‟s commission of a violent crime is uncontroverted.” (People v.

Pinholster (1992) 1 Cal.4th 865, 965, disapproved on another ground in People v.

Williams, supra, 49 Cal.4th at p. 459.) As mentioned earlier, although the

prosecutor and defense counsel used contrasting moral frameworks to discuss the

Arizona murder in their closing arguments, they substantially agreed on the facts

52

of the conduct. The prosecutor and defense counsel both characterized the

Arizona murder as a spur-of-the-moment killing that was done without

premeditation. Defense counsel acknowledged that defendant‟s killing of Noble

in Arizona was a violent crime and that a beer bottle was involved in the crime.

The factual dispute was whether defendant intentionally used the beer bottle as a

weapon, or whether, as defense counsel suggested, the cutting was somehow

accidental. Although this factual dispute was not insignificant to the weight of

aggravation a jury might assess for the Arizona prior murder, its significance is

slight when viewed in light of the considerably more brutal manner in which

defendant murdered Deborah Sammons by stab wounds to the face and chest,

blunt force injuries, and strangulation, all of which were clearly intentional acts.

Thus there was no reasonable possibility that, had the jury been instructed

regarding factor (b) with respect to the Arizona prior murder, it would have

accorded it less weight, much less a possibility that the additional instruction

would have influenced the outcome of the penalty phase. (See Kaurish, supra, 52

Cal.3d at p. 708.)

2. Defense counsel’s proposed instruction on Arizona voluntary

manslaughter

The trial court refused defense counsel‟s request for a special instruction on

the elements of manslaughter under Arizona law. Defendant contends the refusal

was erroneous because the proposed instruction was a vital part of his defense at

the penalty phase. As we explain below, the trial court did not err in refusing the

proposed instruction.

As noted (ante, at p. 46), defense counsel requested and received a jury

instruction on the elements of Arizona second degree murder. Defense counsel

53

also asked the court to instruct on the definition of voluntary manslaughter under

Arizona law.14 The prosecutor objected that the only reason to instruct on

manslaughter would be to try to convince the jury that defendant should have been

convicted of manslaughter rather than murder, which, the prosecutor argued, was

not the jury‟s task in the penalty phase. The trial court agreed with the prosecutor

and refused the instruction, stating that “no purpose would be served by

instructing the jury on what manslaughter is in Arizona. It‟s not relevant and

would confuse the jurors as to their task with respect to the prior felony

convictions.”

Upon request by the defense or prosecution, a trial court must instruct on the

elements of an unadjudicated crime offered under factor (b) or the elements of the

offense underlying a conviction offered under factor (c). (People v. Adcox (1988)

47 Cal.3d 207, 256; People v. Cain (1995) 10 Cal.4th 1, 72.) Defendant presents

no authority, nor are we aware of any, that the trial court is ever obligated to

instruct on lesser offenses requested by trial counsel at the penalty phase. (People

v. Butler (2009) 46 Cal.4th 847, 867-868.) Defendant contends, however, that

because this requested instruction was vital to his penalty phase defense, the trial

court had no discretion to refuse to give it.


14

The proposed instruction stated: “In the State of Arizona, manslaughter is a

lesser crime to second degree murder. Pursuant to Arizona Revised Statutes
Section 13-1103(a), a person commits manslaughter by: [¶] (1) Recklessly
causing the death of another person; or [¶] (2) Committing second-degree murder
as defined in Section 13-1104, subsection A, upon a sudden quarrel or heat of
passion resulting from adequate provocation by the victim. [¶] Adequate
provocation is defined in Arizona Revised Statutes Section 13-1104(4) as follows:
[¶] „Adequate provocation‟ means conduct or circumstances sufficient to deprive
a reasonable person of self-control.”

54

In People v. Cain, supra, 10 Cal.4th 1, 72-73, we considered whether a trial

court at the penalty phase had a duty to instruct, on its own motion, on a defense to

a crime presented under factor (b). The factor (b) evidence there involved an

assault, and the defendant argued that the trial court had a duty to instruct on the

defense of others as a legal defense to assault. (Cain, supra, at p. 72.) In rejecting

the claim, we concluded that, on the facts presented, even without an instruction

on the legal defense to assault “the jury had before it evidence and argument from

which it could rationally assess the degree of culpability [the] defendant bore in

the prior incident.” (Id. at p. 73.) We further observed that “[t]he proper focus for

consideration of prior violent crimes in the penalty phase is on the facts of the

defendant‟s past actions as they reflect on his character, rather than on the labels to

be assigned the past crimes.” (Ibid.)

