Supreme Court of California Justia
Citation 45 Cal. 4th 577, 199 P.3d 535, 88 Cal. Rptr. 3d 131

People v. Bennett

Filed 1/29/09



IN THE SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA



THE PEOPLE,

Plaintiff and Respondent,

S058472

v.

ERIC WAYNE BENNETT,

) Orange

County

Defendant and Appellant.

Super. Ct. No. 95ZF007



A jury convicted defendant Eric Wayne Bennett of the first degree murder

(Pen. Code, § 187, subd. (a))1 of Marie Powell Evans and found two special

circumstances to be true — that the murder was committed while engaged in the

commission of rape (§ 190.2, subd. (a)(17)(iii)) and burglary (id., subd.

(a)(17)(vii)). The jury also convicted defendant of several crimes related to his

assault of Pamela B., including forcible oral copulation (§ 288a, subd. (c)), rape

(§ 261, subd. (a)(2)), first degree robbery within an inhabited dwelling (§§ 211,

212.5, subd. (a), 213, subd. (a)(1)), and first degree burglary of an inhabited

dwelling (§§ 459, 460, subd. (a), 461.1). The jury found that defendant personally

used a knife when he committed the crimes against Pamela B. (§ 12022, subd.

(b).) The jury returned a death verdict. The trial court sentenced defendant to

death on the murder count and imposed and stayed a determinate term of 15 years

1

All further unlabeled statutory references are to the Penal Code.

1


four months for the crimes against Pamela B. This appeal is automatic. (Cal.

Const., art. VI, § 11, subd. (a); § 1239, subd. (b).) We affirm the judgment.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

A. Guilt Phase

1. Prosecution’s Case

a. Crimes Committed Against Pamela B.

In mid-September 1994, defendant installed flooring at the Costa Mesa

home of Mary Beth Baughman. Shortly thereafter, defendant signed a rental

contract for an adjoining unit and he, his wife, and two children moved in. Pamela

B. lived alone in a small apartment directly behind Baughman’s unit with a

driveway separating her unit from defendant’s.

On September 27, about 10:00 p.m., Pamela B. was home alone watching

television in her bedroom. As it was a warm evening, Pamela B. had her front

door, which opened into her bedroom, open with the screen door closed and

latched. Pamela B. saw defendant standing outside on her front porch.2 She

watched him bend over, take his shirt off and wrap it around his head and face

“ninja style” so that only his eyes were uncovered. Defendant then charged

through the door with a four-inch knife in his hand. Wearing only a pair of black

shorts, defendant charged at Pamela B. and pinned her down on top of the bed.

Holding the knife to Pamela B.’s neck, defendant told her that he would not hurt

her and that he only wanted her money. Pamela B. screamed.


2

Although Pamela B. was unable to identify defendant as her attacker, DNA

evidence obtained during a sexual assault examination was later matched to
defendant’s DNA. At the penalty phase, the defense acknowledged defendant had
assaulted and raped Pamela B.

2

Baughman was inside her living room and heard the scream. She walked

out onto her patio and yelled across the fence, “Pam, are you all right?”

Baughman thought she heard a response, but could not understand what Pamela B.

had said so she called out again. Defendant still had a knife to Pamela B.’s neck

and said, “Shit. Tell her you’re okay.” Pamela B. did so and Baughman did not

come any nearer.

Defendant again told Pamela B. that he wanted her money. Afraid

defendant would harm her if she did not comply, she told him where her purse

was. Defendant stayed within a foot of Pamela B. while she retrieved her purse

and got her money out of it. After defendant took her money, he got upset and

asked for the “rest of it.” Pamela B. told him that was all she had and defendant

rolled the money up and put it in his shorts. The shirt began to fall from

defendant’s face and, as he tightened it back up, defendant warned Pamela B. not

to look at his face. “If you look at my face, I’ve got to hurt you.”

Defendant told Pamela B. he was not done and directed her to get face-

down on the bed. Defendant got behind her, put his left arm under her abdomen

and pulled her up on her hands and knees. Defendant rubbed her breasts and hips

and rubbed his penis against her body. Defendant had a partial erection that he

lost when he heard a car drove by. Defendant became angry and said, “Now, you

got to suck it.” Although terrified, Pamela B. refused. Defendant told her he

would not hurt her, pushed her head onto his penis, and then insulted her about the

manner in which she was orally copulating him. After defendant obtained an

erection, he pulled Pamela B. to her hands and knees, got behind her, threw her

nightgown over her head, and put his penis into her vagina.

After defendant ejaculated, Pamela B. ran out the front door. She ran

outside her gate and turned left, near her car. Defendant gave chase and cornered

3

Pamela B. by her car. He lunged at her, causing her to scream, at which point

defendant ran away. Pamela B. lost sight of defendant.

Pamela B. ran to Baughman’s unit and banged on her back door. After

Baughman opened the door, Pamela B. entered and called 911. City of Costa

Mesa Police Officer Mitchell Johnson responded within minutes. Officer Johnson

did not see any cars leave the area and felt that the suspect must still be nearby.

He quickly searched the area and set up a perimeter within a block of the location.

When Officer Johnson met with Pamela B., she was “borderline hysterical” and

crying. After calming her down, Officer Johnson was able to obtain a statement

after which he took Pamela B. to the hospital for a sexual assault examination.

While Officer Johnson was obtaining a statement from Pamela B. at the

apartment, Baughman was outside and saw defendant. Defendant asked what the

police activity was about. Defendant said he had been sleeping on the sofa with

his baby and the lights woke him up. Baughman told defendant she would rather

not say. Defendant was insistent and, after he inquired several more times,

Baughman told defendant Pamela B. had been raped. Defendant said that was

terrible and left.

A sexual assault examination showed Pamela B. had suffered an abrasion

near her vaginal opening and that there was sperm present in the secretions from

her vagina. DNA was extracted from the semen.

After the rape, Pamela B. was in physical pain, could not move her right

thumb for a week, and had a large bruise on the side of her thigh. She never slept

at her apartment again and moved out at the end of October.

4

b. Evans’s Murder3

On September 27, 1994, the same day defendant assaulted Pamela B., he

installed flooring at Marie Powell Evans’s new townhouse in Laguna Hills.

On October 13, Evans went to the home of her daughter and son-in-law,

Christine and John Hougan, to bring her son-in-law a birthday present. Evans had

a dark leather purse with her. Evans left their home at around 8:30 p.m. Around

11:00 a.m. the next morning, Christine received a phone call from Evans’s boss,

who told her that her mother had not shown up for work that morning, which was

highly unusual. The Hougans worked for the City of Newport Beach Police

Department, Christine as a police dispatcher and John as a police officer.

Christine called someone from work and requested her mother’s license plate be

run to see if there had been a reported traffic accident. Upon discovering that

there was no report of an accident involving Christine’s mother, the Hougans went

to Evans’s house.

They entered Evans’s patio area and saw that the window screen was off

the kitchen window. John Hougan noticed that dust on the windowsill had been

disturbed and a plant had been knocked over into the sink leading him to think

someone had crawled in through the window. Upon closer inspection, he

observed a large amount of blood and a pillowcase on the kitchen floor. He took

his wife back to the car and had her wait while he retrieved his gun and returned to

the house. John entered the house through the front door, which was closed, but

unlocked. There was a bloody bare footprint on the entryway throw rug that was

facing downward toward the stairs. John then went downstairs and, when halfway


3

Throughout the trial, Marie Powell Evans was referred to interchangeably

as Powell and Evans. For the sake of uniformity, we use Evans when referring to
the victim.

5

down, saw Evans’s semi-naked body on the floor of the bathroom. After checking

the other bedrooms to see if anyone was in the house, he phoned 911.

A rear sliding glass door leading into the master bedroom was found open

with the screen door closed; the screen had a cut from top to bottom, leaving an

opening large enough for a person to walk through. There was blood on the bed in

the master bedroom and signs of a struggle, including a porcelain clock that had

been knocked over. In the bathroom next to the master bedroom, Evans was lying

on her back with her robe pulled up over her chest. There was blood on the

bathroom door, floor, and wall. There was a bloody footprint next to the body and

a wet towel, a television, and a pillow on top of Evans’s head. The television’s

cord was plugged into a socket in the master bedroom and the television was still

on.

There was a bloody footprint in the kitchen and another at the top of the

stairs facing downwards, along with some potting soil. In the living room, there

were shelves holding several glass decanters. On one of the shelves, there was a

ring-shaped impression in the dust as if something had been taken. On the kitchen

counter there was a notepad with the name Eric (the same as defendant’s first

name) and a phone number, later determined to be defendant’s, written on it.

Missing from the house were Evans’s purse and a glass decanter.

An autopsy showed Evans had suffered multiple major injuries. The

autopsy determined she died as a result of bruising to her brain due to blunt force

trauma. There were pattern marks on her face between the left eye and ear

consistent with a blow from a heavy, patterned object. There were multiple skull

fractures and tears in Evans’s scalp. Her hands had skin breakage, lacerations,

swelling and discoloration, which may have been from an attempt to ward off a

blow. There were also marks in Evans’s vaginal area that could have been

injuries.

6

A sexual assault examination recovered sperm from Evans’s anal, perianal,

and perivaginal areas as well as her vagina. Sperm was also found on the bed

sheets in the master bedroom. DNA was extracted from the sperm.

c. Defendant’s Arrest

Defendant did not return to his job after October 14. On October 18, aware

that he had installed carpet in Evans’s home, the police obtained defendant’s

fingerprints in an effort to exclude him as a suspect in the murder. Shortly

afterwards, defendant and his wife moved out of his apartment without notifying

his landlord that he would be moving.

For reasons not explained to the jury at the guilt phase, defendant was

arrested on an unrelated charge by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

While in custody, defendant’s blood was drawn by a nurse and his DNA was

compared to DNA recovered from the two crime scenes and found to match. The

probability of a random match with semen and blood recovered from Pamela B.

and her home was 1 in 1.2 billion within the general population. The probability

of a random match with semen recovered from Evans’s body was 1 in 17 million

within the general population. The probability of a random match with semen

recovered from Evans’s bed sheets was 1 in 7 million within the general

population.

Defendant was arrested on October 31. The prosecutor presented the case

to a grand jury, which returned an indictment on January 11, 1995.

2. Defense Case

At a live lineup two and a half months after the attack, Pamela B. was

unable to pick defendant as the person who assaulted her. She instead picked

another man out of the lineup as the person most resembling her attacker. Nor

could she make an in-court identification of defendant as the man who assaulted

7

her. She described her attacker to the police as having a dark complexion,

possibly black, with dark brown eyes while defendant had blond-to-brown hair

and blue eyes. Defendant presented evidence that none of the fingerprints that

were taken at Evans’s house matched his. Defendant also challenged the

reliability of the DNA evidence and the probability estimates given by the

prosecutor’s DNA experts.

B. Penalty Phase

1. Prosecutor’s Case

The prosecution’s case in aggravation consisted of two witnesses: Alice

Ware, Evans’s 82-year-old mother, and Christine Hougan. They described the

impact Evans’s death had on them. Additionally, Hougan testified about the

impact it had on her to be present when her mother’s body was found and Ware

testified about finding out about Evans’s murder over the phone from Hougan.

2. Defendant’s Case

The defense presented testimony about defendant’s childhood. He was

raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, although he stopped attending church on a regular

basis when he was a teenager and began using drugs. There was testimony of a

family history of alcohol and drug abuse. Defendant himself had a significant

problem with alcohol and drugs throughout his life. He was diagnosed in grade

school as dyslexic. Defendant ultimately dropped out prior to completing high

school.

Defendant’s cousin testified that, when she was 11 or 12 years old and

defendant was four or five years old, she was taking care of him and gave him a

bath. She dried him off and then tried, unsuccessfully, to have sexual intercourse

with him. After this incident, defendant engaged in other instances of

inappropriate, precocious sexual behavior.

8

Defendant married Karen Bennett, his second marriage, in December 1991.

They had a child together and she had a child from a previous relationship that

defendant treated as his own. She testified that she still loved defendant and did

not want to seem him executed. She also testified that defendant was a good

father to their two boys and she wanted him to continue his relationship with the

children. Karen Bennett also testified that their marriage had been rocky at times

due, among other things, to defendant’s drug use. She testified that she demanded

or asked defendant to commit to stopping his drug use.

Dr. Nancy Kaser-Boyd, a clinical psychologist, testified defendant had

expressed guilt about his crimes and the effect his crimes had on his family and

the family of the victims. She also testified that defendant exhibited risk factors

for acting out sexually. Among the factors were his sexual molestation at the

hands of his cousin; defendant’s drug use; his dyslexia and attention deficit

hyperactive disorder; and his dysfunctional family. Dr. Kaser-Boyd also testified

extensively about the relationship between defendant and his stepson, opining that

the child was attached to defendant and identified defendant as his father.

Defendant conceded that he had raped Pamela B. and killed Evans and

presented evidence of his remorse. While he was in custody after his October 31

arrest, he returned to the Jehovah’s Witness faith. Within weeks of his arrest, he

confessed to his wife that he had killed Evans and raped Pamela B. and told her he

wanted to plead guilty to spare those involved the pain of a trial. He cried and

said he was sorry to her, their children, his parents, and the family of the victims.

Defendant subsequently told his mother the same thing. He also expressed a

desire to plead guilty to his attorneys but they, together with his family, sought to

convince him to proceed to trial. Defendant’s wife and her grandmother contacted

James Waltz, an attorney and a Jehovah’s Witness, and asked him to talk to

defendant about whether to plead guilty. Defendant told Waltz that he wanted to

9

plead guilty, but Waltz told defendant to cooperate with his attorneys. Rick

Wentworth, an elder in the Jehovah’s Witness church, testified that he had visited

defendant in jail numerous times and that they had engaged in Bible study and

talked about family. Jenk Janes, a Jehovah’s Witness and recovering addict,

testified he took defendant to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in August or

September 1994. Janes testified that defendant sincerely desired to change his

lifestyle and overcome his addiction to drugs.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Pretrial and Guilt Phase Issues

1. Failure to Record Portions of Grand Jury Proceedings

The district attorney sought an indictment from the grand jury. Defendant

contends critical portions of the grand jury proceedings were not recorded, thereby

violating state law and the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United

States Constitution. Specifically, defendant argues reversal is required because of

the failure to record the superior court’s interview of prospective grand jurors and

an alleged meeting between the prosecutor and the grand jury. We disagree.

At the time of defendant’s trial, section 190.9 required that, “[i]n any case

in which a death sentence may be imposed, all proceedings conducted in the . . .

superior courts . . . shall be conducted on the record with a court reporter present.”

(Stats 1993, ch. 1016, § 3, p. 5739.) Defendant cites Dustin v. Superior Court

(2002) 99 Cal.App.4th 1311, 1321-1323 for the proposition that section 190.9

applies as well to grand jury proceedings in capital cases.

While the federal Constitution does not require that all proceedings be

transcribed, it does require that there be a record adequate to permit meaningful

appellate review. (People v. Howard (1992) 1 Cal.4th 1132, 1165-1166.) A

record is inadequate “only if the complained-of deficiency is prejudicial to the

10

defendant’s ability to prosecute his appeal.” (People v. Alvarez (1996) 14 Cal.4th

155, 196, fn. 8.) It is defendant’s burden to show that any deficiencies are

prejudicial. (People v. Young (2005) 34 Cal.4th 1149, 1170.) Inconsequential

inaccuracies or omissions are insufficient to constitute prejudice. (Ibid.) Nor will

mere speculation suffice. (Ibid.)

a. Interviews of Prospective Grand Jurors

On May 18, 1994, the Orange County Superior Court selected 19

individuals from a roster of 29 nominees to comprise the 1994-1995 grand jury

(§ 895). Section 896 requires that the superior court personally interview each

prospective grand juror to ascertain whether they possess the qualifications

required by section 893.4 As part of the appellate record completion process,

defendant sought to augment the record with transcripts of the superior court’s

interview and selection of the grand jury. Neither the interviews nor the selection

process were recorded.5 Defendant argues this constitutes reversible error. We

disagree.

Section 190.9 requires that all proceedings be reported in a “case in which a

death sentence may be imposed.” The Court of Appeal concluded in Dustin that

section 190.9 applies to grand jury proceedings in death penalty cases where

indictments are returned. (Dustin v. Superior Court, supra, 99 Cal.App.4th at

p. 1322.) That case is unlike this one. There, the Court of Appeal considered a

defendant’s pretrial claim that the prosecutor violated section 190.9 by ordering


4

Among other things, section 893 requires that grand jurors be United States

citizens, 18 years or older, a resident of the county for at least one year before
being selected, and “in possession of [their] natural facilities, of ordinary
intelligence, of sound judgment, and of fair character.” (§ 893, subd. (a).)

5

Section 896 does not require that the superior court’s interview of potential

grand jurors be recorded or transcribed.

11

the court reporter to leave while he gave his opening and closing statements to the

grand jury. (99 Cal.App.4th at pp. 1314-1315.) Even assuming Dustin was

correctly decided, section 190.9 cannot reasonably be interpreted to apply before a

“case” even exists. Defendant did not commit his crimes until September 1994, he

was not arrested until October 1994, and the case was not presented to the grand

jury until January 1995. The “case” could not have been said to exist in May 1994

when the 1994-1995 grand jury was interviewed, selected, and impaneled.

