Supreme Court of California Justia
Docket No. S035368
People v. Zambrano

Filed 7/30/07



Plaintiff and Respondent,



Alameda County


Super. Ct. No. 102880

Defendant and Appellant.

An information charged defendant with three 1988 crimes, the attempted

murders of Robert and Barbara Mishell (Pen. Code, §§ 21a, 187)1, and the first

degree murder of Luis Reyna (§§ 187, 189). As to the attempted murders, it was

alleged that defendant inflicted great bodily injury (§§ 1203.075, 12022.7) and

used a dangerous and deadly weapon (§ 12022, subd. (b)). As to the murder, the

information alleged a special circumstance of witness killing (§ 190.2,

subd. (a)(10)) and included further allegations that defendant inflicted great bodily

injury (§ 1203.075) and committed the offense while free on bail (§ 12022.1).

The prosecution’s evidence indicated that defendant, a member of the

Berkeley Waterfront Commission, bludgeoned the Mishells, a University of

California professor and his wife, because he believed they had made anonymous

telephone calls exposing his extramarital affair. The evidence further indicated


All further unlabeled statutory references are to the Penal Code.


that defendant then fatally shot Reyna, a fellow waterfront commissioner, to

prevent Reyna from testifying against him in the Mishell matter.

Defendant admitted attacking the Mishells, but claimed provocation. He

asserted that Reyna’s death was an accident. Defendant admitted that, to cover up

the homicide, he decapitated, dismembered, and scattered Reyna’s body, then fled

to Mexico with his girlfriend.

The jury convicted defendant of all charges and found true all the additional

allegations in the information. After hearing aggravating and mitigating evidence

at the penalty phase, the jury returned a death verdict, which the trial court

declined to modify. This appeal is automatic. We will affirm the judgment in full.


A. Guilt evidence.

1. The Mishell assaults and their aftermath

On January 31, 1988, Robert Mishell (Robert), an immunology professor at

the University of California in Berkeley and his wife Barbara, a high-ranking

technician who managed Robert’s laboratory, were brutally bludgeoned in their

Berkeley home. Robert sustained two depressed skull fractures and 12 head

lacerations. His injuries were life threatening, but he largely recovered, though he

suffered memory problems, could not continue teaching, and took a disability

retirement. He suffered from posttraumatic amnesia and did not remember

everything that occurred before the assault.

Barbara received six distinct blows to the head, resulting in compound skull

fractures and brain damage. Her injuries rendered her severely and permanently

disabled. At the time of trial, as a result of the damage to her brain, she remained

behaviorally erratic, and she still could not speak.


The trial evidence, including defendant’s own testimony, conclusively

established defendant as the perpetrator of the assaults. The prosecution’s

evidence was as follows:

Defendant, a contractor, had done remodeling work on the Mishells’ home.

Robert and defendant shared an interest in computers, but the Mishells had no

other social relationship with defendant. They knew nothing of his personal life.

In July 1987, defendant, a married man, began an affair with Celebration

Oberman. In September 1987, defendant, members of his family, and Oberman

began receiving anonymous telephone calls that exposed the affair. Defendant

was upset by the calls and suspected someone was trying to break up his marriage.

Nonetheless, he continued to see Oberman.

Defendant told Luis Reyna, a fellow member of the Berkeley Waterfront

Commission, about the calls. Among others, defendant said, he suspected a

Berkeley professor’s wife who, he claimed, was in love with him. Ultimately,

defendant indicated that a private investigator had traced the calls to this couple.

Reyna advised defendant to take his information to the authorities. More than

once, however, defendant said he would handle the matter “his way.”

On Sunday morning, January 31, 1988, around 11:00 a.m., defendant

appeared unexpectedly at the Mishell residence. He and Robert chatted on the

pool deck, where Barbara joined them. All three then went inside, drank coffee,

and talked politics. At some point, Robert took defendant into the dining room to

demonstrate his new computer. At trial, Robert recalled that defendant was

standing behind him, next to a toolbox he had brought with him.

The next thing Robert remembered was waking up in bed several hours

later. His head was bleeding. He looked for his wife. He found her on the

kitchen floor, bleeding, unconscious, and unresponsive. He called the police.


Berkeley Police Officer Emberton arrived within minutes after Robert’s

call. Robert was dazed and bleeding, but able to speak. Barbara was unconscious

on the kitchen floor, with coagulated blood all around. Robert recounted to

Emberton his recollection of the events leading to his injuries, but did not mention

that defendant had a utility belt or toolbox with him.

The house showed no signs of forced entry. Defendant’s fingerprints were

found on a half-full coffee mug in the kitchen, and on a book in the kitchen or

dining room. Robert had purchased the book the day before.

Officers went to defendant’s home on the night of January 31. When they

told him they were investigating an assault against the Mishells, he left the room

to make a telephone call. Upon his return, he said his lawyer had advised him not

to speak. He spoke nonetheless, claiming he had not been at the Mishell home in

two weeks. Asked to name a possible suspect, defendant mentioned another

contractor to whom, defendant said, the Mishells owed a lot of money.

Asked to recount his movements for the day, defendant said that, after

dropping off his daughter at 11:00 a.m., he went to the Berkeley Marina around

11:30, and spoke to Dave Shelley, who was working there. Then, defendant said,

he went to Reyna’s home to watch the Super Bowl. Defendant described the

clothes he was wearing, and specifically mentioned athletic shoes.

Defendant did arrive at the Berkeley Marina sometime between 11:30 a.m.

and 12:30 p.m. on January 31. According to Shelley, defendant stayed about 45

minutes. He made a telephone call and wrote a note to Chuck Roberts, the

Berkeley Waterfront Commission’s secretary, about an agenda item. The note

included a notation of the ostensible time it was written—noon. Defendant later

called and asked Shelley to make a copy of the note and send it to him. Shelley

did so.


Roberts found the note when he came to work the next day. According to

Roberts, defendant had written him notes before, but had never included the time.

Given the note’s subject matter, there was no reason to do so in this case.

Defendant arrived at Reyna’s home about 1:00 p.m. on January 31, freshly

groomed and wearing boots. Defendant volunteered that he had dropped off his

daughter, then gone to his boat at the marina, and to the marina office. Reyna

thought it odd that that defendant wore boots on his boat. Defendant did not stay

to watch the Super Bowl, but left after about 20 minutes.

On February 2, Reyna saw a newspaper article about the Mishell assault.

Realizing that defendant had worked on the Mishells’ home, Reyna contacted

defendant and told him about the article. Defendant said he did not want to talk,

but that his problem was solved.

On February 3, defendant asked Reyna to come to his house. Despite his

reservations, Reyna went. Defendant took Reyna onto the deck, saying the police

had just been there to search, and he did not want to speak inside. Defendant told

Reyna the following: He had gone to the Mishells’ home on January 31 to

confront them about the harassing telephone calls. They laughed at his

accusations and said he could do nothing about it. He then picked up something

and beat the Mishells over the head. He took the unidentified weapon with him

and discarded it where it would never be found.

When Reyna said that the Mishells could identify him, defendant responded

that they never saw or knew who attacked them. Defendant asked Reyna to

falsely tell the police defendant had telephoned him at 9:00 a.m. on January 31.

That evening, at a commission meeting, defendant again made this request,

explaining that the police believed the assaults had occurred before 11:30 a.m.


To Reyna, defendant never expressed remorse or regret about the Mishell

assaults. Defendant said he was only sorry he was caught with another woman,

and was just protecting his family.

Reyna did not immediately advise the authorities that defendant had

confessed to him. Moreover, he initially did comply with defendant’s request that

he lie to the police about when defendant called him on January 31. Members of

Reyna’s family testified that he was fearful, distraught, confused, and in turmoil

about whether he should tell what he knew.

Ultimately, on April 5, 1988, Reyna gave a taped statement to the police.

Defendant was arrested two days later. Thereafter, defendant wrote Reyna letters

from jail, urging Reyna to lie for defendant about the Mishell assaults, and to

recant his police statement.

Defendant enlisted Oberman in efforts to persuade his own defense team of

his innocence. At defendant’s request, Oberman falsely told a defense investigator

she met defendant at the Berkeley Marina at 11:00 a.m. on January 31. She gave

the investigator additional false information, supplied by defendant, that Reyna

was angry with defendant over a debt, and thus had a motive to fabricate

defendant’s confession. Oberman also told the investigator, again falsely, that she

was hiding under defendant’s deck on February 3, when defendant supposedly told

Reyna he had assaulted the Mishells.

The surgeons who operated, respectively, on Robert and Barbara after the

assaults both testified that the victims’ head injuries were inflicted by a blunt

instrument like the head of a hammer.

2. The murder of Luis Reyna and its aftermath

On July 15, 1988, defendant made bail in the Mishell assault case, and he

was released from custody. On the morning of July 18, Reyna left his home for a

meeting with defendant and was never again seen alive. On July 26, Reyna’s


decapitated and dismembered body was found in an isolated location near the

Lafayette Reservoir.

Overwhelming evidence linked defendant to Reyna’s death. Reyna’s sister

Yolanda testified that, on the evening before his disappearance, Reyna received a

call from defendant. During the call, she overheard Reyna say he was not afraid

of defendant and intended to tell the truth.

The next morning, after calling work to say he would be late, Reyna told

his mother he was going to meet defendant around the corner. Reyna, who did not

own a gun, then departed, leaving behind his wallet, car keys, and automobile. He

never returned. His family contacted the police.

Around 4 p.m. on July 19, defendant’s truck was found at a Bay Area

Rapid Transit station, its interior bloodstained and its bench seat missing. Water

residue in the truck’s interior indicated it had been hosed or washed out. Oberman

had seen the bench seat in the truck the previous afternoon.

On July 20, while they were riding together, defendant handed Oberman a

gun and told her to throw it in a sewer. She did so. On July 21, after making

financial arrangements for an extended absence, the couple flew to San Diego and

entered Mexico.

Meanwhile, on July 19, a hiker in the Lafayette hills came upon a human

hand. On July 26, an unclothed human torso, missing head and hands, was found

at a separate Lafayette hills location. The torso was positively identified as

Reyna’s, and the severed hand perfectly matched the torso’s handless left arm. On

July 28, items of clothing, an ax, and a saw were found near where the body had

lain. A witness who had done construction work with defendant identified the ax,

a somewhat rare type, as defendant’s.

An autopsy indicated that Reyna had been dead for several days before his

body was found. Except for the decapitation and dismemberment, the body


showed no external or internal signs of human-inflicted trauma. A cause of death

could not be determined. Forensic experts opined that the head and hands had

been severed by sharp, incisive blows, and that damage to certain of the severed

bones was consistent with the use of a saw.

