IN THE SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA
Plaintiff and Respondent,
DANNY RAY HORNING,
San Joaquin County
Defendant and Appellant.
Super. Ct. No. SC055917-A
A jury convicted defendant Danny Ray Horning of the first degree murder
of Sammy McCullough under the special circumstances of robbery murder and
burglary murder and with personal use of a handgun. (Pen. Code, §§ 187, 190.2,
subd. (a)(17), 12022.5, subd. (a).)1 After the guilt verdict, defendant waived his
right to a jury trial as to further proceedings. The court then found true that
defendant had suffered three prior serious felony convictions. (§ 667, subd. (a).)
After a penalty trial, the court found that death was the appropriate penalty, and it
imposed that sentence. This appeal is automatic. (§ 1239, subd. (b).) We affirm
All further statutory references are to the Penal Code unless otherwise
I. THE FACTS
A. Guilt Phase
1. Prosecution Evidence
The victim, Sammy McCullough, was a marijuana dealer and fish farmer
who lived in a geodesic dome house on East Mariposa Road, near the end of Clark
Drive, in a rural area of Stockton. He was known to keep large amounts of cash at
his home. Between 1988 and 1990, he told others that he had sometimes been
burglarized. Telephone records showed that McCullough tried to call his friend
and business partner Kevin Crowley around 7:00 p.m. on September 19, 1990. He
was not heard from after that evening.
During the evening of September 20, 1990, Mark Lawson was fishing in a
portion of the San Joaquin River Delta near Highway 4 called Burns Cut. He
found in the water a bag containing a man’s leg. He “got out of there pretty
quick” and called the police. Over the course of the next day or so, authorities
found other body parts in the water at Burns Cut, including a bag containing two
arms that were tied together at the wrists with duct tape, a torso wrapped in a bed
sheet, and a head floating freely with tape wrapped around it covering the eyes. A
serrated knife that could have been used to dismember the body was found with
the torso. Fingerprint comparison revealed that the body was McCullough’s.
McCullough’s wallet, containing no money, was found in the pants on the torso.
A .22-caliber bullet was found in McCullough’s brain. An autopsy revealed that
McCullough had been killed by a single gunshot wound to the forehead fired from
close range, within two inches. The body had been dismembered after death.
James Casto was camping at Burns Cut the evening of September 19, 1990.
He saw a “white, square-backed vehicle” drive back and forth a “couple of times”
going “kind of fast.” The vehicle stopped a short distance away, and Casto “heard
something thrown out into the bushes and into the water down there.” He told the
sheriff’s department the vehicle might have been a Toyota or a station wagon type
of car. When shown photographs of McCullough’s white Jeep Cherokee, Casto
said the vehicle he saw had the “same shape.”
McCullough’s Jeep Cherokee was found in Stockton on September 21,
1990. The mats in the back were moist and the vehicle was very clean. The Jeep
contained checks in McCullough’s name and car ownership documents. An expert
testified that an unknown person other than McCullough had signed McCullough’s
name to some of the checks and car ownership documents. It appeared the person
had tried to trace McCullough’s signature. One of the documents contained the
date September 21, 1990. Defendant’s thumb- and fingerprints were found on two
of the car ownership documents. No other usable fingerprints were found inside
the Jeep. Some usable prints were found on the Jeep’s exterior, but they did not
belong to defendant or any of several others with whom they were compared.
A search of McCullough’s home revealed human blood in the bathroom. A
piece of human tissue was found on the bathroom mirror. A set of knives with one
missing was found in the kitchen. Bags and tape like those used to wrap and bind
the body parts were found in the house. A .22-caliber bullet casing was found just
outside the front door.
On September 21, 1990, Vicki Pease and Shirley Sanders, both girlfriends
of McCullough, and Crowley gathered at McCullough’s house before the police
arrived. They removed some items from the house, including legal papers and a
Rolex watch. Pease later told Deputy Sheriff Armando Mayoya, the lead
investigator in the case, what they had done. Pease also testified that various items
were missing from the house, including McCullough’s .9-millimeter handgun.
She said the handgun “never left [McCullough’s] side.” She had seen it at
McCullough’s house as recently as September 18, 1990, the last time she was
there. Sanders testified that McCullough accumulated spare change in a planter
box in the house. The planter was “heaping” in change, so much so that Sanders
had “started another one in a coffee can.” After McCullough’s death, the coins
were no longer there.
Cynthia Ann Cuevas, defendant’s sister, testified that defendant had been
trying to find a job the summer of 1990. She saw defendant and their brother,
Steven, on September 19, 1990. Her brothers were supposed to fix her car.
However, they could not do so at that time because a necessary part was
unavailable. Cuevas arranged with her brothers to return to fix the car on
September 21, 1990, but they never did. The parties stipulated that, if called as
witnesses, defendant’s parents would testify that in September 1990, defendant
lived in a trailer on their property at 2606 Munford in Stockton. Defendant had
told them he needed money. He and Steven Horning left unexpectedly after the
two had gone to fix Cuevas’s car. Steven returned a few days later, but defendant
Defendant had been released on parole from prison on June 16, 1990. His
parole agent testified that she had had her last monthly contact with him on
September 16, 1990, in his trailer on Munford. As of that time, he had been
abiding with the conditions of his parole, although he did not have a full-time job.
On October 10, 1990, the parole agent tried to contact defendant. Steve Horning
told her that defendant was gone. Because of this, the parole agent listed him as a
“parolee at large,” meaning that he had “absconded supervision.”
The parties stipulated that, if called as a witness, Ray Van Vleet would
testify that he was the sheriff of Caribou County, Idaho. On September 23, 1990,
he received a report of an abandoned vehicle on a mountainside near Olsen Creek.
He checked the vehicle. It was a 1976 Monte Carlo that Cuevas testified Steven
Horning and defendant had driven. Shortly after he checked it, the vehicle was
John Sharp testified that he had a ranch in Freedom, Idaho, where he raised
hay and grain. On October 20, 1990, he saw defendant coming out of the
mountains. Defendant told him he was going to Henry—which was about four
miles away—but then he offered to help Sharp work on the hay. Defendant said
he had walked over the mountains and was staying “up there on the hill.” He said
that “he’d had trouble with his family, and he liked to go out and camp,” and that
“his brother brought him up.” When asked whether he had a tent, he said he had
“a canvas.” He said he planned to stay there all winter. Sharp told him he could
not “stay there all winter. You’ll freeze to death.” He offered to let defendant stay
in a cabin he owned.
Wade Carney testified that he worked in a country store in Wayan, Idaho,
about seven to eight miles from Freedom. During the winter months of 1990,
defendant came to his store about three or four times to buy groceries. Defendant
paid with “change most of the time.” He had a lot of money in change. Defendant
explained that he had been saving his change to go deer hunting. Carney once
picked up defendant’s bag of coins; he estimated it weighed about 50 to 75
On October 26, 1990, Sheriff Van Vleet contacted defendant at an
abandoned cabin near Soda Springs, Idaho. Defendant told him he had received
permission from the owner to use the cabin and gave his name and other
identifying information. Sheriff Van Vleet later ran a check on defendant. He
learned that the birth date defendant gave him did not match, and that defendant
had an outstanding warrant for parole violation. Sheriff Van Vleet returned to the
cabin the next day, only to discover that defendant had left, leaving behind a note
and a calendar. Handwriting comparison established that defendant had written
items on the calendar. The note contained defendant’s signature and three
messages telling “John” (presumably John Sharp) to let himself in.
Defendant was arrested in Winslow, Arizona, on March 22, 1991, while
committing a bank robbery. A .9-millimeter SIG Sauer handgun, with the serial
number U126340, was in his possession. Sales documents containing that serial
number and trial witnesses established that Joseph Cutrufelli had purchased that
gun and later gave it to Nicholas Montano. Montano testified that in 1988 he gave
McCullough the gun he had received from Cutrufelli. Vicki Pease positively
identified that gun as the gun that McCullough had continually possessed and that
she had seen in McCullough’s house on September 18, 1990. She specifically
recognized some scratches on the gun that she accidentally had made. Shirley
Sanders testified that the gun looked “exactly like” McCullough’s gun. She had
occasionally fired the gun herself near McCullough’s barn. Six .9-millimeter
casings were found in that area. Ballistics examination established that the gun
found in defendant’s possession had fired those casings. That gun did not fire the
bullet found in McCullough’s brain.
The parties stipulated that, if called as a witness, defendant’s father would
testify that about a week before September 20, 1990, he saw defendant firing a
.22-caliber rifle behind the trailer in which defendant lived on the family property
on Munford in Stockton. Sheriff’s deputies found a .22-caliber bullet, a wooden
piece of a rifle stock, and a sawed-off Westerfield .22-caliber rifle barrel on that
property. The wooden stock and the barrel could have been parts of the same gun.
Michael Giusto, a criminalist with the California Department of Justice,
compared the bullet found in McCullough’s brain and the .22-caliber casing found
near McCullough’s front door with the gun barrel and the .22-caliber bullet found
on defendant’s property. Because of various consistencies among them, Giusto
opined that both bullets and the casing could have been fired from the same gun,
and that the barrel could have been part of that gun; because of their condition he
could not say for sure. Giusto testified that if the two bullets had been fired from
separate weapons, he would not expect to see the matching characteristics because
“each gun barrel has its own unique markings. And the bullets fired through these
barrels would be marked accordingly.” But he could not quantify the probability
that the bullets were or were not fired from the same gun.
Timothy Horning, another of defendant’s brothers, testified that he had
lived in the trailer on the family property on Munford until the end of August
1990. When he moved out, he left some clothes behind, including some black
Nike shorts and a tank top that defendant sometimes wore. The shorts “look like”
some shorts that were found inside one of the plastic bags taken from Burns Cut,
and the tank top was similar to a tank top found in a bedroom of McCullough’s
house. Timothy testified that defendant grew up hunting and fishing, and he
sometimes went fishing with defendant at Burns Cut.2 Defendant had experience
with dismembering deer in a fashion similar to the way McCullough’s body was
dismembered. Sometimes the deer meat would be kept in garbage bags.
Willie Eoff, defendant’s cousin, testified that in the summer of 1990, he
twice drove defendant and Steve Horning to the end of Clark Drive in Stockton
(i.e., near McCullough’s house). Both times defendant and Steven left on foot,
were gone about half an hour, and returned with some marijuana.
Deputy Mayoya interviewed defendant in Arizona after his arrest. He tape-
recorded the interview secretly. After Deputy Mayoya explained his constitutional
rights, defendant agreed to talk with him. He denied having killed McCullough.
Deputy Mayoya asked where defendant had obtained the .9-millimeter handgun in
At the preliminary hearing, Timothy testified that only his other brothers,
but not defendant, had fished with him at Burns Cut. When confronted with this
testimony at trial, he ultimately said he could not remember for sure whether
defendant had fished with him at Burns Cut. Earlier, Timothy had told Deputy
Mayoya that defendant had fished there with him. At trial, Timothy said that his
memory was better when he spoke with Deputy Mayoya than at trial, and that he
had told Mayoya the truth.
his possession. Defendant said he had bought it for $400 at a McDonald’s in Salt
Lake City, Utah, when he was on his way to Idaho from California. He said he
had left California the day after his parole officer had visited his home. He also
said that he and Steven had arranged to fix his sister’s car, but a part was not
available. He said “we” left Stockton, went to Las Vegas, then through Utah to
Idaho. When Deputy Mayoya asked who “we” referred to, defendant refused to
say. Deputy Mayoya told him he had learned that defendant and Steven Horning
had gone to Idaho. Defendant responded, “[T]hat’s what you learned from Steven
then I’m not going to contradict him.” He also said that he had used the .9-
millimeter gun to shoot a moose, after which he had “quartered the moose.”
Defendant said that after Sheriff Van Vleet contacted him at the cabin, he thought
the sheriff would return. So he went to a ridge in the area the next day and
watched two sheriff’s cars approach the cabin. He “figured they were going to
come get him,” so he “took off and went up into the mountains.”
Deputy Mayoya asked defendant about a 1988 robbery of McCullough that
his brother Steven had been charged with. Defendant said Steven had not done it.