Section 190.9 does not impose a duty to record the personal interviews of

prospective grand jurors. Nor is there a constitutional violation, as defendant has

failed to establish that the absence of the sought record prejudices his ability to

prosecute his appeal. (People v. Alvarez, supra, 14 Cal.4th at p. 196, fn. 8.)

b. Alleged Meeting Between Prosecutor and Grand Jury

On Thursday, January 5, 1995, Deputy District Attorney Carolyn Kirkwood

presented the state’s case to the grand jury. The next morning, Friday, January 6,

Kirkwood gave her closing argument and answered the grand jury’s questions.

The foreperson then excused Kirkwood and the court reporter so the jury could

begin deliberating. Later that afternoon, Kirkwood and District Attorney Guy

Ormes returned to address several written questions the jury had submitted.

Afterwards, the grand jury resumed deliberations, but recessed for the day without

returning an indictment.

On Wednesday, January 11, Ormes and Kirkwood returned to address more

questions submitted by the grand jury. Ormes noted the jury had recessed Friday

without returning an indictment and, “Since that time you presented me with a —

actually several questions . . . .” Ormes indicated the People were prepared to

address the questions by calling additional witnesses. Ormes and Kirkwood first

addressed several questions themselves. When addressing one of the questions,

12

Kirkwood remarked, “We received a note from the grand jury on [Monday,]

January 9, 1995 . . . .” The People then examined several witnesses, after which

Kirkwood made concluding remarks and the jury resumed its deliberations. Later

that afternoon, it returned an indictment against defendant.

Defendant moved to dismiss the indictment. He argued that the grand jury

indicted him only after the prosecution presented additional, allegedly

inadmissible, evidence on January 11. At a hearing on the motion, counsel for

both sides discussed whether the jury “refused” to return an indictment on January

6, whether it deliberated on January 9 and 10, and how it transmitted its questions

to the prosecution. Defendant asked to examine Ormes and the foreperson about

whether the jury deliberated on January 9 and 10, whether it had taken a vote prior

to January 11, and whether there were any unreported discussions between it and

the prosecutors. The court denied the request, but ordered the prosecutor to

produce the jury’s written questions for in camera review.

The court reviewed the written notes in chambers with only the prosecutors

present. One note, written by the foreperson, was dated January 9 and contained

questions about the People’s DNA evidence, whether there was any non-DNA

evidence implicating defendant, and about exculpatory evidence. Another note,

also written by the foreperson, was dated January 10 and began, “These 4 points

are what I told the panel I had discussed with you.” The note then listed points

regarding the DNA evidence, the existence of corroborative evidence, and

exculpatory evidence. The note concluded by informing the prosecutor that the

grand jury would be convening at 8:45 a.m. on January 11.

As part of the appellate record completion process, defendant sought to

augment the record with an explanation of the procedure followed for transmitting

the grand jury’s questions to the district attorney, any record of when grand jury

proceedings took place, and transcripts of any communications between the grand

13

jury and any prosecutor other than remarks contained in existing transcripts. At a

hearing, the superior court appellate clerk explained that there were no other

transcripts to produce. She indicated that the district attorney had told her the jury

had been deliberating on January 9 and 10, so there was no transcript for those

days. The jury wrote questions down on those days, transmitted the questions to

the district attorney, and the questions were answered on January 11. The People

indicated there was no set procedure for communicating questions from the grand

jury to the district attorney and it could therefore not say how it was done in this

case.

Defendant contends the record suggests the prosecutor had a number of

unreported communications with the grand jury in violation of section 190.9 and

Dustin v. Superior Court. He first relies on the January 9 and January 10 written

questions, which he claims suggest unreported communications took place

because the grand jury had to give the written questions to the prosecutor. He also

places great weight on the prosecutors’ readiness to answer the questions on

January 11 with live testimony, arguing this demonstrates the existence of

unreported communications. We conclude that neither establishes an unreported

communication took place. It is just as likely that the grand jury transmitted its

notes to the district attorney in an innocuous manner without direct

communication, putting the district attorney on notice that it needed to present

more evidence to answer the jury’s questions. Moreover, even assuming

unreported communications took place, defendant has failed to identify anything

other than mere speculation to support his contention that he has suffered

prejudice, i.e., that the grand jury's decision to indict may have been in some way

influenced by the alleged unreported communications. (People v. Young, supra,

34 Cal.4th at p. 1170.) A defendant seeking postconviction reversal for

irregularities in grand jury proceedings must establish that the complained-of

14

errors were structural or resulted in actual prejudice relating to his conviction.

(People v. Jablonski (2006) 37 Cal.4th 774, 800.) Defendant does not establish

the existence of an irregularity justifying postconviction reversal.

Defendant also points to the opening sentence of the January 10 note. In it,

the foreperson wrote “These 4 points are what I told the panel I had discussed with

you.” This statement does indicate the foreperson had an unreported conversation

with the district attorney. However, even assuming this constitutes error,

defendant fails to establish the necessary prejudice to warrant postconviction

reversal. (People v. Jablonski, supra, 37 Cal.4th at p. 800; People v. Alvarez,

supra, 14 Cal.4th at p. 196, fn. 8.) The statement indicates that the topic of

conversation was memorialized in the note. Moreover, the contents of the January

10 note are nearly identical to the substance of the January 9 note, suggesting that

the four topics identified in the two notes constitute the extent of the jury’s

interest.6

2. Prosecutorial Misconduct

Defendant contends the prosecutor committed misconduct during the guilt

phase of the trial when, in the course of examining a prosecution witness, she

implied defendant could, and should, have had the DNA evidence retested.

Defendant argues reversal is required because his rights under state law and the

Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the federal Constitution were

violated. We disagree.


6

Citing Dustin v. Superior Court, supra, 99 Cal.App.4th 1311, defendant

argues we should apply a reversal per se standard. We disagree. Unlike in this
case, Dustin involved a pretrial challenge where the Court of Appeal ordered the
superior court to dismiss the indictment. As the court noted in Dustin, in a post-
conviction
case a defendant must show actual prejudice. (Id. at p. 1325.)
Defendant fails to do so.

15

Mary Hong, a crime lab forensic scientist put on by the prosecution,

testified extensively about DNA, the DNA testing in the case, and on the methods

and reliability of DNA testing. On cross-examination, defense counsel elicited

that the crime lab, which did the DNA testing, was affiliated with the Orange

County Sheriff’s Department. Defense counsel also elicited that the crime lab

performed analyses for other police agencies, but that it was not open to the public

nor could a private person come in and ask for assistance in doing an analysis.

On redirect examination, the prosecutor explicitly referenced defense

counsel’s question about private persons not being able to obtain the crime lab’s

assistance in analyzing DNA. The prosecutor then asked, “Are you familiar with a

procedure where the defense can come in and actually get a split of the sample of

evidence and have it tested privately in any lab that they choose?” Hong

answered, “Yes,” and the prosecutor followed up by asking whether “any split

[was] asked for in this particular case so that the defense could have retested any

particular sample or any particular test . . . ?” Defense counsel objected and asked

to approach.

The trial court excused the jury for the day and then heard counsels’

argument. Defense counsel argued that the question was irrelevant and was

substantially more prejudicial than probative as the jury would infer that

defendant’s failure to retest meant he agreed with the results of the People’s DNA

testing. The prosecutor responded that the question was relevant to demonstrate

that the evidence was available for retesting if defendant so desired. The trial

court said, “That’s in.” The prosecutor then pointed out the defense counsel had

opened the door by eliciting testimony about the inability of a private person to

seek assistance with analysis. The court said there was a difference between the

ability of a private person to request a split of a sample of evidence and whether

such a split was sought by defendant in this case. The latter area of inquiry would

16

lead to questions about the credibility and competence of defense counsel and why

they did not seek a split for retesting. Accordingly, the trial court ruled the

probative value was substantially outweighed by the risk of prejudice and

sustained the objection to the question of whether defendant sought a split.

The next morning, defense counsel moved for a mistrial on the basis of

prosecutorial misconduct. Defense counsel argued that the prosecutor’s question

had implied to the jury that it was defendant’s burden to provide evidence. Failing

a mistrial, defense counsel requested an admonition. The trial court denied

defendant’s motion for a mistrial, explaining that the brief question did not cause

such prejudice that it could not be sufficiently cured with an admonition. Further,

the trial court declined to conclude the prosecutor had committed misconduct.

The trial court indicated it would admonish the jury, and upon resumption of

redirect examination, did in fact admonish the jury that the court had sustained

defendant’s objection, that questions are not evidence, and that it should not

speculate as to what the answer might have been.

Later, during the redirect examination of Ed Buse, another crime lab

forensic scientist, the prosecutor asked, “And there are samples available in the

crime lab on this case, so that if there were more probes —.” Defense counsel

objected and asked to approach. Defense counsel argued the prosecutor’s question

again insinuated that defendant had the burden to retest the DNA sample. The

prosecutor responded that she, consistent with the court’s earlier ruling, was not

asking whether the defense sought a sample, but rather whether there was

evidence available for retesting at all. The trial court nonetheless sustained the

objection, ruling that the question improperly implied defendant should have

retested the available sample. The prosecutor could ask whether there was a

sample available for the crime lab to test, but could not imply defendant could use

it to retest if he wanted to.

17

During the cross-examination of Dr. Bruce Kovacs, the prosecution expert

called to testify about the reliability of DNA evidence, defense counsel challenged

the testing protocol followed in this case. The defense also asked Dr. Kovacs

whether one of the DNA tests had gone wrong because the printout did not show a

control blank. Dr. Kovacs responded that, in the specific sample counsel cited, it

could not be determined whether something had gone wrong. In her redirect

examination the prosecutor asked, “Would there be a way — if somebody wanted

to — to see if there was a problem, that they could go back and run a control blank

on this?” Defense counsel objected that the question was irrelevant and

speculative, and the trial court sustained the objection as speculative. The

prosecutor then asked, “Doctor, are you familiar with ways in which a sample can

be tested months or years later to determine if there was any problem that existed

at the time?,” to which Dr. Kovacs responded, “Yes.” Dr. Kovacs explained how

DNA evidence was frozen and kept, allowing retesting. Defendant did not object.

During the cross-examination of defense DNA expert witness, Dr. William

Shields, the prosecutor asked whether he, had he been asked to, could have taken

evidence, such as the evidence in this case, and run an analysis. Dr. Shields

testified that he could do that. The prosecutor then asked whether a National

Research Counsel report recommended retesting to ensure quality control, and Dr.

Shields agreed that retesting was recommended. The prosecutor continued, “In

other words, retesting is a wrongly accused person’s best insurance against the

possibilities of being falsely —” Defense counsel objected and the trial court

sustained the objection.

During closing arguments, the court granted defense counsel’s request for

an order prohibiting the prosecutor from commenting on defendant’s failure to

retest the DNA evidence.

18

Defendant claims the prosecutor’s questions constituted reversible

misconduct because they allegedly insinuated defendant should have retested the

DNA evidence. We disagree.

A prosecutor’s conduct violates a defendant’s federal constitutional rights

when it comprises a pattern of conduct so egregious that it infects “ ‘the trial with

unfairness as to make the resulting conviction a denial of due process.’ [Citation.]”

(Darden v. Wainwright (1986) 477 U.S. 168, 181.) The focus of the inquiry is on

the effect of the prosecutor’s conduct on the defendant, not on the intent or bad

faith of the prosecutor. (People v. Crew (2003) 31 Cal.4th 822, 839.) Conduct

that does not render a trial fundamentally unfair is error under state law only when

it involves “ ‘ “the use of deceptive or reprehensible methods to attempt to

persuade either the court or the jury.” ’ [Citations.]” (People v. Espinoza (1992) 3

Cal.4th 806, 820.)

To preserve a claim of prosecutorial misconduct for appeal, “ ‘the defense

must make a timely objection at trial and request an admonition; otherwise, the

point is reviewable only if an admonition would not have otherwise cured the

harm caused by the misconduct.’ [Citations.]” (People v. Earp (1999) 20 Cal.4th

826, 858.) When a trial court sustains defense objections and admonishes the jury

to disregard the comments, we assume the jury followed the admonition and that

prejudice was therefore avoided. (People v. Jones (1997) 15 Cal.4th 119, 168.)

Whether misconduct warrants a mistrial is a decision which is within the sound

discretion of the trial court. (People v. Price (1991) 1 Cal.4th 324, 430.)

Defendant first argues the prosecutor violated the work product privilege

by asking questions that sought to invade defense counsel’s impressions or

thought process. We initially note that the claim is forfeited because defendant

failed to invoke the work product privilege as the basis of his objection or to

request an admonition when an admonition would have cured any prejudice.

19

(People v. Earp, supra, 20 Cal.4th at p. 858.) Furthermore, we conclude the

prosecutor’s questions did not violate the work product privilege. In rejecting a

nearly identical claim, we recently explained that section 1054.6 provides that the

privilege applies in criminal cases only to materials or information that are work

product as defined in Code of Civil Procedure section 2018.030, subdivision (a).7

(People v. Zamudio (2008) 43 Cal.4th 327, 351-356.) That subdivision defines

work product as a “writing that reflects an attorney’s impressions, conclusions,

opinions, or legal research or theories.” (Code Civ. Proc., § 2018.030, subd. (a),

italics added.) The prosecutor’s questions at issue here merely sought to clarify

that, contrary to defense counsel’s implication, DNA samples were available for

independent testing. As such, the prosecutor’s questions did not elicit or attempt

to elicit evidence of a “writing” reflecting defense counsel’s “impressions,

conclusions, opinions, or legal research or theories” and therefore did not violate

the work product privilege.

Defendant also argues the prosecutor committed misconduct by blatantly

ignoring the trial court’s rulings. To the contrary, the record established that the

prosecutor was trying to follow what was, at times, less than clear guidance from

the court. The prosecutor first asked Hong whether the defense had requested a

split for retesting. The court sustained defendant’s objection, but told the

prosecutor she could ask whether evidence was available for retesting. During her

examination of Buse, the prosecutor asked whether samples were available for

further testing. Even though the question was consistent with the court’s prior

ruling, the court sustained defendant’s objection and suggested the prosecutor only

ask whether evidence was available for the crime lab to retest. After defense


7

The voters enacted section 1054.6 in 1990 by passing Proposition 115.

Defendant’s crimes and trial occurred well after 1990.

20

counsel elicited testimony from Dr. Kovacs about a problem with one of the DNA

tests, the prosecutor asked whether it would be possible to retest a sample to

determine whether there had been any problems. Nothing about the question

suggested the prosecutor was talking about retesting by the defendant, as opposed

to the crime lab. Finally, when examining Dr. Shields, following up on the

witness’s testimony that a report recommended retesting to ensure quality control,

the prosecutor asked whether, therefore, retesting was a wrongly accused person’s

best insurance against being falsely convicted. An objection was sustained and the

prosecutor moved on. While the last question could be interpreted as having

violated the court’s rulings, the record demonstrates that, overall, the prosecutor

was attempting to follow the court’s instructions regarding what was permissible.

Defendant makes a number of other arguments that we briefly address.

Defendant claims the prosecutor’s questions violated Griffin v. California (1965)
380 U.S. 609, in which the high court held the prosecution may not comment on a

defendant’s failure to testify. (Id. at p. 615.) However, Griffin does not prevent a

prosecutor from commenting upon the evidence or upon the failure of the defense

to introduce material evidence. (People v. Bradford (1997) 15 Cal.4th 1229,

1339.) Nor did the prosecutor’s questions, as defendant asserts, violate his

attorney-client privilege. The privilege protects the disclosure of “a confidential

communication between client and lawyer.” (Evid. Code, § 954.) Asking whether

there was evidence available for retesting, and even whether the defense sought a

split of the sample, did not violate the privilege. (People v. Coddington (2000) 23

Cal.4th 529, 605.) Nor did the prosecutor’s questions shift the burden of proof

onto defendant. The prosecutor did not state or imply that defendant had a duty to

produce evidence. The complained-of questions merely asked whether there was

evidence for retesting. Moreover, the jury was instructed that the prosecution

21

bears the burden of proof. We presume the jury followed the instructions it was

given. (People v. Prince (2007) 40 Cal.4th 1179, 1295.)

We conclude the prosecutor’s questions did not constitute reversible

misconduct.

3. Jury Instructions Regarding Felony Murder

Defendant claims the trial court violated state law and the Sixth, Eighth,

and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution when it failed to

properly instruct the jury on first degree felony murder. Specifically, defendant

contends the court failed to instruct the jury that, to find him guilty of first degree

felony murder, it must find a concurrence of act and intent. Defendant also argues

the instructions failed to properly limit the first degree felony murder doctrine.

We disagree.

The prosecutor’s theory was that defendant was guilty of first degree

murder both because he had committed premeditated and deliberate murder and

because he had murdered Evans during the course of the felonies of rape or

burglary. Its theory for the burglary was that defendant entered Evans’s

condominium with the intent to steal from her and/or rape her.

After the closing arguments, the jury was instructed pursuant to CALJIC

No. 8.21 that “[t]he unlawful killing of a human being, whether intentional,

unintentional or accidental, which occurs during the commission or attempted

commission of rape or burglary is murder of the first degree when the perpetrator

had the specific intent to commit such crime. The specific intent to commit rape

or burglary and the commission or attempted commission of such crime must be

proved beyond a reasonable doubt.” The jury was also instructed pursuant to

CALJIC 3.30 that, for the crimes of forced oral copulation and rape, “there must

exist a union or joint operation of act or conduct and general criminal intent.” The

22

jury was instructed pursuant to CALJIC No. 3.31, that, for the “crimes of burglary

and robbery and the special circumstance allegations of murder during the

commission of burglary and murder during the commission or attempted

commission of rape, there must be a union or joint operation of act or conduct and

a certain specific intent in the mind of the perpetrator.”

