IN THE SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA
Plaintiff and Respondent,
CORRELL LAMONT THOMAS,
San Diego County
Defendant and Appellant.
Super. Ct. No. SCE171425
Defendant Correll Lamont Thomas was convicted of the first degree
murder of Creed Grote and the attempted murder of Troy Ortiz. He was also
convicted of the second degree murder of Ricky McDonald.1 As special
circumstances of the Grote murder, the jury found that defendant lay in wait,2
discharged a firearm from a vehicle with intent to inflict death,3 and committed
multiple murders.4 It also found that defendant personally used a firearm5 in the
In the McDonald case, codefendant Kazi Cooksey was also convicted of
second degree murder. Nicole Halstead was also charged in the Grote/Ortiz and
McDonald matters. She pled guilty to one count of voluntary manslaughter
against Grote. The other charges against her were dismissed. Pursuant to that plea
agreement she testified against defendant and Cooksey.
Penal Code section 190.2, subdivision (a)(15). All further statutory
references are to the Penal Code unless otherwise indicated.
Section 190.2, subdivision (a)(21).
Section 190.2, subdivision (a)(3).
Grote/Ortiz crimes, and that he thereby intended to inflict great bodily injury or
death upon Grote.6 Finally, the jury found that defendant had two prior serious
felony convictions within the meaning of the “Three Strikes” law.7 Defendant
was sentenced to death.
This appeal is automatic. We affirm the judgment.
I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND
A. Guilt Phase
1. The Murder of Ricky McDonald
a. Prosecution Evidence
Nicole Halstead, defendant‟s girlfriend,8 was a principal prosecution
witness. Before relating the facts surrounding the Ricky McDonald murder,
Halstead testified about a violent encounter that defendant and Kazi Cooksey had
with Darrell Milton an hour earlier. Neither defendant nor Cooksey were charged
with crimes against Milton. The evidence relating to this assault was, nonetheless,
admitted “for the limited purpose of determining if it tends to show the intent
and/or mental state” that was a necessary element of the McDonald murder.
According to Halstead, around midnight on May 17, 1996, she, defendant,
and Cooksey went to a liquor store where they encountered Darrell Milton.
Milton was drunk and verbally harassing everyone going in or out of the store. As
they left the store, two other men rushed Milton and hit him in the face.
Section 667, subdivisions (b)-(i).
During the period covering the charged offenses defendant was married to
Arlene Thomas. However, he maintained relationships with a number of other
women including Halstead.
Defendant and Cooksey joined in the attack. Defendant kicked Milton “real
hard … over and over.” Cooksey knelt over Milton and punched him.
Milton was hospitalized for three days. He and his companion Kevin
Collins both testified the attack was unprovoked. Neither man could identify
defendant or Cooksey.9
Defendant, Cooksey, and Halstead then drove four or five miles back to an
apartment complex where Cesar Harris lived. Before going to the liquor store, the
three had been socializing with Harris and Carolyn Lanham10 at a picnic table in
front of Harris‟s apartment. Thirty to 45 minutes after they returned, Harris‟s
neighbor, Ricky McDonald, drove up and crashed his truck into a wall.
Drunk and belligerent, McDonald yelled: “Why in the hell you over here
making all this fucking noise . . . . by my house.” Cooksey confronted McDonald,
asking, “What, you got a problem?” The men argued and Cooksey punched
McDonald in the jaw. McDonald said it didn‟t hurt and that Cooksey had better
not do it again. Cooksey did it again. As McDonald staggered from the blow,
defendant punched him and McDonald fell into some bushes. Defendant was “six
foot four, well over 200 pounds,” while Cooksey was disabled on his left side.
Defendant then kicked McDonald several times in the chest and head, but
stopped at Harris‟s request. As McDonald lay in the bushes, breathing but
unconscious, the others resumed drinking. After 20 minutes, Cooksey returned to
McDonald‟s prone body and started punching him again, ultimately hitting
McDonald in the head with a liquor bottle. He repeatedly hit McDonald so hard
that Harris was surprised the bottle did not break. Harris again intervened. While
The record does not reveal whether anyone was charged in the Milton
Harris and Lanham were also prosecution witnesses.
Cooksey stopped, defendant then “stomped” on McDonald‟s head several times.
Stripping him, defendant slapped McDonald‟s buttocks. He also took McDonald‟s
baseball cap and shoes. Harris gave Lanham McDonald‟s sack of takeout food.
At defendant‟s direction the others got into Halstead‟s car, but defendant
lingered at the scene for almost 10 minutes. Finally, he “jumped in the car real
fast.” Halstead asked him what he had been doing that had taken so long.
Defendant replied that McDonald was reviving, but that he “took care of that.” As
they drove away defendant and Cooksey were laughing about defendant‟s “getting
his stripes.” They used the slang term “M 1,” which Halstead understood to mean
Dr. Brian Blackbourne, the medical examiner of San Diego County,
assisted at McDonald‟s autopsy. He testified that McDonald died from multiple
injuries to his head and neck.
b. Defense Evidence
The defense theory was that McDonald died because Cooksey hit him on
the head with the bottle, not because of any injuries defendant inflicted.
According to Dr. John Eisele, the defense forensic pathologist, McDonald did not
die as a result of injuries to his neck, but rather from blood loss and blunt force
trauma to his head.
Four defense witnesses testified to Cooksey‟s violent character. According
to one of them, Cooksey had considerable strength in his “good hand.”
Finally, a former cellmate testified that Halstead told her she had kicked an
unidentified man who was being beaten.
2. The Murder of Creed Grote
a. Prosecution Evidence
A few weeks after the McDonald killing, defendant murdered Creed Grote
for flirting with Halstead. Halstead and Grote‟s companion, Troy Ortiz, were the
principal witnesses against defendant.
Halstead provided background concerning defendant‟s actions before the
murder. She had frequently complained to him that Jesse Russell, the father of her
children, abused her. On June 5, after an especially violent argument between
them, Halstead phoned defendant and asked him to kill Russell. Defendant
agreed. Halstead drove him to a house where he obtained a firearm. At trial
Halstead was shown a TEC 9 handgun and said it was similar to the one defendant
acquired that night.
Halstead then had second thoughts and tried to dissuade defendant.
Defendant finally agreed but was angry with Halstead for changing her mind.
Defendant drove to Don Juan Thompson‟s house. For several hours he drank with
Thompson and quarreled with Halstead. Shortly before midnight, defendant told
Halstead to drive him to the apartment of another of his girlfriends, Keisha
Thomas.11 The front passenger‟s seat, where defendant sat, was broken in a
reclining position, so that he was not visible to the occupants of other cars.
At an intersection Halstead stopped next to a car driven by Creed Grote.
Grote and his passenger Troy Ortiz flirted with Halstead, smiling and nodding at
her. Halstead smiled back. Defendant said to Halstead, “Are they looking over
here at you?” In a “smart mouth way,” Halstead replied, “No, they‟re looking at
you.” Defendant sat up in his seat and glared at Grote and Ortiz. When Ortiz saw
Keisha Thomas and defendant were not related.
defendant, he said, “Oh, fuck. We‟re in trouble now.”12 Grote responded, “Don‟t
worry about it. We‟re not stopping to fight anyone.”
When the light changed Grote sped away. Demanding that Halstead catch
up with him, defendant pulled a gun from his jacket and inserted a clip of
ammunition. As Halstead pulled even, defendant leaned out the window and
aimed at Grote. He fired two or three shots, saying, “Fuck you.” Grote‟s window
shattered. The car veered off the road and rolled over. Ortiz pulled Grote out of
the car, but he was unresponsive.
Defendant had Halstead drop him off at Keisha Thomas‟s home. He took
his gun in with him and disassembled it there, hiding the parts around the
apartment. That night Halstead told Don Juan Thompson and Carolyn Lanham
what had happened. Within a few days she also told Jody Deere. Deere told
Halstead she should turn herself in. When Halstead failed to do so, Deere called
The San Diego County Sheriff‟s Department conducted the investigation.
At the scene, four 9-millimeter cartridge casings were found along the street.
They all came from the same weapon. A TEC 9 is one of several types of firearms
that might have expelled the cartridges. The trajectory of the bullets that hit
Grote‟s car indicated they were fired from a position parallel to it.
An autopsy conducted by the San Diego County Medical Examiner‟s
Office revealed that Grote was killed by three gunshot wounds to his head, neck,
At trial Ortiz positively identified defendant as the gunman. The
intersection was well lit, Ortiz‟s view of defendant was unobstructed, and because
of the red light they stared at one another for 45 seconds to a minute.
b. Defense Evidence
The defense theory was that defendant could not have formed the intent to
kill Grote because he was under the influence of prescription sedatives and
It was stipulated that defendant had received an initial supply of Mellaril
(thioridazine) and Desyrel (trazadone) from a physician three months earlier. The
prescription authorized one refill. The record was silent as to whether it had been
Defense psychiatrist Dr. Clark Smith testified that Mellaril is a “major
tranquilizer.” Users report that their thought processes are slowed down so much
that they have trouble keeping up with the world around them. Desyrel is such a
powerful sedative that it is not commonly prescribed any longer as an anti-
depressant, but only as a sleep aid. Alcohol is also a tranquilizer. Ordinarily, it
would have an additive effect when ingested with Mellaril or Desyrel. However,
the combination might also result in agitation.