When Deputy Mayoya told defendant that Steven had said that defendant did it,
defendant responded “that if Steven said I did it, then I won’t contradict him,” but
he also denied having done it. Defendant said that he had not possessed or
touched a .22-caliber rifle since November 1988. He admitted firing a .38-caliber
gun, but not a .22. He also denied ever having been to McCullough’s house.
Deputy Mayoya told defendant he did not believe him about the gun, that it was
“BS.” Defendant responded to the effect, “I know it is, but that’s all you’re going
to get . . . . If you ask me three times or 30 times, the stor[y’s] going to be the
same.” When Deputy Mayoya mentioned that the gun had belonged to the murder
victim, defendant replied something like, “[O]h, gee, that’s a coincidence, what a
coincidence.” When asked whether anyone would believe the gun was “found
1100 miles away at a McDonald’s,” defendant said, “God, what a coincidence.”
Defendant said he thought the odds against that happening were something like “a
zillion to one.” When Deputy Mayoya told him he found it hard to believe,
defendant responded, “[H]e didn’t believe it himself, but that’s what he was going
to stick to.” Later, when Deputy Mayoya told defendant he did not believe him
about finding the gun at McDonald’s and about not having fired a .22-caliber gun,
defendant said something to the effect, “[Y]eah, I know I’m lying, but that’s all
you’re going to get.”
Jan Biaruta testified that he spoke with defendant when the two were
incarcerated together in Arizona in April 1992. Defendant said he was wanted for
a killing in California, “and he got caught in Arizona for bank robbery and he was
glad that he did because he didn’t have to face extradition.” Defendant said the
person he killed “was a drug dealer, that it was no big loss,” and that he “had it
2. Defense Evidence
Defendant presented the stipulated testimony of two witnesses. The parties
stipulated that if called as a witness, Larry Hastings would testify as follows. He
lived near Salt Lake City, Utah. He sold marijuana that he received from Gabriel
Aguirre, a major supplier, to McCullough for, as McCullough told him, resale at a
profit of two to three times what McCullough paid. Hastings estimated that
McCullough bought over 5,000 pounds of marijuana over a period of a little more
than a year. McCullough always paid in cash, ranging from $250,000 to $400,000
or more, that he had in gym bags. McCullough came to Salt Lake City at least six
or seven times during the time he dealt with Hastings, and Hastings never saw him
with a gun during these trips. Hastings sold his marijuana business to Gregory
Frischknecht in 1988 for $40,000 but continued to keep in contact with
McCullough. McCullough spoke with him by telephone a few times the last week
of his life.
In early September 1990, McCullough asked Hastings for help getting
marijuana for resale. About a week before his death, McCullough sent Vince
Lauricica to Utah to buy 26 pounds of marijuana for $70,000, which was to be
delivered to McCullough in California. During this time McCullough told
Hastings that two persons were following him, and when McCullough went to the
vehicle in which the two were sitting, he saw a photograph of himself in the
vehicle. McCullough told Hastings he had brought in two “hit men” from out of
state to kill a person who had been stealing from him and who had been charged
with robbing him at McCullough’s home during the time that Hastings and
McCullough were dealing marijuana. McCullough told Hastings he later decided
not to have the person hit.
In early September 1990, federal drug authorities seized Frischknecht’s
assets and later arrested him. Frischknecht was “doing time in federal prison” for
his role in the drug ring. Federal agents also arrested Hastings and charged him in
connection with his role in the drug ring. Hastings agreed to cooperate as a
witness against Gabriel Aguirre. When he testified, he was serving a 10-year
sentence in federal prison, a reduced sentence in return for his cooperation.
The parties also stipulated that if called as a witness, Frischknecht would
testify as follows. He and McCullough became involved together in a marijuana
sales operation in early 1989. Frischknecht delivered marijuana around the
country on Aguirre’s behalf. He made two marijuana deliveries, totaling about
700 pounds, to McCullough at his home on Mariposa in Stockton. On one trip,
Frischknecht was introduced to McCullough’s partner in the marijuana business.
Frischknecht described this partner and, after viewing photographs, said it was not
defendant, Steven Horning, or Kevin Crowley. McCullough flew to Reno,
Nevada to pay Frischknecht for the marijuana. McCullough paid between
$200,000 and $300,000. McCullough flew to Salt Lake City for one of the
transactions and inspected the marijuana there before Frischknecht delivered it to
Stockton. McCullough gave Frischknecht $140,000 at that time and paid the
balance of the $300,000 purchase price a few weeks later.
Frischknecht had almost weekly telephone conversations with McCullough
during the spring and summer of 1990 that Frischknecht later learned were
intercepted by federal wiretaps. In early September 1990, an assets seizure case
was begun against Frischknecht. He contacted McCullough to try to find out what
the government was doing. He paid McCullough $7,500 to gain information that
might help him fight the asset seizure action. McCullough told him that “he had
friends in positions of authority who could help him . . . get information.”
McCullough also told Frischknecht that persons were “dogging” him at the time.
The two of them concluded it had something to do with the ongoing investigation
into their drug activities. Frischknecht testified in the Aguirre trial in February
B. Penalty Phase
1. Prosecution Evidence
After the guilt verdict, defendant waived his right to further jury trial. The
prosecution first proved to the court that, before McCullough’s murder, defendant
had suffered three felony convictions: robbery convictions in 1982 and 1983 in
Monterey County and a 1988 conviction in San Joaquin County for a lewd and
lascivious act on a child under the age of 14. The prosecution also presented
evidence of crimes defendant committed after McCullough’s murder.
At some point after he left the cabin in Idaho, defendant robbed a bank in
Pocatello, Idaho, in which he used a .9-millimeter SIG and stole $5,000. On
December 27, 1990, he robbed a bank in Eugene, Oregon, in which he used a
handgun. On March 22, 1991, he robbed a bank in Winslow, Arizona, at
gunpoint, of $25,000. As he was leaving the bank with the money and a hostage, a
police officer captured him. After his capture, he said that he “would have blown
the cop away” if he had had the opportunity. Sometime later, defendant escaped
On June 25, 1992, defendant entered the car of Adam Lakritz and Katherine
Falk in Flagstaff, Arizona, and at gunpoint, forced them to drive to the Grand
Canyon. Defendant placed his gun into Lakritz’s ribs and threatened to shoot him
and Falk; he continued to threaten them throughout these events. Defendant told
Falk he wanted to kidnap a family with small children and hold them for a million-
dollar ransom and the release from jail of one of his brothers. He forced Lakritz
and Falk to spend the night with him at a hotel. The next day, defendant forced
them to drive to Williams, Arizona, where he obtained $1,500 using Lakritz’s
credit card. They then returned to the Grand Canyon, where defendant, while still
holding Lakritz and Falk hostage, attempted to kidnap a family of four in a motor
home. Before he did so, while sitting with Falk and Lakritz in the car parked next
to the targeted motor home, defendant dictated a ransom tape, using a microcasette
in the car. As Falk described it, defendant demanded “money in certain
denominations, [his] brother’s release, a red truck.” Defendant threatened to kill
the “six hostages” (Lakritz and Falk and the four persons in the motor home),
saying “he would just blow away half the hostages and go on from there.” After
defendant finished dictating his demands, he “pulled a gun” on the family and said
they were his “hostages.” One family member escaped and informed Don Miller,
a Grand Canyon park ranger, who arrived to foil the kidnapping. Defendant fled
with Lakritz and Falk in their car, pursued by Ranger Miller, and a high-speed
chase ensued. During the chase, defendant shot at Ranger Miller and another
patrol car several times through the rear window and out the side of the car.
Eventually, defendant escaped on foot into the woods.
On June 29, 1992, defendant attempted to abduct at gunpoint two persons
from a picnic area in the Grand Canyon. They escaped, but defendant drove away
in their car, which he later abandoned.
On July 4, 1992, at the Grand Canyon, defendant entered the rented car of
Sally Edmonds and Caroline Young, tourists from England, and at gunpoint,
forced Edmonds to drive away, with defendant sitting in the back and Young in
the front. He threatened to shoot through the gas tank if they “did anything silly.”
He forced Edmonds to stop in an isolated area near the town of Williams, where
he ordered Edmonds and Young out of the car. He tied their hands together
around a tree, took about $15 from them, and left with their car. Highway Patrol
Officer Stephen Costello observed defendant driving the car. The car passed him
going about 100 miles per hour. Defendant shot at him, hitting the officer’s car.
Officer Costello followed defendant, but defendant skidded to a stop, hitting a
sign, and escaped on foot.
2. Defense Evidence
Defendant presented two types of evidence at the penalty phase: evidence
to try to create a lingering doubt as to his guilt of McCullough’s murder and
evidence in mitigation.
David Butler, an expert in firearms identification, testified that he could not
determine whether the bullet found in McCullough’s brain and the bullet found on
defendant’s property were fired from the same gun. He did “not disagree with Mr.
Giusto’s findings,” but disagreed with the way he described them. He preferred to
say the testing was “inconclusive.” The bullet from McCullough’s brain “shows
no evidence having been fired from a sawed-off rifle,” but he could not say for
sure. Dr. Louis Daugherty, a pathologist, testified that he did not believe the
serrated knife found with the victim’s torso could have made some of the bone
cuts found on the victim, although it could have made some of the other cuts.
Cynthia Cuevas, defendant’s sister, testified again. This time she said she
believed that defendant and Steven last came to her house on September 20, 1990,
not September 19. Defendant’s brother Rodney confirmed some of her testimony
but could not remember any of the dates. Rodney also said he had never been at
Burns Cut with defendant or Steven Horning and never saw a sawed-off .22 at the
Horning property in 1990. Defendant’s brother Mark testified that he used to
work for McCullough at the Mariposa property and observed marijuana
transactions. McCullough sometimes told him about burglaries. Jacques Colblack
testified that some of the Hornings’ neighbors kept rifles “laying around.” John
McFeley testified that there had been a lot of garbage on a piece of property next
to the Horning home. Officer James Smith testified that around 1990 to 1991, he
confiscated a sawed-off shotgun from a house just east of the Horning home.
Shelley Ann Horning, defendant’s wife, testified that they had three
children and had lived as a normal family for a time in 1987-1988. Aside from an
incident involving his daughter for which he was arrested and sent to prison,
defendant was a “caring and loving” father who was “real close” to one of his
sons. It would be hard on their children if defendant were on death row. She
believed “we all have a good inside of us, and I do know that [defendant] has good
in him.” She did not want him to be executed.
Vicki Zachary testified that she used to be abused by her father. When she
was about 14 or 15 years old, defendant helped her get away from her father. She
met defendant through church, which they attended together. She believed that
defendant is a “good guy with a good heart.” According to her, defendant had a
habit of saving and keeping coins.
Defendant testified on his own behalf. He denied killing McCullough. He
noted that he had consistently admitted his guilt of other crimes, including crimes
he had not yet been charged with, but always denied killing McCullough. He
denied ever seeing the sawed-off rifle barrel found on the Horning property. He
said he did fire the .22-caliber bullet found on the property, but not from a sawed-
off rifle. He denied ever meeting McCullough, being on McCullough’s property,
or fishing at Burns Cut. He admitted possessing the .9-millimeter handgun taken
from him when he was arrested in Arizona and explained how he got it. He said
he had left California on September 20, 1990, because he was afraid his parole
officer would send him back to prison for not finding a job. Before he left
California, he saw a vehicle parked on a parking lot. He entered the vehicle,
thumbed through some papers looking for money, and took the gun from the car.
He lied to Deputy Mayoya about getting the gun in Utah because he had heard that
it was linked to a homicide in Stockton and he felt that Deputy Mayoya was also
lying to him. When he left California, he took some coins with him that he had
Defendant believed that he was a “[g]ood guy with a good heart who does
bad things.” The worst thing he ever did was molest his six-year-old daughter, for
which he will never forgive himself. Defendant testified about the crimes he
committed after leaving California. He said he always tried to make the others
who were involved “as comfortable as possible”; he tried to treat them “like a
human being, instead of an animal.” He said he attempted six bank robberies, five
successful and one (presumably the one in Winslow, Arizona) unsuccessful.