Defendant contends these instructions failed to convey that, in order to find

him guilty of first degree murder, the jury needed to find a concurrence of act and

intent — namely, that defendant formed the intent to commit rape or burglary

before or during, rather than after, the application of force to the victim. We

disagree. We have previously rejected an identical attack on similar instructions.

In People v. Pollack (2004) 32 Cal.4th 1153, the defendant was charged with first

degree felony murder and, like defendant here, claimed the trial court had

erroneously failed to instruct the jury “on the concurrence of act and specific

intent required for first degree felony murder . . . .” (Id. at p. 1175.) The Pollack

trial court gave the jury the same standard instructions given here, namely

CALJIC Nos. 3.31 and 8.21. (Id. at pp. 1175-1176.) We concluded that the

instructions given were sufficient. (Id. at p. 1176.) “More specific instructions on

this issue are considered pinpoint instructions that the trial court is required to give

only upon request [citation] . . . .” (Ibid.) As in Pollack, defendant did not request

more specific instructions, nor did he object to the instructions given by the court.

Moreover, even assuming the trial court erred, any error was harmless

beyond a reasonable doubt as any defect clearly did not affect the verdict. (People

v. Harris (2008) 43 Cal.4th 1269, 1300.) In addition to finding defendant guilty

of first degree felony murder, the jury returned a true finding on the charged

special circumstances. In order to find true the special circumstance allegations of

murder during the commission of burglary and murder during the commission or

attempted commission of rape, which it ultimately did, the jury was instructed it

23

had to find there was “a union or joint operation of act or conduct and a certain

specific intent in the mind of the perpetrator.”

Defendant also argues the instructions did not convey that the felony cannot

be “incidental” to the murder. However, we concluded in Pollack that the

standard instructions adequately inform the jury “that the defendant must apply the

force for the purpose of accomplishing the taking.” (People v. Pollack, supra, 32

Cal.4th at p. 1176, italics added.) Defendant contends the instructions failed to

inform the jury that the murder and the felony must be part of a “continuous

transaction.” To the contrary, the instructions properly informed the jury that, to

find defendant guilty of first degree murder, it had to find the killing “occur[red]

during the commission or attempted commission of rape or burglary . . . .” (Italics

added.) Finally, defendant argues the instructions did not adequately convey that

the intent to steal must have been formed before or during the application of force

to the victim. We rejected this very argument in Pollack. (Ibid.)

We accordingly conclude the trial court adequately instructed the jury on

first degree felony murder.

4. Cumulative Error

Defendant contends the cumulative effect of the various errors committed

during the guilt phase requires reversal of his conviction. As we have rejected the

individual claims of error, we conclude there is no cumulative error requiring

reversal.

B. Penalty Phase Issues

1. Request to Empanel a Separate Jury

Defendant claims the trial court violated state law and his rights under the

Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution when

24

it denied his motion to empanel a separate jury for the penalty phase. We

conclude the trial court did not err.

Defendant’s guilt phase strategy was to argue the state had failed to meet its

burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that he had committed the charged

crimes. After defendant was convicted, his counsel moved to empanel a new jury

for the penalty phase, arguing that his penalty phase defense would be inconsistent

with what was argued at the guilt phase. At the penalty phase, defendant intended

to establish that he had admitted his guilt to his family and counsel early on in the

proceedings, that he felt remorse, and that he had wanted to plead guilty, but was

talked out of it by his attorneys. Defense counsel argued that, in light of the

strategy employed during the guilt phase, the currently impaneled jury would

disbelieve defendant and his attorneys.

The trial court denied defendant’s motion, noting that his guilt and penalty

phase strategies were not inconsistent, different defense attorneys would be

handling the guilt and penalty phases, the court would admonish the jury that

defendant’s exercise of his right to a trial was not to be considered during

deliberations,8 and that, even if the two strategies were arguably in tension with

one another, tactical decisions do not constitute good cause to empanel a separate

jury. The trial court concluded that a new jury was not warranted under state law

or under the federal Constitution.

Section 190.4, subdivision (c) provides that the same jury that decided guilt

in a death penalty case “shall consider . . . the penalty to be applied, unless for


8

The trial court ultimately instructed the jury that it was not to “draw any

adverse inferences against the defendant for exercising his constitutional right to a
trial by jury.” We presume the jury followed the instructions it was given.
(People v. Prince, supra, 40 Cal.4th at p. 1295.)

25

good cause shown the court discharges that jury . . . .” (Italics added.) While a

trial court retains discretion to empanel a separate jury, there is a “ ‘ “long-

standing legislative preference for a single jury to determine both guilt and

penalty.” ’ [Citation.]” (People v. Catlin (2001) 26 Cal.4th 81, 114; People v.

Yeoman (2003) 31 Cal.4th 93, 119; People v. Kraft (2000) 23 Cal.4th 978, 1069.)

We review a trial court’s ruling on a motion to empanel a separate penalty phase

jury for abuse of discretion. (People v. Kraft, supra, 23 Cal.4th at p. 1069.)

Defendant contends that his desire to employ allegedly “conflicting”

strategies constituted good cause to empanel a separate penalty phase jury. We

disagree. Even assuming defendant’s guilt and penalty phase strategies were in

tension with one another, a counsel’s tactical decision to present inconsistent

defenses “do[es] not, without more, constitute good cause.” (People v. Catlin,

supra, 26 Cal.4th at p. 115; People v. Pride (1992) 3 Cal.4th 195, 252; People v.

Taylor (1990) 52 Cal.3d 719, 737-738.) Additionally, defendant’s assertion that

his and his counsel’s credibility would be undermined was too speculative to

establish sufficient good cause. (People v. Pride, supra, 3 Cal.4th at p. 253;

People v. Taylor, supra, 52 Cal.3d at p. 738.)

Nor were defendant’s constitutional rights violated by having the same jury

decide the guilt and penalty phases. The high court has repeatedly rejected such

claims, explaining that the federal Constitution permits “the same jury [to] sit in

both phases of a bifurcated capital murder trial.” (Lockhart v. McCree (1986) 476

U.S. 162, 180; Buchanan v. Kentucky (1987) 483 U.S. 402, 417.) This court has

reached the same conclusion. (People v. Catlin, supra, 26 Cal.4th at p. 115;

People v. Johnson (1992) 3 Cal.4th 1183, 1244; People v. Balderas (1985) 41

Cal.3d 144, 204-205.) Nothing warrants revisiting the issue.

We therefore conclude the trial court did not err when it denied defendant’s

motion for a separate jury.

26

2. Exclusion of Defendant’s Execution-impact Evidence

Defendant contends the trial court violated state law and his constitutional

rights when it excluded an expert’s testimony about the impact defendant’s

execution would have on his son and stepson. Defendant argues that the

testimony should have been permitted as mitigation evidence indirectly relevant to

his character. We disagree.

During the penalty phase, the defense indicated its intent to have Dr. Kaser-

Boyd testify about the effect defendant’s execution would have on his children.

The prosecutor indicated she would object to such testimony because it would be

speculative and would constitute irrelevant execution-impact evidence. After

some discussion between counsel and the court, defense counsel asked the court to

defer ruling so that he could talk with Dr. Kaser-Boyd to get a better sense of the

possible testimony.

The next morning, defense counsel told the court Dr. Kaser-Boyd would

testify that, when a child loses a parent for any reason, “there is a feeling of

abandonment and grief . . . that often can interfere with normal development” and

result in feelings of anxiety or distrust, whereas those feelings would be less if the

defendant were sentenced to life without parole. The prosecutor objected to the

proposed testimony because it would constitute impermissible execution-impact

evidence and would be speculative. The prosecutor also argued that the effect that

losing one’s parent would have on a child was not a proper subject for expert

testimony because the jury was capable of considering the impact on its own. The

trial court sustained the prosecutor’s objection and excluded the evidence, but it

made clear that the defense would still be able to solicit testimony from Dr. Kaser-

27

Boyd regarding defendant’s character, nature, and potential for future

contribution.9

We conclude the trial court did not err. The impact of a defendant’s

execution on his or her family may not be considered by the jury in mitigation.

(People v. Smith (2005) 35 Cal.4th 334, 366-367; People v. Smithey (1999) 20

Cal.4th 936, 1000; People v. Ochoa (1998) 19 Cal.4th 353, 454-456 (Ochoa).) In

Ochoa, we explained it is a defendant’s background and character, and “not the

distress of his or her family,” that is relevant under section 190.3. (19 Cal.4th at

p. 456.) We distinguished between “evidence that [a defendant] is loved by family

members or others, and that these individuals want him or her to live. . . . [and

evidence about] whether the defendant’s family deserves to suffer the pain of

having a family member executed.” (Ibid.) The former constitutes permissible

indirect evidence of a defendant’s character while the latter improperly asks the

jury to spare the defendant’s life because it “believes that the impact of the

execution would be devastating to other members of the defendant’s family.”

(Ibid.)

In arguing that the trial court erred when it excluded part of Dr. Kaser-

Boyd’s testimony, defendant contends it constituted permissible evidence of

defendant’s character. We disagree. As defense counsel told the trial court, Dr.

Kaser-Boyd intended to testify that defendant’s execution would have a

“damaging effect” on his children and the children would have “a feeling of

abandonment and loss” requiring therapy and intervention. Such testimony, rather

than “illuminat[ing] some positive quality of the defendant’s background or


9

Indeed, Dr. Kaser-Boyd testified at length about defendant’s relationship

with his children, the children’s feelings for defendant, and how defendant’s
relationship with his children would likely continue should he live.

28

character” (Ochoa, supra, 19 Cal.4th at p. 456), was impermissible execution-

impact evidence intended to make the jury feel “sympathy for . . . defendant’s

family.”10 (Ibid.)

Defendant alternatively argues that, even if the testimony constituted

execution-impact evidence, the trial court should have nonetheless allowed it.

Defendant acknowledges we rejected an identical claim in Ochoa, but he argues

our decision was wrongly decided for several reasons. None are persuasive.

Defendant first asserts that Ochoa conflicts with the high court’s decision

in Payne v. Tennessee (1991) 501 U.S. 808. There, the high court held that victim-

impact evidence is admissible during the penalty phase. (Id., at pp. 811, 829.)

Defendant argues the high court’s decision contains an implicit recognition capital

defendants have the right to introduce execution-impact evidence. To the

contrary, the high court made clear, consistent with Ochoa, that a defendant must

be allowed to introduce mitigating evidence “concerning his own circumstances.”

(Payne, supra, 501 U.S. at p. 822, italics added.) As we have explained,

execution-impact evidence is irrelevant under section 190.3 because it does not

concern a defendant’s own circumstances but rather asks the jury to spare

defendant’s life based on the effect his or her execution would have on his or her

family. (Ochoa, supra, 19 Cal.4th at p. 456.) We further concluded that nothing

in the federal Constitution requires a different result (id., at p. 456) and defendant

identifies no reason to reconsider our conclusion.


10

By contrast, the trial court permitted the expert to testify about the

children’s bond with defendant, their love for him, and how they would benefit
from a continuing relationship if he were allowed to live. Such testimony
“constitute[d] indirect evidence of the defendant’s character.” (Ochoa, supra, 19
Cal.4th at p. 456.)

29

Defendant next argues section 190.3, which permits the prosecutor and

defendant to introduce evidence “as to any matter relevant to aggravation,

mitigation, and sentence,” should be construed to permit execution-impact

testimony as evidence relevant to mitigation and sentence. We rejected this

construction in Ochoa, supra, 19 Cal.4th at page 456, and we see no reason to

revisit the issue. Defendant’s argument rests on the use of the word “mitigation”

in statutes governing determinate sentencing (§ 1170) and probation (§ 1203).

Neither statute is analogous to section 190.3. Unlike those statutes, section 190.3

identifies examples of matters relevant to aggravation, mitigation, and sentence

including, but not limited to “the circumstances of the present offense, any prior

felony conviction . . . , and the defendant’s character, background, history, mental

condition and physical condition.” We concluded that, “[i]n this context, what is

ultimately relevant is a defendant’s background and character — not the distress of

his or her family.” (Ochoa, supra, 19 Cal.4th at p. 456, italics added.) The

statutes cited by defendant have no bearing upon this court’s construction of

section 190.3.

We conclude the trial court did not err when it excluded the portion of Dr.

Kaser-Boyd’s testimony concerning the effect defendant’s execution would have

on his children.11

3. Other Penalty Phase Evidentiary Rulings

Defendant contends the trial court made four erroneous evidentiary rulings

that allowed the prosecutor to wrongly impeach defendant’s mitigation witnesses.


11

In light of this conclusion, we need not consider whether the trial court was

correct in excluding the proposed testimony as speculative and as the improper
subject of expert testimony.

30

Defendant claims these rulings violated state law and the federal Constitution

requiring reversal of the penalty verdict.12 We disagree.

While a capital defendant must be permitted to offer any relevant

mitigating evidence (§ 190.3; People v. Marlow (2004) 34 Cal.4th 131, 152;

Skipper v. South Carolina (1986) 476 U.S. 1, 4-8), this does not “ ‘abrogate[] the

California Evidence Code.’ [Citation.]” (People v. Phillips (2000) 22 Cal.4th 226,

238.) The trial court retains the discretion to exclude irrelevant evidence. (People

v. Marlow, supra, 34 Cal.4th at p. 152.) We address each challenged ruling in

turn.

a. Direct Testimony of Defendant’s Mother

Defendant’s mother was the first defense witness. She testified after

Christine Hougan testified about the impact her mother’s death had on her.

Defense counsel asked defendant’s mother whether there was “something you

wanted to say first before we got to the formal questioning?” The prosecutor

objected that there was no question pending and the trial court sustained the

objection. Defense counsel then asked, “Did hearing Christine Hougan’s

testimony move you to want to say something?” Defendant’s mother responded

“Yes” and defense counsel inquired “What’s that?” The prosecutor objected and

the trial court sustained the objection on relevance grounds. The parties then

approached the bench.

The trial court said it suspected that defendant’s mother, like everyone in

the courtroom, felt bad for Christine Hougan, but the fact that she felt sorry for the


12

While defendant did not object at trial on constitutional grounds, these

claims are not forfeited on appeal. (People v. Partida (2005) 37 Cal.4th 428, 433-
439.) Defendant merely contends that the rulings, in addition to being wrong for
reasons actually presented to the trial court, also violated the federal Constitution.

31

victim’s family was neither relevant nor admissible as mitigating evidence.

Defense counsel argued that the testimony was relevant to the credibility of

defendant’s mother. Counsel explained that defendant’s mother would testify that

it was very hard and that “if she could undo it herself, she would.” The trial court

ruled that defense counsel was trying to demonstrate the character of defendant’s

mother, which was irrelevant.

Defendant contends the trial court erred by excluding relevant evidence

concerning the credibility of defendant’s mother, violating his rights under state

law and the federal Constitution. We disagree. Evidence Code section 780

permits credibility evidence “that has any tendency in reason to prove or disprove

the truthfulness of [the witness’s] testimony.” (Italics added.) Defendant does not

explain how his mother’s desire to “undo” the murder was relevant to her

truthfulness. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in concluding the

testimony was irrelevant. (People v. Marlow, supra, 34 Cal.4th at p. 152.)

b. Direct Testimony of Rick Wentworth

Rick Wentworth, an elder in the Jehovah’s Witness church, was called as a

defense witness. Wentworth testified that he was asked to visit defendant in jail

and that they established a relationship. He testified that defendant expressed an

interest in Bible study and that he visited defendant about three times a month

over the previous year and a half. Wentworth and defendant discussed family,

friends in the congregation, and then had a formal study. Defense counsel then

asked Wentworth whether defendant discussed any concerns about his own plight

and Wentworth answered “no.” Defense counsel asked “What areas has he

expressed concern about to you?” The prosecutor objected and asked to approach

the bench. Defense counsel said that Wentworth would testify that defendant had

“expressed concern about his family — that’s all — and how they’re handling it.”

32

The prosecutor said the testimony constituted improper testimony about the

impact on defendant’s family and was also hearsay. The trial court agreed that it

appeared to be hearsay. Defense counsel replied that the testimony fell into the

state of mind exception (Evid. Code, § 1250). The trial court responded that even

so, it was irrelevant.

Defendant argues that the trial court erred and we agree. Evidence that

defendant was concerned about how his family was doing was relevant in

mitigation “because it constitutes indirect evidence of the defendant’s character.”

(Ochoa, supra, 19 Cal.4th at p. 456.) However, even assuming the error violated

defendant’s constitutional rights, the erroneous exclusion of the evidence was

harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. (Chapman v. California (1967) 386 U.S. 18,

24; People v. Cole (2004) 33 Cal.4th 1158, 1195.) Defendant introduced ample

alternative evidence of his relationship with his family. Defendant’s wife testified

extensively about her love for him, how he had wanted to plead guilty to avoid

causing more pain for his family, his character, and his relationship with her and

with his children. Additionally, Dr. Kaser-Boyd testified at length about the

children’s bond with defendant, their love for him, and how they would benefit

from a continuing relationship if he were allowed to live. Thus, even without the

excluded testimony, the jury was presented with substantial evidence of

defendant’s relationship with his family and his concern for them. There is no

reasonable possibility that the jury would have returned a different sentence even

if Wentworth had been permitted to testify that defendant had inquired after his

family’s well-being.13


13

As we noted in People v. Jones (2003) 29 Cal.4th 1229, 1264, footnote 11,

“[o]ur state reasonable possibility standard is the same, in substance and effect, as
the [Chapman] harmless beyond a reasonable doubt standard . . . .”