Although this case involves the trial court‟s refusal of a requested instruction

rather than the possible existence of a duty to instruct on the court‟s own motion,

the same reasoning applies here. As discussed earlier, defense counsel argued to

the jury that the Arizona killing was the result of a sudden quarrel or heat of

passion provoked by the victim‟s kicking defendant‟s dog. Defense counsel

thereby presented to the jury a manslaughter-type argument in mitigation. As in

People v. Cain, supra, 10 Cal.4th at page 73, the jury had before it the evidence

and the argument from which it could rationally assess defendant‟s degree of

culpability for the Arizona prior murder. The legal label, “manslaughter,” was not

vital to this argument. It was therefore within the trial court‟s discretion to refuse

defendant‟s manslaughter instruction and, because the instruction could have

confused the jurors as to their task in the penalty phase, the court‟s refusal was not

an abuse of discretion.

55

3. Admission of handgun possession evidence under factor (b)

As recounted (ante, at p. 16), at the penalty phase the prosecution presented

evidence that defendant‟s parole officer had found a loaded gun under defendant‟s

pillow during a parole search of his dwelling. Defendant contends that possession

of a gun while under parole supervision is not criminal activity that involves “the

express or implicit threat to use force or violence,” and that the trial court

therefore erred in admitting the evidence under factor (b). As we explain below,

the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting this evidence.

During the penalty phase, the prosecution sought to introduce in aggravation,

under factor (b), evidence of defendant‟s possession of a handgun while on parole

in Arizona. The court denied defendant‟s motion to exclude the evidence, stating:

“[L]ooking at the circumstances of the discovery of that weapon, I would conclude

that the location of the weapon, which would render it readily available for use by

a person lying on the bed where apparently it was found, coupled with the

defendant‟s quasi-custodial status as a parolee at the time and the potential

consequences of him being found in possession of that firearm, leads me to the

conclusion that the possession of the weapon involved the implied threat of force

or violence at the time. And therefore, it is admissible pursuant to Penal Code

section 190.3 [factor] (b).”

“Factor (b) of section 190.3 permits the introduction of evidence of „[t]he

presence or absence of criminal activity by the defendant which involved the use

or attempted use of force or violence or the express or implied threat to use force

or violence.‟ ” (People v. Michaels (2002) 28 Cal.4th 486, 535.) A trial court‟s

decision to admit, at the penalty phase, evidence of a defendant‟s prior criminal

activity is reviewed under the abuse of discretion standard. (People v. Smithey

(1999) 20 Cal.4th 936, 991.) Possession of a firearm is not, in every circumstance,

an act committed with actual or implied force or violence. (People v. Jackson

56

(1996) 13 Cal.4th 1164, 1235.) The factual circumstances surrounding the

possession, however, may indicate an implied threat of violence. (Id. at pp. 1235-

1236.) “In a series of cases . . . [citations], we have held that the possession of a

weapon in a custodial setting — where possession of any weapon is illegal —

„involve[s] an implied threat of violence even when there is no evidence defendant

used or displayed it in a provocative or threatening manner.‟ ” (People v.

Michaels, supra, 28 Cal.4th at p. 535.) “Even in a noncustodial setting, illegal

possession of potentially dangerous weapons may „show [] an implied intention to

put the weapons to unlawful use,‟ rendering the evidence admissible pursuant to

section 190.3 factor (b).” (People v. Dykes (2009) 46 Cal.4th 731, 777.)

Defendant acknowledges that being under parole supervision is constructive

custody, but contends that constructive custody is not identical for all legal

purposes to actual custody, and that his case is therefore distinguishable from the

cases reviewed in People v. Michaels, supra, 28 Cal.4th 486, 535, involving

possession of a weapon in prison under factor (b). Defendant contends there must

be some other “extraordinary circumstance,” such as the nature or number of the

weapons possessed, to qualify the possession of a firearm by a parolee as factor

(b) evidence. Defendant argues that “the nature of the weapon itself, a simple

handgun, did not suggest implied violence.”

The question of factor (b) admissibility does not turn on whether constructive

custody is identical for all legal purposes to actual custody. Rather, the question

here is whether the trial court abused its discretion in ruling that the circumstances

of defendant‟s gun possession while under constructive custody involved a threat

of violence under factor (b). We see no abuse of discretion. The criminal

character of defendant‟s possession of a loaded firearm, at a time when he was

subject to parole searches in Arizona, is sufficient to permit a jury to view his

possession as an implied threat of violence. (See People v. Michaels, supra, 28

57

Cal.4th at p. 536.) We reject defendant‟s contention that some additional

extraordinary circumstance was required. Defense counsel was free to argue to

the jury (and indeed did argue) that defendant possessed the gun for the purpose of

self-protection, not for criminal violence. (See ibid.) The trial court did not err in

admitting the evidence.