During his bank robberies, “ninety-nine percent of the time [his gun] was in [his]
shoulder holster.” He denied ever shooting at anyone with the intent to hit them.
As a result of military training, he was an expert marksman; if he had intended to
hit anyone, he would have done so. He noted that he had had many opportunities
to kill his victims but had never done so. He admitted making a tape of demands
in which he threatened to kill hostages, shoot police officers, and commit acts of
arson and terrorism, but said he did not intend to actually do so. He was just
“bluffing” and “never expected [he would] have to” carry out the threats.
Defendant described some of the good things he had done in his life. He
helped his “16-year-old sweetheart Vicki Zachary,” helped John Sharp take in the
hay, helped his sister in Washington State when her son had been in a car accident,
and gave food and other things to a homeless shelter. He was always “there”
when a family member or friend needed anything. “[W]hether I know the people
or not, if I see a need and if I’m capable of handling it, I offer my assistance.” He
loved his wife very much. He would like to continue to have a relationship with
his three children and believed it would be more stressful for them if he received
the death penalty than if he received life without parole. He said “it would be very
hard for me to cope with the fact that [the judge] could find me guilty enough to
give me the death penalty for something I did not do.”
A. Delay in the Prosecution
McCullough’s murder occurred in September 1990. On December 4, 1990,
while defendant was still at large, the district attorney filed a complaint charging
defendant and his brother, Steven Horning, with the murder. (The charge against
Steven Horning was later dismissed.) On March 22, 1991, defendant was arrested
in Arizona on other charges. He was convicted of crimes in that state in May 1991
and received four consecutive life sentences. In a letter dated November 26, 1991,
Detective Mayoya of the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department informed the
Arizona Department of Corrections that defendant was accused of McCullough’s
murder. Detective Mayoya stated that the district attorney had decided not to
extradite him “due to the fact that Horning was sentenced to four consecutive life
terms for the crimes relating to the bank robbery in Winslow. Horning to my
understanding will have to serve 100 years before he is eligible for parole.”
Detective Mayoya asked to “be notified of any change of his sentence, due to
appeal or retrial, as a reduction in sentence may warrant extradition to California.”
The letter attached a copy of the arrest warrant “for use as a detainer.”
In May 1992, defendant escaped from custody in Arizona and committed
additional crimes. He was rearrested in Arizona in July 1992. On July 22, 1992,
the district attorney filed an amended complaint that again charged defendant with
McCullough’s murder. As of August 1992, however, the district attorney had not
yet decided to extradite him. On May 12, 1993, another amended complaint was
filed against defendant charging him with McCullough’s murder and, for the first
time, alleging special circumstances. Defendant appeared in court on this charge
for the first time on May 20, 1993.
Defendant moved in the superior court to dismiss the charges due to the
delay before he was arraigned on May 20, 1993. The court denied the motion.
Defendant contends the court erred and that the two-and-a-half-year delay between
the filing of the first complaint in December 1990 and his arraignment in May
1993 violated his rights under both the United States and California Constitutions.3
The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects the
defendant’s right to a speedy trial. (See People v. Roybal (1998) 19 Cal.4th 481,
512.) Defendant argues that the complaint filed on December 4, 1990 (while he
was still at large) triggered his federal speedy trial rights. He is incorrect. “Under
the federal Constitution, . . . the filing of a felony complaint is by itself insufficient
Defendant claims only a violation of his constitutional speedy trial rights.
He does not claim, and the record does not demonstrate, a violation of his
statutory speedy trial rights. (See § 1382.)
to trigger speedy trial protection. [Citation.] The United States Supreme Court
has defined the point at which the federal speedy trial right begins to operate: ‘[I]t
is either a formal indictment or information or else the actual restraints imposed by
arrest and holding to answer a criminal charge that engage the particular
protections of the speedy trial provision of the Sixth Amendment.’ (United States
v. Marion (1971) 404 U.S. 307, 320.)” (People v. Martinez (2000) 22 Cal.4th 750,
754-755.) Thus, the complaint filed in December 1990 did not trigger defendant’s
federal speedy trial right.
Defendant also argues that at least the letter from Detective Mayoya to the
Arizona authorities, dated November 26, 1991, which attached an arrest warrant
“for use as a detainer,” triggered his federal speedy trial protection. That letter
was not a formal indictment or information. It also did not cause defendant’s
actual restraint on these charges. He was not extradited at that time, and he
remained incarcerated in Arizona due to conviction of charges in that state. The
letter did not cause the Government to “arrest him and thereby commence its
prosecution of him.” (Dillingham v. United States (1975) 423 U.S. 64, 65.)
Accordingly, the federal protection attached only when he was actually restrained
on these charges in May 1993. Defendant does not complain of delay after that
Even assuming that, as the trial court found, defendant’s federal speedy
trial protection attached when Detective Mayoya sent the November 26, 1991,
letter to the Arizona authorities, he would not be entitled to relief. The United
States Supreme Court has noted that unreasonable delay between formal
accusation and trial threatens several harms, “including ‘oppressive pretrial
incarceration,’ ‘anxiety and concern of the accused,’ and ‘the possibility that the
[accused’s] defense will be impaired’ by dimming memories and loss of
exculpatory evidence.” (Doggett v. United States (1992) 505 U.S. 647, 654
(Doggett); see People v. Roybal, supra, 19 Cal.4th at p. 512.)
In deciding whether to grant relief due to unreasonable delay in the
prosecution, courts must consider what the high court refers to as the four
“Barker” factors (Barker v. Wingo (1972) 407 U.S. 514): “whether delay before
trial was uncommonly long, whether the government or the criminal defendant is
more to blame for that delay, whether, in due course, the defendant asserted his
right to a speedy trial, and whether he suffered prejudice as the delay’s result.”
(Doggett, supra, 505 U.S. at p. 651.) “The first of these is actually a double
enquiry. Simply to trigger a speedy trial analysis, an accused must allege that the
interval between accusation and trial has crossed the threshold dividing ordinary
from ‘presumptively prejudicial’ delay . . . . If the accused makes this showing,
the court must then consider, as one factor among several, the extent to which the
delay stretches beyond the bare minimum needed to trigger judicial examination
of the claim. . . . [T]he presumption that pretrial delay has prejudiced the accused
intensifies over time.” (Id. at pp. 651-652.) The court indicated that
postaccusation delay is considered presumptively prejudicial “at least as it
approaches one year.” (Id. at p. 652, fn. 1; see also id. at p. 658.)
The high court has explained that in this context, the term “presumptive
prejudice” “simply marks the point at which courts deem the delay unreasonable
enough to trigger the Barker enquiry.” (Doggett, supra, 505 U.S. at p. 652, fn. 1.)
“[A]ffirmative proof of particularized prejudice is not essential to every speedy
trial claim,” because “excessive delay presumptively compromises the reliability
of a trial in ways that neither party can prove or, for that matter, identify. While
such presumptive prejudice cannot alone carry a Sixth Amendment claim without
regard to the other Barker criteria [citation], it is part of the mix of relevant facts,
and its importance increases with the length of delay.” (Id. at pp. 655-656.) The
court also noted “that pretrial delay is often both inevitable and wholly justifiable.
The government may need time to collect witnesses against the accused, oppose
his pretrial motions, or, if he goes into hiding, track him down. We attach great
weight to such considerations when balancing them against the costs of going
forward with a trial whose probative accuracy the passage of time has begun by
degrees to throw into question.” (Id. at p. 656.) “ ‘[D]ifferent weights [are to be]
assigned to different reasons’ for the delay.” (Id. at p. 657.) “[T]o warrant
granting relief, negligence unaccompanied by particularized trial prejudice must
have lasted longer than negligence demonstrably causing such prejudice.” (Ibid.)
The Doggett court found the accused in that case entitled to relief due to an
“extraordinary 8 1/2 year” delay, of which six years was attributable to the
“Government’s inexcusable oversights.” (Doggett, supra, 505 U.S. at pp. 652,
657.) “When the Government’s negligence thus causes delay six times as long as
that generally sufficient to trigger judicial review . . . , and when the presumption
of prejudice, albeit unspecified, is neither extenuated, as by the defendant’s
acquiescence, . . . nor persuasively rebutted, the defendant is entitled to relief.”
(Id. at p. 658, fns. omitted.)
Applying these factors to this case, defendant is not entitled to relief even if
we assume his federal speedy trial protection attached in November 1991. Some
of the delay was fully justified. Defendant was in hiding for some of the time.
The trial court also found that he was “unavailable for prosecution in California
after his arrest in Arizona until prosecution there was completed in May 1991.”
Another part of the delay was at least understandable, even if we assume,
without deciding, that it was not fully justified under high court precedent.
Because defendant was sentenced to prison for life in Arizona, the district attorney
originally made the practical decision that it was not worthwhile expending the
necessary resources to extradite him to, and prosecute him in, California. But after
defendant escaped from prison in Arizona and committed numerous other horrific
crimes ending with his rearrest in July 1992—which both showed that he remained
a danger to society and made this a much stronger capital case—the district
attorney reasonably decided it was then appropriate to prosecute him. We think
this delay is at least a “more neutral reason” that “should be weighed less heavily”
in the balancing process. (Barker v. Wingo, supra, 407 U.S. at p. 531.)
The reasons for the additional delay between defendant’s rearrest in
Arizona in July 1992 and the formal bringing of charges in May 1993 are unclear.
Presumably, defendant was prosecuted in Arizona for his new crimes, which may
explain some of the delay. In any event, the delay after July 1992 was
considerably shorter than the one-year period the high court has identified as
triggering inquiry into the Barker factors. Even if we were to find the delay after
the district attorney originally decided not to extradite defendant not fully justified,
neither was it totally inexcusable. And even if we include the time from
November 1991 (or even May 1991 when it appears California could first have
demanded his extradition) until his escape in May 1992 to the period of unjustified
delay, the total delay is still not considerably greater than the minimum necessary
to trigger the Barker inquiry.
In examining the Barker factors, we find that the delay, even viewed in its
worst light, was not extraordinarily long. Defendant’s actions contributing to the
delay—going into hiding, committing crimes in Arizona that caused authorities in
that state to prosecute him after his arrest, escaping from custody and being at
large again, then committing numerous new crimes in Arizona—are far more
blameworthy than any government-caused delay. Defendant does not claim he
asserted his right to a speedy trial. But the record is unclear whether he had
formal notice of the charges before May 1993 or any real way to demand he be
prosecuted in California. So this factor carries little weight either way. (See
Doggett, supra, 505 U.S. at pp. 653-654.) Regarding prejudice, defendant was
either at large or incarcerated in Arizona for crimes committed there during the
period of delay. Accordingly, he cannot complain of oppressive pretrial
incarceration. (People v. Roybal, supra, 19 Cal.4th at p. 513.) Defendant suggests
he was prejudiced by his inability to gain concurrent sentencing. Because he faced
four consecutive life sentences in Arizona and received the death penalty here, this
was not significant prejudice. Defendant does not show that he suffered great
anxiety and concern. If, as we do, we discount the significance of his failure to
assert his right to a speedy trial, so too must we discount the possibility of anxiety
and concern. (Doggett, supra, 505 U.S. at p. 654.)
This brings us to possible prejudice to defendant’s ability to defend against
the charge, the most serious of the types of prejudice that delay can cause.
(Doggett, supra, 505 U.S. at p. 654.) As explained, under the federal Constitution,
if the delay is extraordinary, prejudice is presumed. But such presumptive
prejudice does not alone entitle a defendant to relief; it is only “part of the mix of
relevant facts, and its importance increases with the length of delay.” (Id. at p.
656.) The delay here pales in comparison to the government-induced delay in
Doggett. It was not so egregious as to entitle defendant to relief solely due to
presumptive prejudice. (People v. Roybal, supra, 19 Cal.4th at p. 513.) Defendant
has also failed to show any particularized prejudice. In the trial court, he asserted
the delay prejudiced him because he was unable to locate certain alleged
witnesses. But, as the trial court noted in finding no prejudice, he failed to show
that any of these persons were relevant to the case or could help him in any way.