Arlene Thomas, defendant‟s wife, testified that he became angry when he
took Mellaril and/or Desyrel with alcohol. She saw him take Mellaril and Desyrel
with water on June 5th or June 6th, 1996. According to Don Juan Thompson and
his girlfriend Vilma Gold, defendant drank a great deal on the night of June 5,
1996, and was quite intoxicated. On cross-examination, Thompson admitted he
had lied on another unrelated occasion to protect defendant.
Over defendant‟s objection the charges against defendant and Cooksey in
the McDonald case were tried in a single proceeding. However, the court
empaneled two juries, one for each defendant, because defendant faced the death
penalty in the Grote case and Cooksey was not charged in that matter. Cooksey‟s
jury was excused during evidence pertaining to the Grote/Ortiz charges. As noted,
both defendant and Cooksey were convicted of second degree murder in the
McDonald case, and defendant was convicted of the first degree murder of Grote
and the attempted murder of Ortiz. Defendant‟s jury then considered the question
of penalty. That jury was unable to reach a decision and was discharged. A
second penalty jury was empaneled. We discuss the evidence as it was received
by the second penalty jury.
B. Penalty Phase
1. Prosecution Evidence
a. Victim impact evidence
Jennifer Jones, Mr. McDonald‟s fiancée, testified he was like a father to her
two children, aged seven and 15. According to Troy Ortiz, Mr. Grote‟s fiancée
was pregnant with his son at the time of Grote‟s death.
b. Evidence of defendant’s other violent crimes
The prosecution presented evidence of several crimes defendant had
committed before the charged offenses.
i. The Stockton robbery and murder
In January of 1995, William Bird drove defendant to Stockton to visit
Bird‟s sister Teresa, who had a child by defendant. On January 11, 1995,
defendant and others were in Teresa‟s apartment. Because of financial difficulties,
Teresa had put defendant‟s child up for adoption. Defendant consoled Teresa,
saying that they would soon have money. He and the other men left the apartment
and drove to a social club nicknamed the “Gambling Shack.” They planned to
force their way into the club and rob the patrons.
Upon arriving, they realized the scheme would not work because the
entrance was controlled by a sequence of locked doors. They then decided to rob
Prince Austin when he left the club. As Austin emerged, defendant shot at him
with a pistol and a confederate fired a shotgun. Austin was killed by the shotgun
blast. Defendant admitted his involvement in Austin‟s murder to Teresa and
William Bird. He also told his brother Cordell Thomas and Nicole Halstead
about the crime. The record does not reflect whether defendant was prosecuted.
Two defense witnesses testified that defendant was not one of the men they
had seen standing near the Gambling Shack before the shooting and running away
ii. The El Cajon grossly negligent shooting
On September 17, 1995, Nicole Halstead called defendant to her apartment
in El Cajon. She told him that Jesse Russell had forced his way into the
apartment, ransacked it, and choked her. Defendant responded, “This is it. I‟m
tired of him. . . . I‟m going over there.” Defendant left, accompanied by Don
Jesse Russell lived with his family on Sumner Street in El Cajon. On
September 17, 1995, Russell‟s brother, DeMarco Atkins, was there. Late that
evening defendant and another person tapped on a window and asked for Russell.
Atkins recognized defendant‟s voice. Atkins said Russell was not there, then
heard a gun being cocked. Defendant said, “Looking for Jesse. We‟re going to
get him.” The two people ran toward the front of the apartment. Atkins fell to the
floor, thinking they were going to shoot into the apartment. Minutes later he did
hear shots, but they did not hit the apartment. Atkins did not see who did the
iii. The El Cajon home invasion robbery
Later that same night, defendant and Don Juan Thompson burst into
Tashna Waits‟s apartment. Holding a gun, defendant ordered her guests Ronald
Doss and Alton Brown to empty their pockets. Doss drew his own gun and the
men exchanged gunfire. Defendant was hit. Thompson was keeping Waits,
Kimberly Braeutigan, and their children in a bedroom. Hearing the shots, he
emerged, grabbed defendant‟s gun, and fled, leaving defendant behind. A San
Diego County firearms examiner testified that some of the cartridge casings
recovered from Waits‟s apartment came from a pistol found in a nearby flower
bed. That same pistol produced the cartridge casings recovered near the apartment
of DeMarco Atkins where defendant had threatened “to get” Jesse Russell.
2. Defense Evidence
The defense presented much the same evidence that it had in the guilt phase
regarding defendant‟s drinking and drug ingestion and its effect on his ability to
form the intent to commit murder.
According to another of Nicole Halstead‟s former cellmates, Halstead said
that she had hit McDonald in the head with a bottle and had stomped on him with
Mitigation evidence was presented by defendant‟s mother and father, along
with other relatives. They described defendant‟s childhood as characterized by
neglect, abuse, and squalor.
Defendant‟s mother Sheila Thomas was addicted to alcohol and drugs by
the time she was 13. She used her welfare checks to feed her drug habit, rather
than provide for her children. Defendant‟s father Jimmy Thomas also used drugs.
The family lived in abysmal conditions. The sheets smelled of urine; there was
no food. An uncle tried to have authorities intervene. Several times defendant‟s
maternal grandparents assumed his care.
Defendant‟s father Jimmy worked night shifts. When he left he would lock
Sheila in the house. Yet she would sneak out regularly, leaving the children
unattended. Jimmy estimated that defendant witnessed 50 to 100 physical
altercations between his parents. Jimmy broke Sheila‟s jaw. Sheila knocked
Jimmy out and once pulled a gun on him. Jimmy abandoned the family when
defendant was three or four years old. Thereafter his contribution to the support of
his children amounted to about $5 a month. Sheila‟s drug use continued unabated.
She stole from defendant to buy crack cocaine. When defendant was about 15, he
called Jimmy to ask whether he should report Sheila to the authorities for buying
drugs with her welfare checks. Jimmy counseled against it. Jimmy was
incarcerated for robbery when he testified.
After Jimmy left, Sheila lived with Larry Hollings and had two more
children. Sheila continued to use drugs, including PCP (phencyclidine) and “red
devils.” Hollings, addicted to heroin and cocaine, sold drugs from their house.
When Hollings passed out, defendant would safeguard the drugs and money,
returning them to Hollings in the morning. Defendant was about seven at the time.
Sheila and Hollings also fought in front of the children, resulting in frequent police
visits. Sheila struck defendant with leather belts and extension cords. Sometimes,
because of welts on his back and legs, defendant could not walk to school, even
though it was just across the street. In and out of jail during defendant‟s
childhood, Hollings was in custody for armed robbery at the time he testified.
Several witnesses testified to defendant‟s good character. Larry and Terry
Hollings, defendant‟s half brothers, were respectively, nine and five years younger
than he. Because of Sheila‟s neglect, the responsibility for raising them largely
fell upon defendant. He would wake them in the morning, get them ready for
school, and attend their parent-teacher conferences.
Defendant had two children with his girlfriend Cathy. When Cathy was
hospitalized with lupus, defendant stayed at her side for weeks. Throughout his
incarceration defendant kept in touch with his daughter and son, then ages seven
Beverly Haynes and defendant lived together for two months. Defendant
was very good with her severely disabled son. Years later the boy still became
excited at the mention of defendant‟s name. When Haynes‟s 12-year-old daughter
would run away, defendant would find and counsel her about the dangers awaiting
her on the streets.
For a six-month period defendant lived with his aunt and attended church
with her. Pastor Milton Chambers testified defendant was very respectful,
participated in church activities, and caused no problems.
Amber Schuetzle and Christine Reardon testified that defendant prevented
an enraged Kazi Cooksey from shooting Reardon during an argument.
A. Guilt Phase Issues
1. Denial of Severance
Defendant moved to sever his two murder cases. Arguing that the Grote
case was stronger, he urged that trying the incidents together would prejudice him,
and that the evidence in neither case was cross-admissible in the other. The court
denied the motion, noting that a joint trial is proper even in the absence of cross-
admissibility. It concluded that the evidence in the McDonald case was not
significantly weaker than that in the Grote murder.
Defendant‟s claim fails. Under section 954, joinder was presumptively
proper because the two murders were crimes of the same class. The remaining
question was whether defendant would be prejudiced by joinder. As we will
explain, he was not.
Section 954 provides in relevant part: “An accusatory pleading may
charge . . . two or more different offenses of the same class of crimes or offenses,
under separate counts . . . .” The statute also provides that “the court in which a
case is triable, in the interests of justice and for good cause shown, may in its
discretion order that the different offenses or counts set forth in the accusatory
pleading be tried separately or divided into two or more groups and each of said
groups tried separately.” (Italics added.)