In March 1989, a skull, positively identified as Reyna’s, was found near

where the body had been discovered. Four years later, Dr. Herrmann, a

pathologist, examined the skull. He opined that the severed neck vertebrae had

been cut either by a sharp object, or more likely, based on small ridges in the bone,

by a saw. Though missing its lower jaw, the skull showed no other sign of trauma,

such as a gunshot wound.

After July 1988, defendant and Oberman stayed in various Mexican

locations. They obtained false identification papers. In September 1988, they

bought a Mexican residence. Thereafter, Oberman returned to California. She

worked in La Jolla and Palm Springs to earn money for their mutual support.

In February 1989, while on a surprise visit to Mexico, Oberman argued

with defendant over his affair with another woman. During the argument,

defendant confessed he had killed Reyna, and was not sorry. Defendant recounted

the following: He picked Reyna up in his truck on the morning of July 18, 1988,

and drove Reyna to a park in the hills. Reyna again told defendant he would not

recant his police statement in the Mishell case. Reyna also called Oberman a

whore. Defendant retrieved a gun from the toolbox in the rear of the vehicle and

shot Reyna, who was sitting in the passenger seat, in the temple.

In March 1989, Oberman returned to Palm Springs. At her insistence,

defendant followed. On September 11, 1989, FBI agents arrested him there while

he was driving with Oberman. Upon his arrest, defendant said to Oberman, “don’t

tell them anything.”


In a letter to Oberman from jail, postmarked July 6, 1992, defendant said he

would tell her, under separate cover, what he “expect[ed] [her] to remember” if

she was called as a trial witness. A second letter, postmarked the same date, set

forth a version of Reyna’s death in which Reyna pulled a gun, which went off

during a struggle, inflicting a fatal head wound on Reyna. The letter recited that

defendant had dumped Reyna’s body because both he and Oberman assumed the

police would never believe him, and he needed time to consult with his lawyer.

According to the letter, defendant fled the country to forestall civil suits and

because of death threats from the Reyna family. Defendant wrote further that he

hoped to avoid a harsh sentence in the Mishell case by claiming provocation.

At trial, Oberman insisted the letter’s recitations about Reyna’s death were

false. She testified she had never discussed this version of events with defendant,

or heard of it, until she received the letter.

3. Defense case

Defendant testified in his own behalf. He admitted bludgeoning the

Mishells, inflicting multiple blows on each. Defendant stated that he lost control

when the Mishells admitted, but laughed at, his accusations that they were behind

the anonymous telephone calls exposing his affair. He said he picked up a meat

tenderizer in the Mishells’ kitchen, used it as his weapon, then threw it, weighted,

into San Francisco Bay. Defendant acknowledged he lied to the police about the

incident, sought to construct an alibi, confessed to Reyna, then pressured Reyna to

recant the statement Reyna had given to the police.

Defendant further conceded that he called Reyna on the evening of July 17,

1988, that he met with Reyna on the morning of July 18, that Reyna died in his

presence that day, and that he then dismembered Reyna’s body. But defendant

denied murdering Reyna. Defendant claimed the following: The men drove in

defendant’s truck to a waterfront park in Richmond. During a tense conversation,


defendant walked around to the passenger door and opened it. Reyna, who

seemed somewhat intoxicated, was pointing a gun at him. They struggled, and the

weapon discharged.

According to defendant, he checked Reyna for signs of life and found none,

though he saw no blood, wound, or visible sign of the bullet’s trajectory. After

driving around for several hours, trying to decide what to do, he disposed of

Reyna’s gun in Walnut Creek, then drove to the Lafayette hills, where he

dismembered Reyna’s body, using a hacksaw not in evidence, and scattered the

remains. He rinsed the truck, inside and out, at a car wash, then discarded other

items of evidence, including the truck’s bench seat. He did these things, he said,

because he thought nobody would believe him, and he needed time to consult his


After meeting with his lawyers on July 20, defendant said, he decided to

flee because of death threats from Reyna’s family, potential civil lawsuits, and the

fear he would be denied bail on homicide charges. Defendant denied telling

Oberman the details of his encounter with Reyna, and he insisted he never told her

he murdered Reyna.

Defendant also insisted he had no reason to fear, and thus to kill, Reyna as

a potential witness against him in the Mishell assault case. According to

defendant, his attorney had advised him that, in an interview with a defense

investigator, Reyna had recanted his earlier statement to the police, and his

credibility could thus be destroyed on the stand. (See discussion, post.) Also,

defendant suggested, Reyna was vulnerable because he had confided to defendant

that he was homosexual, a fact he did not wish even his family to know.

The defense presented witnesses to challenge Robert Mishell’s memory,

particularly with respect to Robert’s trial recollection that defendant arrived at the

Mishell residence carrying a toolbox (and was thus perhaps already armed with the


weapon used in the assault). The defense attacked the credibility of Reyna family

witnesses, including Reyna’s sister Yolanda, by presenting evidence of their

extreme hostility to defendant and their dissatisfaction with police handling of the

case. The defense attacked Oberman’s credibility through the testimony of Sue

Ann Van Epps, Oberman’s former friend and business partner. Van Epps asserted

that Oberman was motivated by money and attention, had engineered the flight to

Mexico because of death threats from the Reyna family, and had suggested she

and Van Epps collaborate on a book about Oberman’s experiences in Mexico.

Finally, the defense sought to undermine Reyna’s credibility and

importance as a witness in the Mishell case, in order to suggest defendant had no

motive to kill Reyna. Detective Gustafson testified that, although Reyna was a

confidential informant in two earlier search warrants for defendant’s property,

Reyna’s April 5, 1988, revelation that defendant had confessed to him added only

details to what the police already knew about the Mishell assaults. Gustafson also

said Reyna was reluctant to come forward because he doubted the veracity of

defendant’s claim and was wrestling with his loyalty to defendant.

Chuck Roberts testified that Reyna had also revealed defendant’s

confession to him, but was reluctant to go to the police because of his friendship

for defendant and because defendant had told him things in the past that were not


Defense investigator George Cramer testified that, in an April 13, 1988,

interview, which occurred subsequent to Reyna’s taped police statement, Reyna

recanted, saying that the police had taken his statement out of context, and that he

did not believe defendant’s confession was serious. According to Cramer, Reyna

wanted to help defendant by telling the police everything he knew. Cramer said

that he, defense counsel, and Reyna tried to speak with the prosecutor after April

13, but she refused to see them.


B. Penalty evidence

1. Prosecution evidence

The prosecution presented three penalty phase witnesses. Yolanda Reyna,

the murder victim’s sister, and Helen Reyna, his mother, testified about the effect

of his death on them. Alexandra M., defendant’s niece by marriage, recounted

defendant’s sexual assault on her.

Alexandra testified as follows:

She spent the summer of 1982, when she was 15 years old, with

defendant’s family. He contrived to drive her to the airport alone for her flight

home. On the way, he asked her personal questions of a sexual nature. He parked

in a deserted airport lot and enticed her into the rear of his van, where he kissed

her and forced her head down onto his penis. When she bit him, he slapped her

and stuffed a bandanna into her mouth. Restraining her arms, he then raped and

sodomized her, ejaculating in her anus. He threatened to kill her and her family if

she told anyone. He also told her she had enjoyed the experience. Though

hysterical, she accepted the comment, because she knew no better.

On the flight home, she wrote a letter, never mailed, to her friend Margaret

Yen, in which she said she enjoyed the encounter and mentioned no force or

threats, but expressed shame that the incident had occurred. She did not tell her

mother until, three months later, she discovered she was pregnant. She did not

report the incident to police because she was afraid of the effect on her

grandparents. By 1988, she had still told only Yen, her therapist, and other close

friends and family members. In 1988, she told FBI agents who came to her home

in connection with defendant’s status as a wanted fugitive.

2. Defense evidence

Margaret Yen testified that when Alexandra M. returned home from

California in 1982, she told Yen she had consensual sex with her uncle in a car at


the airport. On the other hand, Yen stated that several months later, when

Alexandra was upset over her parents’ breakup, she told Yen she felt unloved and

worthless, and had even been forced by her uncle to have oral sex.

A number of witnesses testified to defendant’s positive qualities and

contributions, including his involvement in community affairs, charm, sense of

humor, diligence, intelligence, computer knowledge, helpfulness, concern for

family, trustworthiness, and concern for human equality. His efforts to tutor

fellow inmates while he was in jail awaiting trial were noted. But some witnesses

admitted he had a temper, could be hard on others, and was capable of anything.

And some conceded there was much about defendant they did not know, and that

the trial had altered their opinions of his honesty. There was evidence that

defendant held a contractor’s license with no record of disciplinary action.

No member of defendant’s family testified in his behalf. The defense

presented evidence that his parents were deceased, and that he had asked that his

children not be involved in the trial so as to spare them further pain.

Based solely on his review of defendant’s jail records, Jiro Enomoto, a

former Director of the Department of Corrections, testified that, if incarcerated,

defendant would be assigned to high-security housing, and could be a constructive

person. Enomoto conceded the security level of defendant’s housing could change

in the future. He insisted that defendant’s numerous county jail incident reports

were minor and not a cause for serious concern, though he admitted they were



A. Jury selection issues

1. Wheeler/Batson claim

Sixty-eight members of the venire, including nine members who identified

themselves as African-Americans, survived challenges for cause. Thirty-nine of


these qualified prospective jurors were called into the jury box to face peremptory


Selection of both regular and alternate jurors was completed on Thursday,

March 11, 1993. The remaining venire was excused, but the empaneled jurors

were not formally sworn. They were instructed to return for trial the following

Monday morning, March 15, 1993. On that morning, defendant filed a written

“Motion to Reinstate Improperly Challenged Jurors, Or, Alternatively, to Dismiss

Empaneled Jurors and Quash Remaining Venire.” The motion alleged violations

of People v. Wheeler (1978) 22 Cal.3d 258 (Wheeler) and Batson v. Kentucky

(1986) 476 U.S. 79 (Batson), in that the prosecutor had employed peremptory

challenges for the purpose of excluding African-Americans from the petit jury.

Specifically, the motion asserted, the prosecutor had used five of the 15

peremptory challenges he exercised to excuse Prospective Jurors Altie T.,

Gregory S., James B., Debria W., and June W.—every one of the identified

African-Americans called into the jury box—such that the regular jury as

empaneled had no African-American members. The motion conceded that the

four alternate jurors included an African-American.

Opening statements were deferred, the jurors were sent home, and the

motion was argued on March 15 and 16, 1993. Defense counsel insisted, as in the

written motion, that the prosecutor’s use of five of 15 peremptory challenges to

excuse all African-Americans from the final jury established a prima facie case of

discriminatory intent. Observing that the prosecutor’s voir dire had centered

around death qualification, counsel argued that the disputed prospective jurors had

expressed no extreme views on that issue, either orally or in their questionnaires.