Accordingly, we find no violation of defendant’s federal constitutional speedy trial
The United States Supreme Court has also indicated that delay in bringing
charges might violate a defendant’s federal due process rights “if it were shown at
trial that the pre-indictment delay in this case caused substantial prejudice to [his]
rights to a fair trial and that the delay was an intentional device to gain tactical
advantage over the accused.” (United States v. Marion, supra, 404 U.S. at p. 324;
see People v. Martinez, supra, 22 Cal.4th at p. 765.) Defendant has not shown
that the delay was intentional to gain a tactical advantage. As explained above, he
has also failed to show prejudice. Accordingly, we also see no violation of
defendant’s federal due process rights.
Defendant also claims the delay violated his state constitutional rights.
“Under the state Constitution, the filing of a felony complaint is sufficient to
trigger the protection of the speedy trial right.” (People v. Martinez, supra, 22
Cal.4th at p. 754.) Accordingly, defendant’s state constitutional speedy trial rights
attached as of the filing of the complaint on December 4, 1990. However, “when
a defendant seeks dismissal based on delay after the filing of the complaint and
before indictment or holding to answer on felony charges, a court must weigh ‘the
prejudicial effect of the delay on defendant against any justification for the delay.’
[Citations.] No presumption of prejudice arises from delay after the filing of the
complaint and before arrest or formal accusation by indictment or information
[citation]; rather, the defendant seeking dismissal must affirmatively demonstrate
prejudice [citation].” (Id. at pp. 766-767.) As discussed above, defendant has
shown no prejudice. Moreover, much of the delay, at least, was justified,
especially the time when defendant was in hiding. Accordingly, we see no
violation of defendant’s state constitutional speedy trial rights.
Defendant also argues that at least the special circumstance allegations,
which were first added in May 1993, should have been dismissed. He asserts that
if he had been brought to California earlier to answer the charges he could have
pleaded guilty to murder without special circumstances. But a complaint or even
information can generally be amended to add special circumstance charges.
(People v. Edwards (1991) 54 Cal.3d 787, 827; Talamantez v. Superior Court
(1981) 122 Cal.App.3d 629, 634-635.) The district attorney added the special
circumstance charges before defendant was first arraigned and could easily have
done the same if he had prosecuted defendant earlier. We see no basis to assume
that the district attorney would not have added the special circumstance allegations
before the actual prosecution, whenever it might have begun. We find no more
reason to dismiss the special circumstance allegations due to delay in the
prosecution than to dismiss the other charges.
B. Guilt Phase Issues
1. Court’s Refusal to Excuse Two Prospective Jurors for Cause
Defendant contends the trial court erred in denying his challenges for cause
against two prospective jurors because, he argues, they favored the death penalty
and were biased against him. The issue is not cognizable on appeal. “To preserve
a claim based on the trial court’s overruling a defense challenge for cause, a
defendant must show (1) he used an available peremptory challenge to remove the
juror in question; (2) he exhausted all of his peremptory challenges or can justify
the failure to do so; and (3) he expressed dissatisfaction with the jury ultimately
selected.” (People v. Maury (2003) 30 Cal.4th 342, 379; see also People v.
Bittaker (1989) 48 Cal.3d 1046, 1087.) Here, defendant challenged both
prospective jurors peremptorily and exhausted his peremptory challenges. But he
never expressed dissatisfaction with the jury ultimately selected. Defendant
claims he was, in fact, dissatisfied with the jury and would have challenged other
jurors had he been able to do so. He also claims it would have been futile to ask
the trial court for additional peremptory challenges. But defendant did not express
any of this at trial on the record. A defendant must affirmatively demonstrate that
the denial of his challenges for cause affected his right to a fair and impartial jury.
(People v. Maury, supra, at p. 380; see also People v. Bittaker, supra, at p. 1087.)
This he cannot do.
Moreover, we see no error. “[T]he qualification of jurors challenged for
cause are matters within the wide discretion of the trial court, seldom disturbed on
appeal. [Citation.] To find actual bias on the part of an individual juror, the court
must find ‘the existence of a state of mind’ with reference to the case or the parties
that would prevent the prospective juror ‘from acting with entire impartiality and
without prejudice to the substantial rights of either party.’ ” (Odle v. Superior
Court (1982) 32 Cal.3d 932, 944, quoting Pen. Code, former § 1073, now Code
Civ. Proc., § 225, subd. (b)(1)(C).) “When . . . a juror gives conflicting testimony
as to her capacity for impartiality, the determination of the trial court on
substantial evidence is binding on the appellate court.” (People v. Kaurish (1990)
52 Cal.3d 648, 675.) When a challenge is based on the prospective juror’s views
on the death penalty, the trial court must determine whether those views would
prevent or substantially impair the performance of that person’s duties. (People v.
Maury, supra, 30 Cal.4th at p. 376.) The standard of review of the court’s ruling
regarding the prospective juror’s views on the death penalty is essentially the same
as the standard regarding other claims of bias. If the prospective juror’s
statements are conflicting or equivocal, the court’s determination of the actual
state of mind is binding. If the statements are consistent, the court’s ruling will be
upheld if supported by substantial evidence. (Id. at pp. 376-377.)
Under this standard, we see no abuse of discretion. The first juror
defendant complains about stated on her questionnaire that she believed life
without the possibility of parole as an alternative to the death penalty “is a waste
of money,” and that she “strongly” agreed that, after a fair trial and guilt finding,
the state should execute everyone who kills another human being. But at voir dire,
after the court explained the law to her, she assured the court she would not select
the death penalty just to save the state money, and that she would “do the best” she
could in deciding the question of punishment fairly. Ultimately, when the court
asked her whether she could make a choice between the death penalty and life
without parole, she said, “That depends upon the case. I don’t believe death is the
only way, it just depends upon the circumstances and the case itself.” She also
stated on the questionnaire that if the defendant does not testify, he is probably
guilty, and at voir dire she made some comments that the defendant would have
the opportunity to prove his innocence. But she also explained that that had been
her view at the time, and that she had “never been involved [in] anything like
this.” When the court explained to her the law regarding the burden of proof and
told her she would have to find defendant not guilty if the prosecution had not met
that burden, she said she understood and had no problem with it. On this record,
we must defer to the court’s ruling.
The second juror defendant complains about stated on the questionnaire
that one of the most important problems in the criminal justice system is “not
enforcing the death penalty.” At voir dire, she also indicated a belief that
defendants, including the defendant in this case, are probably guilty “or they
wouldn’t be there.” She also, however, assured the court that she could follow the
law, specifically including the prosecution’s burden of proof. At one point, she
indicated that she would always impose the death penalty for an intentional
killing. When she said that, the court initially stated it would grant defendant’s
challenge for cause, but it permitted the district attorney to question her further.
When the district attorney further explained to her the law, she stated she could
return a verdict of life if she believed it appropriate under the law. She said she
did not consider herself “as being unfair,” although she also said she would be
“leaning” in the prosecution’s direction. After considering this additional voir
dire, the court denied the challenge for cause. This juror’s statements were
contradictory and equivocal, and she certainly said some things that would have
supported granting the challenge for cause. But this is precisely where an
appellate court must defer to the determination of the trial court, which was
present and could observe her during the questioning. Her statements that she was
fair, would follow the law, and would consider both possible punishments, support
the court’s ruling.
2. Issues Regarding One of Defendant’s Statements
Over defendant’s hearsay objection, the court admitted evidence of his
statement to Deputy Mayoya that he would not contradict his brother Steven if
Steven had said he had committed a 1988 robbery of McCullough. The prosecutor
referred to this evidence in his opening statement. Defendant later moved for a
mistrial, arguing that the prosecutor’s reference to the statement was prejudicial.
The court denied the motion. In his rebuttal argument to the jury, the prosecutor
argued without objection that this statement suggested that defendant had, in fact,
committed that crime.4 Defendant contends the court erred in admitting the
evidence and denying the mistrial motion, and that the prosecutor committed
misconduct in his argument to the jury. We disagree.
The prosecutor was responding to defense counsel’s argument that
defendant was not involved in the 1988 crime. The prosecutor said: “[A]nd let’s
talk about that [1988 crime] for a second, because Mr. Rovell [defense counsel],
. . . said I don’t know what that’s got to do were [sic: obviously “with”] anything.
The victim identified Steven. How you doing Steve? Looks a lot like his brother,
doesn’t he? But, you know, what did Danny say in his statement when he was
confronted with Steven’s statement that it wasn’t him, it was Danny that did the
1988 [robbery]? And then we get into the words of art. Well, I’m not going to
contradict him, but I’m not going to agree with him either. Put yourself in that
position, folks. . . . [I]f a detective is talking to you about a murder case and
telling you that he thinks you did it, are you going to play the silly games that Mr.
Horning did? And jerk the officer around? Or are you going to get up and say it
wasn’t me, I didn’t do it, he’s wrong, he was the one that did the 1988 robbery, not
me. Or are you going to say I’m not going to contradict him. Don’t agree with
him, but I’m not going to contradict him.” (Italics added.)
Defendant argues that the statement does not come within the exception to
the hearsay rule for statements against interest. (Evid. Code, § 1230.) We need
not decide the question, for the statement clearly comes within another exception
to the hearsay rule: statements of a party. The hearsay rule does not bar
statements when offered against the declarant in an action in which the declarant is
a party. (Evid. Code, § 1220.) “The evidence was of statements, defendant was
the declarant, the statements were offered against him, and he was a party to the
action. Accordingly, the hearsay rule does not make the statements inadmissible.”
(People v. Carpenter (1999) 21 Cal.4th 1016, 1049.)5 It is not clear from the
record whether the court admitted the evidence as a statement of a party or as a
declaration against interest, but it does not matter. The ruling was correct on at
least one legal theory. (See People v. Zapien (1993) 4 Cal.4th 929, 976.)
Defendant also argues the prosecution did not establish the corpus delicti of
the 1988 robbery, and the statement was inadmissible evidence of other crimes.
However, he objected solely on hearsay grounds, so he may not raise other
objections on appeal. (People v. Carpenter, supra, 21 Cal.4th at p. 1049.) Absent
an objection at trial, which would have given the prosecutor the opportunity to
argue the matter, it is hard to evaluate defendant’s contention, but the statement
appears relevant at least to show defendant’s previous knowledge about
McCullough and his home, which was relevant to defendant’s guilt of the charged
offense. Moreover, “It is not clear that the corpus delicti rule applies to other
crimes evidence offered solely to prove facts such as motive, opportunity, intent,
or identity, or for impeachment.” (People v. Clark (1992) 3 Cal.4th 41, 124.)
The exception to the hearsay rule for statements of a party is sometimes
referred to as the exception for admissions of a party. However, Evidence Code
section 1220 covers all statements of a party, whether or not they might otherwise
be characterized as admissions. (See People v. Carpenter, supra, 21 Cal.4th at p.
1049; People v. Castille (2003) 108 Cal.App.4th 469, 479 & fn. 4.)
Assuming the rule does apply here, an objection on corpus delicti grounds would
have permitted the prosecution to attempt to satisfy any evidentiary gap. In any
event, evidence was presented without objection—partly by defense counsel—that
McCullough had told others that he had been the target of crimes, and had
identified Steven Horning as having perpetrated a 1988 robbery, which would
seem to satisfy the corpus delicti rule. (People v. Towler (1982) 31 Cal.3d 105,
115 [“ ‘slight or prima facie proof’ ” suffices to establish the corpus delicti].)
Because the court properly overruled defendant’s objection to the evidence,
it acted within its discretion in denying defendant’s mistrial motion following the
prosecutor’s reference to it in his opening statement. (People v. Hines (1997) 15
Cal.4th 997, 1038.)
Defendant contends the prosecutor’s argument to the jury was misleading
and contrary to facts the prosecutor knew. The issue is not cognizable on appeal
because defendant did not object to the argument at trial, and an objection could
have cured any harm. (People v. Riel (2000) 22 Cal.4th 1153, 1212.) Defendant
claims that because the court admitted the statement over his objection, any
objection “to the prosecutor’s argument or to the (misleading) inference he sought
to have the jury draw” would have been futile. We disagree. A hearsay objection
is different from an objection that argument is misleading or contrary to the known
facts. Defendant was obligated to object at trial to preserve the point for appeal.