4. Penalty phase prejudice from failure to suppress defendant’s

statements

As recounted (ante, at pp. 24-25), during the guilt phase defendant

challenged the admissibility of a portion of his interview with Detective Grate as

being in violation of Miranda, supra, 384 U.S. 436. Defendant contends that the

admission of his statements to Detective Grate prejudiced him at the penalty

phase. Specifically, he complains that the prosecution cited the statements during

closing argument as showing he lacked compassion because, when asked to

describe the condition of the victim‟s body immediately after the murder,

defendant answered, “I didn‟t want to fuck her.” Defendant argues that, if we

conclude that his statements were admitted in violation of Miranda, we should

find prejudice from the prosecutor‟s use of the statements at the penalty phase.

Because, as we have explained, defendant‟s statements were not admitted in

violation of Miranda, this claim fails.

5. Penalty phase prejudice from guilt phase exclusion of defense

evidence

As explained (ante, at pp. 19-21), defendant challenged, at the guilt phase of

his capital trial, the court‟s exclusion of a note in defendant‟s handwriting

containing the victim‟s name, her work address, and an unidentified phone

number. Defendant argues that if we concluded the trial court erred in excluding

the note, then we should conclude that the exclusion of the note prejudiced

defendant at the penalty phase. Defendant contends that the exclusion of the note

58

harmed him at the penalty phase because, had the note been admitted, it would

have strengthened defendant‟s appeal to lingering doubt by providing “significant

corroboration of the otherwise problematic claim by appellant that he had

consensual relations with Mrs. Sammons.” Because we have concluded that the

note was properly excluded, this claim fails.

6. Penalty phase prejudice from guilt phase denial of instruction

request

As noted (ante, at pp. 32-34), at the guilt phase, the trial court refused to give

defendant‟s special cautionary instruction on accomplice testimony, which quoted

from a concurring opinion in Guiuan, supra, 18 Cal.4th 558, 576. Defendant

argues that if we conclude that the refusal was erroneous, then we should find the

lack of the instruction prejudicial at the penalty phase on the issue of lingering

doubt. As we have explained, the special instruction was properly refused.

Furthermore, to have the jury consider the special instruction at the penalty phase,

defense counsel was required to request it as part of the penalty phase instructions,

which counsel did not do. Furthermore, although defense counsel at the penalty

phase made various arguments to the jury as to why it should entertain a lingering

doubt, he never argued that the jurors should disbelieve Charlie Sammons (the

murder victim‟s husband) because he was an accomplice. Defendant‟s claim is

therefore both forfeited and meritless.

7. Challenges to the death penalty law

Defendant raises various challenges to California‟s death penalty law. We

have in the past rejected similar claims, and we do so again here, as follows:

The homicide and death penalty statutes adequately narrow the class of

murders eligible for the death penalty; this scheme is not overbroad because it

permits capital exposure for many first degree murders, including unintentional

felony murder. (People v. Boyer, supra, 38 Cal.4th 412, 483.)

59

The jury need not find beyond a reasonable doubt that the aggravating

circumstances outweigh the mitigating ones or that the death penalty is

appropriate. (People v. Chatman (2006) 38 Cal.4th 344, 409.)

The Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the federal Constitution do not

require that a jury unanimously find the existence of aggravating factors. (People

v. Hoyos (2007) 41 Cal.4th 872, 926.)

The absence of intercase proportionality review does not violate the Eighth

and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. (People v. Cook

(2007) 40 Cal.4th 1334, 1368; People v. Moon (2005) 37 Cal.4th 1, 48; see also

Pulley v. Harris (1984) 465 U.S. 37, 50-51 [federal Const. does not require

intercase proportionality review].)

8. Cumulative effect of penalty phase errors

Defendant contends that the cumulative effect of the asserted penalty phase

errors requires reversal of his conviction, even if none of the errors is prejudicial

individually. Because we conclude there were no errors in the penalty phase, we

reject defendant‟s claim that any cumulative effect warrants reversal.

III. DISPOSITION

The judgment is affirmed.

KENNARD, J.

WE CONCUR:

GEORGE, C. J.
BAXTER, J.
WERDEGAR, J.
CHIN, J.
MORENO, J.
CORRIGAN, J.

60



See next page for addresses and telephone numbers for counsel who argued in Supreme Court.

Name of Opinion People v. Bacon
__________________________________________________________________________________

Unpublished Opinion

Original Appeal XXX
Original Proceeding
Review Granted

Rehearing Granted

__________________________________________________________________________________

Opinion No.
S079179
Date Filed: October 21, 2010
__________________________________________________________________________________

Court:
Superior
County: Solano
Judge: R. Michael Smith

__________________________________________________________________________________

Counsel:

Mark D. Greenberg, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant.

Edmund G. Brown, Jr., Attorney General, Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Gerald A.
Engler, Assistant Attorney General, Ronald S. Matthias, Glenn R. Pruden and Catherine McBrien, Deputy
Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.













Counsel who argued in Supreme Court (not intended for publication with opinion):

Mark D. Greenberg
484 Lake Park Avenue
Oakland, CA 94610
(510) 452-3126

Catherine McBrien
Deputy Attorney General
455 Golden Gate Avenue, Suite 11000
San Francisco, CA 94102-7004
(415) 703-5760


Automatic appeal from a judgment of death.