The prosecutor responded that the defense’s statistical argument was

misleading because of the small sample size, and that his questioning of the

disputed prospective jurors demonstrated no intent to exclude them on the basis of


their race. He indicated that this was all he had to say on “the prima facie issue,”

but if the court wished, he would discuss his individual reasons for excusing each

disputed juror. Without ruling on whether a prima facie case had been made, the

court said, “I think you might as well.”

The prosecutor first conceded that all the excused jurors were theoretically

death-qualified, but pointed out that he had to make a “more subtle judgment”

whether these individuals could actually impose the death penalty. As to Altie T.,

the prosecutor observed that he “does not believe in the death penalty. Yes, he

said he could work with it, but in my judgment someone that does not believe in

the death penalty will not give it the same consideration and is not as likely to vote

for the death penalty as someone who is in favor of it or is at least neutral.”

The prosecutor said he excused Gregory S., not because of his death

penalty views, but because he indicated in voir dire that he “had been the victim of

circumstantial evidence in a case when it seemed that he was guilty but, in fact he

was not.” Because the instant case was largely based on circumstantial evidence,

the prosecutor explained, Gregory S. did not seem a suitable prosecution juror.

James B., the prosecutor noted, would probably be a suitable juror in a

noncapital case. However, the prosecutor observed, “my notes indicate [James B.]

said that he would have a difficult time voting for the death penalty because of

religious convictions,” and “that his wife was extremely opposed to the death


Debria W. had been excused, the prosecutor explained, because she said

that “maybe” she could impose the death penalty, but it should not be used “except

as a last resort and unless she was absolutely sure.” This persuaded the prosecutor

she would not evaluate death “even-handed[ly]” against life without parole, and

thus was not a suitable juror.


June W., said the prosecutor, had “repeated many, many times that she

could be fair,” but he could not get a sense, from her answers, about her death

penalty attitudes. Moreover, he indicated, “there was also a question or two that

was asked that she did not understand, and she answered incorrectly based on her

understanding, and it was my feeling [that] while she was a very nice woman, an

older lady, that I did not believe that she would in the end be able to vote for the

death penalty.”

Ruling on the motion, the trial court first stated it “[did] not feel the manner

in which the peremptory challenges were used created an inference that the

prosecutor had a discriminatory motive. Therefore, I do not think there has been

made a prima facie case.”

The court further indicated that “I remember these particular people.

I reviewed my notes; and, frankly, I feel that [the prosecutor] has given a

satisfactory reason with reference to these particular people. They were – They

were at best neutral to the death penalty. And if I were a prosecutor, I’d want

people more in favor of it. [¶] Many of them did say only in the last resort could

they do it or if they’re absolutely sure, which is not the burden of proof. [¶] One

juror, [Altie T.], said he did not believe in it. [¶] [Gregory S.] again is worried

about circumstantial evidence. [¶] [Debria W.] is concerned about the absolute

certainty, which kind of bothered me. [¶] [James B.] indicated it would be

difficult to apply. [¶] Now, forgetting their color for a moment, any prosecutor

would knock those people off. [¶] [June W.] was rather equivocal. I’m not so

sure whether that’s her personality or that is in response to the questions. [¶] But

in my opinion, there’s a valid basis for . . . the exercise of a peremptory, and I

don’t feel it was based on any type of discriminatory motive. [¶] So, . . . I will

deny your motion.”


On appeal, defendant renews his Wheeler/Batson challenge. The applicable

law is well settled. “[Under Wheeler,] [a] prosecutor’s use of peremptory

challenges to strike prospective jurors on the basis of group bias—that is, bias

against ‘members of an identifiable group distinguished on racial, religious,

ethnic, or similar grounds’—violates the right of a criminal defendant to trial by a

jury drawn from a representative cross-section of the community under article I,

section 16 of the state Constitution. [Citations.] [Under Batson,] [s]uch a practice

also violates the defendant’s right to equal protection under the Fourteenth

Amendment. [Citations.]

“The United States Supreme Court has recently reaffirmed that Batson

states the procedure and standard trial courts should use when handling motions

challenging peremptory strikes. ‘First, the defendant must make out a prima facie

case “by showing that the totality of the relevant facts gives rise to an inference of

discriminatory purpose.” [Citations.] Second, once the defendant has made out a

prima facie case, the “burden shifts to the State to explain adequately the racial

exclusion” by offering permissible race-neutral justifications for the strikes.

[Citations.] Third, “[i]f a race-neutral explanation is tendered, the trial court must

then decide . . . whether the opponent of the strike has proved purposeful racial

discrimination.” [Citation.]’ ” (People v. Lewis and Oliver (2006) 39 Cal.4th 970,

1008-1009 (Lewis and Oliver), quoting Johnson v. California (2005) 545 U.S.

162, 168.)

“We review the trial court’s ruling on purposeful racial discrimination for

substantial evidence. [Citation.] It is presumed that the prosecutor uses

peremptory challenges in a constitutional manner. We defer to the court’s ability

to distinguish ‘bona fide reasons from sham excuses.’ [Citation.] As long as the

court makes ‘a sincere and reasoned effort to evaluate the nondiscriminatory


justifications offered, its conclusions are entitled to deference on appeal.’ ”

(Lewis and Oliver, supra, 39 Cal.4th 970, 1009.)2

As noted above, the trial court, after expressly reserving its decision

whether a prima facie case had been established, accepted the prosecutor’s offer to

state his reasons for excusing individual prospective jurors. Having heard the

prosecutor’s justifications, the court ruled that his actions gave rise to no

“inference” of discriminatory motive, and that a prima facie case had thus not been

established. After comparing its own recollections with the prosecutor’s stated

grounds for the challenged excusals, the court further concluded that the

prosecutor had given “satisfactory reason[s]” for their dismissal. Under these

circumstances, the decision to hear the prosecutor’s reasons did not imply that the

court had found a prima facie case, nor did it moot the court’s later contrary

determination. (See People v. Welch (1999) 20 Cal.4th 701, 746 (Welch).)3


The trial court expressed concern that the Wheeler/Batson motion was

untimely because no challenge to the prosecutor’s use of peremptory challenges
was made until after a final jury had been accepted even though, in accordance
with the court’s usual practice, the jurors had not yet been sworn. The People
make no such argument on appeal, and we do not address the point. (See
People v. Roldan (2005) 35 Cal.4th 646, 701 (Roldan); compare People v.
(1990) 50 Cal.3d 134, 179, with People v. McDermott (2002)
28 Cal.4th 946, 949 (McDermott).)


Even where the trial court has not found a prima facie case of

discrimination, which would require the prosecutor to state reasons for the
challenged excusals, it is helpful, for purposes of appellate review, to have the
prosecutor’s explanation. We therefore encourage court and counsel in all
Wheeler/Batson proceedings to make a full record on the issue. We stress,
however, that the prosecutor is not obliged to state his reasons before the court has
found a prima facie case. Until that time, the defendant carries the sole burden to
establish an inference of discrimination. At this early stage, the prosecutor is not
compelled to provide information which the defendant might then employ to argue
the existence of a prima facie case. (Cf. People v. Bell (2007) 40 Cal.4th 582, 597
(Bell).) Moreover, the prosecutor’s voluntary decision to state reasons in advance

(footnote continued on next page)


However, our review of the court’s finding that defendant failed to establish

a prima facie case is complicated by intervening legal developments. In

Johnson v. California, supra, 545 U.S. 162, the United States Supreme Court

reversed People v. Johnson (2003) 30 Cal.4th 1302, wherein we confirmed that

the established California standard by which the opponent of juror strikes must

demonstrate, prima facie, a Wheeler/Batson violation—even if sometimes

previously expressed as a “reasonable inference”—was to show that purposeful

discrimination was “more likely than not.” (People v. Johnson, supra, at

pp. 1312-1318.) The high court made clear that this standard is too demanding for

federal constitutional purposes. Under Batson, the court said, the prima facie

burden is simply to “produc[e] evidence sufficient to permit the trial judge to draw

an inference that discrimination has occurred.” (Johnson v. California, supra,
545 U.S. 162, 170.)

Despite the instant trial court’s use of “inference” in its prima facie ruling,

that word had sometimes been employed in California as shorthand for the “more

likely than not” standard. (See discussion, ante.) Hence, we cannot be sure the

court understood the term in the sense later established by Johnson v. California.

Accordingly, we cannot simply defer to the trial court’s prima facie ruling. To

uphold it, we would have to be satisfied, from our independent review of the

record, that defendant produced insufficient evidence at the outset to permit an

inference of discrimination. (E.g., Bell, supra, 40 Cal.4th 582, 597; People v.

Avila (2006) 38 Cal.4th 491, 554.)

(footnote continued from previous page)
of a prima facie ruling does not constitute an admission or concession that a prima
facie case exists.


In the alternative, we may assume, without deciding, that defendant did

satisfy the first, or prima facie, step of Batson and Wheeler by pointing to the

prosecutor’s use of five of 15 peremptory challenges to excuse from the regular

jury the only African-Americans called to the box. (See, e.g., Wheeler, supra,

22 Cal.3d 258, 280.) Because the prosecutor voluntarily explained his dismissals,

we may then proceed directly to the second and third steps of the Wheeler/Batson

analysis. (Lewis and Oliver, supra, 39 Cal.4th 970, 1010; People v. Ward (2005)

36 Cal.4th 186, 200-201.) We do so here. We find the prosecutor’s stated

nondiscriminatory reasons for excusing Prospective Jurors Altie T., Gregory S.,

James B., Debria W., and June W. to be amply supported.

As the prosecutor indicated, when asked in the juror questionnaire to

describe his general feeling about the death penalty, Altie T. responded, “I don’t

believe in it but I can work with it.” He also indicated that he was “[m]oderately

against” the death penalty and was “[n]ot sure” how he would vote if the death

penalty were on the ballot.

On voir dire, Altie T. indicated quite a strong conflict between his feelings

against the death penalty and his duties as a juror. While he insisted he could vote

for death “if [he] had to” in an appropriate case, including one with only one

murder victim who was killed as a potential witness, he made clear that he

“basically [didn’t] believe in the death penalty” because “I don’t think a man

should take another man’s life. He should be punished for it, but his life shouldn’t

be taken.” Altie T. responded affirmatively when asked whether “therefore you

think it’s wrong for the state to take another man’s life,” i.e., “that it’s morally

wrong to do that.” As the trial court found, the prosecutor had ample reason to be


skeptical of Altie T.’s willingness and ability to impose death, and to excuse him

on that basis.4

During the voir dire of Prospective Juror Gregory S., the prosecutor

explained the difference between direct evidence and indirect, or circumstantial,

evidence. The prosecutor asked if Gregory S. could impose the death penalty in a

case based primarily on circumstantial evidence.