33

c. Cross-examination of Defendant’s Wife

During the prosecutor’s cross-examination of defendant’s wife, the

prosecutor asked whether she was encouraging the relationship between defendant

and his children because she thought it would help him and she answered, “No,

not true at all.” The prosecutor then asked whether she had ever brought the

children to court and she said that, while she had not, someone else had. The

prosecutor asked “Was the purpose of bringing your children here to court to give

—,” at which point the court interjected that the prosecutor’s question called for

speculation because the witness had testified that she did not bring the children to

court. The prosecutor continued cross-examining defendant’s wife who testified

that she was aware the children had been brought to court. The prosecutor then

began, “You relinquished the children to somebody —,” whereupon defense

counsel objected and asked to approach the bench.

Defense counsel argued the prosecutor was improperly insinuating that the

children were “brought to court to be spectacles to the jury which I think is

improper and prejudicial and has very little probative value.” The prosecutor

countered that, “If she allowed the children to be brought to court and knew that

was the purpose it goes to her bias and goes to her willingness to use her kids for

show.” The prosecutor also pointed out that defense counsel had mentioned the

children’s presence in court in the opening statement. The trial court ruled that the

prosecutor could ask whether defendant’s wife allowed the children to be brought

to court, but not whether they were brought by another person. The prosecutor

continued his cross-examination, asking whether defendant’s wife had allowed the

children to be brought to court, to which she answered “Yes.”

Defendant argues the trial court erred in admitting irrelevant testimony that

was more prejudicial than probative. We disagree. The question was relevant to

the witness’s credibility. Defendant’s wife had testified that she encouraged the

34

contact between defendant and his children and that she wanted to stay married

because she thought it would help defendant. Whether she also intended to help

him by encouraging his relationship with his children or allowing them to be

brought to court was relevant to her credibility. (Evid. Code, § 780, subd. (f).)

We also disagree that the question and witness’s response were more prejudicial

than probative. There was no risk of prejudice since, even without the testimony,

the jury could have inferred from the children’s presence in court that their mother

had allowed them to attend. The testimony, on the other hand, was probative of

the witness’s credibility. The trial court did not err.

d. Cross-examination of James Waltz

James Waltz, an attorney and a Jehovah’s Witness, was called by the

defense and testified on direct examination that he had been asked by defendant’s

wife’s grandmother to speak with defendant in jail regarding a disagreement

between defendant and his attorneys over whether defendant should plead guilty.

Waltz testified that he advised defendant of the legal and religious aspects of

going to trial, ultimately recommending that defendant cooperate with his

attorneys.

On cross-examination, Waltz acknowledged that he knew defendant had

been charged with a capital crime when he went to meet with him. He also

testified that he was a devout member of the Jehovah’s Witness church. The

prosecutor then asked a series of questions about whether Waltz was personally

opposed to the death penalty. Defense counsel objected on relevance grounds, but

the objection was overruled. In response to a question asking whether he would

“ever vote for the death penalty?,” Waltz answered “No.” The prosecutor

continued, “And isn’t that, in part, your Jehovah Witness connection with the

defendant and your opposition to the death penalty, aren’t those really the reasons

35

why —,” to which Waltz responded, “I’m not opposed to the death penalty.” The

prosecutor followed up, “You just personally would never vote for it. Is that

right?” and Waltz answered, “Correct.”

Defendant contends the trial court erred in permitting the prosecutor to ask

these questions, arguing that the testimony was irrelevant and more prejudicial

than probative. We disagree. The witness’s personal philosophical opposition to

the death penalty is relevant to his credibility. (Evid. Code, § 780, subd. (f); see

People v. Mickle (1991) 54 Cal.3d 140, 196 [expert’s philosophical views on

capital punishment might disclose bias].) Defendant’s claim that the testimony

was more prejudicial than probative is forfeited by his failure to object on that

ground at trial. (People v. Ashmus (1991) 54 Cal.3d 932, 972, fn.10.) Even were

the claim not forfeited, it is without merit. The value of giving the jury a full and

accurate view of Waltz’s credibility was not substantially outweighed by the

probability of a substantial danger of undue prejudice. (Evid. Code, § 352.)

Defendant claims the above evidentiary rulings, singly and cumulatively,

violated his constitutional rights. We disagree. The trial court’s exclusion of

Wentworth’s statement was the only error and it does not require reversal.

4. Prosecutorial Misconduct During Cross-examination

Defendant argues that, during the cross-examination of two defense

witnesses, the prosecutor committed misconduct by improperly insinuating

defendant had committed other crimes. He contends the alleged misconduct

violated state law and the federal Constitution requiring reversal. We disagree.

a. Background

Defendant identifies four alleged examples of misconduct. The first

instance occurred during the prosecutor’s cross-examination of Jenks Janes, a

Jehovah’s Witness and recovering addict who testified on direct examination that

36

he took defendant to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in August or September

1994. On cross-examination, Janes testified that defendant wanted to go to the

meeting because he wanted to turn his life around and that Janes believed

defendant to be sincere. The prosecutor then asked whether defendant had

expressed any other reason for going to the meeting and whether defendant had

told Janes that he had been ordered to attend such meetings. Janes answered “no”

to both questions. The prosecutor sought to have a document marked as an exhibit

and the court asked the attorneys to approach the bench.

At sidebar, the prosecutor said she had a certified copy of a court order,

dated October 11, 1994, requiring defendant to attend two Alcoholics Anonymous

meetings per week. She intended to ask the witness whether defendant had ever

told him that he had been ordered to attend meetings. Defense counsel argued the

document was hearsay and pointed out that the order’s date was after the meeting

discussed by the witness. The prosecutor noted the timing did not mean defendant

was not aware, prior to the order, that he would be ordered to attend the meetings.

Defense counsel argued it was irrelevant and requested an admonition because the

reference to the order had “created a false impression of the facts.” The

prosecutor said defendant had been arrested for driving under the influence in

August 1994 and one could infer he had a motive for attending the meetings other

than turning his life around.

The court was dubious of the prosecutor’s rationale and was concerned

about the order being dated months after the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting

about which the witness was testifying. The trial court said it would admonish the

jury that there was no order that defendant attend an Alcoholics Anonymous

meeting in August 1994. While the court acknowledged that evidence of

defendant’s arrest was relevant to defendant’s motivation for attending the

meetings, it concluded that the prosecutor’s mention of a court order suggested

37

that not only had defendant been arrested, but that he had also been convicted and

had a prior crime. Accordingly, the court concluded that further testimony about

the arrest or the order would be more prejudicial than probative.

The trial court admonished the jury, reminding them that questions are not

evidence and that they should not make any assumptions based on a question

being asked. Additionally, the court told the jury that “[s]pecifically as to any

court orders, you should disregard any question with respect to that and not draw

any inferences that there was ever any court order.” In response to the defense

counsel’s request, the court further clarified that, “[y]ou should not assume that

because there is no evidence that there was such a court order.” The cross-

examination proceeded and the prosecutor did not return to the topic.

The second alleged instance of misconduct occurred later the same day

during the prosecutor’s cross-examination of defendant’s wife. On direct

examination, defendant’s wife testified defendant told her, after he had been

arrested for murdering Evans, that he had also raped Pamela B. On cross-

examination, the prosecutor inquired about the night defendant raped Pamela B.

After asking some initial questions about the events of the evening, the prosecutor

asked whether the witness suspected defendant had committed the rape and

defendant’s wife answered “No.” The prosecutor then asked, “Does he have a

ninja mask?” The witness answered, “No.”

The third alleged instance of misconduct also occurred during the cross-

examination of defendant’s wife. The prosecutor questioned defendant’s wife

about defendant’s drug use. The witness testified defendant used drugs

throughout most of her pregnancy with their younger child and during his

relationship with his stepson. The prosecutor asked whether defendant was

“spending the money that he made at work, in part, on drugs.” The witness

responded, “Some of it.” After eliciting testimony that defendant and his wife had

38

been experiencing financial problems and that it was expensive to raise two

children, the prosecutor asked, “[b]ut he was spending some of the money on his

choice, which was methamphetamine. Is that right?” The witness answered,

“Yes.” The prosecutor asked, “How was he getting all this money to support this

drug habit that he had?” and the witness responded, “From work.” Later the

prosecutor asked a series of questions about defendant’s conduct around the time

of the rape and the murder in an effort to show that defendant was not remorseful

or affected by the crimes he had committed. As evidence, the prosecutor elicited

testimony that defendant had, in the days after killing Evans, purchased a brand

new Toyota, was not “crying himself to sleep at night,” and took his wife out for a

romantic dinner.

The fourth alleged instance of misconduct also came during the cross-

examination of defendant’s wife. The prosecutor asked defendant’s wife a series

of questions about photographs of defendant and his family that had been admitted

into evidence. The prosecutor elicited that one of the photographs, taken in 1991,

showed defendant with long hair. The prosecutor then began to show the witness

a photograph to see whether it accurately reflected the way defendant used to look.

Defense counsel requested a sidebar at which she challenged the relevance of the

photograph. The prosecutor explained the photographs showed defendant had

changed his appearance, including the length and color of his hair, from time to

time. The prosecutor argued defendant’s altering of his appearance “shows a

manipulative kind of character.” The trial court was unconvinced, but did not rule

on the objection nor did defendant press for a ruling. Back in front of the jury, the

prosecutor asked the witness whether defendant had changed his appearance.

Defense counsel objected on relevance grounds and the trial court sustained the

objection.

39

At the conclusion of the day’s testimony, after the jury had been excused,

the trial court indicated it had some concerns. The trial court said that, during the

guilt phase closing arguments, the prosecutor told the jury, “I’m sure you have

many questions in your mind. If you don’t now, you will in the course of

deliberation. And at the conclusion of this phase, the next — I won’t be able to

talk to you at the conclusion of this phase. But at the end of your service on this

case, I’ll be available to answer any questions that you have.” The next day,

defense counsel objected and requested an admonition, arguing that the

prosecutor’s closing argument had implied that there was additional evidence

indicating defendant’s guilt that the prosecutor could discuss with the jury at the

conclusion of the case. The prosecutor explained that she was merely referring to

a general ability to talk to the jury and answer any procedural questions. The trial

court credited the explanation and denied defendant’s request for an admonition

and a mistrial.

The trial court now expressed its concern that, in light of the prosecutor’s

comments during the guilt phase closing argument, the questions about defendant

changing his appearance and about the source of his money could invite a defense

argument that the jury was being urged to speculate whether there were other

crimes. The prosecutor responded that, regarding defendant’s finances, she was

merely trying to show that defendant was choosing to spend his income from work

on drugs rather than on his children, and not to imply anything else. Regarding

her comments at sidebar about how defendant’s change in appearance could be

evidence of manipulative behavior, the prosecutor said she noticed the way the

court looked at her and she decided to “rethink that area.” Regarding the

questions about the “ninja mask,” the prosecutor argued that whether defendant’s

wife noticed a mask went to the witness’s credibility. Defense counsel pointed out

that there had never been testimony about a mask, but rather of a T-shirt that was

40

tied around defendant’s face “ninja style.” The court indicated it had no problem

with the ninja question in light of Pamela B.’s testimony. Defense counsel

explained that she did not object to the question about defendant’s spending of

money because it was phrased in a way that made it clear that it referred to

defendant’s decision to spend money on drugs rather than his children and “the

answer was not a problem.” The court adjourned for the day.

The following morning, defense counsel moved for a mistrial based on

prosecutorial misconduct. Defense counsel identified four alleged instances of

misconduct: (1) the prosecutor’s mention of a court order in relation to

defendant’s motive for attending an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting; (2) the

prosecutor’s question about a ninja mask; (3) the prosecutor’s questions regarding

where defendant got the money to purchase drugs and regarding his purchase of a

new Toyota; and (4) the questions regarding defendant changing his appearance.

Defense counsel argued that, cumulatively, the prosecutor’s questions invited the

jury to draw an inference that “this person is going out with a ninja mask and other

crimes are being done . . . and there are all kinds of crimes nobody knows about

. . . .”

The prosecutor responded that the questions regarding defendant’s motive

for going to the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings were relevant and reasonable in

light of the timing of defendant’s arrest and Janes’s memory of the timeline. She

also pointed out that the trial court had admonished the jury to disregard the

mention of the court order. Regarding the reference to the ninja mask, the

prosecutor pointed out that Pamela B. had herself described the face-covering

defendant was wearing during the rape in similar terms. With regard to

defendant’s spending, the prosecutor explained that she wanted to show defendant

was choosing to spend his money on drugs, rather than on his children, and that

her question about where the money came from was merely to see whether

41

defendant had been taking the money from other sources such as a savings account

or an inheritance. With regard to defendant changing his appearance, the

prosecutor pointed out that Pamela B.’s neighbor had told the police that she

thought defendant’s wife dyed his hair after the rape. The prosecutor thought

evidence of defendant changing his appearance, especially with his wife’s help,

went both to defendant’s lack of remorse as well as his wife’s bias.

After listening to both counsels’ arguments, the trial court concluded that

there was not sufficient evidence to demonstrate prosecutorial misconduct and

denied the request for a mistrial. The trial court concluded that evidence of

defendant spending money on drugs instead of his children despite limited

financial resources was probative. Additionally, evidence that defendant changed

his appearance immediately after the rape was probative of his lack of remorse.

While the court felt that evidence of defendant’s motivation for attending

Alcoholics Anonymous meetings was relevant, it concluded that evidence about

the court order was more prejudicial than probative. However, the court noted that

it had already adequately admonished the jury. Defense counsel asked the court to

admonish the jury that there was no other criminal activity related to other factors

in the case and, in response, the court invited defense counsel to submit a

proposed special instruction. The court, at defense counsel’s request, also directed

the prosecutor to limit questions about defendant’s finances to the limited nature

of the resources, rather than the source of the money. The court also excluded any

further questioning with respect to defendant’s occasional changing of his

appearance, but concluded that evidence of defendant changing his appearance

immediately after the rape was permissible. The penalty phase proceeded.

Defendant did not submit a proposed instruction to the trial court

admonishing the jury that there was no other criminal activity related to other

factors in the case.

42

b. Analysis

Defendant argues that the prosecutor committed prejudicial misconduct by

asking questions of Jenks Janes and defendant’s wife that improperly implied

defendant had committed other crimes. He further argues the trial court erred by

denying his motion for a mistrial and concludes that the misconduct and denial of

his motion for a mistrial require reversal of the penalty verdict. We disagree.

At the outset we note defendant has forfeited this claim. After the trial

court denied his motion for a mistrial, defendant asked the court to admonish the

jury that there was no other relevant criminal activity. In response, the court

invited defendant to submit a proposed instruction to give to the jury. Such an

instruction could have cured any potential harm by informing the jury there was

no evidence defendant had committed other crimes. Defendant’s failure to submit

an instruction, even after the court invited him to do so, forfeits the claim.14

(People v. Earp, supra, 20 Cal.4th at p. 858.)

Even were the claim not forfeited, we conclude it is without merit.

Regarding the cross-examination of Janes, defendant argues the prosecutor

committed misconduct by attempting to elicit inadmissible evidence about

defendant’s conviction for driving under the influence. We disagree. The point of

the prosecutor’s question was to establish that defendant had an alternative motive

for going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, not to prove he had been convicted

of another crime. This was, as the trial court acknowledged, a logical inference

that reasonably could be drawn from the evidence. (People v. Stewart (2004) 33

Cal.4th 425, 491-492.) Additionally, even if the question was improper, defendant

suffered no prejudice. The trial court sustained defendant’s objection and


14

Alternatively, defendant could have pressed the trial court to rule on the

request for an admonition regarding the absence of other criminal activity.

43

admonished the jury to disregard the question and not draw any inferences from it.

We assume the jury followed the admonition and that prejudice was therefore

avoided. (People v. Jones, supra, 15 Cal.4th at p. 168.) Moreover, while the

question made reference to defendant being “ordered” to go to meetings, it made

no mention of a court order.15 Further, the court specifically admonished the jury

there was no evidence of a court order. Thus, there is no “ ‘reasonable likelihood

that the jury construed or applied any of the [prosecutor’s] complained-of remarks

in any objectionable fashion.’ [Citation.]” (Ochoa, supra, 19 Cal.4th at p. 427.)

Regarding the prosecutor’s mention of a “ninja mask,” defendant argues the

prosecutor insinuated defendant kept a mask to “disguise himself while

committing more crimes.” To the contrary, the brief reference obviously alluded

to Pamela B’s description of the disguise defendant used during the sexual

assault.16 For that reason, the trial court stated, “I don’t see the ninja mask

question being particularly significant.” The question did not constitute

misconduct. Nor is there a reasonable likelihood the jury interpreted the question

to mean defendant kept a ninja mask for use in a crime spree.

Regarding the question about defendant’s money, defendant argues the

prosecutor implied defendant “was out committing other robberies and burglaries”

to obtain money. We disagree. With regard to the source of defendant’s money,

in context it is clear the question was part of an effort to show defendant chose to

spend his limited resources on drugs rather than on his children. Indeed, in


15

Similarly, while the prosecutor said in open court that she had “a

document” she wanted marked as an exhibit, she did not say, in front of the jury,
the document was a court order.