(Id. at pp. 1212-1213.) This he failed to do.
Moreover, any objection would have lacked merit. The prosecutor merely
argued the evidence and inferences to be drawn from it, as he was entitled to do.
(People v. Hill (1998) 17 Cal.4th 800, 819.) Defendant points out that
McCullough had previously identified Steven Horning as the perpetrator.
Therefore, he argues, the prosecutor “knew full well” that defendant had not
committed the crime. However, the prosecutor “knew” no such thing. The
prosecutor was not present at the 1988 events. He knew—as did the jury—that
evidence existed that McCullough had identified Steven Horning as the
perpetrator. Indeed, he acknowledged this fact to the jury. But he did not know
that McCullough was correct or that Steven was the sole perpetrator. (See People
v. Riel, supra, 22 Cal.4th at pp. 1181-1182; People v. Gordon (1973) 10 Cal.3d
460, 472-474.) This whole point was minor in the context of the case as a whole,
but the prosecutor was entitled to argue his view of the evidence—and the
significance of defendant’s statement to Deputy Mayoya—just as defendant was
entitled to argue his view of it.
3. Admission of Ballistics Evidence
Over defendant’s objection, the court permitted Criminalist Michael Giusto
to testify that he compared the bullets obtained in this case with the gun barrel
found on defendant’s parents’ property, and that the testing showed both bullets
could have been fired from the gun of which the barrel was a part but that, due to
their condition, he could not say for sure and could not quantify the probabilities.6
Defendant contends the court should have excluded the evidence as irrelevant and
unduly prejudicial. We disagree.
The trial court has broad discretion both in determining the relevance of
evidence and in assessing whether its prejudicial effect outweighs its probative
value. (People v. Rodrigues (1994) 8 Cal.4th 1060, 1124-1125; People v. Green
(1980) 27 Cal.3d 1, 19.) We see no abuse of discretion. Obviously, if Giusto had
been able to state positively that the fatal bullet either did or did not come from the
gun barrel on the Horning property, the evidence would have had greater probative
value. But sometimes scientific examination of evidence is inconclusive. (E.g.,
Defendant also objected to evidence that one bullet had come from the
body of a dog he had apparently shot. The court excluded that evidence as unduly
prejudicial and permitted the prosecution to prove only that the bullet was found
on the Horning property.
People v. Burgener (1986) 41 Cal.3d 505, 515.) That circumstance does not make
it irrelevant. It was relevant for the jury to learn that the evidence was tested, and
that similarities among the items showed that both bullets might have been fired
from the barrel, but that it was impossible to say for sure. (People v. Cooper
(1991) 53 Cal.3d 771, 813 [relevant for the jury to learn that two cigarette butts
found in the victims’ car were tested scientifically even though the results were
inconclusive].) Defendant objects that Giusto’s testimony was merely speculation.
It was not. It was based on a scientific examination of evidence and the results of
The evidence was also not unduly prejudicial. The jury could easily
understand that similarities among the objects indicated the bullets might have
been fired from that particular gun, but that, due to their condition, Giusto could
not be certain. Defendant was permitted to cross-examine Giusto extensively on
the point. Indeed, excluding the evidence might have been unfairly prejudicial to
the prosecution. The jury would naturally wonder if anyone had tested the bullets
and barrel. If told nothing on the question, some jurors might have assumed no
one had bothered to test the evidence, to the prosecution’s substantial—and
unfair—detriment. It would have been truly odd, and would only have puzzled the
jury, to tell it that testing had been done, but withhold the results.
4. Sufficiency of the Evidence
Defendant contends the evidence was insufficient to support the jury’s
finding that he killed McCullough and committed murder in the first degree, and
its finding true the two special circumstance allegations and the allegation that he
personally used a firearm. In determining the sufficiency of the evidence, “the
court must review the whole record in the light most favorable to the judgment
below to determine whether it discloses substantial evidence—that is, evidence
which is reasonable, credible, and of solid value—such that a reasonable trier of
fact could find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” (People v.
Johnson (1980) 26 Cal.3d 557, 578.) The same standard of review applies when
the evidence of guilt is circumstantial and to special circumstance allegations.
(People v. Valdez (2004) 32 Cal.4th 73, 104-105.) We find the evidence sufficient
to support all parts of the jury verdict.
The evidence that defendant was the killer was ample. Defendant’s thumb-
and fingerprints appeared on two car ownership documents found in the victim’s
car shortly after the killing. When arrested in Arizona, defendant possessed the
victim’s gun, which had been seen in the victim’s house as recently as a day or so
before the killing. Parts of a .22-caliber rifle that could have been the murder
weapon and a .22-caliber bullet that could have been fired from the murder
weapon were found on the Horning property. Shortly before the killing,
defendant’s father saw him firing a .22-caliber rifle. Evidence showed that
defendant had worn shorts and a tank top similar to shorts found with the body
parts and a tank top found inside the victim’s house. Other evidence showed that
twice during the summer before the killing, defendant had been driven to a spot
near the victim’s house. Defendant was familiar with the area where the body
parts were found, and with dismembering animals the way the body was
dismembered. Very close to the time of the killing, defendant abruptly left
California without saying anything to his parents or sister even though, the day
before the killing, he had arranged with his sister to fix her car a day or so after the
killing. He then hid away in the mountains of Idaho as winter approached. He
paid for groceries in Idaho with coins from a very heavy bag, an odd thing for a
hiker to do. A large collection of coins was missing from the victim’s house. The
jury could reasonably infer that defendant lied in a number of respects to Detective
Mayoya, including how he obtained the victim’s gun and his denials of possessing
or touching a .22-caliber gun and having been to the victim’s house. A former
fellow inmate testified that defendant had made statements indicating that he had
killed a drug dealer in California.
Defendant stresses that the ballistics evidence connecting the fatal bullet
with the rifle parts and bullet found on the Horning property was inconclusive. He
is correct, but the circumstance that one piece of evidence was itself inconclusive
does not negate the rest of the evidence that shows that defendant was the killer.7
The evidence also supported the first degree murder verdict. The court
instructed the jury both on premeditated and deliberated first degree murder and
on first degree felony murder. The evidence supported both theories. “Evidence
concerning motive, planning, and the manner of killing are pertinent to the
determination of premeditation and deliberation, but these factors are not
exclusive nor are they invariably determinative.” (People v. Silva (2001) 25
Cal.4th 345, 368.) The evidence showed that defendant tied the victim’s hands
with duct tape and blindfolded him before shooting him in the head a single time
from within two inches. A jury could reasonably infer a motive—the desire to
prevent anybody from identifying him. The evidence also shows planning.
Defendant points out that the tape and bags in which the body parts were placed
were apparently obtained from the victim’s house and argues that this shows the
killing was not preplanned. But premeditation can occur in a short time. (People
v. Hughes (2002) 27 Cal.4th 287, 371.) The jury could reasonably infer that
defendant brought the murder weapon with him, which, together with the evidence
that he bound and blindfolded the victim at the scene of the crime, shows planning
Defendant did not testify at the guilt phase. But even if the jury had heard
his penalty phase testimony, it reasonably could have found his claim that he
chose to leave California at the precise time of the killing, and that he happened to
break into the victim’s car in Stockton, go through papers in the car, and steal the
gun from the car, no more credible than defendant’s original story to Deputy
Mayoya that he had obtained the gun in Utah.
activity. The manner of killing, a single bullet from close range into the brain of a
bound and blindfolded—and hence, so the jury could reasonably infer,
unresisting—victim, shows a calculated design to ensure death rather than an
unconsidered explosion of violence. (People v. Alcala (1984) 36 Cal.3d 604,
627.) All this is sufficient evidence of premeditation and deliberation.
The evidence also supported a finding of first degree felony murder. The
jury could reasonably have found that defendant took at least the victim’s gun and
collection of coins from inside the house. Moreover, the evidence showed that the
victim generally kept large sums of money in his house. Defendant had no job and
needed money. This evidence suffices to permit a reasonable trier of fact to find
that defendant entered the house with the intent to commit theft, i.e., that he
committed burglary (§ 459), and that he killed the victim during the course of a
robbery. Defendant correctly argues that robbery or burglary felony murder
requires that the intent to steal be formed before the fatal blow is struck, i.e., that
he had to have intended to steal before he fatally shot the victim. (People v. Hayes
(1990) 52 Cal.3d 577, 629-630.) He argues there was no evidence he had that
intent at that time. However, “when one kills another and takes substantial
property from the victim, it is ordinarily reasonable to presume the killing was for
purposes of robbery.” (People v. Turner (1990) 50 Cal.3d 668, 688; accord,
People v. Hughes, supra, 27 Cal.4th at p. 357.) Murders are commonly committed
to obtain money or other property. (Hughes, supra, at p. 357.) Here, the jury
could reasonably find defendant went to the house to steal and killed while doing
Defendant argues that the .22-caliber bullet casing at the murder scene was
found just outside the house, suggesting he might have shot the victim outside
before he first entered the house, i.e., before he actually committed the burglary.
But for purposes of the felony-murder rule, it does not matter. “A murder is of the
first degree if ‘committed in the perpetration of, or attempt to perpetrate’ any of
certain enumerated felonies, one of which is burglary. (§ 189.) Under this
provision, a killing is committed in the perpetration of an enumerated felony if the
killing and the felony ‘are parts of one continuous transaction.’ ” (People v.
Hayes, supra, 52 Cal.3d at p. 631.) Accordingly, “defendant was guilty of murder
in the perpetration of burglary . . . if (1) defendant intended to commit the burglary
when he killed [the victim], and (2) the killing and the burglary of [the victim’s
house] were part of one continuous transaction.” (Id. at p. 632.) Thus, even if the
jury found defendant had approached the victim’s house with intent to commit
burglary but killed the victim outside before consummating that burglary, it could
still find him guilty of burglary felony murder. Defendant also argues that the
victim might have invited him into the house. If so, that also makes no difference.
“One who enters a room or building with the intent to commit a felony is guilty of
burglary even though permission to enter has been extended to him personally or
as a member of the public.” (People v. Sears (1965) 62 Cal.2d 737, 746.) A
rational trier of fact could have found all the elements of felony murder.
Defendant also argues the evidence was insufficient to support the
burglary-murder and robbery-murder special-circumstance findings. To some
extent, this argument duplicates his arguments regarding the first degree felony-
murder rule. (See People v. Hayes, supra, 52 Cal.4th at pp. 631-632.)
Additionally, for the felony-murder special circumstance to apply, the felony
“must not have been merely incidental to the killing.” (People v. Valdez, supra,
32 Cal.4th at p. 105.) As in Valdez, “defendant argues there was insufficient
evidence establishing that he killed the victim in order to advance the independent
felonious purpose of robbery.” (Ibid.) He points out that, while correcting the
record, the Attorney General argued that he and Steven Horning had “killed the
victim in retaliation for the victim identifying the brother as the perpetrator of a
burglary and robbery.” However, even if we were to assume retaliation was one
motive to kill (elsewhere in his brief defendant also argues that no evidence exists
that he “had any preexisting motive” to kill), the evidence supporting a first degree
felony-murder verdict identified above suffices to permit a reasonable trier of fact
to find that the intent to steal was defendant’s primary—or at least concurrent—
motivation, and that he killed to facilitate the stealing. (People v. Valdez, supra, at
pp. 105-106; People v. Bolden (2002) 29 Cal.4th 515, 557-558.)
Defendant also argues the evidence was insufficient to support the personal
gun use finding. In addition to arguing the evidence was insufficient to permit the
jury to find he was the killer, he also suggests that he might have aided and abetted
someone else who actually used the firearm. He notes that Detective Mayoya
testified (on cross-examination) that he believed more than one person was
involved in the crime. (Indeed, Steven Horning was originally charged in this
case, but the case as to him was dismissed.) But Detective Mayoya’s belief was
not evidence that someone else was involved. No such evidence was presented in
this trial. Moreover, defendant was seen firing what the jury could have
reasonably found to have been the murder weapon shortly before the killing. He
possessed a gun taken in the crime when arrested months later. Defendant’s
fellow inmate testified that defendant made statements that the jury could
reasonably infer indicated he had killed the victim. Under all the circumstances, a
rational trier of fact could find defendant personally used a handgun during the
commission of the murder.