Later, defense counsel inquired about Gregory S.’s disclosure on his

questionnaire that he himself had been the victim of an attempted robbery in

which he suffered a head injury when struck with a pipe. Counsel asked if this

experience caused Gregory S. to come into court with a “vendetta or some kind of

ax to grind.” Gregory S. responded: “No, no, I don’t mainly because I’ve been in

a situation myself years ago where—where there’s a lot of circumstantial evidence

laid against me and was viewed as being guilty when I knew I wasn’t and couldn’t

prove it, so I knew that there [are] situations where a person could seem to be

guilty but [is] not. But I didn’t have a situation where I could go into a court

system and prove it and the whole bit. So I keep an open mind whether a

person’s—is thought to be guilty until—until I’m convinced.” On this basis, the

prosecutor could reasonably decide that Gregory S.’s personal experience,

dissimilar to any disclosed by other prospective jurors, might make him reluctant

to impose death, or even to convict, in a case where the murder evidence was

largely circumstantial.

In his juror questionnaire, Prospective Juror James B. expressed neutrality

about the death penalty. On voir dire, he continued, at first, to insist he had no


Both in his questionnaire and on voir dire, Altie T. also disclosed he had a

significant hearing problem, which sometimes might made it difficult to hear


feelings that would interfere with his ability to consider the death penalty fairly.

But when defense counsel asked if James B. had any religious or philosophical

beliefs that might affect his decisionmaking ability in a death penalty situation, he

responded, “It would be very difficult for me because of my religious convictions

to really give a death sentence to another human being.”

Later, the prosecutor examined James B. about his prior disclosure that

recent murders reported in the newspapers had led to discussions with his wife and

friends about whether they could actually impose the death penalty. The

prosecutor asked what opinion James B.’s wife held on that subject. James B.

responded, “My wife would not be able to do it at all. She was really a very

religious woman, and she could not give out a death sentence to another human

being at all.”

Though James B. insisted his wife’s views would not influence him, the

prosecutor could reasonably conclude that James B.’s own religion-based death

penalty scruples, reinforced by his wife’s even stronger pro-life views, would

make him an unsuitable prosecution juror in a death penalty case.

In her juror questionnaire, Prospective Juror Debria W. described her

philosophical opinion about the death penalty as “[n]eutral.” She explained that

“if the evidence [strongly] show[ed] guilt,” then “maybe” the death penalty would

be appropriate.

On voir dire, Debria W. displayed, and admitted, considerable nervousness,

and defense counsel remarked that she seemed shy. She stated at various points

that she would be open and fair, that she would consider death in a single-victim

witness-killing case, and that she could impose death where the evidence of guilt

was circumstantial. However, when defense counsel asked if Debria W. thought

the death penalty served a purpose in society, she responded, “Not all the time I

don’t feel—I don’t feel like it’s justified.” Asked to explain, Debria W. stated,


“Only when it’s—when it’s—that’s the last resort I mean, you know, that’s it.”

She volunteered that she would have to be “absolutely sure”—“gut sure”—before

imposing death; “I wouldn’t just say yeah, guilt and then death.” On the other

hand, she agreed, she would “definitely” consider life without parole as an option.

The prosecutor followed up, asking again what Debria W. meant by saying

the death penalty was a “last resort.” She explained that if “all the evidence

weighed out and everything pointed that way on the death penalty, then that’s the

way I would feel.” (Italics added.)

On this basis, the prosecutor could reasonably conclude that Debria W.

would be inclined to impose the death penalty, if at all, only in the most extreme

cases, where she believed no evidence at all favored life without parole. Thus, as

he indicated, he could surmise that she would not weigh the penalty evidence

fairly to determine whether the balance of aggravating and mitigating factors made

death the appropriate penalty.

In justifying his excusal of Prospective Juror June W., the prosecutor

acknowledged this prospective juror had insisted on many occasions that she could

weigh the penalty options fairly based on the evidence presented in the particular

case. However, the prosecutor pointed to certain “incorrect[ ]” and ambiguous

answers that prevented him from ascertaining June W.’s death penalty attitudes,

but left him with the sense that “in the end” she would not be able to vote for


Beyond any impressions the prosecutor may have gleaned from June W.’s

personality and demeanor—factors we cannot assess on the cold record—there is

support for his evaluation. In her jury questionnaire, when asked how she would

vote if the death penalty were placed on the ballot, June W. answered that she

“had not thought about it, [but that] [o]n a jury I could be fair in [judgment].”

(Italics added.) On voir dire, defense counsel followed up on this point, asking


June W. if she had thought, since filling out the questionnaire, about how she

might vote “if California placed it on the ballot [whether] there ought to be a death

penalty.” She responded, “I feel that I wouldn’t have a problem voting for the

death penalty if that in my opinion was the case.” (Italics added.) She then

answered “[c]orrect” when defense counsel asked whether this meant she agreed

the death penalty “has a legitimate place in criminal justice” and is “an option the

jury should have in deciding a case.”

These answers could suggest that June W. was being evasive about her

political position on the death penalty, and thus sought, by her answers, to redirect

all such questions on that subject toward her ability to be a fair capital juror.

However rational such a stance might be in the abstract, it could reasonably raise

concerns in the prosecutor’s mind whether June W. was using it, consciously or

unconsciously, to mask a deeper antipathy to capital punishment. On that basis, he

could decide she was a less than suitable prosecution juror.

For the first time on appeal, defendant asks us to compare the responses

provided by the 12 seated regular jurors, none of whom were African-American,

with those given by the excused African-American prospective jurors, and cited by

the prosecutor when justifying the disputed challenges. Such a comparison,

defendant insists, exposes the prosecutor’s stated reasons as sham, because the

seated jurors disclosed death penalty views substantially similar to those expressed

by Altie T., Gregory S., James B., Debria W., and June W.

We had previously declined to engage in comparative juror analysis for the

first time on appeal, deeming such analysis unreliable in evaluating the

prosecutor’s reasons for excusing minority prospective jurors. (E.g., People v.

Box (2000) 23 Cal.4th 1153, 1190 (Box); People v. Johnson (1989) 47 Cal.3d

1194, 1220-1221.) However, in Miller-El v. Dretke (2005) 545 U.S. 231 (Miller-

El), a federal habeas corpus case, the United States Supreme Court conducted a


comparative juror analysis to examine the veracity of the prosecutor’s stated race-

neutral reasons for the challenged excusals, though no such analysis had been

sought or performed in lower courts. The court observed that “[i]f a prosecutor’s

proffered reason for striking a black panelist applies just as well to an otherwise-

similar nonblack who is permitted to serve, that is evidence tending to prove

purposeful discrimination to be considered at Batson’s third step.” (Id. at p. 241.)

Assuming, without deciding, that we must undertake comparative juror

analysis here (Lewis and Oliver, supra, 39 Cal.4th 970, 1017), we conclude that

such a comparison fails to indicate the prosecutor engaged in purposeful

discrimination. Though they obviously did not hold extreme views, the seated

jurors expressed attitudes significantly more favorable to the prosecution than the

African-American prospective jurors he excused.

Thus, in his questionnaire, Juror Stewart B. indicated he believed the death

penalty “is an appropriate punishment for special circumstance crimes and if the

jury decides it fits the crime.” He also reported he was “[m]oderately in favor” of

the death penalty, had no religious scruples against it, and would vote “[f]or” the

death penalty on the ballot because “I believe it is appropriate for some crimes and

may serve as a deterrent for some criminals.”

On voir dire, Stewart B. indicated that he was familiar with the term

“special circumstance,” thought it was reserved for particularly violent murders

and peace-officer murders, did not realize witness-killing was a special

circumstance, but assumed, if the statute included this category, that “it [was]

appropriate.” Asked by defense counsel if he understood he must vote for life if

the good and bad in defendant’s life were equal, Stewart B. expressed some

reservations, indicating that “[a]t that point, [having found both guilt and one or

more special circumstances], it kind of tilts the other way I would think,” despite

the need to be “careful,” “once you’re kind of balancing the scales of justice.”


Indeed, he said, “I would have to tell you right now I’m probably preinclined

toward the death penalty” and “I support the death penalty.”

Stewart B. professed he was comfortable that the death penalty meant

exactly that, because “you need appropriate measures for the appropriate crime.”

He also indicated he would have no difficulty imposing the death penalty after

having found guilt and special circumstances on the basis of circumstantial

evidence, pointing out that the issues at the two phases of trial were different.

In her questionnaire, Juror Tina B. said that she had not thought a lot about

capital punishment and was not sure how she would vote on a ballot measure

addressing that issue, but believed the death penalty “is here for a reason.” It was

hard, she professed, to say how she felt about the death penalty, “[n]ot knowing

the evidence.” She indicated she had no religious reservations about capital


On voir dire, Tina B. said she was still not how sure she would vote on a

death penalty ballot measure, because she did not have enough information.

However, when asked what she meant by saying the death penalty is here for a

reason, Tina B. explained that the “reason” was all the “bad” people who “cannot

live on this earth without doing anything . . . but wrong such as murder over and

over— . . . or child molestation, anything of that sort,” and that “we should use

[the death penalty] when it comes to that.” When defense counsel inquired

whether she had thought more about her attitudes since completing her juror

questionnaire, Tina B. said, “Actually, yes, I have. . . . My additional thoughts are

that it is here, and . . . we’re supposed to use it, and if I had to make a choice,

depending on the evidence, I would.”

Asked if she would impose death in a witness-killing case, Tina B. said,

“No, I’d have to hear the whole case,” thus suggesting that she would not

automatically do so. Asked about the death penalty in a circumstantial-evidence


case, she replied that “[o]bviously he’d have to be pretty guilty of everything,” but

if circumstantial evidence convinced her, to the requisite degree of proof, that

defendant deserved the death penalty, “I believed I would” be able to vote for it.

In her questionnaire, Juror Sharon B. indicated that she believed the death

penalty was necessary for certain crimes “based on the evidence,” was

“[m]oderately in favor” of the death penalty, had no religious scruples against it,

but was “[n]ot sure” how she would vote on a ballot measure. Responding to the

question whether her death penalty views had changed substantially in recent

years, she stated, “If I keep my emotions out of the way [and] think logically my

feelings are the same.”

In voir dire, defense counsel followed up on this latter comment, asking if it

meant her thoughts changed from day to day depending on how she felt about a

particular issue or case. She agreed, explaining that she had extreme emotional

reactions to the “horrible” crimes she saw on television, but “then if you sit and

think about it, then it depends on, you know, . . . what type of evidence is given to

me.” She insisted she could follow the penalty instructions and weigh both

available punishments based on the aggravating and mitigating evidence.

Sharon B. indicated she was still not sure how she would vote on a ballot

measure, “[b]ecause I think each individual case needs to be taken into

consideration. . . . I just can’t say somebody automatically deserves the death

penalty.” (Italics added.) Pressed to distinguish between the voting booth and a

juror’s duties, she maintained, on the political question, that “I [still] don’t know

how I feel” and had no “definite feelings.” Asked about her views on life without

parole, she said she was “[p]robably moderately favorable,” which, she agreed,

“was about the same as [she felt on] the death penalty.” Finally, she agreed

unequivocally that she could impose death even if the evidence of guilt was

primarily circumstantial.