16

Pamela B. was asked to describe how defendant covered his face with a T-

shirt. Pamela B. responded, “I’ve used the term ‘ninja style’ before. It’s — it
covered his head completely.”

44

explaining her decision not to object to the question, defense counsel admitted as

much. The question therefore did not constitute misconduct. Moreover,

defendant suffered no prejudice. It was a single, brief question, defendant’s wife’s

answer indicated the source of defendant’s money was his job, and the prosecutor

moved on without following up.

The same is true of the prosecutor’s reference to defendant purchasing a

new Toyota. The prosecutor was asking questions in an effort to show defendant

was not acting remorseful or as if he had been affected by his commission of the

crimes. To that end, the prosecutor elicited that defendant had taken his wife out

for a romantic dinner, was sleeping well at night, and purchased a new Toyota.

The reference to defendant purchasing a new Toyota was clearly intended to

establish defendant was living a normal life, not that he was spending money other

than that earned at work. The statement did not constitute misconduct.

Additionally, there is no reasonable likelihood that the jury construed the stray

reference to the new Toyota to mean defendant was engaged in a crime spree to

get more money.

Regarding the question about the change in appearance, defendant argues

the prosecutor committed misconduct by insinuating defendant was disguising

himself in order to commit other crimes. We disagree. At sidebar, the prosecutor

explained she thought defendant’s changes in appearance were probative of his

“manipulative kind of character.” While the trial court was doubtful of the

prosecutor’s theory of relevance, it did not rule on defendant’s objection nor did

defendant press for a ruling. Back in front of the jury, the prosecutor asked the

witness whether defendant had changed his appearance over the course of their

relationship. Defense counsel immediately objected and the trial court sustained

the objection. There was no misconduct. First, the prosecutor did not insinuate

defendant was disguising himself to commit other crimes and there is no

45

reasonable likelihood the jury construed her question in such a fashion. Second,

the prosecutor did not violate a court order as the trial court did not rule on

defendant’s objection and defendant failed to press for a ruling. Third, even if the

prosecutor’s question was misconduct, defendant suffered no prejudice. It was a

brief question, defendant’s objection was immediately sustained before the witness

answered, and the prosecutor did not return to the subject.

Because we conclude the complained-of remarks did not constitute

misconduct, either cumulatively or on their own, we also conclude the trial court

did not err in denying defendant’s motion for a mistrial. That decision is within

the sound discretion of the trial court (People v. Price, supra, 1 Cal.4th at p. 430)

and the trial court did not abuse its discretion here.

5. Prosecutorial Misconduct During Closing Argument

Defendant identifies numerous alleged examples of prejudicial misconduct

committed by the prosecutor during her penalty phase closing argument.

Specifically, defendant claims reversal is required because the prosecutor

mischaracterized the evidence, speculated about defense strategy, ignored the trial

court’s rulings, and argued facts not in evidence. We disagree.

The prosecutor began her closing argument by discussing defendant’s rape

of Pamela B. The prosecutor argued that, when Pamela B. tried to escape from

defendant, he “lunged toward her with the knife.” Defense counsel objected that

the argument misstated the evidence. The trial court did not rule on the objection,

but nonetheless admonished the jury that it was “the exclusive judge of the

evidence.” The argument did not misstate the evidence. Pamela B. testified that

defendant had a knife in his hand during the entire assault and that, after she

escaped and ran outside, defendant chased after her and “lunged at [her].” The

prosecutor correctly recounted the testimony or, at a minimum, drew reasonable

46

inferences from the testimony. (People v. Williams (1997) 16 Cal.4th 153, 221.)

Additionally, we assume the jury followed the court’s admonition, avoiding any

prejudice. (People v. Jones, supra, 15 Cal.4th at p. 168.)

The prosecutor later addressed Dr. Kaser-Boyd’s testimony. Discussing the

expert’s statement that defendant had been “the victim of a child molest[er]. . . .

the victim of a social system . . . the victim of a dysfunctional family,” the

prosecutor argued defendant “wants to be the victim. He wants you to see him as

the victim.” Defense counsel objected. At sidebar, the trial court stated that, so

long as the argument was about the defense, rather than defendant, the

prosecutor’s attack on the mitigation evidence was permissible. We agree.

Prosecutors are allowed “wide latitude in penalty phase argument, so long as the

beliefs they express are based on the evidence presented. [Citation.]” (People v.

Cook (2006) 39 Cal.4th 566, 613.) The prosecutor’s argument was a fair comment

on defendant’s mitigation evidence, specifically Dr. Kaser-Boyd’s testimony, and

did not constitute misconduct.

The prosecutor continued to address Dr. Kaser-Boyd’s testimony, telling

the jury it should reject her opinion because of her failure to use certain tests in

assessing defendant. The prosecutor suggested Dr. Kaser-Boyd might have

chosen not to give certain tests because she knew they would hurt the defense.

Defense counsel objected and the trial court sustained the objection, ruling, “You

can’t speculate as to defense counsel strategy.” The prosecutor then argued that

the expert’s failure to give certain tests and to talk to defendant about his crimes

undermined the value of her opinion. The prosecutor also argued that, as a result,

certain relevant questions could not be asked. Defense counsel objected and the

trial court again told the prosecutor not to speculate as to counsel’s reasoning

process.

47

The prosecutor continued, specifically identifying particular questions she

could have asked the expert had the expert talked to defendant about his crimes.

Defense counsel objected and the court asked both counsel to approach and told

the prosecutor that she was not permitted to speculate “as to why the defense did

this or that.” Defense counsel complained that the prosecutor had ignored several

of the court’s rulings and moved for either a mistrial or an admonition. The trial

court indicated that it did not believe the prosecutor had violated a court order, but

that she had kept to addressing what the expert had or had not said in her

testimony. The trial court ruled the prosecutor could argue that the expert’s failure

to give certain tests prevented the prosecutor from asking critical questions and,

therefore, that the expert’s testimony should be given less weight. The trial court

agreed that the prosecutor should not speculate about why the information was not

offered. The trial court denied defendant’s motion for a mistrial, but admonished

the jury that it should decide the case “based on the evidence and the law” and not

“speculate as to why counsel did or did not do something or what they knew or did

not know either in evidence or in argument.”



Defendant contends the prosecutor committed misconduct by improperly

commenting on defense strategy and ignoring the trial court’s rulings. We

disagree. After the trial court sustained defendant’s objection to the prosecutor’s

hypothesizing about why the expert did not give certain tests, the prosecutor did

not return to the subject. She subsequently argued that the expert’s testimony

should be given less weight due to her failure to give certain tests. As the trial

court concluded, such argument was not improper. “Prosecutors have wide

latitude to discuss and draw inferences from the evidence at trial. [Citation.] . . .

[A]nd counsel can argue from the evidence that a witness’s testimony is unsound,

unbelievable, or even a patent lie. [Citation.]” (People v. Dennis (1998) 17

Cal.4th 468, 522.) Even assuming the prosecutor’s comments were improper, the

48

trial court sustained defendant’s objection and admonished the jury not to

speculate about defense counsel’s strategy. We assume any prejudice was thereby

avoided. (People v. Jones, supra, 15 Cal.4th at p. 168.)

Later in the closing argument, the prosecutor argued that defendant’s

efforts to stop using drugs and make changes to his life were insincere and

hypothesized that defendant’s wife “gave him an ultimatum.” Defense counsel

objected and the trial court sustained the objection. The prosecutor continued,

“[d]id he want to appease her. Did he want to — she was contemplating leaving

him.” Defendant argues the prosecutor improperly argued facts outside the

evidence. We disagree. Initially we note that defendant forfeited this claim

because he failed to request an admonition when an admonition would have cured

any prejudice. (People v. Earp, supra, 20 Cal.4th at p. 858.) Moreover, the

argument was fair comment on defendant’s wife’s testimony that she and

defendant were having martial problems, she was contemplating leaving him, and

she demanded he quit using drugs. Additionally, the prosecutor is afforded wide

latitude in penalty phase closing argument and her argument about defendant’s

possible motivation for making changes was based on permissible inferences from

the evidence. (People v. Cook, supra, 39 Cal.4th at p. 613; People v. Williams,

supra, 16 Cal.4th at p. 221.)

While discussing the testimony of defendant’s family members and arguing

the witnesses were biased, the prosecutor commented on defendant’s failure to call

“his best friend Troy Clark” as a witness. The prosecutor reminded the jury of

testimony that Clark was the person who knew defendant best, “but they didn’t

call his best friend who if they were going to try to portray to you —.” Defense

counsel objected, noting “[w]e don’t know where Mr. Clark is.” The trial court

told the prosecutor she could not speculate about why witnesses were not called or

suggest that she knew why witnesses were not called. The prosecutor continued,

49

arguing that “there are individuals out there that know the defendant, have had

more exposure to the defendant than the people the defense called as witnesses,

and if you didn’t hear from those people you have to ask yourselves why not.”

Defendant’s failure to request an admonition when doing so would have cured any

prejudice forfeits this claim. (People v. Earp, supra, 20 Cal.4th at p. 858.)

Additionally, the prosecutor did not commit misconduct by arguing that

defendant’s family members were biased and by commenting on defendant’s

failure to call witnesses that knew defendant best. (People v. Davis (1995) 10

Cal.4th 463, 539.)

Defendant next claims the prosecutor committed misconduct by misstating

the testimony regarding defendant’s confession to his mother, Rita Bennett. Not

so. The pages of the record cited by defendant relate to defendant’s confession to

his wife, Karen Bennett, not his mother, Rita Bennett. Although the prosecutor’s

reference to “Ms. Bennett” could be understood to mean either defendant’s wife or

his mother, the prosecutor clearly identified defendant’s wife, Karen Bennett, as

the subject of that portion of her argument. Moreover, in response to defendant’s

objection that the prosecutor had misstated the evidence, the trial court

admonished the jury that it should follow the evidence as the jury believed it to be.

We assume the jury followed the court’s admonition avoiding any prejudice.

(People v. Jones, supra, 15 Cal.4th at p. 168.)

The prosecutor next addressed testimony about defendant’s confession to

his wife. Recounting the wife’s testimony, the prosecutor noted that she said

defendant had not given her many details about his crimes, but had told her that

Evans had hit him in the head with a clock. Reminding the jury that defendant had

allegedly confessed the rape and murder within the space of an hour-long

conversation, the prosecutor remarked that it would have been odd for defendant

to have told his wife the detail about being hit with a clock. The prosecutor then

50

argued, “Now, more than likely she made that up because there had been

testimony about the photo and the clock.” Defense counsel objected that the

argument was improper, and the court ruled that “the more than likely is

improper.” Defendant forfeited the misconduct claim by failing to request an

admonition. (People v. Earp, supra, 20 Cal.4th at p. 858.) In addition, the

prosecutor’s argument did not constitute misconduct. It was permissible to argue

based on the evidence that the testimony was not credible. (People v. Dennis,

supra, 17 Cal.4th at p. 522; People v. Williams, supra, 16 Cal.4th at p. 221.)

The prosecutor then addressed the testimony of James Waltz, arguing that

he was biased because “[h]e’s involved with this family here and he doesn’t

believe in the death penalty.” Defense counsel objected that the prosecutor had

misstated the evidence, and the trial court sustained the objection. The prosecutor

continued, arguing that Waltz “doesn’t support the death penalty. He said he

could never vote for the death penalty regardless of what the case was.”

Defendant did not request an admonition and thus forfeited the claim. (People v.

Earp, supra, 20 Cal.4th at p. 858.) Additionally, the prosecutor did not commit

misconduct. Waltz testified that he would never vote for the death penalty under

any circumstances, and the prosecutor’s argument that Waltz was biased because

of his ties to defendant’s family and his stance on the death penalty constituted fair

comment on the evidence. (People v. Williams, supra, 16 Cal.4th at p. 221.)

The prosecutor returned to discussing the circumstances of the crime and

invited the jury to speculate about Evans’s final moments. “That poor woman was

raped and bludgeoned, beaten. Don’t you think she begged for mercy, if she

couldn’t verbally, don’t you think she cried out with her eyes.” Defense counsel

objected that the argument was speculative and the court said that, unless it was

supported by the evidence, the prosecutor could not argue it. The prosecutor

continued, “We know she was alive during this period of time. We know she

51

didn’t consent to her murder and her bludgeoning.” Defendant failed to request an

admonition and so forfeited the misconduct claim. (People v. Earp, supra, 20

Cal.4th at p. 858.) Moreover, the prosecutor’s argument did not constitute

misconduct. As she explained, her argument that the victim likely sought mercy

was a reasonable inference from evidence in the record. (People v. Williams,

supra, 16 Cal.4th at p. 221; People v. Scott (1997) 15 Cal.4th 1188, 1220.)

At the close of her argument, the prosecutor anticipated defendant’s closing

argument by saying, “Now he’s going to come in through his defense attorneys —

when I sit down here sometime today. They’ll talk to you tomorrow and ask you

through the defense attorneys [sic] do him a favor of not giving him the death

penalty and I ask you please don’t do that. Do not give this man what he wants.”

Defense counsel objected that there was no evidence about what punishment

defendant wanted and the trial court sustained the objection. The misconduct

claim is forfeited due to defendant’s failure to request an admonition when an

admonition would have cured any prejudice. (People v. Earp, supra, 20 Cal.4th at

p. 858.) Additionally, arguing that defendant did not want to be sentenced to

death did not constitute an unreasonable inference from the evidence. (People v.

Williams, supra, 16 Cal.4th at p. 221.) Moreover, while prosecutorial comment on

what punishment a defendant wants may not be proper, no conceivable prejudice

could have resulted from the brief remark.

Accordingly, we conclude the complained-of remarks did not constitute

reversible misconduct.

6. Cumulative Effect of Prosecutorial Misconduct

Defendant contends the numerous alleged instances of prosecutorial

misconduct rendered his trial fundamentally unfair, in violation of his federal

52

constitutional right to due process and a reliable verdict. We disagree. Having

found no prosecutorial misconduct, we conclude there was no cumulative effect.

7. Cumulative Error

Defendant contends the cumulative prejudicial effect of the various penalty

phase errors he has raised on appeal requires reversal of his death sentence. With

the exception of a single erroneous evidentiary ruling, which was harmless beyond

a reasonable doubt, we have rejected all other claims of error, thus there is no

cumulative error.

C. Juror Misconduct Issues

1. Juror No. 84

Defendant contends the trial court erred by failing to excuse Juror No. 84,

thereby violating state law and the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the

federal Constitution. Specifically, defendant argues reversal is required because

the trial court should have excused Juror No. 84 for being unable to perform her

duty. We disagree.

After the trial commenced, the court told the jury it anticipated the trial

would conclude by the end of Labor Day week. On August 16, 1996, during the

penalty phase, the trial court told the jurors that closing argument would likely

occur the day after Labor Day, with deliberations to begin thereafter, and if any of

the jurors had any problem with the case going into the week of September 9, they

should notify the bailiff. The court then recessed until August 26.

On August 29, the jurors were excused early and told to call the court clerk

after 4:00 p.m. to see whether they should return on Friday, August 30 or Tuesday,

September 3. After the jury exited the courtroom, the trial court advised counsel

that Juror No. 84 indicated that, because she was the office manager of an

elementary school, it would be difficult on the new students and the staff if she

53

were not at school when the teachers returned on September 9. Defense counsel,

concerned that deliberation might be affected if Juror No. 84 remained, requested

that the juror be excused and an alternate be seated. The prosecutor asked the trial

court to wait and see whether a problem would actually arise. Ultimately, the trial

court agreed with the prosecutor and decided not to excuse the juror.

When the jurors called on August 29 to see when they should return, they

were informed they should return on September 3. When Juror No. 84 called, the

juror told the court clerk she was not happy that she had to return on Tuesday.

The court clerk surmised the juror was unhappy because she had wanted to come

back on Friday, August 30, and the court described the juror as being disappointed

that the jury was not returning until September 3, instead of August 30. Defense

counsel asked the court to voir dire the juror and the court agreed.

When the jury returned on September 3, the court told Juror No. 84 that it

needed to talk to her, but would do so during a break. At the end of the day,

outside the presence of the other jurors, the trial court told Juror No. 84 that it

received her note and appreciated her concerns. “Your commitment to your job

and your concerns about your job demonstrate you’re a responsible person and

when you’ve got a job to do you’re going to do it, so that tends to cause us to

believe you’d be a good juror because you understand your obligations and are

true to them, but I’m very concerned with respect to divided attention, and the law

sets up certain standards for me to review in terms of whether a juror should be

excused on the basis of hardship, and I guess what I need to know from you is . . .

whether you’ll be distracted.

“Juror No. 84: No, I just felt like I’ve already given up my summer

vacation for this and I’ve got almost seven hundred students to worry about and a

staff of sixty.

54

“The court: When you say I’ve already given up my summer vacation for

this, it has been a hardship and I need to know either based on that you think

subconsciously you would move more quickly either towards reaching a verdict or

more quickly towards declaring an impasse saying we can’t reach a verdict.

Again, I know you won’t consciously do that, but —

“Juror No. 84: I don’t even think subconsciously that would be a problem.

“The court: Because I know sometimes if I’m in a hurry to get out of here

on Friday afternoon when I come back Monday and look at something I wrote, I

think I didn’t spend a —

“Juror No. 84: I understand what you’re saying. That’s not a problem.