5. Failure to Instruct on Second Degree Murder
Defendant contends the court erred in not instructing the jury on the lesser
included offense of second degree murder. A court must generally instruct the
jury on lesser included offenses whenever the evidence warrants the instructions,
whether or not the parties want it to do so. (See People v. Barton (1995) 12
Cal.4th 186, 196-198.) We need not decide whether the evidence warranted an
instruction on second degree murder in this case because we find any error both
invited and harmless.
When the parties reviewed the instructions to be given, defense counsel
stated he did not want the court to instruct on second degree murder. Later, after
discussing the question with defendant, defense counsel reiterated that he did not
want instructions on lesser included offenses. The court explained to defendant
personally that he was entitled to have the court instruct the jury on second degree
murder and manslaughter. Defendant personally stated that, on advice of counsel,
he did not want those instructions. Accordingly, the court instructed the jury on
first degree premeditated and felony murder and on the robbery-murder and
burglary-murder special circumstances, but not on second degree murder or
manslaughter. Originally, the court also instructed the jury that if it had a doubt
about the degree of the murder, it must find the defendant guilty of second degree
murder. During deliberations, the jury asked whether it was supposed to “make
any decisions regarding degree.” After discussing the question, and with the
concurrence of both parties, the court told the jury that the original reference to
second degree murder had been inadvertent, and the jury should disregard it.
Defense counsel also said that defendant had “asked that I state for the record” that
defendant opposed an instruction on second degree murder. The court explained
to defendant that if evidence had supported a second degree murder finding, it
would be obligated to give that instruction, but it understood “that your defense in
this matter is that you did not do it. And if that’s your defense and that’s what you
feel the evidence does show, then I’m not obligated to give that instruction.”
Defendant stated personally that he understood and accepted what the court said.
“[A] defendant may not invoke a trial court’s failure to instruct on a lesser
included offense as a basis on which to reverse a conviction when, for tactical
reasons, the defendant persuades a trial court not to instruct on a lesser included
offense supported by the evidence. [Citations.] In that situation, the doctrine of
invited error bars the defendant from challenging on appeal the trial court’s failure
to give the instruction.” (People v. Barton, supra, 12 Cal.4th at p. 198.) The
record here shows that defendant’s “lack of objection to the proposed instruction
was more than mere unconsidered acquiescence.” (People v. Avalos (1984) 37
Cal.3d 216, 229) Rather, defendant did not want the instructions because they
were inconsistent with his defense that he did not commit the crime at all. (People
v. Hardy (1992) 2 Cal.4th 86, 184.) Indeed, although it was not required, the court
obtained defendant’s personal agreement that he did not want the instructions.
(See People v. Cooper, supra, 53 Cal.3d at pp. 827-828.) Accordingly, he cannot
complain on appeal of the court’s failure to give the instruction.
Citing Beck v. Alabama (1980) 447 U.S. 625, defendant argues the federal
Constitution requires instruction on lesser included offenses in capital cases.
However, “Beck does not prohibit a criminal defendant from choosing to forgo
such instructions for strategic reasons, as was the case here.” (People v. Hardy,
supra, 2 Cal.4th at p. 185.) Moreover, “Beck’s principles were satisfied if the jury
was provided some noncapital third option between the capital charge and
acquittal. Here the jury was provided with the noncapital option of first degree
murder without special circumstances.” (People v. Sakarias (2000) 22 Cal.4th
596, 621, fn. 3.)
Any error was also harmless. “Error in failing to instruct the jury on a
lesser included offense is harmless when the jury necessarily decides the factual
questions posed by the omitted instructions adversely to defendant under other
properly given instructions.” (People v. Lewis (2001) 25 Cal.4th 610, 646.) Here,
the jury was instructed on both premeditated first degree murder and first degree
felony murder, as well as on both the burglary-murder and robbery-murder special
circumstances. In addition to finding defendant guilty of first degree murder, the
jury found both special circumstances true. If the jury had had any doubt that this
was a felony murder, it did not have to acquit but could have simply convicted
defendant of first degree murder without special circumstances. Instead, it found
that defendant killed the victim in the perpetration of robbery and burglary, which
means it necessarily found the killing was first degree felony murder. (Ibid.;
People v. Price (1991) 1 Cal.4th 324, 464.)
Defendant notes that the jury asked several questions during deliberations,
including whether it had to make any decision regarding degree, and argues this
circumstance “reflected the jury’s doubt regarding the sufficiency of the evidence
to support a first degree murder verdict and its consideration of a lesser included
offense.” Such questions cannot detract from the verdicts the jury ultimately
rendered, which show that it found the killing to be felony murder. Moreover, the
questions suggest that the jury was carefully considering whether defendant had
committed the crime, but not that it doubted that the crime was first degree
murder. The court’s original (and inadvertent) instruction that the jury had to give
the defendant the benefit of any doubt regarding the degree of the crime, together
with the absence of any other instructions regarding degree, naturally caused it to
wonder if it was to make any finding in this regard. It so asked. The question
showed that the jury had doubt about what exactly it was supposed to do, not that
it doubted that the killing was first degree felony murder.
6. Other Instructional Issues
Defendant contends the court committed several other instructional errors.
(a) In People v. Green, supra, 27 Cal.3d 1, the defendant had taken the
murder victim’s clothing at gunpoint in order to attempt to conceal the murder.
We held that, although the taking constituted a technical robbery, the robbery-
murder special circumstance was not established because the crime was not a
murder in the commission of robbery, but a robbery in the commission of murder.
(See People v. Kimble (1988) 44 Cal.3d 480, 500.) We said that the felony-based
special circumstances reflected a legislative belief that it was appropriate to make
those who killed “to advance an independent felonious purpose” death eligible, but
that this goal was not achieved when the felony was “merely incidental to the
murder . . . .” (Green, supra, at p. 61.) As we have summarized the rule, “to
prove a felony-murder special-circumstance allegation, the prosecution must show
that the defendant had an independent purpose for the commission of the felony,
that is, the commission of the felony was not merely incidental to an intended
murder.” (People v. Mendoza (2000) 24 Cal.4th 130, 182.)
The standard jury instructions were modified to reflect this holding. Today,
as at the time of trial, CALJIC No. 8.81.17, paragraph 2, explains that, for a
felony-based special circumstance to be found true, it must be proved: “The
murder was committed in order to carry out or advance the commission of the
crime . . . . In other words, the special circumstance referred to in these
instructions is not established if the [crime] was merely incidental to the
commission of the murder.” At trial, for reasons not clear from the record, the
court gave the second, but not first, sentence of this paragraph. Thus, the court
told the jury: “In other words, the special circumstance referred to in these
instructions is not established if the robbery or burglary were merely incidental to
the commission of the murder.”
Defendant contends the court erred in not also telling the jury the murder
had to be committed in order to carry out or advance the robbery or burglary. We
disagree. As the transitional words in the instruction, “In other words,” suggest,
Green established one requirement, not two. The point we made in People v.
Green, supra, 27 Cal.3d 1, is that if the felony was merely incidental to the
murder—as the evidence showed it was in Green—no separate felony-based
special circumstance exists. We have used various phrasings in explaining this
requirement, two of which are included in CALJIC No. 8.81.17, but we have never
suggested that we had created two separate requirements, or that any precise
language was required to explain the concept to the jury. There is nothing magical
about the phrase “to carry out or advance” the felony. Indeed, we ourselves have
stated the requirement without using that phrase. (See People v. Mendoza, supra,
24 Cal.4th at p. 182; People v. Clark (1990) 50 Cal.3d 583, 608.) Several ways
exist to explain the requirement.8 Even if it might have been better to give the
entire second paragraph of CALJIC No. 8.81.17, the court’s explanation that the
burglary or robbery must not be “merely incidental to the commission of the
murder,” adequately conveyed the requirement.
Moreover, we have held it is not error to fail to give any such instruction if
the evidence does not warrant it. “The second paragraph of CALJIC No. 8.81.17
is appropriate where the evidence suggests the defendant may have intended to
murder his victim without having an independent intent to commit the felony that
forms the basis of the special circumstance allegation. In other words, if the
felony is merely incidental to achieving the murder—the murder being the
defendant’s primary purpose—then the special circumstance is not present, but if
the defendant has an ‘independent felonious purpose’ (such as burglary or
robbery) and commits the murder to advance that independent purpose, the special
circumstance is present.” (People v. Navarette (2003) 30 Cal.4th 458, 505; see
also People v. Kimble, supra, 44 Cal.3d at pp. 501-503.) Defendant again
The CALJIC instruction does not use the term, “independent purpose,”
which we have also sometimes employed in explaining this concept. (See People
v. Mendoza, supra, 24 Cal.4th at p. 182; see also People v. Green, supra, 27
Cal.3d at p. 61 [employing the term, “independent felonious purpose”].) Compare
also our description of the requirement in People v. Bonin (1989) 47 Cal.3d 808,
850, which uses the language, “in order to advance an independent felonious
purpose,” but does not additionally use the not-incidental-to-the-murder language.
suggests he might have killed in retaliation for McCullough’s having identified his
brother Steven as the perpetrator of a crime. But no evidence was presented to the
jury that this was his sole motivation, “and defendant did nothing to develop this
theory of the case at trial . . . . Under the circumstances of the case as presented to
the jury, the second paragraph of CALJIC No. 8.81.17 was not required.”
(Navarette, supra, at p. 505.) And certainly, the first sentence of that paragraph
was not required in addition to the second sentence, which the court did give.
(b) As the court explained to the jury, robbery requires a taking from a
person or the person’s “immediate presence.” (§ 211.) Defendant argues the court
had a sua sponte duty to define the term “immediate presence.” We disagree. “In
the absence of a specific request, a court is not required to instruct the jury with
respect to words or phrases that are commonly understood and not used in a
technical or legal sense. [Citation.] We think the phrase ‘immediate presence’
was sufficiently clear in the context of this case that no further clarification of the
phrase was necessary.” (People v. Navarette, supra, 30 Cal.4th at p. 503.) “If
defendant thought the point needed additional clarification or explanation,
defendant should have ‘requested appropriate clarifying or amplifying language’
[citation]; absent such a request, the point is not preserved for appellate review.”
(People v. Bolden, supra, 29 Cal.4th at p. 557.)
(c) Pointing out that prosecution witness Jan Biaruta was an in-custody
informant, defendant next argues the court erred in failing to instruct the jury with
CALJIC No. 3.20, which tells the jury to view such testimony “with caution and
close scrutiny.”9 However, the instruction need be given only “upon the request of
CALJIC No. 3.20, drawn from section 1127a, states: “The testimony of an
in-custody informant should be viewed with caution and close scrutiny. In
evaluating this testimony, you should consider the extent to which it may have
been influenced by the receipt of, or expectation of, any benefits from the party
calling that witness. This does not mean that you may arbitrarily disregard this
a party.” (§ 1127a; see People v. Turner (1994) 8 Cal.4th 137, 201-202.) Neither
party requested the instruction in this case, so the court had no duty to give it.
Moreover, it is far from clear whether the instruction would have helped or
harmed defendant. Although it tells the jury to view the testimony with caution
and close scrutiny, it also specifically directs the jury’s attention to the extent to
which the witness might have received or expected any benefits from the party
calling him, in this case, the prosecution. Other than a trip to California to
testify—where he remained in custody—no evidence was presented of any
benefits the witness received or expected from the prosecution. Defendant
reasonably might not have wanted to focus the jury’s attention on the absence of
any evidence of real or expected benefits.
(d) Defendant next argues that his statement to Deputy Mayoya that he
would not contradict his brother Steven if Steven had said he had committed the
1998 robbery of McCullough was evidence of another crime, and the court erred
in not instructing the jury, sua sponte, on the limited purpose for which it could
consider the evidence. However, the court has no sua sponte duty to give such a
limiting instruction. (§ 355; People v. Collie (1981) 30 Cal.3d 43, 63-64.)