Thus, the overall portrait was of a juror who had strong initial reactions

against aggravated murders, was inclined to favor the availability of both death

and life without parole for selected crimes, and believed, in the end, that each

individual case required careful consideration, based on logic and evidence.

Under these circumstances, the prosecutor could readily conclude Sharon B. was a

fair capital juror who would impose the death penalty if she believed it was


Juror Roberta C. left blank that portion of her questionnaire dealing with

death penalty attitudes. On voir dire, she explained that she felt “rush[ed],” the

form was “lengthy,” and she was “caught off guard” by questions she had not

previously pondered.

However, asked by the court about her feelings on this issue, she replied

that her Catholic religion did not “teach to be in favor of the death penalty or

capital punishment; but for myself deep down in my heart I do believe in it.”

(Italics added.) She admitted the conflict with her Catholic faith had given her a

“difficult weekend,” but “I think I’m going to have to dismiss the Catholic

principles and just go from what I feel.” Questioned further on the subject by the

prosecutor, Roberta C. insisted she could go against her church’s teaching if she

thought death was the appropriate penalty, “[a]nd I don’t think I’m the only one

that would fall in that situation.”

Roberta C. indicated she could consider the death penalty in a witness-

killing case “[i]f that were the law.” When the court advised that this was the law,

she said she “probably” could. When the prosecutor asked what she meant by

“probably,” she answered, “Maybe I should rephrase that. If that is the law, then

I will have to follow the law.” Finally, she indicated unequivocally that she could

impose the death penalty on the basis of circumstantial evidence.


These responses indicated quite clearly that, after some understandable soul

searching, Roberta C. had resolved any religious conflict in favor of her personal

belief in the death penalty. The prosecutor could readily conclude that her

Catholic faith would not interfere with her duties as a capital juror, that she would

follow the law, and that she would deliberate fairly on the issue of penalty.5

In her questionnaire, Juror Suzanne H. indicated that she was “not

opposed” in general to the death penalty, had no religious scruples against it, and

would vote “[f]or” it on the ballot because she “[felt] it should be an option.”

Asked to rate her “philosophical opinion” about the death penalty on a five-step

scale, she first marked “[m]oderately in favor,” crossed that out, and marked


On voir dire, Suzanne H. expressed the views of an ideal capital juror. She

explained she was “neither for nor against” the death penalty in the abstract;

instead, she said, “In some cases I’m very much in favor of [the death penalty]

[while] [i]n some cases I would not be in favor.” She thought both death and life

without parole were valid options, depending on the case and the evidence, and

she would “accept the facts as they are.” She did not think death was appropriate

only in cases of multiple murder victims, and she could impose the death penalty

in a witness-killing case “[i]f I was so directed by the court.” She also indicated

she could impose death on the basis of a circumstantial guilt case. These


Roberta C. was also examined about her failure to answer queries on the

juror questionnaire about whether she, any family or household member, or any
acquaintance had been investigated for, or charged with, a crime. Roberta C. had
handwritten “PRIVATE” beside these questions. On voir dire, she explained that,
when she was nine or 10 years old, her stepbrother had been involved in a
shootout with police officers at Santa Rita jail and had gone to San Quentin. She
insisted that this episode, which had occurred when she was a child, and in which
she had no personal participation, would not affect her ability to sit as a juror.


responses left no doubt that Suzanne H. could deliberate fairly on the issue of


In his questionnaire, Juror David H. responded colorfully when asked his

general feelings on the death penalty, explaining that “I used to be against it but

now I feel [it’s] a valid method of cleaning the pond scum off of the gene pool.”

He indicated he had no religious scruples against the death penalty and would vote

“[f]or” it on the ballot, but nonetheless rated his “philosophical opinion” on the

subject as “[n]eutral.”

Asked on voir dire to explain his “pond scum” remark, David H. indicated

he meant that “someone who’s out and out bad, would go out and murder again,

and have no problem with that, I don’t see a point in that person existing.”

Nonetheless, under intense questioning by defense counsel, he indicated he

understood, and could abide by, his obligations as a penalty juror, and would

consider life without parole if the “good” about the defendant, when compared

against the “bad,” was sufficient to warrant that option. David H. provided an

obvious basis for the prosecutor to surmise that he would be a suitable, even

favorable, prosecution juror in a capital case.

Juror Judith H. stated in her questionnaire that she was “[m]oderately in

favor” of the death penalty, and had no religious or philosophical reservations

about it. She indicated she would vote “[f]or” the death penalty on the ballot

because she “believe[d] the option should be available.” Asked to explain her

general feelings on the subject, she wrote she felt there were “probably some cases

where it should be imposed.” Her religious beliefs, she explained, were “that man

should be punished for his sins unless he repents and restores losses he had

caused,” and it was impossible to restore life. She expressed the view that

“[u]nder some circumstances, a guilty person should forfeit his own life as a

means of expiation,” but in others, “the death penalty would not be appropriate.”


On voir dire, Judith H. confirmed these positions. Asked by the court if she

could impose death in an appropriate case, she replied, “I believe in it” and “I’d

have to say yes.” When defense counsel inquired about her questionnaire

statement that she was moderately for the death penalty, she said, “Well, I believe

that it should exist.” She admitted she “[didn’t] believe anyone would really want

to condemn another human being to death,” but suggested that the group nature of

the decision reduced the risk of error. On the other hand, she said she understood

that, as a juror, she must make an individual determination. She denied that her

religious beliefs required the forfeiture of life as expiation for every murder, and

insisted she could not prejudge a case, but said she believed she could impose

death in an appropriate case. She professed to prefer neither death nor life without

parole, but had “a strong preference to presume innocent until proven otherwise.”

She deferred to the law when asked whether death was ever appropriate in a

witness-killing case. In response to the prosecutor’s questions, she said she

“probably” could impose death in a case of circumstantial evidence, though she

“would have to feel that it’s warranted.”

In sum, Judith H.’s questionnaire and voir dire answers portrayed a person

who strongly believed on religious grounds that the death penalty was a valid

punishment for some murders, was willing and able to assess it where appropriate,

and accepted that the categories of death eligibility were a matter for the law. On

the other hand, they indicated that she would not prejudge individual cases,

understood the gravity of condemning someone to death, and would therefore

weigh the evidence and penalty choices carefully. On this basis, the prosecutor

could readily conclude that Judith H. would be an even-handed, and therefore

acceptable, capital juror.

In her questionnaire, Juror Sherry K. rated herself as “[n]eutral” on the

death penalty. However, she indicated she had no religious scruples on the issue


and would vote “[f]or” the death penalty on the ballot because “people should

have choices.” Asked to describe her general feelings on the death penalty, she

wrote, “The cases that I know about from the news indicate that it was warranted.”

On voir dire, Sherry K. indicated she was thinking of high-profile cases—

“Jeffrey Dahmer, Charles Manson”—when she wrote of cases in the news where

the death penalty seemed appropriate. She also said she did not think death was

warranted for a single murder to prevent a witness from testifying. However, she

made clear that she was distinguishing her political and philosophical views from

her duties as a juror. She explained that she would not “make such a law,” but

“since it is the law, I can still agree and abide by it.” (Italics added.) Asked by the

prosecutor if she meant that, even if she disagreed with the law, she could vote for

death in such a case if persuaded the aggravating circumstances outweighed those

in mitigation, she replied, “Yes, sir, that’s what I’m telling you.” When the court

interrupted to ask if she would use the standard of proof required by the

instructions, and not impose one of her own, she replied, “Absolutely.” Finally,

she agreed she could impose death in a circumstantial-evidence case if instructed

that such evidence was equal to direct evidence.

From these answers, the prosecutor could infer that Sherry K. favored the

death penalty in certain cases, and could put aside her personal views in others to

deliberate fairly, under the law and instructions, on the issue of penalty. On that

basis, she would appear to be an acceptable juror for the prosecution.

In her questionnaire, Juror Cecilia M. rated herself “[m]oderately in favor”

of the death penalty, and stated she had no religious objections to it. She indicated

she would vote “[f]or” the death penalty because “I feel it [is] necessary

sometimes.” Asked to describe her general feelings about the death penalty, she

wrote, “I feel [it] is necessary in some cases.”


On voir dire, Cecilia M. explained she thought the death penalty was

sometimes necessary because “some crimes are [so] horrible that a person

deserves to die.” She stated that she could “make a choice” between death and life

without parole in a case where a witness was killed to prevent his testimony.

Under questioning by defense counsel, she admitted that, though she generally

favored the death penalty, she had thought about whether it would be difficult

actually to impose it, i.e., “how I would feel about determining if someone should

die or not,” and “if I could just morally do it.” But when the prosecutor followed

up on the same theme, Cecilia M. said, “Well, as I said, I’ve thought about it a lot

since the questionnaire; and I honestly think I could.” She agreed she could do so

in a case involving circumstantial evidence.

These answers indicate that Cecilia M. generally believed in the death

penalty, had pondered the moral significance of personal involvement in its

imposition, but had ultimately decided her moral qualms, if any, were not so

strong as to hinder her ability to deliberate fairly as a penalty juror. On this basis,

the prosecutor could well find her acceptable as a juror.

In his questionnaire, Juror Manuel R. rated himself “[s]trongly in favor” of

the death penalty and indicated he would vote “[f]or” the death penalty on the

ballot. Asked to explain his general feelings about the death penalty, he wrote,

“I have always been in favor of the death penalty [as] a strong deterrent to murder

and violent crime. But I never, ever thought that the situation would occur where

I may have to assist in the decision to implement it as a sentence.” Asked if he

had religious or philosophical scruples against the death penalty, he responded,

“To be honest, I don’t know. I think I’d actually have to be in the situation before

I’d know for sure.”

On voir dire, after hearing the court’s explanation of the guilt and penalty

process, Manuel R. told the court that “the outline you just gave, that clarified a


lot,” and he could now say he had no feelings that would prevent him from

choosing between death and life without parole. He repeated this theme during

questioning by both counsel. When defense counsel asked whether, at the final

stage, Manuel R. would be willing to make a penalty judgment without being

affected by any religious or philosophical principle, Manuel R. replied, “I think

I could. It’s something I’ve—since our original instructions I’ve thought about a

lot between then and now, and I think that I could make that decision without

being prejudiced or—or tilted one way or the other.”

Manuel R. further explained that, despite his ambivalence on the

questionnaire, he did not actually think he had any “built-in religious or

philosophical difference or bias” concerning his ability to consider the death

penalty. His uncertain questionnaire answer, he said, “was simply [from] coming

for jury duty and being put in this situation” without having considered in advance

how he might feel. However, he indicated, in thinking about it since, “I believe

I could be objective and . . . consider the evidence and . . . make a decision that

I thought was the correct decision without being biased.”