“ „As we have often observed, because consolidation or joinder of charged
offenses ordinarily promotes efficiency, that is the course of action preferred by
the law. [Citations.]‟ (Alcala v. Superior Court (2008) 43 Cal.4th 1205,
1220 . . . .” (People v. Hartsch (2010) 49 Cal.4th 472, 493 (Hartsch).) When two
crimes of the same class are joined, cross-admissibility is not required. (§ 954.1.)
A refusal to sever counts properly charged together is an abuse of
discretion only if prejudice is clearly shown. (Hartsch, supra, 49 Cal.4th at p.
493; People v. Soper (2009) 45 Cal.4th 759, 771-774 (Soper); Alcala v. Superior
Court, supra, 43 Cal.4th at p. 1220 (Alcala).) The trial court properly exercised its
Here the statutory requirements for a joint trial were met. As the trial court
observed, the two murder counts were, obviously, “offenses of the same class of
crimes.” (§ 954.)
When the evidence underlying properly joined charges is not cross-
admissible, we consider whether the benefits of joinder sufficiently outweigh the
possibility that evidence of unrelated charges might affect the jury‟s consideration
of each set of charges. (Soper, supra, 45 Cal.4th at p. 775; People v. Bean (1988)
46 Cal.3d 919, 938.) In making that assessment, we consider whether: (1) some
Relying on Williams v. Superior Court (1984) 36 Cal.3d 441, 454,
defendant asserts that the trial court “was required to examine the propriety of 
joinder with the highest degree of scrutiny” because one of the charges was a
capital offense. The record reveals the trial court applied that standard.
of the charges are particularly likely to inflame the jury against the defendant; (2)
a weak case has been joined with a strong case; or (3) the joinder of the charges
converts the matter into a capital case. (Soper, at p. 775; People v. Arias (1996)
13 Cal.4th 92, 127; see also Alcala, supra, 43 Cal.4th at pp. 1220-1221.) We then
balance the potential for prejudice to the defendant from a joint trial against the
countervailing benefits. (Soper, at p. 775.)
None of the factors weighing against joinder are present here. The trial
court concluded “the emotional impact of each murder upon the trier of fact is
reasonably comparable,” and the strength of the evidence in the two cases was
fairly “evenly balanced.” We agree. Moreover, we note that in the McDonald
case, which defendant characterizes as the weaker case, he was convicted of only
second degree murder. Finally, the joinder of the McDonald charges did not
convert the Grote murder into a capital case. Although it did give rise to the
multiple-murder special circumstance, there were two other special circumstances
independent of the McDonald murder: lying in wait14 and discharging a firearm
from a vehicle with intent to inflict death.15 (See People v. Cook (2006) 39
Cal.4th 566, 583; People v. Walker (1988) 47 Cal.3d 605, 623.)
As noted, the McDonald case was tried to separate juries. Therefore,
defendant asserts, joinder “resulted in absolutely no savings of time, energy, or
money.” He is wrong.16 While there were two juries, only a single courtroom,
judge, prosecutor, and set of court attachés were required. (See Soper, supra, 45
Cal.4th at p. 772.) Moreover, witnesses related to the McDonald killing only
Section 190.2, subdivision (a)(15).
Section 190.2, subdivision (a)(21).
A fortiori, there is no merit to defendant‟s claim that “[b]ecause joinder of
counts conferred no benefits to the state, the normal weighing protocol applicable
to a severance motion did not apply.”
testified a single time. Thus, joinder obviated “the often significant increased
burden on crime victims and witnesses that would be imposed by multiple trials.”
(People v. Sutton (2010) 48 Cal.4th 533, 560, fn. 15.)
Defendant contends a different standard should be applied in his case
because there had already been a severance. He is wrong. The charges against
defendant and Cooksey were tried to separate juries. However, the considerations
bearing on severance of those charges were the same whether he was tried
separately or jointly with Cooksey for the McDonald murder. Defendant argues
that the court could have tried defendant and Cooksey jointly for the McDonald
murder and then tried defendant separately for the Grote murder. That alternative
was available, but by no means required. Its availability does not change the
analysis. In the absence of a showing of prejudice, the order of joinder must be
Defendant next contends the denial of his severance motion was based on
the false premise that critical prosecution evidence was cross-admissible. In
opposing the motion, the prosecutor argued that testimony Keisha Thomas would
provide was cross-admissible. He represented that Thomas would testify that after
the Grote shooting defendant came to her apartment, frantically hid parts of his
pistol there, and told her, “This is the second time I‟ve done this.”
Defendant‟s argument is itself based on a false premise. The trial court did
not base its ruling on the ground that Keisha Thomas‟s statement would be cross-
admissible. First, the court noted that “Penal Code section 954.1 expressly
permits joinder of offenses in the absence of cross admissible evidence.” Then it
stated that in its view “there is, at most, a modicum . . . of cross admissible
evidence.” Finally, speaking of the prosecution‟s proffer of Keisha Thomas‟s
testimony, the court asked rhetorically, “Is that single piece of evidence
determinative of this motion, or should it be? In the court‟s view, no.”
Defendant here renews the argument he made below: The statement he
allegedly made to Keisha Thomas about having “done this” before was “insolubly
ambiguous” because it was not clear what he was referring to. That argument fails
because Keisha Thomas did not mention this purported statement when she
testified at trial. Thus, defendant could suffer no prejudice from any ambiguity.
Defendant further contends that the trial court abused its discretion in denying his
motion for a retrial because the prosecution did not elicit his purported statement
to Keisha Thomas. Again, defendant‟s argument is based on the false premise that
the court permitted a joint trial because Keisha Thomas‟s proffered testimony in
this regard would be cross-admissible.
Finally, defendant contends the trial court should have instructed the jury
on its own motion that the evidence in the McDonald case was not admissible to
prove his guilt in the Grote case and vice versa. The contention lacks merit
because the jury received proper instruction. The point was addressed by CALJIC
No. 17.02, which was given and provided in pertinent part: “Each count charges a
distinct crime. You must decide each count separately.” (People v. Geier (2007)
41 Cal.4th 555, 578-579; People v. Catlin (2001) 26 Cal.4th 81, 153.)
2. Admission of Evidence of an Uncharged Offense
Defendant contends the trial court abused its discretion in admitting
evidence that he committed an uncharged assault on Darrell Milton an hour before
he beat Ricky McDonald to death. The claim fails because defendant fails to show
In addition to the McDonald and Grote killings and the Ortiz attempted
murder, the information charged defendant with robbing McDonald and alleged
the robbery as a special circumstance of the murder. The alleged robbery
consisted of stripping McDonald‟s lifeless body of its clothing and taking his
shoes and bag of fast food. The court granted defendant‟s section 995 motion to
set aside the robbery charge and special circumstance. It explained that the
evidence indicated defendant formed the intent to rob only after McDonald was
After Nicole Halstead pled guilty, the prosecutor made a proffer that she
would provide new evidence supporting a robbery-felony-murder theory. The
new evidence involved the uncharged assault on Milton. Halstead was to testify
that, when McDonald approached them, defendant and Cooksey were still “hyped
up” from the Milton beating and were angry that they had failed to rob him. The
prosecutor argued that the evidence would be “relevant to an ongoing state of
mind and evidence of [defendant‟s and Cooksey‟s] intent to rob” McDonald.
The court ruled evidence of the Milton assault admissible. It explained that
“there are sufficient similarities between this occurrence and the killing of Ricky
McDonald so as to permit the admission of the evidence pursuant to Evidence
Code section 1101(b). [¶] As to the element of intent and/or mental state, the
court is further and separately of the view that the evidence regarding the Milton
incident is relevant and admissible as demonstrating a continuing course of
conduct . . . . It does survive a 352 analysis and it is admissible.” Later, the court
reaffirmed its ruling that evidence of the Milton assault was “admissible under
Evidence Code section 1101(b) bearing upon the issues of intent and mental
At the conclusion of the evidence, the court ruled that the prosecution had
still failed to prove that defendant formed an intent to rob McDonald before killing
him. Consequently, the court denied the prosecutor‟s request to instruct the jury
on a felony-murder theory.17 However, the court stressed “[t]hat is not to suggest
that counsel are precluded from arguing the evidence of taking as being probative
of [defendant‟s] state of mind or intent.”
In charging the jury, the court gave this limiting instruction. “Evidence has
been introduced for the purpose of showing that the defendant engaged in conduct,
more particularly the liquor store incident, other than that for which he is on trial.
This evidence, if believed, may not be considered by you to prove that the
defendant is a person of bad character or that he has a disposition to commit
crimes. It may be considered by you only for the limited purpose of determining if
it tends to show the intent and/or mental state which is a necessary element of the
crime of murder of Ricky McDonald as charged in Count 1 of the information.
For the limited purpose for which you may consider such evidence, you must
weigh it in the same manner as you do all other evidence in the case. You are not
permitted to consider this evidence for any other purpose.”