“The court: So if you are required to remain to the conclusion of the case,

it could be two or three weeks into the school year.

“Juror No. 84: I understand.

“The court: You still feel you’d be able to approach this task with the same

commitment you’ve had throughout the trial?

“Juror No. 84: Sure.

“The court: You won’t be distracted wondering what’s happening in

school?

“Juror No. 84: Of course I’ll be wondering what’s happening at school, but

it’s just — really, I feel strongly about continuing.

“The court: Continuing on the jury?

“Juror No. 84: Yes

“The court: And maintaining your focus on the jury?

“Juror No. 84: Yes.”

The next day, after the defense counsel finished its closing argument, the

court excused the jury and asked counsel for feedback regarding Juror No. 84

while indicating that it “thought [Juror No. 84] made it pretty clear that she would

55

continue to perform her duties as a juror in a competent fashion . . . .” Defense

counsel continued to believe the juror should be excused and the prosecutor

thought the juror should remain. The court decided not to excuse the juror,

explaining that, “Based on what she said yesterday, although I initially had some

concerns, after talking with her yesterday I think she appreciates the seriousness of

her duties in connection with this case. And I’m not concerned that she will rush

to a verdict or rush to an impasse in an effort to end her jury service.” The jury

began deliberating later that day, continued to deliberate on Thursday, September

5 and Friday, September 6, stopped for the weekend, and reached a verdict on

Monday, September 9.

Defendant claims the trial court erred when it decided not to excuse Juror

No. 84. We disagree. Section 1089 authorizes the trial court to discharge a juror

at any time before or after the final submission of the case to the jury if, upon

good cause, the juror is “found to be unable to perform his or her duty.” A trial

court “has broad discretion to investigate and remove a juror in the midst of trial

where it finds that, for any reason, the juror is no longer able or qualified to

serve.” (People v. Millwee (1998) 18 Cal.4th 96, 142, fn. 19.) A juror’s inability

to perform “ ‘must appear in the record as a “demonstrable reality” and bias may

not be presumed.’ [Citations.]” (People v. Beeler (1995) 9 Cal.4th 953, 975.) We

review the trial court’s determination for abuse of discretion and uphold its

decision if it is supported by substantial evidence. (People v. Boyette (2002) 29

Cal.4th 381, 462.)

Here, the juror never indicated at any point that her ability to deliberate

would be affected by her concern about the impending school year. To the

contrary, on numerous occasions, she affirmatively indicated she would not be

distracted, would not feel pressure to reach a decision, and would not lose focus

because of her job. Indeed, she told the court she felt strongly about remaining on

56

the jury. The court was in the position to observe the juror’s demeanor (People v.

Schmeck (2005) 37 Cal.4th 240, 298) and the court was persuaded that the juror

could perform her duties. Defendant speculates the juror was biased; however,

nothing in the record supports his assumption. (People v. Beeler, supra, 9 Cal.4th

at p. 975.) Accordingly, we conclude the court did not abuse its discretion in

declining to excuse Juror No. 84.

2. Juror No. 20

Defendant argues the trial court erred when it allegedly failed to adequately

examine Juror No. 20, failed to excuse Juror No. 20, and declined to reinstruct the

jury. Defendant contends reversal is required because his rights under state law

and the Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the federal Constitution

were violated. We disagree.

At 10:00 a.m. on September 9, the jury informed the court it had reached a

verdict. The court excused the jury until 2:00 p.m. Before taking the verdict, the

court called counsel into chambers and told them that, at 1:40 p.m., Juror No. 20

called the courtroom and spoke with the bailiff. The bailiff, who was in chambers,

recounted that “The gist of the phone call was that [Juror No. 20] had a concern as

to what was taking place in the jury room. At that point I told him if there’s any

problems you need to write them down and I will forward them up and he said he

just didn’t feel right and once again I told him to write it down and, you know, if

he had any problems he had to put it on paper and I would pass it on.” The trial

court then indicated that Juror No. 20 did not give the bailiff a note when he, along

with the other jurors, assembled in the jury room.

The trial court was unsure whether it should inquire of Juror No. 20.

Defense counsel felt an inquiry was necessary and the prosecutor wanted to take

the verdict without doing so, reasoning that the juror’s failure to write a note must

57

mean any concerns had been resolved. There was a lengthy discussion about how

best to proceed and, ultimately, it was decided to bring Juror No. 20 into

chambers, reference his phone conversation with the bailiff, and invite him to

write down any concerns should he have any. Once Juror No. 20 had been

brought into chambers, the court inquired and advised him to write any concerns

on a note. The juror did so and then returned to the jury room. The court read the

note aloud to counsel: “I have reached a verdict as to the proper verdict. It is just

very hard for me to verbally say it when being polled. In my mind I do believe my

verdict is true and correct, but my heart tells me I cannot do this. It’s very

difficult. I don’t want this trial to go on any longer, but is there any way that an

alternate can take my place to reach a verdict so I won’t have to verbally say it. I

know I said I could do it, but it’s a lot harder than I thought, and if I must do it I

will.”

The court and counsel discussed the note and discussed what action to take.

Defense counsel argued that the note meant Juror No. 20 could not fulfill his oath

and asked that he be excused and replaced by an alternate. Alternatively, defense

counsel asked the court to tell Juror No. 20 that he should not have signed the

verdict form unless he was prepared to state it was his verdict in open court.

Defense counsel also asked the court to reinstruct the entire jury, pursuant to

CALJIC No. 8.88, that it should only impose the sentence that each juror

personally felt was warranted. The prosecutor asked the court to bring the juror

into chambers and inquire what he intended to do when polled in open court.

Because a verdict had been reached, if the juror intended to agree when polled,

there was no problem to resolve. The prosecutor felt further intervention was

warranted only if the juror said he intended to disagree when polled. The court

ultimately concluded that there were not sufficient grounds to excuse the juror. It

instead decided to tell the juror that the jury would be individually polled after the

58

verdict was announced and to ask him whether he could answer yes. If not, the

court could deal with it then. Then, referring to the bailiff’s recounting of Juror

No. 20’s phone call, defense counsel noted that the juror had made reference to

“some things going on in the jury room” and asked the court to conduct an inquiry

into his concerns. The court pointed out that the statement was merely part of the

bailiff’s best effort to paraphrase the conversation.

The court then brought Juror No. 20 into open court and told him that, as in

the guilt phase, the jurors would be collectively and individually polled after the

court clerk read the penalty phase verdict to determine whether the verdict

expressed their votes. The court said it did not want to know what the verdict was,

but wanted to know if the juror could give an answer when polled. The juror

responded, “I think I could do it. It’s just, I guess, the nervousness if you want to

call it. It would be easier for me — all the jurors. It’s not an easy thing. It’s

difficult to do it, but I can do it. It’s just the nervousness was part of my concern.”

The court followed up, “But when asked in open court if this expresses your

verdict you can answer either yes or no?” The juror responded, “Yes” and was

returned to the jury room. Defense counsel renewed his motion to excuse the juror

and replace him with an alternate and to reinstruct the jury. Finding no good

cause, the trial court denied the motion. The jury returned a death verdict and,

when polled, Juror No. 20 responded that the verdict reflected his penalty

determination.

Defendant argues the trial court erred. He contends the trial court’s inquiry

was too limited, that the court should have excused Juror No. 20 for inability to

fulfill his duty as a juror, and that the court should have reinstructed the entire

jury. We disagree.

First, the court did not err when it concluded Juror No. 20 could fulfill his

duty. (People v. Boyette, supra, 29 Cal.4th at p. 462.) The juror’s note and the

59

court’s subsequent inquiry established that the juror’s concern was about having to

state in open court that he felt a death sentence was appropriate. Any such anxiety

was understandable given the consequences of his vote. However, the juror

subsequently told the court that, while difficult, he could fulfill his duty by

verbally affirming that he concurred in the jury’s penalty determination. Indeed,

the juror ultimately did so. There is no evidence in the record to support the

conclusion that the juror was unable to perform his duty.17 (People v. Beeler,

supra, 9 Cal.4th at p. 975.)

Second, the court did not abuse its discretion in determining the scope of its

inquiry. Defendant argues that Juror No. 20 communicated a broader concern

about jury deliberations and it was incumbent upon the court to inquire. The

record does not support his contention. The bailiff, in what the trial court

described as his best effort to paraphrase the conversation with Juror No. 20, made

a vague reference to “a concern as to what was taking place in the jury room.”

However, despite being instructed to do so by the bailiff, Juror No. 20 did not

write a note about any concerns. Even after the trial court brought the juror into

chambers and invited him to write down any concerns, the juror’s note made no

mention of concerns about anything taking place in the jury room. Nor, during the

court’s subsequent inquiry, did the juror mention any other concerns. “ ‘The

decision whether to investigate the possibility of juror bias, incompetence, or

misconduct — like the ultimate decision to retain or discharge a juror — rests

within the sound discretion of the trial court.’ [Citation.]” (People v. Cleveland

(2001) 25 Cal.4th 466, 478.) Moreover, trial courts should use caution when


17

The juror made clear that his concern was not about the jury’s penalty

determination. His note said he felt he had reached the “proper verdict” and that
the “verdict [was] true and correct.”

60

making inquiries because of the need to protect the sanctity and secrecy of jury

deliberations. (Id. at p. 475.) In light of the juror’s failure to raise concerns about

anything taking place during jury deliberations, the court did not abuse its

discretion when it chose not to conduct a broader inquiry.

Third and finally, the court did not abuse its discretion when it declined

defendant’s request that it reinstruct the entire jury with CALJIC 8.88. The jury

had already been so instructed and nothing suggests the trial court needed to do so

again. The jury had already reached a verdict. Nothing in Juror No. 20’s note nor

in his answers during the court’s inquiry called the validity of the verdict into

question. Accordingly, the court’s decision not to reinstruct the jury was not error.

3. Defendant’s Motion for a New Trial

Defendant claims Juror No. 20 committed prejudicial misconduct during

the penalty phase deliberations and that the trial court erred when it denied his

motion for a new trial. Defendant further contends that reversal of both his

conviction and penalty is required under state law and the Sixth, Eighth, and

Fourteenth Amendments to the federal Constitution. We disagree.

On December 6, 1996, defendant filed a motion for a new trial, alleging

Juror No. 20 had committed misconduct. Exhibit A to the motion was a

November 26, 1996 declaration, signed by Juror No. 20 under penalty of perjury,

in which he stated that, “In 1993 or 1994, I was arrested for my role in a bar fight.

I spent two days in jail. The charges were eventually dropped. That experience

was very difficult for me.” Exhibit B to the motion was the juror’s May 8, 1996

voir dire questionnaire, also signed under penalty of perjury, in which he stated

that he had never been arrested. Defendant argued Juror No. 20 had committed

prejudicial misconduct by lying during voir dire.

61

At a hearing on the motion, defense counsel indicated that a number of

jurors indicated Juror No. 20 had said during deliberations that he had previously

been arrested. Defense counsel asked the prosecutor to check whether the juror

had any criminal arrests. The prosecutor opposed the request, unsure that he had

the authority to obtain the juror’s arrest record and provide it to the defense.

Moreover, the prosecutor argued that, even assuming the juror had committed

misconduct, defendant had not established any prejudice. The trial court

concluded further inquiry was warranted.

At subsequent hearings, both the prosecution and defense indicated they

had inquired with several law enforcement agencies, but had been unable to locate

any booking records for Juror No. 20. Defense counsel indicated that several

jurors remembered Juror No. 20 talking about having been arrested. Juror No. 20

had also allegedly expressed “how horrible jail was.” Defense counsel argued that

one could infer from such a statement either that the juror was advocating a life

sentence verdict or that “it’s a lot easier to sentence somebody to death if you

think jail is so bad anyway.” Defense counsel also acknowledged that it was

alternatively possible that the “juror made up a story in deliberations then lied on a

declaration.” The prosecutor indicated that “we have received some information

that in fact the juror may not have been arrested in the sense of the word that we

would consider an arrest.” It was decided that the prosecutor would obtain a

declaration from Juror No. 20 addressing the apparent inconsistencies.

At the next hearing on the matter, the court discussed Juror No. 20’s most

recent declaration, obtained by the prosecution. The court noted that the juror’s

declaration “appears to suggest that he was not arrested, that he was detained, and

he believes it might have been — it was with private security guards who detained

him in an office, and it might have been overnight.” The court noted that the most

recent declaration conflicted both with his previous declaration and with the

62

recollection of the other jurors who clearly remembered Juror No. 20 mentioning

“jail.” In light of counsel’s inability to verify that the juror had been arrested and

of the new declaration, the court concluded Juror No. 20 did not lie on his juror

questionnaire, but did lie to the other jurors when he told them he had spent time

in jail and it was a horrible experience. Addressing whether defendant had

suffered any prejudice, the court said its “initial take on it is [Juror No. 20]

exaggerated his experience for attention getting.” Defense counsel was concerned

about exactly what Juror No. 20 said to the other jurors and indicated that Juror

No. 20’s behavior possibly indicated something about “his state of mind.” It was

agreed that the court would have the juror come in and the court would further

inquire.

At the next hearing, the court questioned Juror No. 20 at length under oath.

In addition to inquiring about the alleged incident, the court asked what Juror No.

20 had said to other jurors during deliberations regarding his experience and Juror

No. 20 responded that he had, on two occasions, told a juror in the presence of

other jurors, “have you ever been in jail, it’s a very difficult — it was for me when

I was there.” The court took a brief break to allow counsel to propose any

additional questions. Upon resumption of the examination, the court asked

additional questions about the alleged incident with the security guards.

At the conclusion of the hearing, after considering the evidence and hearing

argument from both counsel, the court found that the juror did not lie on his juror

questionnaire, but that he did lie when he told jurors he had been arrested and been

in jail. The court further found that the juror had made only a brief “mention” of

the alleged experience and did not have a “conversation” about it. The court

found that the juror had not been truthful when he signed either of the posttrial

declarations. The court concluded that the juror committed misconduct when he

made a false statement during deliberations. The court further concluded,

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however, that there was no evidence of prejudice. In addition to the statement

being brief, the court explained that jail is commonly known by the public to be a

bad place. The court also noted that jail is portrayed as awful in popular media

and that the defense had introduced testimony in the penalty phase about the

difficulties of life in jail. The court denied defendant’s motion for a new trial.

Defendant contends the trial court erred when it denied his motion for a

new trial. We disagree. At the outset, we note that the trial court found that the

juror did not lie on his juror questionnaire and we accept that factual

determination, as it is supported by substantial evidence, including the lack of any

records indicating defendant had been arrested. (People v. Ramos (2004) 34

Cal.4th 494, 520.) As for the juror’s posttrial declarations, the court found that the

juror had lied in them. However, a juror’s postverdict lies to cover up misconduct,

“although certainly improper, does not show bias during the trial, deliberations,

and verdict.” (In re Carpenter (1995) 9 Cal.4th 634, 657.) Accordingly, only the

juror’s comments during deliberation constitute potentially prejudicial

misconduct. While the court concluded these comments constituted misconduct, it

nonetheless decided defendant had not established prejudice.

Misconduct by a juror raises a rebuttable presumption of prejudice.

(People v. Danks (2004) 32 Cal.4th 269, 302.) However, we will set aside a

verdict only where there is a substantial likelihood of juror bias. (Id. at p. 303.)

We will find such bias if the misconduct is inherently and substantially likely to

have influenced the jury. (Ibid.) Alternatively, even if the misconduct is not

inherently prejudicial, we will nonetheless find such bias if, after a review of the

totality of the circumstances, a substantial likelihood of bias arose. (Ibid.) While

the existence of prejudice is a mixed question of law and fact subject to this

court’s independent determination, we accept a trial court’s credibility

64

determinations and factual findings when they are supported by substantial

evidence. (Id. at pp. 303-304.)

We conclude Juror No. 20’s comments did not create a substantial

likelihood of juror bias. First, the trial court found Juror No. 20’s comments were

brief, and its finding was supported by substantial evidence including both the

juror’s answers to the court’s questions as well as the other jurors’ declarations.

For example, while Juror No. 17 said Juror No. 20 had stated he had spent a “very

short stay” in jail, she indicated she could not recall any specific comments made

by Juror No. 20. Similarly, Juror No. 94 told the defense investigator that Juror

No. 20 had “mentioned only that he had ‘an experience’ in jail and that it was

horrible,” and that the other jurors did not ask for any details nor did she recall any

other information on the subject. In short, as the trial court concluded, Juror No.

20’s reference to being in jail was merely a fleeting comment.18

Second, the trial court concluded that the substance of the juror’s brief

comment — that jail was “scary” and “horrible” — did not create a substantial

likelihood of juror bias. The court noted that jail is already widely understood to

be a bad place to be and that it is portrayed as such in “novels, movies, television

programs, . . . documentaries.” The court also pointed out defense witnesses

testified in the penalty phase about unsavory jail conditions. For example, Emedio

Sandoval, a convicted child molester, testified that defendant had been attacked by

another inmate in jail and also testified about the social hierarchy among inmates.


18

Defendant contends Juror No. 20 also committed misconduct by holding

himself out as a “jail veteran” and “played expert” on what jail was like. The
evidence does not support defendant’s claim — to the contrary, it establishes the
comments were brief and were not the subject of further discussion.