When the prosecutor asked again if Manuel R. could actually impose the

death penalty knowing that defendant would be taken to San Quentin and

executed, Manuel R. responded, “Yes, I believe so.” He also indicated he could

“certainly” vote for death in a case involving primarily circumstantial evidence if,

as the court would instruct, such evidence was equal in weight to direct evidence.

In sum, the prosecutor could surmise that Manuel R. strongly favored the

death penalty in principle, faced momentary uncertainty about his ability to

impose it personally, but, after thinking the matter over, concluded he was willing

and able to consider that penalty fairly during penalty deliberations. Thus, the

prosecutor could readily assume he was an acceptable capital juror.


Juror Brian S. stated in his questionnaire that he would vote “[f]or” the

death penalty on the ballot “[b]ecause the person[’]s life is all but over and making

him die a slow life [in prison] would be cruel. That’s why we still shoot horses

when they have a broken leg.” He indicated he had no religious or philosophical

scruples against the death penalty, and that his philosophical opinion was

“[n]eutral.” Asked to describe his general feelings about the death penalty, he

stated that if the evidence justified the death penalty, “then I think it must go on

with it. I do believe in the death penalty only after all appeals have been


On voir dire, Brian S. generally indicated his willingness to apply the death

penalty law as the court would explain it to him. He confirmed, in response to

questions from the court, that he supported the death penalty under “the terms

permitted.” He explained that, as a correctional officer in both the Montana and

federal systems, he had seen prison conditions and had thought about capital

punishment throughout his career. His basic view, he said, was “to go with it.

The judge is supposed to make the determination and the jury, so I have to accept

it.” He amplified the “shoot horses” remark in his questionnaire by saying he saw

“no reason why [the death penalty] shouldn’t be carried out,” where warranted, in

preference to a lifetime of confinement under poor prison conditions with no hope

of release, no goals, and no chance to contribute to society or the prison.

When asked by the prosecutor what he meant in his questionnaire by rating

himself neutral on the death penalty, Brian S. said he believed that “[i]f it warrants

the death penalty, if the crime warrants the death penalty, then I think I am for it.

And if it didn’t, then I’m against it.” That was why, he added, he had written that

it should be imposed only after all appeals were exhausted; he agreed with the

prosecutor’s suggestion that he wanted to “[m]ake sure everything was done

right.” He insisted his professional relationships with prisoners had not caused


him to oppose the death penalty. He agreed he could impose death in a

circumstantial-evidence case if such evidence was legally “equal” to direct

evidence. And he indicated he would consider, but not prejudge, the propriety of

the death penalty where one person was killed to prevent his testimony.

Nothing in these statements suggests Brian S. had reservations about

imposing the penalty of death in an appropriate case, as determined by a jury

under the terms of the death penalty law and affirmed on postconviction review.

The prosecutor had ample grounds to find him acceptable as a capital juror.

Finally, Juror Christian W., in his questionnaire, rated himself “[n]eutral”

on the death penalty and indicated his views had not changed substantially in

recent years, explaining that “I’m not an advocate or proponent of the death

penalty.” On the other hand, he reported he had no religious or philosophical

reservations, remarking that “[i]f the facts and verdict warrant the death penalty,

then so be it.” He also indicated he would vote “[f]or” the death penalty on the

ballot, commenting that it was a “strong deterrent” to crime. Describing his

general feelings on the subject, he said it “is a very difficult way to punish

someone, but, if the facts of a case warrant that action, then it is a part of our

judicial system that must be imposed.”

On voir dire, when the court asked Christian W. if he would have difficulty

choosing between the two punishments, he said, “On the face of it, no. Basically,

my feeling[ ] is if the crime justifies [the] death penalty, then so be it, and if not—

. . . .” In response to questions from defense counsel, he acknowledged that, now

faced with possible personal responsibility for choosing between life and death, he

realized he might not be as pro death penalty as he had thought. He said he had

“relaxed a little bit” on the subject, and now understood his attitude to be “more or

less, you know, that people have to have their say in front of the jury more so than


. . . prejudging.” Nonetheless, he indicated, he felt he could vote for either


Asked similarly by the prosecutor if he thought he could “make that vote,”

Christian W. answered, “As I sit here today, yes, I do if the facts warrant it.” He

made clear that he could do so in a case supported primarily by circumstantial

evidence, and where one person was killed to eliminate him as a witness.

Thus, all the seated jurors expressed death penalty views ranging from truly

neutral to moderately favorable. Ultimately all indicated, without reservation, that

they could apply the capital sentencing law, accept circumstantial evidence of

defendant’s guilt, deliberate fairly on the proper punishment, and choose the death

penalty in an appropriate case. By contrast, three of the five excused African-

American prospective jurors made, and did not retract, allusions to significant

religious, moral, or other qualms that would make it very difficult for them to

choose death. A fourth recounted a unique personal experience that might impair

his ability to accept circumstantial evidence. The fifth evaded questions about her

political stand on the death penalty in a manner that could give the prosecutor

pause about her actual ability to deliberate fairly in a capital case.

Certainly no seated juror expressed views so starkly similar to those of the

excused prospective jurors as to expose, on the face of a cold record, any pretext

in the prosecutor’s stated reasons for the excusals. Moreover, defendant points to

no disparate or trick questioning by the prosecutor, designed to create pretexts for

retaining nonminority panelists while excusing those belonging to a minority

racial group. (See Miller-El, supra, 545 U.S. 231, 260-263, 265.) Under these

circumstances, we see no basis to overturn the trial court’s determination that the

prosecutor’s stated nondiscriminatory reasons for dismissing the five African-

American prospective jurors were sincere, and that purposeful discrimination was

not established. We therefore reject defendant’s Wheeler/Batson claim.


2. Restriction on voir dire

The juror questionnaire included a question asking what jurors had heard

about the case. During pretrial proceedings, defendant’s counsel proposed to

modify this question by preceding it with the following statement: “[Defendant,] a

former Berkeley Waterfront Commissioner, is accused of attempted murder in

connection with the January 31, 1988, beating of University of California

Professor Robert Mishell and his wife while in their Berkeley home. [¶] He is

also accused of murdering Luis Reyna, a Berkeley Waterfront Commissioner and

an alleged witness in the Mishell case, on July 18, 1988. Mr. Reyna’s body was

found dismembered in the Lafayette hills a short time after his disappearance.”

Another question asked jurors to rate their attitudes towards capital

punishment on a scale ranging from strongly in favor to strongly against. The

defense proposed that, after answering this question, jurors be asked to review the

facts set forth in the first modification, then state and explain “what change, if any,

[those facts might produce] in your philosophical view of the death penalty.”

Counsel argued that, in view of the publicity the case had received, the first

modification was relevant to determining whether a motion for change of venue

should be filed. Moreover, counsel urged, while the defense was “aware of the

court’s concern about any prejudgment of facts,” the second modification was

appropriate to ascertain whether the particularly gruesome facts might influence

the jurors’ penalty attitudes.

The trial court explained that, as was its usual practice, it would apprise

prospective jurors of the general facts by reading aloud, then paraphrasing, the

information. Also, the court said, it would allow counsel to voir dire the jurors “as

to pretrial publicity in terms of the status of Mr. Mishell and his wife, him being a

professor, that the assault occurred in their home, [and] that [defendant and the

alleged murder victim Reyna] were Waterfront Commissioners.” However, the


court rejected the proposed questionnaire modifications. As to the “issue of

dismemberment,” the court explained, questioning prospective jurors about how

they might be affected by the “method of killing” would, in effect, be asking them

to prejudge the case.

Thus, the court ruled, counsel could examine jurors orally about their

ability to choose between life and death if they found true the charges and

allegations in the information—i.e., that defendant attempted to murder the

Mishells, inflicted great bodily injury on them, and murdered Reyna to eliminate

him as a witness in the Mishell case. Moreover, the court indicated, it would

allow voir dire “[about] the location of the assault, [and] the status of the

[defendant and the victims]; but I will not permit you to go into any of the factual

issues, including but not limit[ed] to the dismemberment.”

After the guilt trial, counsel again moved for further voir dire of the jurors

concerning their ability to choose between life and death in light of the evidence,

particularly the dismemberment evidence, the jury had actually heard. The court

denied the motion, noting that, in its view, the defense had conducted a “complete

and exhaustive” voir dire. The court indicated that it stood by its pretrial ruling

against “arguing or voir diring the facts of the case.”

Defendant now claims the court’s refusal to allow questioning of jurors

about whether they would automatically impose death in light of the

dismemberment evidence violated his rights under the Sixth, Eighth, and

Fourteenth Amendments and analogous provisions of the California Constitution.

The contention lacks merit.

“[T]he trial court has ‘considerable discretion . . . to contain voir dire within

reasonable limits’ [Citations]. This discretion extends to the process of death-

qualification voir dire established by Witherspoon v. Illinois (1968) 391 U.S. 510

[(Witherspoon)] and Wainwright v. Witt [(1985)] 469 U.S. 412. [Citation.]


Limitations on voir dire are subject to review for abuse of discretion. [Citation.]”

(People v. Jenkins (2000) 22 Cal.4th 900, 990 (Jenkins).)

Moreover, as we have said on many occasions, “[d]efendant ha[s] no right

to ask specific questions that invite[ ] prospective jurors to prejudge the penalty

issue based on a summary of the aggravating and mitigating evidence (People v.

Cash (2002) 28 Cal.4th 703, 721-722 [(Cash)]), to educate the jury as to the facts

of the case (People v. Sanders (1995) 11 Cal.4th 475, 538-539 [(Sanders)]), or to

instruct the jury in matters of law (People v. Ashmus (1991) 54 Cal.3d 932, 959.)”

(People v. Burgener (2003) 29 Cal.4th 833, 865; see also, e.g., People v. Mason

(1991) 52 Cal.3d 909, 939-941 (Mason).)

We have explained that “[t]he Witherspoon-Witt . . . voir dire seeks to

determine only the views of the prospective jurors about capital punishment in the

abstract . . . . The inquiry is directed to whether, without knowing the specifics of

the case, the juror has an ‘open mind’ on the penalty determination.” (People v.