“ „Evidence that a defendant has committed crimes other than those
currently charged is not admissible to prove that the defendant is a person of bad
character or has a criminal disposition; but evidence of uncharged crimes is
admissible to prove, among other things, the identity of the perpetrator of the
charged crimes, the existence of a common design or plan, or the intent with
which the perpetrator acted in the commission of the charged crimes. (Evid. Code,
§ 1101.) Evidence of uncharged crimes is admissible to prove identity, common
Defendant claims that the trial court prejudicially erred in admitting the
testimony of McDonald‟s fiancée that he customarily left his pay under the
mattress for her if she was not at home when he arrived. This point is moot in
light of the fact that the court did not allow the prosecution‟s felony-murder theory
to reach the jury.
design or plan, or intent only if the charged and uncharged crimes are sufficiently
similar to support a rational inference of identity, common design or plan, or
intent. [Citation.]‟ (People v. Kipp (1998) 18 Cal.4th 349, 369.)” (People v.
Foster (2010) 50 Cal.4th 1301, 1328 (Foster).)18
“As we stated in Kipp, „There is an additional requirement for the
admissibility of evidence of uncharged crimes: The probative value of the
uncharged offense evidence must be substantial and must not be largely
outweighed by the probability that its admission would create a serious danger of
undue prejudice, of confusing the issues, or of misleading the jury. (People v.
Ewoldt, supra, 7 Cal.4th 380, 404–405.) On appeal, a trial court‟s resolution of
these issues is reviewed for abuse of discretion. (Id. at p. 405.) A court abuses its
discretion when its ruling “falls outside the bounds of reason.” (People v. De
Santis (1992) 2 Cal.4th 1198, 1226.)‟ (People v. Kipp, supra, 18 Cal.4th 349,
371.)” (People v. Carter (2005) 36 Cal.4th 1114, 1149; accord, Foster, supra, 50
Cal.4th at pp. 1328-1329; see Evid. Code, § 352.19)
Evidence Code section 1101 provides: “(a) Except as provided in this
section and in Sections 1102, 1103, 1108, and 1109, evidence of a person's
character or a trait of his or her character (whether in the form of an opinion,
evidence of reputation, or evidence of specific instances of his or her conduct) is
inadmissible when offered to prove his or her conduct on a specified occasion.
“(b) Nothing in this section prohibits the admission of evidence that a
person committed a crime, civil wrong, or other act when relevant to prove some
fact (such as motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity,
absence of mistake or accident, or whether a defendant in a prosecution for an
unlawful sexual act or attempted unlawful sexual act did not reasonably and in
good faith believe that the victim consented) other than his or her disposition to
commit such an act.
“(c) Nothing in this section affects the admissibility of evidence offered to
support or attack the credibility of a witness.”
Evidence Code section 352 provides: “The court in its discretion may
exclude evidence if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the
(footnote continued on next page)
The least degree of similarity is required to prove intent or mental state. A
higher degree is required to prove common plan, and the highest degree to prove
identity. (People v. Lynch (2010) 50 Cal.4th 693, 736; Soper, supra, 45 Cal.4th at
p. 776; People v. Ewoldt (1994) 7 Cal.4th 380, 402-403.)
“ „Evidence of intent is admissible to prove that, if the defendant committed
the act alleged, he or she did so with the intent that comprises an element of the
charged offense. “In proving intent, the act is conceded or assumed; what is
sought is the state of mind that accompanied it.” [Citation.]‟ (People v. Ewoldt,
supra, ante, p. 394, fn. 2, italics in original.)” (People v. Balcom (1994) 7 Cal.4th
In his jury argument, defense counsel conceded that defendant assaulted
McDonald. He contested two points. First, he asserted that Cooksey, not
defendant, inflicted the fatal blows. Second, he claimed that defendant did not
possess the intent required for first or second degree murder.
Mental state and intent are rarely susceptible of direct proof and must
therefore be proven circumstantially. (People v. Smith (2005) 37 Cal.4th 733, 741;
People v. Beeman (1984) 35 Cal.3d 547, 558-559.) Consequently, a defendant‟s
actions leading up to the crime may be relevant to prove his or her mental state
and intentions at the time of the crime. (See People v. Avila (2009) 46 Cal.4th
680, 701; Smith, at p. 741.)
“ „ “We have long recognized „that if a person acts similarly in similar
situations, he probably harbors the same intent in each instance‟ [citations], and
(footnote continued from previous page)
probability that its admission will (a) necessitate undue consumption of time or (b)
create substantial danger of undue prejudice, of confusing the issues, or of
misleading the jury.”
that such prior conduct may be relevant circumstantial evidence of the actor‟s
most recent intent. The inference to be drawn is not that the actor is disposed to
commit such acts; instead, the inference to be drawn is that, in light of the first
event, the actor, at the time of the second event, must have had the intent attributed
to him by the prosecution.” ‟(People v. Gallego (1990) 52 Cal.3d 115, 171.)”
(People v. Roldan (2005) 35 Cal.4th 646, 706.)
Defendant claims that his conduct in the Milton and McDonald incidents
was not sufficiently similar to support an inference as to his intent. We need not
resolve the question. Any error in allowing the jury to consider evidence of
defendant‟s attack upon Milton was harmless. It is not reasonably probable that a
result more favorable to defendant would have been reached in the absence of the
alleged error. (See People v. Watson (1956) 46 Cal.2d 818, 836 (Watson).)20
Defendant‟s claim that the Milton evidence “tipped the scales against [him] on the
issue of whether the homicide was second degree murder or manslaughter” is not
compelling given the lack of strong provocation by McDonald and the viciousness
of the attack upon him by defendant and Cooksey. Therefore, the asserted error,
contrary to defendant‟s claims, was not of such gravity as to amount to a denial of
his “due process right to a fair trial, an impartial jury, and a reliable penalty
determination guaranteed by the Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments
to the United States Constitution and by Article One of the California
In People v. Malone (1988) 47 Cal.3d 1, 22, we held the Watson test
applicable to alleged errors in the admission of other-crimes evidence.
3. Reasonable Doubt Instructions
Defendant claims the standard reasonable doubt instruction given here over
his objection was defective because it failed to inform the jury that every element
of the charged crimes and special circumstances had be proven beyond a
reasonable doubt.21 The claim lacks merit. A single jury instruction may not be
judged in isolation, but must be viewed in the context of all instructions given.
(Middleton v. McNeil (2004) 541 U.S. 433, 437; People v. Letner and Tobin (2010)
50 Cal.4th 99, 182; People v. Huggins (2006) 38 Cal.4th 175, 192.) The alleged
deficiency in the standard instruction given here was supplied by other
instructions, which did expressly inform the jury that every element of the charged
crimes and special circumstances had to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.22
B. Penalty Phase Issues
1. Excusal of Prospective Juror for Cause
Defendant contends the for-cause excusal of Prospective Juror L.G. was
error.23 The claim fails.
Under Wainwright v. Witt (1985) 469 U.S. 412, 424 (Witt), we consider
whether the record fairly supports the trial court‟s determination that L.G.‟s views
on the death penalty would have prevented or substantially impaired her
performance as a juror. (People v. Bramit (2009) 46 Cal.4th 1221, 1233 (Bramit);
The general reasonable doubt instruction given here was based on CALJIC
No. 2.90, and provided in pertinent part: “The defendant in a criminal action is
presumed to be innocent until the contrary is proved, and in case of a reasonable
doubt whether his guilt is satisfactorily shown, he is entitled to a verdict of not
guilty. This presumption places upon the People the burden of proving him guilty
beyond a reasonable doubt.” (Italics added.)
CALJIC Nos. 8.10, 8.66, 8.81.3, 8.81.15, and 8.81.21.
He contends it violated his rights to due process, a fair trial, an impartial
jury, and a reliable penalty determination, in violation of the Fifth, Sixth, Eighth,
and Fourteenth Amendments to the federal Constitution.
People v. Bunyard (2009) 45 Cal.4th 836, 845 (Bunyard); People v. Roldan,
supra, 35 Cal.4th 646, 696.) We conclude it does.
L.G.‟s responses on the juror questionnaire unequivocally satisfied the Witt
standard. Asked whether she would like to be a juror in this case, L.G. checked
“No,” explaining that, “I do not believe in the death penalty.” Asked whether she
had any biases, prejudices, or preconceived notions that might affect the way she
decided this case, L. G. checked “Yes,” explaining that she was “Against death
Asked specifically what her feelings were regarding the death penalty, L.G.
wrote, “Against!” Asked to rate her attitude towards the death penalty, L. G.
checked “Strongly oppose.” Asked in what types of cases, if any, she felt the
death penalty should be available, L.G. wrote “N/A.”
Asked whether her moral, religious, or philosophical beliefs in opposition
to the death penalty were so strong that she would be unable to impose the death
penalty, regardless of the facts, L.G. checked “Yes.” Asked whether her
opposition to the death penalty would so substantially impair her ability to do her
duty as a juror that she would only vote for life in prison without possibility of
parole, L.G. checked “Yes.” Asked whether she would automatically vote for life
in prison without possibility of parole, no matter what evidence was presented at
trial, she checked “Yes.” Asked whether she would listen to and consider all the
evidence presented by both the People and the defense before reaching a penalty
decision, she checked “No.” Asked whether there was any reason she would not
be a fair and impartial juror in this case, L.G. checked “Yes,” giving “prejudice
and against death penalty” as the reason.