Opinion Information
Date:Citation:Docket Number:Category:Status:
Thu, 10/21/201050 Cal. 4th 1082, 240 P.3d 204, 116 Cal. Rptr. 3d 723S079179Automatic Appealsubmitted/opinion due

Parties
1The People (Respondent)
Represented by Attorney General - San Francisco Office
Catherine McBrien, Deputy Attorney General
455 Golden Gate Avenue, Suite 11000
San Francisco, CA

2Bacon, Robert Allen (Appellant)
San Quentin State Prison
Represented by Mark D. Greenberg
Attorney at Law
484 Lake Park Avenue, PMB 429
Oakland, CA


Opinion Authors
OpinionJustice Joyce L. Kennard

Dockets
May 20 1999Judgment of death
 
May 25 1999Filed certified copy of Judgment of Death Rendered
  5-20-99.
May 25 1999Penal Code sections 190.6 et seq. apply to this case
 
Aug 13 1999Record certified for completeness
 
Nov 12 2003Filed:
  appellant's application for appointment of counsel (IFP form).
Nov 13 2003Counsel appointment order filed
  appointing Mark D. Greenberg to represent appellant for the direct appeal.
Dec 4 2003Received:
  notice from superior court that record was sent to appellant's counsel on 12-1-2003.
Dec 8 2003Date trial court delivered record to appellant's counsel
  (3,928 pp. record) (see Calif. Rules of Court, rule 39.50(c); the date of delivery is the date of mailing plus five days.) Note: record was transmitted on 12-1-2003.
Dec 8 2003Appellant's opening brief letter sent, due:
  July 6, 2004.
Jan 16 2004Counsel's status report received (confidential)
  from atty Greenberg.
Feb 10 2004Received:
  a copy of People's exhibit no. 30 and copy of transcript of People's exhibit no. 29 from superior court..
Mar 23 2004Counsel's status report received (confidential)
  from atty Greenberg.
Jun 4 2004Received copy of appellant's record correction motion
  Motion to correct the record (6 pp.); Request for additional record (9 pp.); Application for permission to prepare a settled statement (7 pp.); and Petition to allow full public access to probation report (7 pp.)
Jun 11 2004Counsel's status report received (confidential)
  from atty Greenberg.
Jun 23 2004Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Greenberg
Jul 21 2004Filed:
  appellant's application for relief from default for failure to file a timely request for extension of time to file the AOB.
Jul 29 2004Order filed
  Appellant's application for relief from default for failure to file a timely motion for extension of time to file AOB is granted. Good cause appearing, appellant's application for an extension of time in which to file AOB is granted to and including 9-7-2004.
Jul 29 2004Filed:
  appellant's request for extension of time to file AOB. (1st request)
Aug 31 2004Counsel's status report received (confidential)
  from atty Greenberg.
Sep 7 2004Request for extension of time filed
  to file appellant's opening brief. (2nd request)
Sep 7 2004Extension of time granted
  to 11/8/2004 to file appellant's opening brief.
Sep 8 2004Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Greenberg
Oct 27 2004Request for extension of time filed
  to file appellant's opening brief. (3rd request)
Oct 27 2004Extension of time granted
  to 1/7/2005 to file appellant's opening brief.
Jan 6 2005Request for extension of time filed
  to file appellant's opening brief. (4th request)
Jan 6 2005Extension of time granted
  to 3/8/2005 to file appellant's opening brief.
Jan 7 2005Counsel's status report received (confidential)
  from atty Greenberg.
Mar 4 2005Counsel's status report received (confidential)
  from atty Greenberg.
Mar 4 2005Request for extension of time filed
  to file AOB. (5th request)
Mar 7 2005Extension of time granted
  to 5-9-2005 to file AOB.
Mar 9 2005Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Greenberg
Mar 11 2005Note:
  record arrived from superior court.
Apr 15 2005Note:
  record returned to superior court.
May 9 2005Request for extension of time filed
  to file appellant's opening brief. (6th request)
May 9 2005Counsel's status report received (confidential)
 
May 11 2005Extension of time granted
  to 7/8/2005 to file appellant's opening brief.
Jul 7 2005Request for extension of time filed
  to file AOB. (7th request)
Jul 8 2005Extension of time granted
  to 9-6-2005 to file AOB.
Jul 8 2005Counsel's status report received (confidential)
 