65

Considering the totality of the circumstances, Juror No. 20’s comment that jail was

scary and horrible did not create a substantial likelihood of juror bias.

Alternatively, defendant also argues the trial court should have granted his

motion for a new trial because Juror No. 20 was unfit to sit on the jury. Citing the

juror’s numerous lies, defendant claims “something was off with Juror [No.] 20”

and that he engaged in “bizarre” and “pathological” behavior. Nothing supports

this interpretation. To the contrary, the record suggests the juror first lied to his

fellow jurors about having been in jail in order to garner attention and then, once

the defense investigator approached him about his comments, the juror understood

he had committed misconduct and engaged in a series of contradictory

explanations in an effort to get out of trouble. Nothing other than mere

speculation supports defendant’s contention that Juror No. 20 was “pathological”

or otherwise incapable of performing his duty as a juror. (People v. Beeler, supra,

9 Cal.4th at p. 975.) The trial court did not err when it denied defendant’s motion

for a new trial.

D. Other Issues

1. Denial of Application to Modify the Penalty Verdict

Once the jury returned a death verdict, the trial court considered an

automatic motion for a modification of the sentence (§ 190.4, subd. (e)), which the

trial court denied. Defendant contends the trial court’s decision constituted error.

Specifically, defendant asserts the trial court’s failure to “take into account the

proportionality aspect of the death penalty” requires reversal. We disagree.

A trial court’s duty under section 190.4, subdivision (e), is to

“independently reweigh the evidence of aggravating and mitigating factors

presented at trial and determine whether, in its independent judgment, the

evidence supports the death verdict.” (People v. Steele (2002) 27 Cal.4th 1230,

66

1267.) The record demonstrates that the trial court did so here. In aggravation,

the trial court discussed the calculated nature of the crimes, the fact that defendant

likely chose the women he attacked because he was aware they lived alone, and

the brutality of the attacks. The court next identified numerous mitigating factors

including, among other things, defendant’s lack of criminal history, his addiction

to drugs, his childhood, and his devotion to his children. The trial court then

independently reweighed the evidence and ultimately concluded that the

circumstances of the crime were “so compelling that [their] weight alone

substantially outweighed the totality of the mitigating factors.” The trial court

carefully performed its duty under section 190.4, subdivision (e).

Defendant also argues that the circumstances of this crime were not so bad

as to place defendant among “the worst of the worst.” To the extent defendant is

claiming the trial court erred by failing to compare the crimes in this case with

other death penalty cases, we have held such intercase proportionality review is

not required by either the state or federal Constitution. (People v. Lenart (2004)

32 Cal.4th 1107, 1130; People v. Sapp (2003) 31 Cal.4th 240, 317.) To the extent

he is arguing that his sentence was disproportionate to his personal culpability, we

disagree. (People v. Steele, supra, 27 Cal.4th at p. 1269.) As the trial court

explained, “[defendant] did not randomly select his victims but rather used his

special knowledge as a workman or as a neighbor to assess their vulnerability

before he preyed upon [them] . . . . [¶] There was unusual emotional brutality in

the rape and forced oral copulation of the first victim. And there was unusual

physical brutality in the killing of [Evans].” Defendant’s sentence “is not

disproportionate to [his] personal culpability. It does not shock the conscience.”

(People v. Steele, supra, 27 Cal.4th at p. 1269.) The trial court did not err when it

declined to modify the sentence.

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2. Equal Protection Challenge to Imposition of the Death Penalty

Defendant argues that the death penalty in California violates the California

Constitution and the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States

Constitution because it is imposed arbitrarily and capriciously depending on the

county in which the case is prosecuted. As defendant concedes, we have

repeatedly rejected substantially similar claims, concluding that “prosecutorial

discretion to select those eligible cases in which the death penalty [would] actually

be sought does not . . . offend principles of equal protection, due process, or cruel

and/or unusual punishment. [Citations.]” (People v. Keenan (1988) 46 Cal.3d

478, 505; People v. Brown (2004) 33 Cal.4th 382, 403; People v. Williams, supra,

16 Cal.4th at p. 278.) Defendant does not identify a reason to reconsider our prior

holdings and we decline to do so.19

3. Delay in Appointment of Appellate Counsel

Defendant contends that the four and a half years it took to appoint

appellate counsel to represent him violates his rights under the United States

Constitution. We have previously considered and rejected identical claims.

(People v. Dunkle (2005) 36 Cal.4th 861, 942; People v. Snow (2003) 30 Cal.4th

43, 127; People v. Welch (1999) 20 Cal.4th 701, 775-776; People v. Holt (1997)

15 Cal.4th 619, 708-709.) Defendant relies on federal authority in noncapital

cases, but as we have explained, “[n]one of those decisions address the unique

demands of appellate representation in capital cases.” (People v. Holt, supra, 15

Cal.4th at p. 709.) Additionally, “defendant fails to demonstrate that the delay

inherent in the procedures by which California recruits, screens, and appoints


19

Defendant urges this court to reexamine our prior cases in light of the high

court’s voting rights decision in Bush v. Gore (2000) 531 U.S. 98. That case does
not warrant revisiting our prior holdings.

68

attorneys to represent capital defendants on appeal, is not necessary to ensure that

competent representation is available for indigent capital appellants.” (Ibid.)

Defendant has identified no reason to reconsider our prior holdings and we decline

to do so.

4. Eighth Amendment Challenge to Pre-execution Delay

Defendant argues that executing defendant after his “lengthy confinement

under sentence of death”20 would constitute cruel and unusual punishment in

violation of the federal Constitution, the California Constitution, and international

law. We have repeatedly rejected this claim and do so again here. As we have

explained, “the delay inherent in the automatic appeal process ‘is not a basis for

finding that either the death penalty itself or the process leading to it is cruel and

unusual punishment.’ (People v. Hill [(1992)] 3 Cal.4th [959,] 1016.)” (People v.

Massie (1998) 19 Cal.4th 550, 574, italics omitted; People v. Jones, supra, 29

Cal.4th at p. 1267; People v. Anderson (2001) 25 Cal.4th 543, 606; People v. Frye

(1998) 18 Cal. 4th 894, 1030-1031.)

5. Other Constitutional Challenges to Death Penalty Statute and

Instructions

Defendant contends a number of California’s death penalty provisions

violate the federal Constitution. He acknowledges that this court has repeatedly

rejected identical claims in prior decisions but argues that we should reconsider

our holdings. Having found no reason to do so, we reject these claims without

extensive discussion.

Defendant argues that California’s death penalty statute does not

meaningfully narrow the pool of murderers eligible for the death penalty. We

20

Defendant was sentenced to death on January 9, 1997.

69

have repeatedly held that section 190.2 “does not contain so many special

circumstances that it fails to perform the constitutionally mandated narrowing

function. [Citations.]” (People v. San Nicolas (2004) 34 Cal.4th 614, 677; People

v. Morrison (2004) 34 Cal.4th 698, 729; People v. Crittenden (1994) 9 Cal.4th 83,

154-156.)

Defendant contends section 190.3, factor (a) is unconstitutional because it

has been applied in such a “wonton and freakish manner,” without the application

of any reasonable limiting construction, that it results in the arbitrary and

capricious imposition of the death penalty. To the contrary, section 190.3, factor

(a) “instructs the jury to consider a relevant subject matter and does so in

understandable terms.” (Tuilapea v. California (1994) 512 U.S. 967, 976.)

Defendant further complains that factor (a) unconstitutionally permits

circumstances to be considered aggravating in one case while neutral or mitigating

in another case. We have rejected this precise claim, explaining that “there is no

constitutional requirement that the sentencer compare the defendant’s culpability

with the culpability of other defendants. [Citation.]” (People v. Jenkins (2000) 22

Cal.4th 900, 1051.)

Defendant argues that California’s death penalty statute violates the federal

Constitution because it fails to incorporate certain “safeguards” against the

arbitrary imposition of death. We address each alleged omission in turn.

First,

citing

Apprendi v. New Jersey (2000) 530 U.S. 460 and Ring v.

Arizona (2002) 536 U.S. 584, defendant claims that jurors must find aggravating

factors true beyond a reasonable doubt, unanimously agree on the presence of a

particular aggravating factor, and find that the aggravating factors outweighed

mitigating factors. We have repeatedly rejected such claims. (People v. Bell

(2007) 40 Cal.4th 582, 620; People v. Rogers (2006) 39 Cal.4th 826, 893; People

v. Morrison, supra, 34 Cal.4th at pp. 730-731.)

70



Second, defendant contends the state and federal Constitutions require that

the jury be instructed that it may impose a death sentence only if it determines,

beyond a reasonable doubt, that the aggravating factors outweigh the mitigating

factors and that death is the appropriate penalty. We have rejected this contention

on numerous occasions. (People v. Bell, supra, 40 Cal.4th at p. 620; People v.

Avila (2006) 38 Cal.4th 491, 614; People v. Morrison, supra, 34 Cal.4th at

p. 730.)

Third, defendant argues that the failure to assign the state a burden of proof

renders unconstitutional California’s death penalty statute. Defendant claims that,

at a minimum, a jury should have to find, by a preponderance of the evidence, that

an aggravating factor exists, that the aggravating factors outweigh the mitigating

factors, and that death is the appropriate sentence. We disagree. We have

previously concluded that no burden of proof or burden of persuasion is required

during the penalty determination. (People v. Elliot (2005) 37 Cal.4th 453, 487-

488; People v. Lenart, supra, 32 Cal.4th at pp. 1135-1136.) Defendant identifies

no reason to revisit our prior decisions.

Fourth, defendant contends that some burden of proof is constitutionally

required at the penalty phase to break ties for those jurors who find themselves

torn between imposing a death sentence and sentencing the defendant to life

without the possibility of parole. As discussed above, no burden of proof or

burden of persuasion is required during the penalty phase. (People v. Elliot,

supra, 37 Cal.4th at pp. 487-488; People v. Lenart, supra, 32 Cal.4th at pp. 1135-

1136.) Additionally, the jury was instructed it could return a sentence of death

only if it “conclude[d] that the aggravating circumstances substantially outweigh

the mitigating circumstances.” Accordingly, no “tie-breaking rule” was necessary.

Fifth, defendant alternatively argues that the jury should have been

instructed that there was no burden of proof. We have repeatedly rejected

71

identical claims. (People v. Elliot, supra, 37 Cal.4th at p. 488; People v. Cornwall

(2005) 37 Cal.4th 50, 104.)

Sixth, defendant contends the failure to require written or other specific

findings by the jury regarding aggravating favors violates the federal Constitution.

We have rejected that contention on numerous occasions. (See People v. Elliot,

supra, 37 Cal.4th at p. 488.)

Seventh, defendant claims that the lack of intercase proportionality review

for death penalty cases is unconstitutional. We have, as defendant acknowledges,

repeatedly held that intercase proportionality review is not required. (People v.

Williams (2006) 40 Cal.4th 287, 338; People v. Elliot, supra, 37 Cal.4th at p. 488;

People v. Anderson, supra, 25 Cal.4th at p. 602.)

Defendant argues that the California sentencing scheme denies capital

defendants equal protection by denying procedural safeguards to capital

defendants that are afforded to noncapital defendants. As we have previously

explained, “[t]he death penalty law does not deny capital defendants equal

protection because it provides a different method of determining the sentence than

is used in noncapital cases.” (People v. Smith, supra, 35 Cal.4th at p. 374.)

Defendant contends the death penalty statute violates international law, a

contention we have repeatedly rejected. (People v. Elliot, supra, 37 Cal.4th at

p. 488.) Nor, contrary to defendant’s argument, does the death penalty violate the

Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. (People v.

Blair (2005) 36 Cal.4th 686, 754-755.)

III. DISPOSITION

The judgment is affirmed.

MORENO, J.



72

WE CONCUR: GEORGE, C. J.
KENNARD,

J.

BAXTER,

J.

WERDEGAR,

J.

CHIN,

J.

CORRIGAN,

J.

73



See next page for addresses and telephone numbers for counsel who argued in Supreme Court.

Name of Opinion People v. Bennett
__________________________________________________________________________________

Unpublished Opinion

Original Appeal XXX
Original Proceeding
Review Granted

Rehearing Granted

__________________________________________________________________________________

Opinion No.
S058472
Date Filed: January 29, 2009
__________________________________________________________________________________

Court:
Superior
County: Orange
Judge: Kathleen E. O’Leary
__________________________________________________________________________________

Attorneys for Appellant:

Tamara P. Holland, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant.




__________________________________________________________________________________

Attorneys for Respondent:

Bill Lockyer and Edmund G. Brown, Jr., Attorneys General, Robert R. Anderson, Chief Assistant Attorney
General, Gary W. Schons, Assistant Attorney General, Holly Wilkens and Annie Featherman Fraser,
Deputy Attorney General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.










Counsel who argued in Supreme Court (not intended for publication with opinion):

Tamara P. Holland
769 Center Boulevard, #132
Fairfax, CA 94930
(415) 488-4849

Annie Featherman Fraser
Deputy Attorney General
110 West A Street, Suite 1100
San Diego, CA 92101
9619) 645-2427


Document Outline

Automatic appeal from a judgment of death.

Opinion Information
Date:Citation:Docket Number:Category:Status:Cross Referenced Cases:
Thu, 01/29/200945 Cal. 4th 577, 199 P.3d 535, 88 Cal. Rptr. 3d 131S058472Automatic Appealclosed; remittitur issued

BENNETT (ERIC WAYNE) ON H.C. (S159540)


Parties
1The People (Respondent)
Represented by Attorney General - San Diego Office
Annie Featherman Fraser, Deputy Attorney General
P.O. Box 85266
San Diego, CA

2Bennett, Eric Wayne (Appellant)
San Quentin State Prison
Represented by Tamara Phillips Holland
Attorney at Law
769 Center Boulevard, Suite 132
Fairfax, CA


Disposition
Jan 29 2009Opinion: Affirmed

Dockets
Jan 9 1997Judgment of death
 
Jan 14 1997Filed certified copy of Judgment of Death Rendered
  1-9-97.
Jul 30 2001Counsel appointment order filed
  appointing Tamara P. Holland to represent applt for the direct appeal.
Aug 16 2001Received:
  Notice from superior court, dated 8/10/2001, that record was transmitted to applt.'s counsel on that date.
Sep 28 2001Counsel's status report received (confidential)
  from atty Holland.
Nov 8 2001Application for Extension of Time filed
  by applt. to request corr. of the record. (1st request)
Nov 9 2001Extension of Time application Granted
  To 1/14/2002 to applt. to request corr. of the record.
Nov 27 2001Counsel's status report received (confidential)
  from atty Holland.
Jan 4 2002Request for extension of time filed
  To applt. to request corr. of the record. (2nd request)
Jan 8 2002Extension of time granted
  To 3/15/2002 to applt. to request correction of the record. Counsel anticipates filing the request to correct the record in the superior court by 3/15/2002. No further extension is contemplated.
Jan 25 2002Counsel's status report received (confidential)
  from atty Holland.
Mar 8 2002Request for extension of time filed
  By applt. to request correction of the record. (3rd request)
Mar 18 2002Extension of time granted
  To 4/29/2002 to applt. to request correction of the record. Counsel anticipates filing the request in the superior court by 4/29/2002. After that date, no further extension will be granted.
Mar 26 2002Counsel's status report received (confidential)
  from atty Holland.
May 1 2002Received copy of appellant's record correction motion
  applt's motion to correct, augment and settle the record on appeal. (62 pp.)
May 14 2002Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Holland
May 23 2002Counsel's status report received (confidential)
  from atty Holland.
Jun 26 2002Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Holland
Jul 24 2002Counsel's status report received (confidential)
  from atty Holland.
Aug 14 2002Counsel appointment order filed
  Attorney Tamara P. Holland, previously appointed to represent appellant Eric Wayne Bennett for the direct appeal in the above automatic appeal now pending in this court, is hereby appointed to also represent appellant for habeas corpus/executive clemency proceedings related to the automatic appeal.
Aug 14 2002Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Holland
Aug 14 2002Filed:
  request by counsel for dual representation appointment.
Aug 14 2002Filed:
  request by inmate for dual representation.
Sep 19 2002Counsel's status report received (confidential)
 
Nov 20 2002Counsel's status report received (confidential)
 
Jan 17 2003Counsel's status report received (confidential)
 
Mar 21 2003Counsel's status report received (confidential)
 
May 21 2003Counsel's status report received (confidential)
 
Jun 2 2003Change of Address filed for:
  appellate counsel Tamara P. Holland.
Jun 9 2003Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Holland
Jul 25 2003Counsel's status report received (confidential)
 
Sep 22 2003Counsel's status report received (confidential)
 
Nov 19 2003Counsel's status report received (confidential)
 
Nov 25 2003Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Holland
Jan 20 2004Counsel's status report received (confidential)
 
Mar 17 2004Counsel's status report received (confidential)
 
May 14 2004Record on appeal filed
  Clerk's Transcript 34 volumes (7,401 pages) and Reporter's Transcript 38 volumes (7,637 pages) including material under seal. Clerk's transcript includes 3,848 pages of juror questionnaires.
May 14 2004Appellant's opening brief letter sent, due:
  June 23, 2004
May 19 2004Counsel's status report received (confidential)
 