Against this record, defendant contends that, “when questioned in open
court, [L.G.] revealed that her opposition to the death penalty was not nearly as
absolute as one might have gathered from reading her questionnaire.”
“ „Generally, a trial court‟s rulings on motions to exclude for cause are
afforded deference on appeal, for “appellate courts recognize that a trial judge who
observes and speaks with a prospective juror and hears that person‟s responses
(noting, among other things, the person‟s tone of voice, apparent level of
confidence, and demeanor), gleans valuable information that simply does not
appear on the record.” [Citation.]‟ (People v. Avila (2006) 38 Cal.4th 491, 529.)
“A finding of bias „may be upheld even in the absence of clear statements
from the juror that he or she is impaired because “many veniremen simply cannot
be asked enough questions to reach the point where their bias has been made
„unmistakably clear‟; these veniremen may not know how they will react when
faced with imposing the death sentence, or may be unable to articulate, or may
wish to hide their true feelings.” [Wainwright v. Witt, supra, 469 U.S. at pp. 424-
425. Thus, when there is ambiguity in the prospective juror‟s statements, “the trial
court, aided as it undoubtedly [is] by its assessment of [the venireman‟s]
demeanor, is entitled to resolve it in favor of the State.” Id., at 434.‟ (Uttecht v.
Brown (2007) 551 U.S. 1, 7; see People v. Wilson (2008) 44 Cal.4th 758, 779
(Wilson).)” (Bramit, supra, 46 Cal.4th at p. 1235.)
To the extent that the colloquies defendant relies upon created any
ambiguity, the court was clearly entitled to resolve it in favor of excusal. The
court asked L.G. whether she would provide for the death penalty if she were
creating a system of law. L.G. responded that she probably would. Her full
response offers defendant little support. In the same breath, L.G. said that in her
legal system convicted felons would be quarantined, “maybe up into space or
The court pursued the matter, explaining that it was trying to determine
“whether you truly can approach this case with an open mind as a juror or, if
you‟ll forgive me, whether you‟re telling me or us what you think we ought to
hear.” L.G.‟s response was opaque. “Well, I‟m a truthful person and I‟m going to
give my honest opinion. I mean as a juror I‟m just going to be openminded. And
if those in this case are the two options, then it would have to depend on the
outcome of us as jurors for whomever to be able, for me to really indicate death or
life. So I couldn’t be open if I was picked.” (Italics added.)
Defendant asserts that L.G. later stated that she could change her mind.
However, it is not clear that she was speaking about the death penalty. Her
statement came in response to the court‟s follow-up questions regarding her
answers to items on the questionnaire dealing with race. Question No. 106 asked
whether the race of the defendants and the victims would affect her
decisionmaking. L.G. did not answer the question. Instead, she wrote “Private.”
Question No. 107 asked whether the fact that defendant and his accomplice Nicole
Halstead were “involved in an intimate interracial relationship” would affect her
ability to sit as a fair and impartial juror. L.G. checked “Yes.” In the space
provided for an explanation she wrote “Prejudice.” The court asked L.G. to
“[l]ook at questions 106 and 107 . . . and talk to us about your answers to those
questions, please.” L.G. said, “Okay. There again, I put private because it‟s hard
for me to know how I feel. I mean as an overall, I really don‟t believe in the death
penalty. But then again, upon hearing facts and really going into detail, there‟s
something that could change my mind.” Her answer was not responsive. It did not
clarify her answers to item Nos. 106 and 107 on the questionnaire. It is unclear
whether L.G. wished to discuss her answers in private, whether she considered her
views private, or whether she was attempting to convey some other unclarified
Later on voir dire, the court asked L.G., “do the convictions themselves
close your mind or make the decision for you as to what sentence should be
imposed?” L.G. responded, “No. The only thing I have to say on that is that a life
imprisonment sentence is a way to make a person that‟s guilty suffer longer, but
that‟s just before knowing the circumstances leading up to this.” The court
followed up by asking L.G. if she felt that death was the “just and appropriate
result” after she deliberated, could she “support that verdict and announce it
publicly here in the courtroom?” Her answer was again opaque. “Truthfully, with
all the circumstances and if it led up to that, where knowing all the facts, if all the
facts were there, it‟s hard for me to make that decision right now because I‟m not
Defendant complains that the court‟s question was misconceived. He
argues that, “[a]t the end of a penalty trial, jurors are not required to stand up, look
at the defendant, and say „I sentence you to death.‟ ” However, that was not what
the court was asking. “The predicate of the question was sound. Jurors must be
prepared to affirm their verdicts.” (Bramit, supra, 46 Cal.4th at p. 1235.)
Defendant next contends “the trial court never asked [L.G.] the
fundamental question that is at the heart of [Witt] death qualification of jurors,
namely „whether a prospective juror‟s “views on capital punishment . . . would
„prevent or substantially impair the performance of his duties as a juror in
accordance with his instructions and his oath.‟ ” ‟ (People v. Stewart [(2004)] 33
Cal.4th , 441, fn. 3.)” The defense never requested such a question. Further,
the court‟s failure to ask that question in so many words was not error. (People v.
Salcido (2008) 44 Cal.4th 93, 134.) The record reflects a focused inquiry on the
topic. In light of the questionnaire and the inquiries made by the court during voir
“Penal Code section 1149 provides: „When the jury appear they must be
asked by the Court, or Clerk, whether they have agreed upon their verdict, and if
the foreman answers in the affirmative, they must, on being required, declare the
dire, it was quite clear that the court discharged its responsibilities and that L.G.
was impaired under the Witt standard. (Ibid.)
Defendant contends that questions “remarkably similar” to those asked here
were found to be “insufficient to meet the [Witt] standard for disqualification” in
People v. Stewart, supra, 33 Cal.4th 425. Defendant‟s reliance on Stewart is
misplaced. “In Stewart, the court excused five prospective jurors solely on the
basis of their answers on a written questionnaire. The court largely relied on the
jurors‟ responses to the question whether their views would „ “prevent or make it
very difficult … [¶] … [¶] … [t]o ever vote to impose the death penalty.” ‟ (Id. at
pp. 442–443, italics added.) We concluded that the court erred in excusing the
prospective jurors on this basis because the questionnaire answers provided
insufficient information about the jurors‟ states of mind. (Id. at pp. 446–452.) As
Stewart explains, „the circumstance that a juror‟s conscientious opinions or beliefs
concerning the death penalty would make it very difficult for the juror ever to
impose the death penalty is not equivalent to a determination that such beliefs will
“substantially impair the performance of his [or her] duties as a juror” under Witt,
supra, 469 U.S. 412.‟ (Stewart, supra, at p. 447; see also People v. Avila, supra,
38 Cal.4th 491, 530 [„mere difficulty in imposing the death penalty does not, per
se, prevent or substantially impair the performance of a juror‟s duties‟].) This is
so because individuals who firmly oppose the death penalty „ “may nevertheless
serve as jurors in capital cases so long as they clearly state that they are willing to
temporarily set aside their own beliefs in deference to the rule of law.” ‟ (Stewart,
supra, at p. 446, quoting Lockhart v. McCree (1986) 476 U.S. 162, 176.)” (People
v. Solomon (2010) 49 Cal.4th 792, 832-833.) Unlike Stewart, the trial court here
thoroughly questioned L.G., both in writing and in person, to determine whether
her views regarding the death penalty would substantially impair the performance
of her duties as a juror.
Defendant‟s final argument is that the trial court erred because it failed to
expressly find that L.G.‟s views on the death penalty would substantially impair
the performance of her duties as a juror. It is true that the court failed to couch its
finding in the Witt formula. However, the gravamen of the court‟s finding was
clearly that L.G. was impaired under the Witt standard. The prosecutor challenged
L.G. for cause, arguing that “as many times as the court tried to get her to commit
to whether or not she could, in fact, vote for either option, she just simply would
not answer the question.” The court granted the motion, saying “I am satisfied
that the challenge for cause ought to be sustained, that [L.G.] exhibits a very
strong implied, if not actual, bias against the death penalty based upon her
questions in open court and mindful of her written answers to the questionnaire
inquiries.” The defense did not object to the reasons the court gave. Witt has long
been the law and it is clear the court was aware of the appropriate standard to
apply. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, we presume that the court
“knows and applies the correct statutory and case law.” (People v. Coddington
(2000) 23 Cal.4th 529, 623, overruled on another ground in Price v. Superior
Court (2001) 25 Cal.4th 1046, 1069, fn. 13; see Evid. Code, § 664; People v.
Visciotti (1992) 2 Cal.4th 1, 49; Ross v. Superior Court (1977) 19 Cal.3d 899,
2. Instruction That Death Is the Greater Penalty
Defendant contends the trial court prejudicially erred in instructing the jury
that death is a greater punishment than life imprisonment without possibility of
parole. The claim fails.