Jul 11 2005Note:
  record arrived from superior court.
Sep 2 2005Counsel's status report received (confidential)
  from atty Greenberg.
Sep 2 2005Request for extension of time filed
  to file appellant's opening brief. (8th request)
Sep 9 2005Extension of time granted
  to 11/7/2005 to file appellant's opening brief.
Oct 28 2005Record on appeal filed
  Clerk's transcript 24 volumes (6,412 pages) and Report's transcript 48 volumes (3,450 pages), including material under seal; ASCII cds. Clerk's transcript includes 4,475 pp of juror questionnaires.
Oct 28 2005Letter sent to:
  counsel advising that record on appeal, certified for accuracy, was filed this date.
Nov 7 2005Request for extension of time filed
  to file appellant's opening brief. (9th request)
Nov 7 2005Filed:
  Supplemental declaration in support of application for extension of time to file appellant's opening brief.
Nov 8 2005Counsel's status report received (confidential)
  from atty Greenberg.
Nov 14 2005Extension of time granted
  to 1-6-2006 to file appellant's opening brief.
Nov 16 2005Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Greenberg
Jan 5 2006Request for extension of time filed
  to file appellant's opening brief. (10th request)
Jan 10 2006Extension of time granted
  to 3/7/2006 to file appellant's opening brief.
Mar 6 2006Request for extension of time filed
  to file appellant's opening brief. (11th request)
Mar 7 2006Counsel's status report received (confidential)
  from atty Greenberg.
Mar 9 2006Extension of time granted
  to April 6, 2006 to file appellant's opening brief.
Apr 5 2006Request for extension of time filed
  to file appellant's opening brief. (12th request)
Apr 12 2006Appellant's opening brief filed
  (55,617 words; 184 pp.)
Apr 12 2006Respondent's brief letter sent; due:
  August 10, 2006. (see California Rules of Court, rule 36(c)(1)(B))
Apr 17 2006Filed:
  Third Supplemental Clerks Transcript - 18 pages
Apr 26 2006Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Greenberg
Jul 26 2006Request for extension of time filed
  to file respondent's brief. (1st request)
Jul 28 2006Extension of time granted
  to October 10, 2006 to file responden'ts brief.
Oct 3 2006Request for extension of time filed
  to file respondent's brief. (2nd request)
Oct 10 2006Extension of time granted
  to December 4, 2006 to file the respondent's brief. After that date, only one further extension totaling about 60 additional days is contemplated. Extension is granted based upon Deputy Attorney General Catherine McBrien's representation that she anticipates filing that brief by February 2, 2007.
Nov 29 2006Request for extension of time filed
  to file respondent's brief. (3rd request)
Dec 1 2006Extension of time granted
  to February 2, 2007 to file the respondent's brief. After that date, no further extension will be granted. Extension is granted based upon Deputy Attorney General Catherine McBrien's representation that she anticipates filing that brief by February 2, 2007.
Feb 1 2007Request for extension of time filed
  to file respondent's brief. (4th request)
Feb 7 2007Extension of time granted
  to February 16, 2007 to file the respondent's brief. After that date, no further extension will be granted. Extension is granted based upon Deputy Attorney General Catherine McBrien's representation that she anticipates filing that brief by February 16, 2007.
Feb 16 2007Respondent's brief filed
  (49350 words; 158 pp.)
Feb 16 2007Note:
  appellant's reply brief due: April 17, 2007. (see Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.630(c)(1)(D))
Mar 29 2007Counsel's status report received (confidential)
  from atty Greenberg.
Apr 2 2007Request for extension of time filed
  to file appellant's reply brief. (1st request)
Apr 6 2007Extension of time granted
  to June 18, 2007 to file appellant's reply brief.
Jun 15 2007Request for extension of time filed
  to file appellant's reply brief. (2nd request)
Jun 15 2007Counsel's status report received (confidential)
  from atty Greenberg.
Jun 21 2007Filed:
  Supplemental declaration in support of request for extension of time to file appellant's opening brief.
Jun 26 2007Extension of time granted
  to August 20, 2007 to file the appellant's reply brief. After that date, only two further extensions totaling about 120 additional days are contemplated. Extension is granted based upon counsel Mark D. Greenberg's representation that he anticipates filing that brief by December 2007.
Aug 17 2007Request for extension of time filed
  to file reply brief. (3rd request)
Aug 17 2007Counsel's status report received (confidential)
  from attorney Greenberg.
Aug 21 2007Extension of time granted
  Good cause appearing, and based upon counsel Mark Greenberg's representation that he anticipates filing the reply brief by December 2007, counsel's request for an extension of time in which to file that brief is granted to October 19, 2007. After that date, only one further extension totaling about 60 additional days is contemplated.
Oct 16 2007Request for extension of time filed
  to file appellant's reply brief. (4th request)
Oct 16 2007Counsel's status report received (confidential)
  from atty Greenberg.
Oct 17 2007Received:
  Amended proof of service in support of request for an extension of time to file ARB.
Oct 22 2007Extension of time granted
  Good cause appearing, and based upon counsel Mark D. Greenberg's representation that he anticipates filing the appellant's reply brief by January 31, 2008, counsel's request for an extension of time in which to file that brief is granted to December 18, 2007. After that date, only one further extension totaling about 44 additional days is contemplated.
Dec 18 2007Request for extension of time filed
  to file appellant's reply brief. (5th request)
Dec 18 2007Counsel's status report received (confidential)
  from atty Greenberg.
Dec 26 2007Extension of time granted
  Good cause appearing, and based upon counsel Mark D. Greenberg's representation that he anticipates filing the appellant's reply brief by February 16, 2008, counsel's request for an extension of time in which to file that brief is granted to February 19, 2008. After that date, no further extension is contemplated.
Feb 19 2008Appellant's reply brief filed
  (25,373 words; 79 pp.)
Feb 19 2008Motion filed (AA)
  to file appellant's supplemental opening brief.
Feb 22 2008Order filed
  Appellant's "Request for Permission to File Supplemental Opening Brief" is granted. The supplemental respondent's brief must be served and filed on or before March 19, 2008. Appellant's supplemental reply brief will be due within 20 days of the filing of the supplemental respondent's brief.
Feb 22 2008Supplemental brief filed
  appellant's supplemental opening brief. (1,614 words; 8 pp.)
Mar 5 2008Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Greenberg
Mar 17 2008Request for extension of time filed
  to file supplemental respondent's brief (1st request)
Mar 19 2008Extension of time granted
  Good cause appearing, and based upon Deputy Attorney General Catherine A. McBrien's representation that she anticipates filing the supplemental reply brief by March 27, 2008, counsel's request for an extension of time in which to file that brief is granted to March 27, 2008. After that date, no further extension is contemplated.
Mar 27 2008Supplemental brief filed
  Supplemental respondent's brief. (2,767 words; 11 pp.)
Apr 10 2008Note:
 