Contrary to defendant’s argument, “[t]his was not an ‘extraordinary case’ in which
the unprotested evidence was ‘both highly prejudicial and minimally relevant to
any legitimate purpose,’ and was ‘a dominant part of the evidence against the
accused.’ ” (People v. Farnum (2002) 28 Cal.4th 107, 163-164.) Moreover,
defendant might well not have wanted the court to give his statement the emphasis
a limiting instruction would have provided. (People v. Freeman (1994) 8 Cal.4th
testimony, but you should give it the weight to which you find it to be entitled in
the light of all the evidence in this case.”
(e) Defendant contends that the standard instructions on circumstantial
evidence, which use the phrase “appears to you to be reasonable,” “undermined
the constitutional requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.” We have
repeatedly rejected the argument and continue to do so. (People v. Maury, supra,
30 Cal.4th at p. 428.)
(f) Defendant contends that giving former CALJIC No. 2.90, with its use
of the terms “moral certainty” and “moral evidence,” improperly diluted the
requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. We have also repeatedly
rejected the argument and continue to do so. (People v. Maury, supra, 30 Cal.4th
at p. 429.)
(g) CALJIC No. 2.20 tells the jury it is the sole judge of the credibility of a
witness and lists certain factors the jury may consider in determining credibility,
one of which is a witness’s felony conviction. CALJIC No. 2.23 tells the jury it
may consider a felony conviction only to determine credibility, and such a
conviction does not necessarily destroy or impair credibility but is a circumstance
the jury may consider. The court deleted from CALJIC No. 2.20 the reference to a
felony conviction and did not give CALJIC No. 2.23. Defendant contends the
court erred because prosecution witness Jan Biaruta had a felony conviction.
When the parties discussed the instructions, the question arose whether any
witness had suffered a felony conviction. The parties believed that, with one
possible exception not relevant here, none had such a conviction. Thus, they
agreed that, subject to confirming whether the one witness had a felony conviction
(it was never so confirmed), the court would delete the reference to a felony
conviction and would not give CALJIC No. 2.23. Later, after the court had
finished instructing the jury, one of defendant’s attorneys stated that “although we
did withdraw that instruction on conviction of a felony,” he had recently thought
about it, and “Mr. Biaruta did testify and he was convicted of a felony.” The court
did not want to add that instruction at that time as it would have highlighted it.
We have said that the court should give the substance of CALJIC No. 2.20
in every criminal case, although it may omit factors that are inapplicable under the
evidence. (People v. Rincon-Pineda (1975) 14 Cal.3d 864, 883-884.) Here, the
court, with the concurrence of the parties, mistakenly believed no witness had
suffered a felony conviction and, accordingly, failed to mention it or give CALJIC
No. 2.23. Defendant argues that because of this, “the jury evaluated Biaruta’s
damning testimony as if it had come from a thoroughly credible witness, without
consideration of his felony conviction for burglary as a factor negatively affecting
We need not decide whether the court erred, or whether defendant invited
any error, for the failure to give these instructions was harmless under any
standard. Except to the extent that it duplicated CALJIC No. 2.20, CALJIC No.
2.23 contained nothing favorable to the defense. Telling the jury it could consider
Biaruta’s felony conviction only on credibility, and that such a conviction did not
necessarily destroy or impair credibility, would not help the defense. Defendants
usually want such a limiting instruction when they themselves had testified and
been impeached with a felony conviction, not when a prosecution witness had the
conviction. (See, e.g., People v. Lomeli (1993) 19 Cal.App.4th 649, 654-655,
disapproved in People v. Hernandez (2004) 33 Cal.4th 1040, 1052, fn. 3; People v.
Kendrick (1989) 211 Cal.App.3d 1273.) The failure to give CALJIC No. 2.23 did
not prejudice defendant.
In the abstract, it might have benefited defendant for the court to include a
felony conviction among the specific factors listed in CALJIC No. 2.20, but it was
unnecessary to do so here. Biaruta testified on direct examination that he had a
burglary conviction for which he was serving a 12-year prison sentence. On cross-
examination, defense counsel elicited that he also had convictions for resisting
arrest and criminal trespass. The court did give most of CAJLIC No. 2.20,
including that, “In determining the believability of a witness, you may consider
anything that has a tendency in reason to prove or disprove the truthfulness of the
testimony of the witness including but not limited to any of the following . . . .”
(Italics added.) Accordingly, the jury was permitted to consider the felony
conviction (and the witness’s other convictions) on credibility. Defense counsel
thoroughly cross-examined Biaruta and challenged his credibility. He argued that
the jury should not “believe the word of a convicted felon who was in the Arizona
prison.” The prosecutor cited Biaruta’s testimony only briefly in his opening
argument, and even he stated that Biaruta was “certainly no prize in his own
right.” The record thus refutes defendant’s claim that the jury evaluated Biaruta’s
testimony as if it had come from a thoroughly credible witness and without
considering his felony conviction.
C. Penalty Phase Issue
Defendant waived a penalty phase jury trial. After a contested penalty trial
before the court, the court rendered a verdict of death and gave a detailed
statement of reasons for its verdict. Thereafter, the court heard and denied
defendant’s motion for a new trial, again with a statement of reasons. Before
sentencing, the court permitted defendant personally to argue again for a life
sentence. When defendant finished speaking, the question arose whether the court
should entertain a motion to modify the sentence. (See § 190.4, subd. (e).)
Defense counsel said, “I’m told there’s some modification or something else the
Court is supposed to do prior to the time, although Your Honor outlined that on
September the 7th [when it rendered its verdict]. You may just want to refer to
that.” Counsel also said he did not “want to waive anything.” In response, the
court noted our decision in People v. Diaz (1992) 3 Cal.4th 495 and pointed out
that it had already stated its reasons when it rendered its verdict. It said, “So I
don’t believe that’s necessary at this point in time.” Defense counsel responded,
“Okay.” After permitting counsel for both sides to argue again what the sentence
should be, the court imposed the death sentence.
Defendant contends the court erred when it did not rule on an automatic
motion to modify the sentence. Because defendant did not object, and the hearing
occurred after our decision in People v. Hill (1992) 3 Cal.4th 959, the issue is not
cognizable on appeal. (People v. Riel, supra, 22 Cal.4th at p. 1220.) Counsel may
not have wanted to “waive anything,” but he did so when he suggested the court
might just refer to its earlier ruling and responded, “Okay,” after the court
expressed the belief that it did not have to state its reasons again. Moreover, we
see no error and no prejudice. A ruling on a modification motion would have been
“We have never decided whether a defendant who waives a jury trial on the
issue of penalty is entitled to a modification hearing under section 190.4,
subdivision (e).” (People v. Diaz, supra, 3 Cal.4th at p. 575.) We noted in Diaz
that the statutory language is ambiguous, sometimes referring to a verdict of death
by the “trier of fact” and sometimes referring to the “jury’s” findings. (Id. at p.
575, fn. 35, quoting section 190.4, subd. (e).) We also noted that, “[a]lthough at
first glance a modification motion after a penalty phase court trial appears to be an
exercise in futility, there is one aspect of the modification motion that is
significant even when the penalty issue has been determined by a court rather than
a jury: the requirement in section 190.4, subdivision (e) that the trial court ‘state
on the record the reasons for his [or her] findings.’ . . . The statutory requirement
that the reasons be stated on the record enables us to review the propriety of the
penalty determination made by the trial court sitting without a jury.” (People v.
Diaz, supra, at p. 575, fn. 35.) In this case, the court gave detailed statements
when it originally rendered its verdict even though, as it recognized, it was not
required to do so at that time. (See People v. Diaz, supra, at pp. 571-572.) All the
court failed to do was to repeat those reasons. Nothing in section 190.4 suggests
the court must state its reasons twice. Moreover, defendant could have challenged
the court’s verdict as part of his new trial motion, which the court did entertain.
D. Constitutionality of California’s Death Penalty Law and Other
Defendant reiterates various arguments that we have already rejected. We
see no reason to reconsider our previous decisions. The aggravating factors,
including section 190.3, factor (a), are not unconstitutionally vague. The statute is
not invalid for failing to specify which factors are mitigating and which are
aggravating, to limit aggravation to the specified aggravating factors, or to define
aggravation or mitigation. Use of the word “extreme” in section 190.3 does not
impermissibly restrict the sentencer’s consideration of mitigating factors. The
statute need not require written findings, unanimity as to aggravating
circumstances (even when trial is before a jury), or findings beyond a reasonable
doubt (except for other crimes). The special circumstances, including the felony-
based special circumstances, are not impermissibly broad. Prosecutorial discretion
in deciding whether to seek the death penalty is constitutional. (People v. Jones
(2003) 30 Cal.4th 1084, 1128-1129; People v. Maury, supra, 30 Cal.4th at pp.
439-440; People v. Burgener (2003) 29 Cal.4th 833, 884; People v. Gerule (2002)
28 Cal.4th 557, 663; People v. Farnum, supra, 28 Cal.4th at pp. 191-192; People
v. Riel, supra, 22 Cal.4th at pp. 1224-1225.)
Neither intercase proportionality nor disparate sentence review is required.
(People v. Hillhouse (2002) 27 Cal.4th 469, 511.) Defendant is entitled to
intracase proportionality review. (Ibid.) “He does not specifically request such
review, but it would not aid him. Given the nature of the current crime and his
previous criminal conduct [as well as his crime spree after he murdered
McCullough], defendant’s sentence is not disproportionate to his personal
E. Cumulative Prejudice
Defendant contends the cumulative effect of the alleged errors was
prejudicial. We disagree. There was little, if any, error to accumulate. Defendant
received a fair trial.
We affirm the judgment.
See next page for addresses and telephone numbers for counsel who argued in Supreme Court.
Name of Opinion People v. Horning
Original Appeal XXX
Opinion No. S044677
Date Filed: December 16, 2004
County: San Joaquin
Judge: William R. Giffen
Attorneys for Appellant:
John F. Schuck, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant.
Attorneys for Respondent:
Bill Lockyer, Attorney General, Robert R. Anderson, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Jo Graves,
Assistant Attorney General, Eric L. Christoffersen and Erik R. Brunkal, Deputy Attorneys General, for
Plaintiff and Respondent.