During the first penalty trial, the prosecutor requested this instruction.
Invited to comment, defense counsel raised no objection. As noted, the first
penalty trial resulted in a mistrial. At the penalty phase retrial defendant did not
object to the instruction of which he now complains. The court instructed the jury
that, “[f]or all purposes, you must consider and accept that death is a greater
penalty than life imprisonment without possibility of parole.”
“Section 1259 permits appellate review of claimed errors to the extent they
„affected the substantial rights of the defendant.‟ ” (People v. Gamache (2010) 48
Cal.4th 347, 375, fn. 13 (Gamache).) Under California law, death is a greater
punishment than life imprisonment without possibility of parole. The instruction
was proper. Thus, giving it did not adversely affect defendant‟s substantial rights.
Defendant contends that such an instruction is prejudicially erroneous
because it “enjoins a juror who believes that life without parole is a „greater‟
punishment than death from adhering to that view in deciding what the appropriate
sentence in a capital case should be.” He asserts that “[t]here is no California
statute nor court decision, state or federal, that specifies that death is a „greater‟
punishment than [life without the possibility of parole] . . . .” To the contrary,
“[i]n People v. Harris (2005) 37 Cal.4th 310, we upheld, as within the trial court‟s
discretion, its decision to instruct, pursuant to a jury request, that death is the more
severe penalty. This instruction was clearly a correct statement of the law, we
explained, because the principle „[t]hat death is considered to be a more severe
punishment than life [without parole] is explicit in California law: CALJIC No.
8.88 . . . states in pertinent part, “To return a judgment of death, each of you must
be persuaded that the aggravating circumstances are so substantial in comparison
with the mitigating circumstances that it warrants death instead of life without
parole.” ‟ (Harris, supra, at p. 361, italics added.)” (People v. Tate (2010) 49
Cal.4th 635, 707.)
3. Sufficiency of Aggravating Evidence
The prosecution presented aggravating evidence that defendant committed
the crime of grossly negligent discharge of a firearm in violation of section 246.3,
subdivision (a). (See pt. I.B.1.b.ii, ante.) The jury was instructed, “concerning the
shooting in the area of Jesse Russell‟s residence on September 17, 1995, you are
limited to a consideration of the possible or potential offense of grossly negligent
discharge of a firearm. Every person who willfully discharges a firearm in a
grossly negligent manner which could result in injury or death to a person is guilty
of a crime.”
Defendant contends “there simply was no evidence that [he] was the person
who fired the gun.” To the contrary, the evidence was ample. Nicole Halstead,
defendant‟s girlfriend, complained to him that Russell had forced his way into her
apartment, ransacked it, and choked her. Defendant left her apartment, saying he
was “tired” of Russell and that he was “going over there.” Later, defendant tapped
on Russell‟s window and asked for him. When Russell‟s brother DeMarco Atkins
said Russell was not there, defendant replied that he was looking for him and was
going to “get him.” Atkins heard a gun being cocked and, minutes later, shots
fired. Ballistics evidence strongly supported the conclusion that defendant fired
those shots. Beyond timing and motive, the cartridge casings found near Russell‟s
home were fired by the gun that defendant used in the home invasion robbery later
that same night. (See pts. I.B.1.ii. & iii., ante.)
Defendant further contends that a grossly negligent shooting is not criminal
activity involving force or violence directed at a person, and so is not admissible
as aggravating evidence. The argument fails. In considering a capital defendant‟s
punishment, the jury is permitted to consider the “presence or absence of criminal
activity by the defendant which involved the use or attempted use of force or
violence or the express or implied threat to use force or violence.” (§ 190.3,
factor (b).) The requisite “criminal activity” must violate a penal statute and “the
use or attempted use of force or violence or the express or implied threat to use
force or violence” must be directed at a person. (People v. Clair (1992) 2 Cal.4th
629, 672; People v. Boyd (1985) 38 Cal.3d 762, 772, 776.) “In the administration
of the penalty provisions of Penal Code section 190.3, however, we have often
said that the analysis is not one that is made on the basis of the abstract,
definitional nature of the offense[.]” (People v. Padilla (1995) 11 Cal.4th 891,
963.) Rather, it is based on the conduct of the defendant which gave rise to the
offense. (Ibid.; People v. Fierro (1991) 1 Cal.4th 173, 231.) For example, in
Padilla, the defendant committed the crime of being an ex-felon in possession of a
firearm. On one occasion he used the gun to shoot his daughter; on another he
pointed the gun at police officers. “Because both of these incidents plainly
involved actual force or violence, as prescribed by section 190.3 of the Penal
Code,” we upheld the trial court‟s instruction that the crime of being an ex-felon in
possession of a firearm in this instance “ „involved the express or implied use of
force or violence or the threat of force or violence.‟ ” (Padilla, supra, at pp. 962,
963.) Similarly, the evidence introduced in this case plainly showed that
defendant intended his crime of grossly negligent shooting to serve as an “express
or implied threat to use force or violence” against Jesse Russell.
Finally, defendant contends there was no evidence the shots were fired in a
“grossly negligent manner which could result in death or injury to a person,” as
required by section 246.3, subdivision (a).25 To the contrary, “[t]he phenomenon
Section 246.3, subdivision (a) provides: “Except as otherwise authorized
by law, any person who willfully discharges a firearm in a grossly negligent
manner which could result in injury or death to a person is guilty of a public
offense and shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one
year, or by imprisonment in the state prison.”
that gave rise to the statute was celebratory gunfire in an urban setting. It seems
clear that the Legislature intended to proscribe such grossly negligent conduct
precisely because it could cause injury or death. Given this reality, it is equally
clear that the Legislature did not intend to require proof that a given person was
actually so endangered. Imposing such a burden on the prosecution would render
the statute largely unenforceable in the very circumstances that prompted its
enactment. No one knows where shots fired recklessly into the air are likely to
land.” (People v. Ramirez (2009) 45 Cal.4th 980, 990 (Ramirez).) Moreover,
firing the shots near Russell‟s house, in a residential neighborhood and after
making a threat against him, “ „presented the very real possibility that it would
generate responsive gunfire.‟ ” (Id. at p. 989, quoting People v. Alonzo (1993) 13
Cal.App.4th 535, 540.)26
4. Future Dangerousness
Defendant contends the trial court erred in permitting the prosecutor to
argue, based on the evidence of defendant‟s other violent offenses, that he would
pose a danger in the future if his life were spared. The claim fails.
Prosecutorial argument regarding a capital defendant‟s future
dangerousness is permissible if, as here, it is based on evidence of the defendant‟s
conduct rather than expert opinion. (People v. Williams (2010) 49 Cal.4th 405,
463, fn. 7; People v. Ervine (2009) 47 Cal.4th 745, 797; Bramit, supra, 46 Cal.4th
at p. 1244.) Notwithstanding defendant‟s argument to the contrary, the violent
conduct need not have occurred in a prison setting. (People v. Bradford (1997)
Defendant asserts there is no evidence that defendant violated section 246,
which requires that an inhabited dwelling or other specified object be within the
defendant‟s firing range. (See Ramirez, supra, 45 Cal.4th at p. 990.) The point is
irrelevant. The jury was not instructed on section 246.
15 Cal.4th 1229, 1380; People v. Taylor (1990) 52 Cal.3d 719, 750.) We have
previously rejected defendant‟s argument that because future dangerousness is not
a listed aggravating factor, a prosecutor can argue that point only to rebut defense
argument or evidence. (People v. Michaels (2002) 28 Cal.4th 486, 540-541.)
Finally, defendant contends that permitting the jury to consider future
dangerousness denied him his right to due process of law and a reliable penalty
determination guaranteed by the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the
United States Constitution. We have previously rejected this claim and do so
again. (People v. Boyette (2002) 29 Cal.4th 381, 446, citing Barefoot v. Estelle
(1983) 463 U.S. 880, 896-903.) Defendant‟s argument for reconsidering the
question is murky, but he appears to claim that the jury‟s penalty determination
was not constitutionally reliable because it was not required to make a unanimous
finding on the question of future dangerousness. Future dangerousness is not a
statutory aggravating factor. (§ 190.3; People v. Davenport (1995) 11 Cal.4th
1171, 1223.) Even if it were, nothing in the federal Constitution requires a penalty
phase jury to make written findings of the factors it finds in aggravation and
mitigation, nor to agree unanimously that a particular aggravating circumstance
exists. (People v. Burney (2009) 47 Cal.4th 203, 267-268; People v. Williams
(2008) 43 Cal.4th 584, 648.)
5. Challenges to the Death Penalty Law and Instructions
Defendant raises a series of challenges to California‟s death penalty law
and the standard CALJIC sentencing instructions. We have rejected each of these
challenges in the past and now reaffirm our holdings.
California homicide law and the special circumstances listed in section
190.2 adequately narrow the class of murderers eligible for the death penalty.