Clark (1990) 50 Cal.3d 583, 597.) In Mason, alluding to the facts there presented,

we said that “[m]any persons whose general neutrality toward capital punishment

qualifies them to sit as jurors might, if presented with the gruesome details of a

multiple-murder case, conclude that they would likely, if not automatically, vote

for death.” (Mason, supra, 52 Cal.3d 909, 940; see also Sanders, supra,

11 Cal.4th 475, 539.)

On the other hand, we have indicated that because “ ‘ [a] prospective juror

who would invariably vote either for or against the death penalty because of one or

more circumstances likely to be present in the case being tried, without regard to

the strength of aggravating and mitigating circumstances, is . . . subject to

challenge for cause,’ ” the death qualification process “must probe ‘prospective

jurors’ death penalty views as applied to the general facts of the case, whether or


not those facts [have] been expressly charged.’ ” (People v. Earp (1999)

20 Cal.4th 826, 853 (Earp).)

Reconciling these competing principles dictates that “death-qualification

voir dire must avoid two extremes. On the one hand, it must not be so abstract

that it fails to identify those jurors whose death penalty views would prevent or

substantially impair the performance of their duties in the case being tried. On the

other hand, it must not be so specific that it requires the prospective jurors to

prejudge the penalty issue based on a summary of the mitigating and aggravating

evidence likely to be presented. [Citation.] In deciding where to strike the

balance in a particular case, trial courts have considerable discretion. [Citations.]”

(Cash, supra, 28 Cal.4th 703, 721-722.)

In Cash—our only reversal of a death penalty judgment for failure to allow

sufficient inquiry into jurors’ death penalty attitudes about particular facts— we

stressed that the court had refused to allow defense counsel to ask prospective

jurors about “a general fact or circumstance . . . that could cause some jurors

invariably to vote for the death penalty, regardless of the strength of the mitigating

circumstances.” (Cash, supra, 28 Cal.4th 703, 721, italics added.) There, we

concluded, the fact that defendant had previously murdered his grandparents was

“likely to be of great significance to prospective jurors.” (Ibid.)

In Roldan, supra, 35 Cal.4th 646, the trial evidence showed that defendant

and an accomplice approached swap meet employees who were collecting and

bundling the day’s cash receipts. Defendant, brandishing a firearm, ordered the

victims not to “fucking move.” When one potential victim tried to flee, defendant

stated, “I said don’t anybody fucking move.” He then pointed his weapon at the

fleeing victim and pulled the trigger, but the gun misfired. After taking bags of

money, the robbers themselves fled, but another swap meet employee, one Teal,

chased, caught, and held the accomplice. Defendant reappeared and told Teal he


would shoot unless Teal released the accomplice. Teal obeyed the order, threw up

his hands, and froze. Defendant thereupon fired several rapid shots into Teal’s

chest and arm, wounding him fatally.

The trial court itself undertook the death qualification of prospective jurors.

It asked each panelist whether he or she would change any questionnaire answer,

then posed four general questions about the panelist’s ability to deliberate fairly in

a death penalty case. Defense counsel requested that the court inquire further into

the questionnaire and voir dire answers of two persons who ultimately sat on the

jury. However, counsel never specified what additional questions and information

he desired. The court denied the request.

On appeal, we rejected the defendant’s claim that the court thereby erred.

We first observed that the requests for supplementary voir dire were not

sufficiently specific as to purpose or subject matter. We also dismissed the

defendant’s reliance on Cash. There, we noted, the defense had been denied the

opportunity to probe juror attitudes toward the defendant’s prior murder of his

grandparents—quoting, in added italics, Cash’s statement that this fact “ ‘could

cause some jurors invariably to vote for the death penalty, regardless of the

strength of the mitigating circumstances.’ ” (Roldan, supra, 35 Cal.4th 646, 694.)

By contrast, we said in Roldan, “defendant identifies no fact about his case

that is comparable in relevance to the prior murders in . . . Cash . . . , facts that

could potentially have prejudiced even a reasonable juror. There were in this case

no prior murders, no sensational sex crimes, no child victims,[6] no torture.”


Cf., e.g., Box, supra, 23 Cal.4th 1153, 1178-1180 (three-year-old boy

murdered along with mother; voir dire adequately covered the issue); Earp, supra,
20 Cal.4th 836, 851 (18-month-old girl killed in course of forcible sexual assault;
voir dire adequately covered the issue).


(Roldan, supra, 35 Cal.4th 646, 694, italics added.) Under these circumstances,

we concluded, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in disallowing further


Similarly here, the court did not abuse its broad discretion. We note at the

outset that the defense was allowed to explore with prospective jurors several of

the specific circumstances of the case. These included the Mishells’ status as

members of the University of California academic community, the prosecution’s

claims that defendant attempted to murder the Mishells and inflicted great bodily

injury on them, the fact that defendant and murder victim Reyna were both

members of the Berkeley Waterfront Commission, and the prosecution’s

allegation that defendant killed Reyna to eliminate him as a witness in the Mishell

assault case. In addition, defendant’s counsel were permitted to voir dire

prospective jurors about what they had heard, seen, read, and remembered about

the case. In several instances, such inquiry touched on the dismemberment issue.

The sole fact as to which the defense unsuccessfully sought additional

inquiry—the condition of the adult murder victim’s body when found—was not

one that could cause a reasonable juror—i.e., one whose death penalty attitudes

otherwise qualified him or her to sit on a capital jury—invariably to vote for

death, regardless of the strength of the mitigating evidence. No child victim, prior

murder, or sexual implications were involved. Nor, to the extent juror emotions

might thereby be aroused, would there be evidence that Reyna was dismembered

while alive.7 The questions defendant wanted to ask did not indicate otherwise;

7 As noted above, there was no forensic indication of the cause of death.
Prosecution witness Oberman testified defendant told her he killed Reyna with an
intentional gunshot. Defendant insisted on the stand that he removed Reyna’s
head and hands hours after Reyna died from an accidental bullet wound.


indeed, they mentioned no particular cause for the condition in which Reyna’s

body was found.

A normal juror could not fail to be affected by the condition in which

Reyna’s body was found, as by any brutal circumstance of a criminal homicide.

But the fact of dismemberment, in and of itself, does not appear so potentially

inflammatory as to transform an otherwise death-qualified juror into one who

could not deliberate fairly on the issue of penalty.

Moreover, insofar as the defense sought to restrict examination to the

abstract issue of dismemberment, the question posed was not entirely fair in the

context of this case. As jurors would later learn, the circumstances surrounding

the dismemberment of Reyna’s body were hotly disputed. The prosecution urged

that defendant used dismemberment to commit, or cover up, a cold-blooded

murder. But defendant’s version was that after pulling a gun on defendant, Reyna

died accidentally during a struggle for the weapon, and that defendant, acting in a

panic, dismembered Reyna’s body only to delay its discovery and identification

while he sought legal help. Jurors’ attitudes toward the dismemberment thus

might well be affected by which version they believed.

Accordingly, were the defense allowed to broach the dismemberment issue

in voir dire, the prosecutor could strongly argue he should be permitted to explore

in more detail how prospective jurors might react to all the anticipated evidence

on that issue. This, in turn, could have led to a lengthy examination of prospective

jurors about specific details of the case.

Given the trial court’s duty to restrict death-qualification voir dire within

reasonable bounds, and its broad latitude in carrying out that function, we must

therefore conclude the court below did not abuse its discretion in refusing the

inquiry defendant sought. No error occurred.


B. Other pretrial or nontrial issues

1. Denial of change of venue

Prior to jury selection, defendant moved for a change of venue. Attached to

the motion were exhibits consisting of numerous articles from Bay Area

newspapers reporting on the Mishell and Reyna cases and defendant’s status as

suspect and accused in both. At a hearing on January 7, 1993, two video cassettes

were also submitted. These recorded local television coverage of the cases, as

well as a segment about them on the national television show America’s Most

Wanted, which aired on November 20, 1988, while defendant was a fugitive.

The court denied the motion. It reasoned as follows: The crimes, including

a capital murder, were serious—a factor weighing in favor of a venue change—but

they were no more so than those increasingly common in a modern urban society.

On the other hand, the population of Alameda County, from which the venire

would be drawn, was “roughly 1,300,000,” indicating that a fair trial could be had.

Given the county’s size and diversity, the community status of the victims and the

defendant was not particularly significant; the victims’ prominence, if any, was

localized, and defendant, himself a city official, was not of low status compared to

them. The case had drawn considerable publicity, but most media coverage had

ended with defendant’s preliminary hearing, more than two and one-half years

earlier. In the court’s experience, a fair Alameda County jury could be empaneled

in a case of this kind.

However, the court made clear that it would permit counsel to voir dire

prospective jurors about their knowledge of the case, and their ability to be fair.

“If I have any remote feeling at all that they could not base their decision solely,

exclusively, peculiarly upon the information in the trial, I would excuse that juror.

[¶] If we reach the point that I feel a venue issue will arise, I will permit counsel

the opportunity to renew their motion.” (Italics added.) Defendant never did so.


Nonetheless, defendant urges on appeal that his venue motion was

erroneously denied, and that the error resulted in an unfair trial, thus violating his

rights under the Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. As the People

observe, the claim is forfeited, because defendant never renewed his motion after

voir dire was complete, despite the court’s explicit representation that it would

entertain such a renewal. “ ‘[W]hen a trial court initially denies a change of venue

motion without prejudice, a defendant must renew the motion after voir dire of the

jury to preserve the issue for appeal.’ ” (People v. Hart (1999) 20 Cal.4th 546,

598 (Hart), quoting People v. Williams (1997) 16 Cal.4th 635, 654-655.)

In any event, the contention fails on the merits. “The applicable law is

settled. ‘A change in venue must be granted when the defendant shows a

reasonable likelihood that a fair trial cannot otherwise be had. The trial court

typically considers the nature and gravity of the offense, the size of the

community, the status of the defendant and the victim, and the nature and extent of

the publicity. On appeal, the defendant must show that denial of the venue motion

was error (i.e., that it was reasonably likely a fair trial could not be had at the time

the motion was made) and that the error was prejudicial (i.e., that it [is] reasonably

likely a fair trial was not in fact had). We will sustain the court’s determination of

the relevant facts where supported by substantial evidence. We independently

review the court’s ultimate determination of the reasonable likelihood of an unfair

trial.’ ” (Hart, supra, 20 Cal.4th 546, 598, quoting People v. Pride (1992)

3 Cal.4th 195, 224 (Pride).)

The trial court’s ruling on the venue motion was not erroneous when made.

“The charged offenses were serious and had attracted the attention of the media.

‘However, every capital case involves a serious charge. While this factor adds

weight to a motion to change venue, it does not in itself require a change.’

[Citation.]” (Hart, supra, 20 Cal.4th 546, 598 [rape-sodomy murder of 15-year-


old high school student; rape, sodomy, and oral copulation of murder victim’s 15-

year-old companion]; see Welch, supra, 20 Cal.4th 701, 744 [home invasion;

murder of six occupants as they slept].) Defendant claims the unusually gruesome

and sensational nature of the instant crimes warranted moving the case. However,

the facts were not so extreme as to mandate such a step on that basis alone.