Jun 7 2004Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Holland
Jun 16 2004Request for extension of time filed
  to fle appellant's opening brief. (1st request)
Jun 18 2004Filed:
  supplemental declaration in support of request for extension of time to file AOB.
Jun 23 2004Extension of time granted
  to 8/23/2004 to file appellant's opening brief. After that date, only five further extensions totaling about 300 additional days will be granted. Extension is granted based upon counsel Tamara P. Holland's representation that she anticipates filing that brief by 6/22/2005.
Jul 15 2004Counsel's status report received (confidential)
  from atty Holland.
Aug 20 2004Request for extension of time filed
  to file appellant's opening brief. (2nd request)
Aug 25 2004Extension of time granted
  to 10/22/2004 to file appellant's opening brief. After that date, only four further extensions totaling about 240 additional days will be granted. Extension is granted based upon counsel Tamara P. Holland's representation that she anticipates filing that brief by 6/22/2005.
Sep 13 2004Counsel's status report received (confidential)
 
Oct 19 2004Request for extension of time filed
  to file appellant's opening brief. (3rd request)
Oct 25 2004Extension of time granted
  to 12/20/2004 to file appellant's opening brief. After that date, only three further extensions totaling about 180 additional days will be granted. Extension is granted based upon counsel Tamara P. Holland's representation that she anticipates filing that brief by 6/22/2005.
Dec 8 2004Counsel's status report received (confidential)
 
Dec 16 2004Request for extension of time filed
  to file appellant's opening brief. (4th request)
Dec 22 2004Extension of time granted
  to 2/18/2005 to file appellant's opening brief. After that date, only two further extensions totaling about 120 additional days will be granted. Extension is granted based upon counsel Tamara P. Holland's representation that she anticipates filing that brief by 6/22/2005.
Feb 15 2005Request for extension of time filed
  to file appellant's opening brief. (5th request)
Feb 22 2005Extension of time granted
  to 4/19/2005 to file appellant's opening brief. After that date, only one further extension totaling about 60 additional days will be granted. Extension is granted based upon counsel Tamara P. Holland's representation that she anticipates filing that brief by 6/22/2005.
Apr 12 2005Counsel's status report received (confidential)
 
Apr 12 2005Request for extension of time filed
  to fle appellant's opening brief. (6th request)
Apr 15 2005Extension of time granted
  to 6/22/2005 to file appellant's opening brief. Extension is granted based upon counsel Tamara P. Holland's representation that she anticipates filing that brief by 6/22/2005. After that date, no further extension is contemplated.
May 4 2005Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Holland
Jun 2 2005Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Holland
Jun 17 2005Request for extension of time filed
  to file appellant's opening brief. (7th request)
Jun 20 2005Counsel's status report received (confidential)
 
Jun 21 2005Extension of time granted
  to 8/22/2005 to file appellant's opening brief. After that date, only one further extension totaling about 30 additional days will be granted. Extension is granted based upon counsel Tamara P. Holland's representation that she anticipates filing that brief by 9/22/2005.
Aug 15 2005Counsel's status report received (confidential)
 
Aug 16 2005Request for extension of time filed
  to file appellant's opening brief. (8th request)
Aug 22 2005Extension of time granted
  to 9-21-2005 to file AOB. After that date, no further extension will be granted. Extension granted based upon counsel Tamara P. Holland's representation that she anticipates filing the brief by 9-21-2005.
Sep 21 2005Appellant's opening brief filed
  (83,737 words; 338 pp.)
Oct 25 2005Request for extension of time filed
  to file respondent's brief. (1st request)
Oct 27 2005Extension of time granted
  to 12/20/2005 to file respondent's brief.
Nov 14 2005Filed:
  Declaration of atty Tamara P. Holland (confidential).
Dec 1 2005Counsel's status report received (confidential)
  from atty Holland.
Dec 7 2005Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Holland
Dec 15 2005Request for extension of time filed
  to file respondent's brief. (2nd request)
Dec 20 2005Extension of time granted
  to 2/21/2006 to file respondent's brief. After that date, only two further extensions totaling about 70 additional days will be granted. Extension is granted based upon Deputy Attorney General Annie Featherman Fraser's representation that she anticipates filing that brief by 5/1/2006.
Jan 30 2006Counsel's status report received (confidential)
  from atty Holland.
Feb 14 2006Request for extension of time filed
  to file respondent's brief. (3rd request)
Feb 17 2006Extension of time granted
  to April 20, 2006 to file the respondent's brief. After that date, only one further extension totaling about 11 additional days will be granted. Extension is granted based upon Deputy Attorney General Annie Featherman Fraser's representation that she anticipates filing that brief by May 1, 2006.
Mar 30 2006Counsel's status report received (confidential)
 
Apr 13 2006Filed:
  Supplemental clerk's transcript in record on appeal. (25 pp.)
Apr 19 2006Respondent's brief filed
  (55063 words; 158 pp.)
May 15 2006Request for extension of time filed
  to file appellant's reply brief. (1st request)
May 16 2006Extension of time granted
  to July 10, 2006 to file appellant's reply brief.
May 30 2006Counsel's status report received (confidential)
 
Jul 5 2006Request for extension of time filed
  to file appellant's reply brief. (2nd request)
Jul 7 2006Extension of time granted
  to September 8, 2006 to file appellant's reply brief. After that date, only three further extensions totaling about additional days 160 are contemplated. Extension is granted based upon counsel Tamara P. Holland's representation that she anticipates filing that brief by February 15, 2007.
Jul 26 2006Counsel's status report received (confidential)
 
Sep 5 2006Request for extension of time filed
  to file appellant's reply brief. (3rd request)
Sep 7 2006Extension of time granted
  to November 7, 2006 to file appellant's reply brief. After that date, only two further extensions totaling about 100 additional days are contemplated. Extension is granted based upon counsel Tamara P. Holland's representation that she anticipates filing that brief by February 15, 2007.
Sep 26 2006Counsel's status report received (confidential)
 
Oct 11 2006Filed:
  declaration of atty Tamara P. Holland (confidential).
Oct 17 2006Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Holland
Nov 2 2006Request for extension of time filed
  to file appellant's reply brief. (4th request)
Nov 9 2006Extension of time granted
  to January 8, 2007 to file the appellant's reply brief. After that date, only two further extensions totaling about 84 additional days are contemplated. Extension is granted based upon counsel Tamara P. Holland's representation that she anticipates filing that brief by April 1, 2007.
Nov 22 2006Counsel's status report received (confidential)
  from atty Holland.
Jan 5 2007Request for extension of time filed
  to file reply brief. (5th request)
Jan 9 2007Extension of time granted
  to March 9, 2007 to file appellant's reply brief. After that date, only one further extension totaling about 22 additional days is contemplated. Extension is granted based upon counsel Tamara P. Holland's representation that she anticipates filing that brief by April 1, 2007.
Jan 19 2007Counsel's status report received (confidential)
  from atty Holland.
Mar 5 2007Received:
  application for extension of time to file appellant's reply brief. Counsel advised declaration is deficient, it is not under penalty of perjuy under laws of State of California. Counsel advised to resubmit.
Mar 9 2007Request for extension of time filed
  to file reply brief. (6th request)
Mar 14 2007Extension of time granted
  to May 8, 2007 to file the appellant's opening brief. After that date, no further extension is contemplated. Extension is granted based upon counsel Tamara P. Holland's representation that she anticipates filing that brief by May 8, 2007.
Mar 21 2007Counsel's status report received (confidential)
  from atty Holland.
Apr 27 2007Request for extension of time filed
  to file appellant's reply brief. (7th request)
May 1 2007Extension of time granted
  to July 9, 2007 to file appellant's reply brief. Extension is granted based upon counsel Tamara P. Holland's representation that she anticipates filing that brief by July 9, 2007. After that date, no further extension will be granted.
May 18 2007Counsel's status report received (confidential)
  from atty Holland.
Jul 9 2007Appellant's reply brief filed
  (17,545 words; 77 pp.)
Jul 18 2007Counsel's status report received (confidential)
  from atty Holland.
Sep 20 2007Counsel's status report received (confidential)
  from atty Holland.
Sep 25 2007Counsel's status report received (confidential)
  (supplemental ) from atty Holland.
Nov 26 2007Counsel's status report received (confidential)
  from atty Holland.
Jan 2 2008Related habeas corpus petition filed (concurrent)
  (No. S159540)
Jan 14 2008Filed:
  Confidential declaration of atty Holland.
Jan 17 2008Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Holland
Aug 20 2008Letter sent to:
  counsel regarding reporter's transcript cited in briefing. Counsel requested to identify where in the record the superior court unsealed these records, and advise the court by letter on or before September 4, 2008.
Sep 3 2008Filed:
  letter from respondent, dated September 3, 2008, in response to our letter of August 20, 2008.
Sep 3 2008Filed:
  letter from appellant, dated September 2, 2008, in response to our letter of August 20, 2008.
Sep 9 2008Oral argument letter sent
  advising counsel that the court could schedule the case for argument as early as the November calendar, to be held the week of November 3, 2008, in Sacramento. 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.
Oct 22 2008Case ordered on calendar
  to be argued on Wednesday, December 3, 2008, at 1:30 p.m., in Los Angeles.
Oct 27 2008Filed:
  respondent's focus issues letter, dated October 27, 2008.
Nov 3 2008Filed:
  appellant's focus issues letter, dated October 30, 2008.
Nov 3 2008Received:
  appearance sheet from Attorney Tamara P. Holland, indicating 30 minutes for oral argument for appellant.
Nov 3 2008Received:
  appearance sheet from Deputy Attorney General, Annie Featherman Fraser, indicating 30 minutes for oral argument for respondent.
Nov 21 2008Received:
  respondent's letter of additional authorities, dated November 21, 2008.
Nov 24 2008Received:
  appellant's additional authorities letter, dated November 20, 2008.
Dec 3 2008Cause argued and submitted
 
Dec 18 2008Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Holland
Jan 28 2009Notice of forthcoming opinion posted
 
Jan 29 2009Opinion filed: Judgment affirmed in full
  opinion by Moreno, J. ----- joined by George, C.J., Kennard, Baxter, Werdegar, Chin and Corrigan, JJ.
Mar 3 2009Remittitur issued (AA)
 
Mar 9 2009Received:
  acknowledgment of receipt of remittitur.
May 7 2009Received:
  Letter from U.S.S.C., dated May 1, 2009, advising petition for writ of certiorari was filed on April 28, 2009 as No. 08-10116.
Oct 5 2009Certiorari denied by U.S. Supreme Court
 

Briefs
Sep 21 2005Appellant's opening brief filed
 
Apr 19 2006Respondent's brief filed
 
Jul 9 2007Appellant's reply brief filed
 
If you'd like to submit a brief document to be included for this opinion, please submit an e-mail to the SCOCAL website
Mar 10, 2009
Annotated by diana teasland

Written by Mindy Jeng.

Factual Background
Defendant Eric Wayne Bennett was convicted of the first-degree murder of Marie Powell Evans. The jury also found two special circumstances to be true: that the murder was committed while engaged in the commission of a rape and burglary. Bennett was also convicted of raping and assaulting his neighbor, Pamela B.

On September 27, 1994, Bennett charged the open door of his neighbor Pamela B. He hid his face by tying a t-shirt over his head in a “ninja style” and carried a 4-inch knife in his hand. He charged at Pamela B. and held a knife to her neck. Bennett then took her money and directed her to get face down on her bed. He forced her to engaged in oral copulation and raped her. Pamela B. was able to escape and ran to her neighbor’s house, where they called 911. The police came and searched the perimeter but did not find the suspect. Pamela B. was taken to the hospital for a sexual assault examination, where DNA was extracted from the semen found on her body.

On the same day that defendant assaulted Pamela B., Bennett installed flooring in the home of Marie Powell Evans in Laguna Hills, California. On October 13, 1994, he returned to her home, broke in through the kitchen window, assaulted, raped, and murdered Marie Powell Evans. Christine and John Hougan, Evans’ daughter and son-in-law, found Evans’ body the following day. Both of the Hougans worked for the Newport Beach Police Department, Christine as a police dispatcher and John as a police officer. Evans was found in the bathroom, lying on her back with her robe pulled up over her chest. Evans’ purse and a glass decanter were missing from the apartment. The autopsy report showed that Evans had died as a result of bruising to her brain due to blunt force trauma. A sexual assault examination recovered sperm from Evans’ body, and DNA was extracted from the sperm.

Defendant moved out of his apartment was later arrested on different charges in San Diego. While in custody, his blood was drawn by a nurse. His DNA was compared to the DNA recovered from the two crime scenes and found to match. Defendant was arrested on October 31, 1994.

Procedural History
A grand jury indicted Bennett on January 11, 1995. The Honorable Kathleen O’Leary presided over the trial in Superior Court, Orange County, where the jury found Bennett guilty of murder, forcible oral copulation, rape, first-degree robbery within an inhabited dwelling, and first-degree robbery of an inhabited dwelling. The jury sentenced Bennett to death. The appeal to the California Supreme Court was automatic.

Holdings
The California Supreme Court affirmed on all counts. The Supreme Court held that the prosecutor’s alleged unrecorded communications with grand jurors did not require reversal. The Supreme Court also held that the prosecutor’s questioning of the crime lab forensic scientist about DNA did not constitute reversible misconduct. The Court also found that defendant’s state and federal constitutional rights were not violated by an alleged improper jury instruction on the felony murder rule and that the trial court did not err in denying defendant’s motion to empanel a separate jury for the penalty phase. The Supreme Court also held that execution-impact evidence would be improper mitigation and intended to make the jury feel sympathy for the defendant’s family. The Court also held that the trial court’s evidentiary rulings excluding witness testimony and including witness responses to cross-examination questions in the penalty phase were proper. The Supreme Court held that the prosecutor did not commit misconduct in the penalty phase that required reversal and that trial court did not err in failing to excuse jurors because of misconduct.

Important Points of Law/Headnotes

1. Unrecorded communications with grand jury
California Penal Code § 190.9 requires that all proceedings be reported in a “case in which a death sentence may be imposed.” However, § 190.9 does not impose a duty to record the personal interviews of perspective grand jurors.

A record is inadequate only if the complained-of deficiency is prejudicial to the defendant’s ability to prosecute his appeal. The defendant has the burden in showing that the deficiency is prejudicial.

2. Prosecutorial misconduct during grand jury proceedings
A prosecutor’s conduct violates a defendant’s federal constitutional rights when it comprises a pattern of conduct so egregious that it infects the trial with unfairness as to make the resulting conviction a denial of due process. The focus of the inquiry is on the prosecutor’s conduct on the defendant, not the intent or bad faith of the prosecutor. The defendant must make a timely objection at trial.

While the Supreme Court has held that the prosecution may not comment on a defendant’s failure to testify, it does not prevent a prosecutor from commenting upon evidence or upon the failure of the defense to introduce material evidence.

3. Jury instruction on the felony murder rule
The jury instructions on the felony-murder rule did not need to specify that the jury needed to find a concurrence of act and intent, namely, that the defendant formed the intent to commit rape or burglary before or during, rather than after the application of force to the victim. The Supreme Court, citing People v. Pollock, 32 Cal. 4th 1153 (2004), stated that the jury instructions were sufficient. More specific instructions are only required upon request. The defendant did not request more specific instructions, nor did he object to the instructions given by the court.

4. Request to empanel a separate jury
California Penal Code § 190.4 provides that the same jury decides the guilt and penalty of a defendant unless the court discharges the jury for good cause. There is a long-standing legislative preference for the jury to determine both guilt and penalty.

A defendant’s desire to employ conflicting strategies at the guilt and penalty phases did not constitute good cause to empanel a separate penalty phase jury. Counsel’s tactical decisions do not constitute good cause. Defendant’s assertion that his and his counsel’s credibility would be undermined was too speculative to establish a sufficient good cause.

5. Execution-impact evidence
Defendant was not entitled to present expert testimony regarding the impact of defendant’s execution on his children. The testimony would not be illuminating some positive quality of the defendant’s background or character; rather, it would be impermissible execution-impact evidence intended to make the jury feel sympathy for the defendant’s family.

6. Evidentiary rulings in the penalty phase
Even if erroneous exclusion of mitigation evidence harmed defendant’s constitutional rights, erroneous exclusion of evidence may be harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Though testimony about defendant’s concern about his family was excluded, defendant introduced ample alternative evidence about his relationship with his family. Even without the excluded testimony, the jury was presented with substantial evidence of defendant’s relationship with his family and his concern for them.

7. Prosecutor misconduct in the penalty phase
Defendant’s forfeited claim that prosecutor committed prejudicial misconduct by asking questions that implied defendant had committed other crimes by failing to submit an instruction to the jury. Defendant could have submitted jury instruction that there was no evidence defendant had committed other crimes, thereby curing any potential harm.

Prosecutors are allowed wide latitude in penalty phase argument, so long as the beliefs they express are based on the evidence presented.

8. Juror misconduct
California Penal Code § 1089 authorizes the trial court to discharge a juror at any time before or after the final submission of the case if, upon good cause, the juror is found to be unable to perform his or her duty. A juror’s inability to perform must appear in the record as a demonstrable reality and bias may not be presumed.

The court was in a position to observe the juror’s demeanor, and the court was persuaded that the juror could perform her duties. Nothing in the record supports the speculation that juror was biased because of her concern about the impending school year. Accordingly, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in declining to excuse the juror.

Misconduct by a juror raises a rebuttable presumption of prejudice. However, a verdict will be set aside only when there is a substantial likelihood of juror bias. Juror’s post-trial declarations that he had been arrested and imprisoned did not show evidence of prejudice. Although his conduct was improper, it does not show bias during the trial, deliberations, and verdict.