(Gamache, supra, 48 Cal.4th at p. 406; People v. Barnwell (2007) 41 Cal.4th
1038, 1058 (Barnwell).) Specifically, the felony-murder special circumstance
(§ 190.2, subd. (a)(17)) is not overbroad and adequately narrows the pool of those
eligible for death. (Gamache, supra, 48 Cal.4th at p. 406; People v. Kraft (2000)
23 Cal.4th 978, 1078.)
Section 190.3, factor (a), which permits the jury to consider “the
circumstances of the crime” in deciding whether to impose the death penalty, does
not license the arbitrary and capricious imposition of the death penalty. (Tuilaepa
v. California (1994) 512 U.S. 967, 975-976; People v. D’Arcy (2010) 48 Cal.4th
257, 308 (D’Arcy); People v. Cruz (2008) 44 Cal.4th 636, 680 (Cruz).)
Nothing in the federal Constitution requires the penalty phase jury to make
written findings of the factors it finds in aggravation and mitigation; agree
unanimously that a particular aggravating circumstance exists; find all aggravating
factors proved beyond a reasonable doubt or by a preponderance of the evidence;
find that aggravation outweighs mitigation beyond a reasonable doubt; or conclude
beyond a reasonable doubt that death is the appropriate penalty. (People v.
Burney, supra, 47 Cal.4th at pp. 267-268; People v. Williams, supra, 43 Cal.4th at
pp. 648-649.) This conclusion is not altered by the United States Supreme
Court‟s decisions in Apprendi v. New Jersey (2000) 530 U.S. 466 (Apprendi), Ring
v. Arizona (2002) 536 U.S. 584, and Blakely v. Washington (2004) 542 U.S. 296.
(D’Arcy, supra, 48 Cal.4th at p. 308; People v. Carrington (2009) 47 Cal.4th 145,
200; People v. Mendoza (2007) 42 Cal.4th 686, 707.)
Review for intercase proportionality is not constitutionally compelled.
(Pulley v. Harris (1984) 465 U.S. 37, 42, 50-51; Bramit, supra, 46 Cal.4th at
p. 1250; People v. Butler (2009) 46 Cal.4th 847, 885 (Butler).)
The jury may properly consider unadjudicated criminal activity at the
penalty phase and need not make a unanimous finding on each instance of such
activity. (D’Arcy, supra, 48 Cal.4th at p. 308; People v. Elliot (2005) 37 Cal.4th
453, 488; People v. Morrison (2004) 34 Cal.4th 698, 729.) Apprendi and its
progeny do not compel a different result. (D’Arcy at p. 308; Bunyard, supra, 45
Cal.4th at p. 861; People v. Ward (2005) 36 Cal.4th 186, 221-222.)
The use in the sentencing factors of the phrases “extreme mental or
emotional disturbance” (§ 190.3, factor (d), italics added) and “extreme duress
or . . . substantial domination of another” (id., factor (g), italics added) does not
inhibit the consideration of mitigating evidence or make the factors impermissibly
vague. (Bramit, supra, 46 Cal.4th at p. 1249; Bunyard, supra, 45 Cal.4th at
p. 861; People v. Lewis (2008) 43 Cal.4th 415, 532.)
The trial court need not label the statutory sentencing factors as either
aggravating or mitigating, nor instruct the jury that the absence of mitigating
factors does not constitute aggravation. (D’Arcy, supra, 48 Cal.4th at p. 308;
People v. Watson (2008) 43 Cal.4th 652, 704; People v. Cunningham (2001) 25
Cal.4th 926, 1041.)
Because capital defendants are not similarly situated to noncapital
defendants, California‟s death penalty law does not deny capital defendants equal
protection by providing certain procedural protections to noncapital defendants but
not to capital defendants. (People v. Jennings (2010) 50 Cal.4th 616, 690; Cruz,
supra, 44 Cal.4th at p. 681; People v. Johnson (1992) 3 Cal.4th 1183, 1242-1243.)
The death penalty as applied in this state is not rendered unconstitutional
through operation of international law and treaties. (People v. Mills (2010) 48
Cal.4th 158, 215; Butler, supra, 46 Cal.4th at p. 885; Barnwell, supra, 41 Cal.4th
at p. 1059.)
The judgment is affirmed.
CANTIL-SAKAUYE, C. J.
JENKINS, J. *
* Associate Justice, Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, Division Three,
assigned by the Chief Justice pursuant to article VI, section 6 of the California
See next page for addresses and telephone numbers for counsel who argued in Supreme Court. Name of Opinion People v. Thomas
Original Appeal XXX
Date Filed: July 28, 2011
County: San Diego
Judge: Allan J. Preckel
Counsel:Barry L. Morris, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant.
Edmund G. Brown, Jr., and Kamala D. Harris, Attorneys General, Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant
Attorney General, Gary W. Schons, Assistant Attorney General, Holly D. Wilkens, Annie F. Fraser and
Christopher P. Beesley, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.
Counsel who argued in Supreme Court (not intended for publication with opinion):Barry L. Morris
1260 B Street, Suite 240
Hayward, CA 94541
Christopher P. Beesley
Deputy Attorney General
110 West A Street, Suite 1100
San Diego, CA 92101
Automatic appeal from a judgment of death.
|Thu, 07/28/2011||S082828||Automatic Appeal||submitted/opinion due|
|1||The People (Respondent)|
Represented by Attorney General - San Diego Office
Christopher P. Beesley, Deputy Attorney General
P.O. Box 85266
San Diego, CA
|2||Thomas, Correll Lamont (Appellant)|
San Quentin State Prison
Represented by Barry L. Morris
Attorney at Law
1220 Oakland Boulevard, Suite 200
Walnut Creek, CA
Withdrawal date: 01/28/2002
|Oct 7 1999||Judgment of death|
|Oct 13 1999||Filed certified copy of Judgment of Death Rendered|
|Oct 13 1999||Penal Code sections 190.6 et seq. apply to this case|
|Dec 17 1999||Filed:|
appellant's application for appointment of counsel (IFP form).
|Apr 5 2000||Record certified for completeness|
|Jun 23 2004||Counsel appointment order filed|
Upon request of appellant for appointment of counsel, Barry L. Morris is hereby appointed to represent appellant Correll Lamont Thomas for the direct appeal in the above automatic appeal now pending in this court.
|Jun 23 2004||Compensation awarded counsel|
|Jul 6 2004||Date trial court delivered record to appellant's counsel|
(28,188 pp. record) (see Calif. Rules of Court, rule 34(e)(1); the date of delivery is the date of mailing plus five days.) (Note: record was delivered on 6-30-2004.)
|Jul 7 2004||Received:|
notice from superior court that 28,188-pp. record was delivered to appellant's counsel on 6-30-2004.
|Jul 12 2004||Appellant's opening brief letter sent, due:|
Oct. 31, 2005. *** Note: new due date later set: 12-6-2005; see letter of 9-13-2004. ***
|Aug 31 2004||Received:|
copy of letter from superior court Judge Allan J. Preckel to attorney Morris, dated 8-23-2004, advising that after numerous difficulties with postal and delivery carriers, he was advised that as of 8-13-2004, Morris was finally in receipt of all of the original boxes containing the transcript materials. For purposes of certifying the trial record for accuracy, 8-13-2004 will be the date that the clerk delivered the record to defendant's appellate counsel.
|Sep 13 2004||Letter sent to:|
counsel, advising of new due date for AOB: 12-6-2005.
|Oct 8 2004||Received copy of appellant's record correction motion|
Request for Additional Record on Appeal, to Examine Sealed Transcripts and Exhibits, to Correct the Record on Appeal and to Settle the Record. (19 pp.)
|Nov 8 2004||Counsel's status report received (confidential)|
from atty Morris.
|Nov 10 2004||Compensation awarded counsel|
|Jan 4 2005||Counsel's status report received (confidential)|
from atty Morris.
|Feb 2 2005||Compensation awarded counsel|
|Feb 28 2005||Counsel's status report received (confidential)|
from atty Morris.
|Mar 11 2005||Note:|
record arrived from superior court.
|Apr 25 2005||Counsel's status report received (confidential)|
from atty Morris.
|May 20 2005||Letter sent to:|
superior court advising record being returned to correct deficiencies and bring record in compliance with rules 9(b)(2)(3) and 31.3(b). Corrected record to be returned on or before 6/13/2005.
|May 26 2005||Compensation awarded counsel|
|Jun 27 2005||Counsel's status report received (confidential)|
from atty Morris.
|Jun 29 2005||Compensation awarded counsel|
|Sep 19 2005||Counsel's status report received (confidential)|
from atty Morris.
|Nov 15 2005||Record certified for accuracy|
Note: "recertified" as accurate.
|Dec 6 2005||Record on appeal filed|
Clerk's transcript 83 volumes (16608 pp.) and reporter's transcript 83 volumes (11132 pp.), including material under seal; ASCII disks. Clerk's transcript includes 9831 pp. of juror questionnaires.