Apr 14 2008Application to file over-length brief filed
  by appellant "Request to file a supplemental reply brief in excess of 2,800 words"
Apr 16 2008Order filed
  Appellant's "Request To File A Supplemental Reply Brief In Excess Of 2,800 Words" is granted.
Apr 16 2008Supplemental brief filed
  "Supplemental Reply Brief" (4,134 words; 15 pp.)
Nov 3 2009Exhibit(s) lodged
  from superior court: people's exhibits 29, 30, and 31.
Jun 23 2010Oral argument letter sent
  advising counsel that the court could schedule this case for argument as early as the September calendar, to be held the week of September 6, 2010, in San Francisco. The advisement of "focus issues," notification that two counsel are required, and any request for oral argument time in excess of 30 minutes must be submitted to the court within 10 days of the order setting the case for argument.
Aug 2 2010Case ordered on calendar
  To be argued Wednesday, September 8, 2010, at 1:30 p.m. in San Francisco.
Aug 6 2010Received:
  appearance sheet from Mark D. Greenberg, Attorney at Law, indicating 45 minutes for oral argument for appellant.
Aug 6 2010Filed:
  appellant's focus issues letter, dated August 5, 2010.
Aug 12 2010Received:
  appearance sheet from Deputy Attorney General Catherine McBrien, indicating 30 minutes for oral argument for respondent.
Sep 8 2010Cause argued and submitted
 
Oct 13 2010Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Greenberg
Oct 20 2010Notice of forthcoming opinion posted
  To be filed on Thursday, October 21, 2010 @10 a.m.

Briefs
Apr 12 2006Appellant's opening brief filed
 
Feb 16 2007Respondent's brief filed
 
Feb 19 2008Appellant's reply brief filed
 
Brief Downloads
application/pdf icon
appellants-opening-brief.pdf (2187448 bytes) - Appellants Opening Brief
application/pdf icon
appellants-reply-brief.pdf (3225566 bytes) - Appellants Reply Brief
application/pdf icon
appellants-supplemental-opening-brief.pdf (119149 bytes) - Appellants Supplemental Opening Brief
application/pdf icon
appellants-supplemental-reply-brief.pdf (168796 bytes) - Appellants Supplemental Reply Brief
application/pdf icon
respondents-brief.pdf (1829606 bytes) - Respondent's Brief
application/pdf icon
respondents-supplemental-brief.pdf (206106 bytes) - Respondent's Supplemental Brief
If you'd like to submit a brief document to be included for this opinion, please submit an e-mail to the SCOCAL website
Dec 1, 2010
Annotated by eespinosa