Counsel who argued in Supreme Court (not intended for publication with opinion):
John F. Schuck
Law Offices of John F. Schuck
4083 Transport Street, Suite B
Palo Alto, CA 94303
Erik R. Brunkal
Deputy Attorney General
1300 I Street
Sacramento, CA 94244-2550
|1||The People (Respondent)|
Represented by Attorney General - Sacramento Office
Erik R. Brunkal, Deputy Attorney General
P.O. Box 944255
1300 I St., 11th Floor
|2||Horning, Danny Ray (Appellant)|
San Quentin State Prison
Represented by Barry M. Karl
Attorney at Law
620 Jefferson Ave.
Redwood City, CA
|3||Horning, Danny Ray (Appellant)|
San Quentin State Prison
Represented by John F. Schuck
Law Offices of John F. Schuck
4083 Transport Street, Suite B
Palo Alto, CA
|Dec 16 2004||Opinion: Affirmed|
|Jan 26 1995||Judgment of death|
|Feb 1 1995||Filed certified copy of Judgment of Death Rendered|
|Feb 27 1995||Application for Extension of Time filed|
By Court Reporter Denise Wheeler to Complete R.T.
|Feb 28 1995||Extension of Time application Granted|
To Court Reporter To 3-7-95 To Complete R.T.
|Jan 25 1999||Filed:|
Applt's Applic. for appointment of Counsel.
|Jan 26 1999||Counsel appointment order filed|
John F. Schuck Is appointed to represent Applt for the direct Appeal.
|Feb 25 1999||Filed:|
Notice from Superior Court that Record on Appeal Was mailed to Applt's Counsel on 2-23-99.
|May 21 1999||Application for Extension of Time filed|
By Applt to request correction of the Record.
|May 24 1999||Extension of Time application Granted|
To 7-23-99 To request Record correction
|May 26 1999||Filed:|
Suppl Proof of Service of request for Eot.
|Jul 26 1999||Application for Extension of Time filed|
By Applt to request correction of the Record.
|Jul 28 1999||Extension of Time application Granted|
To 9-21-99 To request Record correction
|Aug 16 1999||Compensation awarded counsel|
|Sep 15 1999||Compensation awarded counsel|
|Sep 21 1999||Application for Extension of Time filed|
By Applt to request Corr. of the Record.
|Sep 24 1999||Extension of Time application Granted|
To 11/19/99 To Applt To request Corr. of the Record.
|Nov 17 1999||Received:|
Copy of Applt's request to Corr. and Augment Record (20 Pp.)
|Nov 30 1999||Compensation awarded counsel|
|Feb 2 2000||Compensation awarded counsel|
|May 1 2000||Compensation awarded counsel|
|May 24 2000||Compensation awarded counsel|
|Aug 21 2000||Counsel's status report received (confidential)|
from atty Schuck.
|Oct 27 2000||Counsel's status report received (confidential)|
from atty Schuck.
|Jan 5 2001||Counsel's status report received (confidential)|
from atty Schuck.
|Jan 10 2001||Compensation awarded counsel|
|Feb 28 2001||Compensation awarded counsel|
|Mar 2 2001||Counsel's status report received (confidential)|
from atty Schuck.
|Apr 30 2001||Counsel's status report received (confidential)|
from atty Schuck.
|Jul 9 2001||Counsel's status report received (confidential)|
from atty Schuck.
|Aug 27 2001||Counsel's status report received (confidential)|
from atty Schuck.
|Aug 27 2001||Change of Address filed for: applt. counsel John F. Schuck.|
|Oct 29 2001||Counsel's status report received (confidential)|
from atty Schuck.
|Dec 28 2001||Counsel's status report received (confidential)|
from atty Schuck.
|Jan 8 2002||Compensation awarded counsel|
|Feb 28 2002||Compensation awarded counsel|
|Mar 4 2002||Counsel's status report received (confidential)|
from atty Schuck.
|Apr 15 2002||Filed:|
"Substitution of attorney", filed by resp.
|May 8 2002||Counsel's status report received (confidential)|
from atty Schuck.
|May 29 2002||Counsel's status report received (confidential)|
(supplemental) from atty Schuck.
|Jul 2 2002||Record on appeal filed|
C-13 (3222 pp.) and R-19 (4067 pp.) including material under seal. Clerk's transcript includes 1311 pp. of juror questionnaires.
|Jul 2 2002||Appellant's opening brief letter sent, due:|
|Jul 29 2002||Counsel's status report received (confidential)|
from atty Schuck.
|Aug 12 2002||Request for extension of time filed|
To file appellant's opening brief. (1st request)
|Aug 13 2002||Extension of time granted|
To 10/11/2002 to file appellant's opening brief.
|Oct 11 2002||Request for extension of time filed|
To file appellant's opening brief. (2nd request)
|Oct 17 2002||Extension of time granted|
To 12/10/2002 to file appellant's opening brief.
|Dec 10 2002||Request for extension of time filed|
To file appellant's opening brief. (3rd request)
|Dec 12 2002||Extension of time granted|
To 2/10/2003 to file appellant's opening brief. The court anticipates that after that date, only one further extension totaling 60 additional days will be granted. Counsel is ordered to inform his or her assisting attorney or entity, if any, and any assisting attorney or entity of any separate counsel of record, of this schedule, and to take all steps necessary to meet it.
|Feb 7 2003||Counsel's status report received (confidential)|
from atty Schuck.
|Feb 7 2003||Request for extension of time filed|
to file appellant's opening brief. (4th request)
|Feb 11 2003||Extension of time granted|
to 4/11/2003 to file appellant's opening brief. After that date, only two further extensions totaling about 80 additional days will be granted. Extension is granted based upon counsel John F. Schuck's representation that he anticipates filing that brief by 6/30/2003.
|Apr 7 2003||Request for extension of time filed|
to file appellant's opening brief. (5th request)
|Apr 8 2003||Extension of time granted|
to 6/10/2003 to file appellant's opening brief. After that date, only one further extension totaling about 20 additional days will be granted. Extension is granted based upon counsel John F. Schuck's representation that he anticipates filing that brief by 6/30/2003.
|Jun 10 2003||Request for extension of time filed|
to file appellant's opening brief. (6th request)
|Jun 13 2003||Extension of time granted|
to 7-10-2003 to file AOB. After that date, no further extension is contemplated. Extension granted based upon counsel Schuck's representation that he anticipates filing the brief by 7-10-2003.
|Jul 10 2003||Filed:|
applt's request to file opening brief in excess of 280 pages. (brief submitted under separate cover)
|Jul 11 2003||Order filed|
granting appellant's request to file AOB in excess of 280 pp.
|Jul 11 2003||Appellant's opening brief filed|
|Aug 11 2003||Request for extension of time filed|
to file respondent's brief. (1st request)
|Aug 14 2003||Extension of time granted|
to 10/10/2003 to file respondent's brief.
|Oct 10 2003||Request for extension of time filed|
to file respondent's brief. (2nd request)
|Oct 21 2003||Extension of time granted|
to 12/9/2003 to file respondent's brief. After that date, only one further extension totaling about 60 additional days is contemplated. Extension is granted based upon Deputy Attorney General Erik R. Brunkal's representation that he anticipates filing that brief by 1/19/2004.
|Dec 5 2003||Request for extension of time filed|
to file respondent's brief. (3rd request)
|Dec 19 2003||Filed:|
Amended request for extension of time to file respondent's brief.
|Dec 31 2003||Extension of time granted|
to 2/9/2004 to file respondent's brief. Extension is granted based upon Deputy Attorney General Erik R. Brunkal's representation that he anticipates filing that brief by 2/9/2004. After that date, no further extension is contemplated.
|Jan 26 2004||Compensation awarded counsel|
|Feb 9 2004||Respondent's brief filed|
(50,634 words - 175 pp.)
|Feb 18 2004||Compensation awarded counsel|
|Feb 27 2004||Request for extension of time filed|
to file appellant's reply brief. (1st request)
|Mar 1 2004||Extension of time granted|
to 4/30/2004 to file appellant's reply brief.
|Apr 27 2004||Request for extension of time filed|
to file appellant's reply brief. (2nd request)
|Apr 30 2004||Extension of time granted|
to 6/29/2004 to file appellant's reply brief. Extension is granted based upon counsel John F. Schuck's representation that he anticipates filing that brief by 6/29/2004. After that date, no further extension is contemplated.
|May 7 2004||Exhibit(s) lodged|
People's exhibits, nos. 2 and 4.
|Jun 10 2004||Appellant's reply brief filed|
(29,699 words; 113 pp.)
|Jun 15 2004||Compensation awarded counsel|
|Jun 21 2004||Oral argument letter sent|
advising counsel that case could be scheduled for oral argument as early as September calendar, to be held the week of Sept. 7, 2004, in San Francisco. Any request for additional time, notification of requirement for two counsel, or advisement of "focus issues" due no later than 10 days after the case has been set for oral argument.
|Jun 25 2004||Filed letter from:|
Appellant's counsel John F. Schuck dated, 6/23/2004, requesting that oral argument not be scheduled the week of 9/7/2004 due to pre-existing vacation plans.
|Jun 30 2004||Compensation awarded counsel|
|Jul 14 2004||Letter sent to:|
attorney John Schuck advising that the case will be scheduled for oral arugment during October session, to be held in Los Angeles the week of Oct. 4, 2004.
|Sep 1 2004||Case ordered on calendar|
10/6/04 @ 1:30pm - Los Angeles
|Sep 13 2004||Filed letter from:|
appellant's counsel, dated 9/10/2004, re focus issues for oral argument.
|Sep 21 2004||Filed letter from:|
respondent, dated 9/16/2004, re focus issues for oral argument.
|Oct 6 2004||Cause argued and submitted|
|Oct 20 2004||Compensation awarded counsel|
|Nov 10 2004||Compensation awarded counsel|
|Dec 16 2004||Opinion filed: Judgment affirmed in full|
Opinion by Chin, J. -----joined by George, C.J., Kennard, Baxter, Werdegar, Brown, & Moreno, JJ.
|Dec 30 2004||Rehearing petition filed|
by appellant. (13 pp; 3,249 words)
|Jan 4 2005||Time extended to consider modification or rehearing|
to and including 3-16-2005, or the date upon which rehearing is either granted or denied, whichever occurs first.
|Jan 12 2005||Compensation awarded counsel|
|Jan 26 2005||Rehearing denied|
George, C.J., was absent and did not particiapte.
|Jan 26 2005||Remittitur issued (AA)|
|Jan 26 2005||Compensation awarded counsel|
|Jan 27 2005||Exhibit(s) returned|
to San Joaquin County Superior Court, People's 2 and 4.
|Jan 27 2005||Order filed (150 day statement)|
|Feb 3 2005||Received:|
receipt for remittitur.
|Feb 3 2005||Received:|
Acknowledgment of receipt of exhibits.
|Apr 11 2005||Received:|
Copy of appellant's cert petition. (29 pp. - excluding appendices)
|Apr 19 2005||Received:|
Letter from U.S.S.C., dated 4/14/1005, advising cert petition filed 4/8/2005 as No. 04-9657.
|May 11 2005||Compensation awarded counsel|
|May 18 2005||Compensation awarded counsel|
|Jun 22 2005||Counsel appointment order filed|
Upon request of condemned prisoner Danny Ray Horning for appointment of counsel, Barry M. Karl is hereby appointed to represent Danny Ray Horning for habeas corpus/executive clemency proceedings related to the above automatic appeal now final in this court.
|Jun 22 2005||Compensation awarded counsel|
|Aug 24 2005||Counsel's status report received (confidential)|
from atty Karl.
|Sep 30 2005||Related habeas corpus petition filed (post-judgment)|
|Oct 3 2005||Certiorari denied by U.S. Supreme Court|
|Dec 13 2005||Filed:|
Declaration of atty Barry M. Karl (confidential)
|Dec 16 2005||Order filed|
The order filed in the above case on June 22, 2005, is amended to read as follows: Upon request of condemned prisoner Danny Ray Horning for appointment of counsel, Barry M. Karl is hereby appointed to represent Danny Ray Horning for habeas corpus/executive clemency proceedings related to the above automatic appeal now final in this court. Any "petition for writ of habeas corpus will be presumed to be filed without substantial delay if it is filed . . . within 24 months [now 36 months]" of this date (Supreme Ct. Policies Regarding Cases Arising From Judgments of Death, policy 3, timeliness std. 1-1.1), and it will be presumed that any successive petition filed within that period is justified or excused (see In re Clark (1993) 5 Cal.4th 750, 774-782), in light of this court's delay in appointing habeas corpus/executive clemency counsel on behalf of condemned prisoner Danny Ray Horning.
|Dec 30 2005||Compensation awarded counsel|
|Jan 18 2006||Compensation awarded counsel|
|May 16 2007||Filed:|
declaration of counsel Karl. (confidential)
|May 24 2007||Compensation awarded counsel|
|Jun 13 2007||Compensation awarded counsel|
|Dec 28 2007||Compensation awarded counsel|
|Feb 14 2008||Compensation awarded counsel|
|Feb 15 2008||Compensation awarded counsel|
|Feb 28 2008||Filed:|
Confidential declaration of Barry M. Karl.
|Mar 20 2008||Compensation awarded counsel|
|Jun 3 2008||Filed:|
Confidential declaration of Barry M. Karl.
|Jun 18 2008||Compensation awarded counsel|
|Jun 25 2008||Compensation awarded counsel|
|Aug 7 2008||Filed:|
Confidential declaration of service from Barry M. Karl.
|Jan 14 2009||Compensation awarded counsel|
|Nov 5 2009||Compensation awarded counsel|
|Jul 11 2003||Appellant's opening brief filed|
|Feb 9 2004||Respondent's brief filed|
|Jun 10 2004||Appellant's reply brief filed|