|Dec 6 2005||Letter sent to:|
counsel advising record on appeal, certified for accuracy, was filed this date.
|Dec 12 2005||Request for extension of time filed|
to file appellant's opening brief. (1st request)
|Dec 12 2005||Counsel's status report received (confidential)|
from atty Morris.
|Dec 13 2005||Extension of time granted|
to 1/20/2006 to file appellant's opening brief.
|Jan 23 2006||Request for extension of time filed|
to file appellant's opening brief. (2nd request)
|Jan 25 2006||Extension of time granted|
to 3/20/2006 to file appellant's opening brief.
|Feb 21 2006||Counsel's status report received (confidential)|
from atty Morris.
|Feb 21 2006||Received:|
application for extension of time to file appellant's opening brief. Applcation is premature counsel to resubmit nearer the due date.
|Mar 28 2006||Request for extension of time filed|
to file appellant's opening brief. (3rd request)
|Mar 29 2006||Extension of time granted|
to May 19, 2006 to file appellant's opening brief.
|May 23 2006||Request for extension of time filed|
to file appellant's opening brief. (4th request)
|May 23 2006||Extension of time granted|
to July 21, 2006 to file appellant's opening brief.
|Jul 24 2006||Counsel's status report received (confidential)|
from atty Morris.
|Jul 24 2006||Request for extension of time filed|
to file appellant's opening brief. (5th request)
|Jul 26 2006||Extension of time granted|
to September 18, 2006 to file appellant's opening brief.
|Aug 2 2006||Change of contact information filed for:|
applt counsel Barry L. Morris.
|Aug 17 2006||Compensation awarded counsel|
|Sep 25 2006||Request for extension of time filed|
to file appellant's opening brief. (6th request)
|Sep 25 2006||Counsel's status report received (confidential)|
from atty Morris.
|Oct 2 2006||Extension of time granted|
to November 17, 2006 to file appellant's opening brief.
|Nov 21 2006||Request for extension of time filed|
to file appellant's opening brief. (7th request)
|Nov 28 2006||Extension of time granted|
to January 16, 2007 to file appellant's opening brief.
|Jan 26 2007||Counsel's status report received (confidential)|
from atty Morris.
|Jan 26 2007||Application for relief from default filed|
to file appellant's opening brief or a timely motion for extension of time.
|Feb 1 2007||Extension of time granted|
Appellant's request for relief from default for failure to file appellant's opening brief or timely motion for extension of time is granted. On application of appellant and good cause appearing, it is ordered that the time to serve and file appellant's opening brief is extended to and including March 16, 2007.
|Feb 1 2007||Request for extension of time filed|
to file appellant's opening brief. (8th request)
|Mar 21 2007||Request for extension of time filed|
to file apellant's opening brief. (9th request)
|Mar 23 2007||Extension of time granted|
On the court's own motion, appellant is granted relief from default for failure to file appellant's opening brief or a timely motion for extension of time. On application of appellant and good cause appearing, it is ordered that the time to serve and file appellant's opening brief is extended to and including May 21, 2007.
|May 30 2007||Received:|
appellant's request for extension of time to file appellant's opening brief. Counsel advised to submit request for relief from default.
|Jun 5 2007||Filed:|
appellant's request for relief from default to file AOB.
|Jun 8 2007||Extension of time granted|
Appellant's request for relief from default for failing to file appellant's opening brief or a timely motion for extension of time is granted. Good cause appearing, and based upon counsel Barry Morris's representation that he anticipates filing the appellant's opening brief by September 20, 2007, counsel's request for an extension of time in which to file that brief is granted to July 20, 2007. After that date, only one further extension totaling about 60 additional days is contemplated.
|Jun 8 2007||Request for extension of time filed|
(filed, relief from default granted this date) (10th request)
|Jul 23 2007||Counsel's status report received (confidential)|
from atty Morris
|Jul 23 2007||Request for extension of time filed|
to file appellant's opening brief (11th request)
|Jul 30 2007||Request for extension of time filed|
to file appellant's opening brief-supplemental. (11th request)
|Jul 30 2007||Counsel's status report received (confidential)|
from atty Morris-supplemental.
|Aug 1 2007||Extension of time granted|
Good cause appearing, and based upon counsel Barry Morris's representation that he anticipates filing the appellant's opening brief by September 20, 2007, counsel's request for an extension of time in which to file that brief is granted to September 20, 2007. After that date, no further extension is contemplated.
|Sep 21 2007||Request for extension of time filed|
to file appellant's opening brief. (12th request)
|Oct 1 2007||Extension of time granted|
Good cause appearing, and based upon counsel Barry Morris's representation that he anticipates filing the appellant's opening brief by November 19, 2007, counsel's request for an extension of time in which to file that brief is granted to November 19, 2007. After that date, no further extension is contemplated.
|Nov 20 2007||Counsel's status report received (confidential)|
from atty Morris.
|Nov 20 2007||Request for extension of time filed|
to file appellant's opening brief. (13th request)
|Nov 27 2007||Extension of time granted|
Good cause appearing, and based upon counsel Barry L. Morris's representation that he anticipates filing the appellant's opening brief by January 21, 2008, counsel's request for an extension of time in which to file that brief is granted to January 22, 2008. After that date, no further extension is contemplated.
|Jan 24 2008||Counsel's status report received (confidential)|
from atty Morris.
|Jan 24 2008||Request for extension of time filed|
to file appellant's opening brief. (14th request)
|Feb 1 2008||Extension of time granted|
Good cause appearing, and based upon counsel Barry L. Morris's representation that he anticipates filing the appellant's opening brief by March 20, 2008, counsel's request for an extension in which to file that brief is granted to March 20, 2008. After that date, no further extension is contemplated.
|Mar 25 2008||Counsel's status report received (confidential)|
from attorney Morris.
|Mar 25 2008||Request for extension of time filed|
to file appellant's opening brief. (15th request)
|Mar 27 2008||Extension of time granted|
Good cause appearing, and based upon counsel Barry L. Morris's representation that he anticipates filing the appellant's opening brief by May 20, 2008, counsel's request for an extension of time in which to file that brief is granted to May 20, 2008. After that date, no further extension is contemplated.
|Apr 18 2008||Received:|
letter from Deputy Attorney General, Christopher P. Beesley, dated April 17, 2008, advising the court of assignment to this case.
|May 21 2008||Appellant's opening brief filed|
(73,196 words; 233 pp.)
|May 21 2008||Respondent's brief letter sent; due:|
June 1, 2009.
|Jun 4 2008||Compensation awarded counsel|
|Aug 27 2008||Change of contact information filed for:|
Barry L. Morris, Attorney at Law.
|Mar 6 2009||Respondent's brief filed|
(25,861 words; 88 pp.)
|Mar 10 2009||Note:|
Appellant's reply brief due May 5, 2009, pursuant to California Rule of Court, rule 8.630(c)(1)(D).
|May 12 2009||Request for extension of time filed|
to file appellant's reply brief. (1st request)
|May 15 2009||Extension of time granted|
On application of appellant and good cause appearing, it is ordered that the time to serve and file appellant's reply brief is extended to and including July 6, 2009.
|Jun 10 2009||Appellant's reply brief filed|
Appellant: Thomas, Correll LamontAttorney: Barry L. Morris (16,678 words; 63 pp.)
|Jun 18 2009||Compensation awarded counsel|
|Jun 26 2009||Change of contact information filed for:|
Barry L. Morris No Information Was Changed
|Mar 15 2011||Oral argument letter sent|
advising counsel that the court could schedule this case for argument as early as the first May calendar, to be held the week of May 2, 2011 in San Francisco. The advisement of "focus issues," notification that two counsel are required, and any request for oral argument time in excess of 30 minutes must be submitted to the court within 10 days of the order setting the case for argument.
|Apr 19 2011||Justice pro tempore assigned|
Hon. Martin J. Jenkins First Appellate District, Division Three
|Apr 25 2011||Received:|
letter from attorney Barry Morris, dated April 22, 2011, advising that he will be unavailable (for oral argument) the week of May 23, 2011.
|May 4 2011||Case ordered on calendar|
to be argued on Wednesday, June 1, 2011, at 9:00 a.m., in Los Angeles
|May 5 2011||Received:|
appearance sheet from Attorney at Law Barry Morris, indicating 45 minutes for oral argument for appellant.
|May 10 2011||Filed:|
respondent's focus issues letter, dated May 9, 2011.
|May 11 2011||Filed:|
appellant's focus issues letter, dated May 9, 2011
|May 16 2011||Received:|
appearance sheet from Deputy Attorney General Christopher P. Beesley, indicating 30 minutes for oral argument for respondent
|Jun 1 2011||Cause argued and submitted|
|Jul 27 2011||Notice of forthcoming opinion posted|
To be filed Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 10 a.m.
|May 21 2008||Appellant's opening brief filed|
|Mar 6 2009||Respondent's brief filed|
|Jun 10 2009||Appellant's reply brief filed|
Appellant: Thomas, Correll LamontAttorney: Barry L. Morris