FACTS

At approximately midnight on October 26, 1995, two California Police officers discovered a body in the truck of an abandoned white Mercury Sable registered to a married couple, Charlie and Deborah Sammons. The body was identified as Deborah Sammons.
When the police went to Charlie’s house to tell him that his wife was dead, they asked him if he had been involved in her death and he responded “Not quite.” The police asked for and received Charlie’s permission to search the house. They discovered blood in the laundry room and on Charlie’s shoes so they arrested him and took him in for further questioning. The next day the police returned to the house with a search warrant and discovered more blood in the bedroom. Charlie made statements implicating defendant, and the police got a warrant to search his house also. They found and seized a tire iron at defendant’s house.
When Deborah’s body was discovered it had bruising consistent with the shape of the tire iron found in defendants house. There was also evidence of sexual activity and defendant’s semen was found inside the victim’s vagina. Examiners said that they could not tell for certain whether or not the victim’s injuries were the result of consensual sexual activity or rape.
Both Charlie and defendant were charged with Deborah’s murder and Charlie testified for the prosecution at defendant’s trial. Charlie had been suffering from MS for about 17 years and at the time of the trial was confined to a wheelchair. However, he had been able to walk at the time of the murder.
When she was murdered, Deborah Sammons had been separated from her husband for about a month and was involved in a relationship with Bill Peunggate that had begun while she was still living with her husband. On the evening of the murder, Deborah told Bill that she was going to Charlie’s house to pay some bills, something she did regularly. Defendant had been doing work on Charlie’s house for about three days prior to the murder.

Charlie’s Testimony
Charlie testified that he had mentioned to defendant that he wanted his wife “out of the picture.” Defendant responded that he could take care of that for a price, but Charlie claimed that he thought defendant was joking. When Deborah came to the house to pay the bills, defendant hid in the bedroom and told Charlie that if he wanted her “taken care of” he should knock on the door. Charlie claimed he didn’t know exactly what defendant meant. Deborah was in the kitchen for several hours then went into the bedroom to put a checkbook away. Charlie said he heard a quiet scream and waited a few minutes then asked if everything was alright. When he didn’t get an answer, he went into the bedroom and saw defendant beating Deborah. Defendant pointed a gun at Charlie told him to go back to the kitchen. He looked into the bedroom again and saw defendant standing over Deborah and her underwear at the end of the bed. After Deborah was dead, defendant told Charlie to help him get rid of the body and they wrapped it in a tarp and put it in the trunk of a red car in the garage. They drove both the red car and the white Mercury to Grizzly Island Road, where they moved the body to the Mercury and tried to drive it into a slough. The car got stuck so they just abandoned it there. They then returned and cleaned up the house.

Defendant’s Statements
Defendant was interrogated by Detective Grate, who began the interview by giving defendant his Miranda warnings. Defendant agreed to talk and gave several versions of what happened on the night of the murder. Initially, defendant denied ever meeting Deborah, but when Detective Grate said that they were doing DNA testing of the body, defendant said “You’re gonna find my semen samples in her….Cause I fucked her.” Defendant claimed that Deborah had consensual sex with him about five minutes after they met while Charlie was in the garage. Defendant said that after they finished, he went back outside to finish painting the house. Charlie called him inside about 15 minutes later and was covered in blood. Defendant said that he saw Deborah’s body on the bed and described the condition of the body by saying “I didn’t want to fuck her.” He said that he assumed that Charlie killed her because she wanted a divorce. Defendant said that Charlie forced him to help dispose of the body.
Grate left the interrogation room and returned to tell defendant that he was going to be charged with murder and rape. At this point, defendant said that Charlie had asked him to kill Deborah but he never said that he would. He again said that they engaged in consensual sex and told the same story about Charlie killing her.

Defense Case
The defense presented evidence that Charlie was physically capable of carrying out the murder at the time. They also called neighbors as witnesses to demonstrate that Charlie was jealous and threatened Deborah. The defense also brought in an expert witness that said that the injuries were more likely caused by the handle of a gun than by defendant’s tire iron. The defense also provided extensive evidence of the defendant’s traumatic childhood and the violent abuse he suffered at the hands of his stepfather.

Prior Murder in Arizona
The defendant was convicted of second degree murder in Arizona in 1982. Defendant and John Noble had been hitchhiking together when Noble kicked defendant’s pregnant dog. They fought and defendant killed Noble with a broken beer bottle than cut an artery in his neck. Defendant claimed that this was an accident and the prosecution said that he intentionally attacked Noble with the bottle and killed him deliberately.
Defendant was released from prison in 1994 after serving his sentence for the Arizona murder. However, he returned to jail for a short period of time in 1995 for possessing a gun, which was a violation of his parole. After he was released for the second time, he failed to report to his parole officer and traveled to California, where Deborah was murdered.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Robert Allen Bacon was charged with first degree murder and forcible rape and forcible sodomy. He was charged with a special circumstances allegation that he intentionally killed his victim by lying in wait. The jury found him guilty of all charges. He was also charged with an additional special circumstances allegation of prior murder. He waived his right to a jury trial on this charge and was convicted by the court.
At the penalty trial, the jury returned a verdict of death. The defense moved for a new trial and to modify the penalty but the trial court denied both motions and sentenced the defendant to death.
The case was automatically appealed up to the Supreme Court under the California Constitution that requires appeals for all death penalty cases.

ISSUES

The defense raised a number of issues on both the guilt and penalty phases of the trial. One of the main elements of the defense case at the appeals stage was the argument that the trial court erred when it excluded defense evidence. The crucial piece of this evidence was a note in defendant’s handwriting with the victim’s name, her work address and a phone number written on it. Defendant claimed that this supported his claim that the victim had consensual sex with him. The trial court rejected this claim, saying that defendant had not provided any proof beyond speculation that the information on the note was voluntarily given to him by the victim.
The defense also challenged the admissibility of a large portion of defendant’s interview with the police and claimed that the trial court violated defendant’s Miranda rights in allowing the testimony at trial. During the interview defendant said “I think it’d probably be a good idea for me to get an attorney.” The police officer told defendant that it was up to him and the two continued talking, after which defendant made incriminating statements. The trial court ruled that defendant’s reference to an attorney was ambiguous and not the clear and unequivocal invocation required under Miranda.
The defense claimed that the trial court erred in a number of its instructions to the jury, including its instruction on accomplice testimony and the circumstantial evidence instruction. Defendant claimed that the cumulative effect of all of these errors in the guilt phase required the reversal of his conviction.
Defendant challenged the sufficiency of the evidence for his prior-murder special-circumstance conviction on the grounds that the elements of second degree murder are different in Arizona and California. The Defense argued that the elements of defendant’s second degree murder conviction in Arizona were short of the requirements of second degree murder in California.
The defense also claimed that the trial court erred in a number of jury instructions at the penalty phase before challenging the death penalty law itself. The defense argued that the cumulative effect of these errors required the reversal of the conviction.
In total, the defense raised fifteen motions claiming error and prejudice by the trial court.

HOLDING
The Supreme Court ruled against defendant on every one of the fifteen motions he raised and upheld the decisions of the trial court, holding that the trial court had not erred or abused its discretion in any of its rulings. The Court relied heavily on precedent in doing so.
The Court affirmed the judgment and upheld the conviction and the sentence.

ANALYSIS

Although this case was automatically appealed to the California Supreme Court because defendant received the death penalty, the Court extensively discussed legal issues in its opinion. The defense made fifteen motions regarding issues that arose at both the guilt and penalty stages of the trial. However, despite some creative legal arguments by the defense, the Supreme Court ruled for the prosecution on every issue and motion and refused to overturn any of the decisions made by the trial court.
The Court extensively evaluated defendant’s claim that the trial court erred in excluding the note. They concluded that the defense had not met the burden of demonstrating that their version of events was true. The Court reviewed the trial court decision under the abuse of discretion standard and concluded that there had not been an abuse of discretion. The Court also stated that even if the trial court had erred, they saw no prejudice as a result. This is a pattern that was repeated throughout the opinion. The Supreme Court found multiple times that the trial court did not abuse its discretion, but even if it had, there would have been no prejudice to defendant.
With regard to the defense claim that the prior-murder special-circumstance conviction was in error, the Court refused to address the issue of differences in elements of second degree murder in Arizona and California. Instead, it applied the felony murder rule and concluded that because defendant had stolen the victim’s wallet, his crime would have been punishable as first degree murder in California. Consequently, the Court determined that any difference was irrelevant.
The Court’s discussion of defendant’s challenge to the death penalty statute itself is the section of the opinion that reads most as if the Court is just dealing with a routine appeal. The Court is very brief and dismissive of any challenges to the death penalty and does not even address the fact specific aspects of aggravating and mitigating circumstances in the case.

CODES/CASES

Codes cited:
Cal. Pen. Code § 187
Cal. Pen. Code § 189
Cal. Pen. Code § 190.2
Cal. Pen. Code § 261
Cal. Pen. Code § 1239
Cal. Evid. Code § 403
Cal. Evid. Code § 210
Arizona Revised Statutes § 13-1902

Cases cited:
Miranda v. Arizona
People v. Marshall
People v. Lucas
People v. Guerra
Davis v. United States
People v. Cunningham
People v. Gonzalez
People v. Stitely
People v. Crittenden
People v. Jurado
People v. Fields
People v. Kurtzman
People v. Whisenhunt
People v. Guiuan
People v. Wilson
People v. D'Arcy
People v. Anderson
People v. Gould
People v. Cuevas
People v. Martinez
People v. Cavitt
People v. Montoya
People v. Avery
People v. Satchell
People v. Ford
People v. Monterroso
People v. Green
People v. Ashmus
People v. Yeoman
People v. Kaurish
People v. Morales
People v. Williams
People v. Pinholster
People v. Adcox
People v. Cain
People v. Butler
People v. Michaels
People v. Smithey
People v. Jackson
People v. Dykes
People v. Boyer
People v. Chatman
People v. Hoyos
People v. Cook
People v. Moon
Pulley v. Harris