The parties agree with the court below that, at the time of defendant’s trial,

the population of Alameda County, a metropolitan area, well exceeded one million

persons. (See Welch, supra, 20 Cal.4th 701, 744.) As the trial court suggested,

the county’s size and diversity weigh strongly against a change of venue. We

routinely have upheld refusals to change venue from much smaller counties. (E.g.,

People v. Vieira (2005) 35 Cal.4th 264, 280 (Vieira) [1990 population of

Stanislaus County (approximately 370,000) did not weigh in favor of venue

change]; Hart, supra, 20 Cal.4th 546, 598-599 [1987 population of Riverside

County (approaching 900,000) did not weigh in favor of venue change]; People v.

Webb (1993) 6 Cal.4th 494, 514 (Webb) [San Luis Obispo County (population

almost 200,000 at time of trial) was “moderately sized county,” but not “relatively

small and isolated county” of kind where change-of-venue motions have been

granted]; Pride, supra, 3 Cal.4th 195, 224 [size and metropolitan nature of

Sacramento County (estimated population above 875,000) “weighed heavily

against a change of venue”]; People v. Howard (1992) 1 Cal.4th 1132, 1167

[Tulare County, with 253,000 inhabitants at time of trial, was “not a small

community”; “most recent successful venue motions have involved communities

with substantially smaller populations”].)

Defendant focuses on the size of the City of Berkeley (1990 population

102,724). However, he overlooks that the jury venire was drawn at random from

the entire county. As indicated above, the population factor weighed against the

need for a change of venue.


Defendant claims the victims’ prominent status, as well as his own, tipped

the balance toward a change of venue. The Mishells, he notes, were respected

members of the university academic community, and Reyna was a city official.

That defendant himself held a public position, he suggests, also worked against

him, because jurors would find it unconscionable that one afforded such benefits

and privileges by the community would commit these heinous crimes.

However, there is no evidence the Mishells had wide prominence in the

relevant community. Any public prominence or notoriety Reyna and defendant

had attained were confined to their own municipality—as noted above, a relatively

small portion of the area from which the venire would be drawn. Moreover,

defendant’s community status was essentially equal to that of his victims. He was

not a friendless newcomer or transient, or a despised outcast, accused of

murdering a victim with “long and extensive ties to the community.” (People v.

Coffman and Marlow (2004) 34 Cal.4th 1, 46 (Coffman and Marlow); see

Martinez v. Superior Court (1981) 29 Cal.3d 574, 584-585; Frazier v. Superior

Court (1971) 5 Cal.3d 287, 293-294.) Thus, as the trial court indicated, this factor

has little influence on whether a change of venue was appropriate.

Defendant stresses the degree of media publicity. There was considerable

newspaper coverage, and some local television coverage, of the assaults on the

Mishells, the injuries they suffered, the disappearance of Reyna, his family’s

reaction, the discovery and identification of his remains, defendant’s status as a

suspect in both cases, his own disappearance when his arrest was imminent, and

the progress of the criminal charges once he was apprehended. While defendant

was a fugitive, America’s Most Wanted devoted a segment to the case, including

staged reenactments of the Mishell and Reyna crimes.

But while the local coverage disclosed the brutal details of the crimes, and

elicited their effects on the victims and their families, the reporting was essentially


factual, not sensationalized. The vast bulk of the local coverage was clustered

around the times of significant events in the case—early 1988 for the Mishell

assaults and late summer 1988 for the murder of Reyna. The most recent

substantial coverage had occurred during defendant’s preliminary hearing, in April

and May of 1990, over two and one-half years before the motion to change venue

was made, heard, and denied.8

The essentially neutral nature of the local reporting, plus the fact that, for

the most part, it occurred well before defendant’s trial, weighs strongly against a

change of venue. (Hart, supra, 20 Cal.4th 546, 600; see also, e.g., People v.

Hayes (1999) 21 Cal.4th 1211, 1251 [headless and handless bodies found; almost

three-year lapse in publicity]; People v. Dennis (1998) 17 Cal.4th 468, 523-524

(Dennis) [bulk of publicity over three years old]; Pride, supra, 3 Cal.4th 195, 225

[main publicity occurred near time of crime; two-year hiatus before trial weighs

heavily against change of venue]; People v. Edwards (1991) 54 Cal.3d 787, 808

[16-month lapse between crime-engendered publicity and trial weighs heavily

against change of venue]; People v. Sully (1991) 53 Cal.3d 1195, 1237 (Sully)

[dissipation of publicity in months before trial weighs against change of venue].)

The America’s Most Wanted broadcast took a less neutral approach. The

program portrayed defendant in an unflattering light, as a philanderer, social

climber and manipulator, and it provided staged reenactments in which he was

identified as the suspected perpetrator. But this broadcast aired on November 20,


The most recent article cited by defense counsel was a report in the San

Francisco Examiner, dated January 5, 1993, two days before the venue hearing.
This article apparently noted that defendant’s trial was about to begin and included
statements by both the prosecutor and defense counsel.


1988, over four years before the trial. Moreover, it was seen nationally, so a

change of venue could not be expected to dilute its prejudicial effect.

In sum, the circumstances apparent when the venue issue was considered

did not warrant a ruling that a change of venue was necessary. The trial court’s

refusal to grant such relief was not erroneous when made.

Nor, in hindsight, did retention of the case in Alameda County produce an

unfair trial. As the People indicate, answers to the juror questionnaires indicated

that the vast majority of prospective jurors did not remember hearing anything

about the case. Included in this group were six members of the final jury. Of the

six sitting jurors who had heard of the case, two recalled no details. The

remaining four expressed no difficulty in judging the case fairly.

Jurors need not be totally ignorant of the facts and issues involved. It is

sufficient if the juror can lay aside his impressions or opinions and render a verdict

based on the evidence adduced in court. (Irwin v. Dowd (1961) 366 U.S. 717,

722-723; People v. Fauber (1992) 2 Cal.4th 792, 819; People v. Ainsworth (1988)

45 Cal.3d 984, 1002; People v. Harris (1981) 28 Cal.3d 935, 949-950.)

Defendant did not challenge any of the sitting jurors for cause. Moreover,

he failed to pose peremptory challenges against any of them, even though he

ultimately exhausted only 16 of his 20 allotted challenges, 12 on the regular panel

and four on the alternates. This is a strong indication that the jurors were fair, and

that the defense so concluded. (Dennis, supra, 17 Cal.4th 468, 524; People v.

Price (1991) 1 Cal.4th 324, 393 (Price); People v. Daniels (1991) 52 Cal.3d 815,

853-854 [indicating that this factor can be decisive].)9 On this record, we cannot


In his reply brief, defendant notes that, during her voir dire, Suzanne H.,

who sat on the jury, indicated a quite detailed recall of the circumstances of the
Mishell assaults and the murder of Reyna. But defendant did not challenge

(footnote continued on next page)


say the denial of a venue change led to an unfair trial. No basis for reversal on this

ground is shown.

2. Denial of severance

The trial court denied defendant’s pretrial motion to sever the attempted

murder counts involving the Mishells from the count charging the murder of

Reyna. Defendant claims the trial court thereby erred. The error, he asserts,

violated his due process, fair trial, jury trial, equal protection, and reliable

adjudication rights under the Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments,

and analogous provisions of the California Constitution. However, no error


As defendant concedes, the Mishell and Reyna matters were statutorily

eligible for joinder as offenses of the same class. (§ 954; see, e.g., People v.

Miller (1990) 50 Cal.3d 954, 987 [murder and attempted murder are both

assaultive crimes against the person, and as such are “offenses of the same class”

expressly made joinable by § 954].) Trial courts nonetheless have statutory

discretion, in the interests of justice, to sever otherwise joinable counts where

joinder would unfairly prejudice the defendant. (§ 954.)

We review the denial of severance under a deferential abuse of discretion

standard. (People v. Mayfield (1997) 14 Cal.4th 668, 720 (Mayfield).) Where the

statutory requirements for joinder are met, the defendant must make a clear

showing of prejudice to demonstrate that the trial court abused its discretion.

(footnote continued from previous page)
Suzanne H., either for cause or peremptorily, and he failed to exhaust his
peremptory challenges. Hence, it appears the defense believed Suzanne H.’s
assurances that she could judge the case fairly.


(People v. Stitely (2005) 35 Cal.4th 514, 531 (Stitely); Mayfield, supra, at p. 720;

see also People v. Mendoza (2000) 24 Cal.4th 130, 160 (Mendoza).)

In assessing potential prejudice, we examine the record before the trial

court at the time of its ruling. The relevant factors are whether (1) the evidence

would be cross-admissible in separate trials, (2) some charges are unusually likely

to inflame the jury against the defendant, (3) a weak case has been joined with a

strong case, or with another weak case, so that the total evidence may unfairly

alter the outcome on some or all charges, and (4) one of the charges is a capital

offense, or joinder of the charges converts the matter into a capital case. (E.g.,

Mendoza, supra, 24 Cal.4th 130, 161; see also People v. Marshall (1997)

15 Cal.4th 1, 27; Price, supra, 1 Cal.4th 324, 388.)

Cross-admissibility ordinarily dispels any inference of prejudice. (Stitely,

supra, 35 Cal.4th 514, 531-532; People v. Bradford (1997) 15 Cal.4th 1229, 1315-

1316 (Bradford); Mayfield, supra, 14 Cal.4th 668, 721; People v. Sandoval (1992)

4 Cal.4th 155, 173 (Sandoval); People v. Balderas (1985) 41 Cal.3d 144, 171-172

(Balderas).) Here, as the trial court ruled, evidence of the Mishell assaults would

have been cross-admissible in a separate trial of the murder charge, in order to

prove defendant’s motive for killing Reyna, and to help establish the special

circumstance that Reyna was murdered to eliminate him as a witness in the

Mishell case. Moreover, it is enough that the assaults were admissible in the

murder case; “two-way” cross-admissibility is not required. (E.g., People v.

Cunningham (2001) 25 Cal.4th 926, 986; People v. Cummings (1993) 4 Cal.4th

1233, 1284 (Cummings).)10


Though this trial postdates the adoption of Proposition 115, we are not

concerned with section 954.1, added to the Penal Code by that initiative measure,
and providing that, notwithstanding section 954, a trial court may not grant

(footnote continued on next page)


Defendant urges that because motive is not a disputed element of murder,

motive evidence was not cross-admissible on the murder charge at issue here.

However, we have frequently held that evidence of other offenses is cross-

admissible to prove motive (Jenkins, supra, Cal.4th 900, 948; see also People v.

Arias (1996) 13 Cal.4th 92, 127-128 (Arias); Cummings, supra, 4 Cal.4th 1233,

1284; Price, supra, 1 Cal.4th 324, 388), and in particular a motive to kill to

prevent a witness from testifying (Jenkins, supra, at p. 948). Moreover, defendant

overlooks that his motive to eliminate Reyna as a witness was a disputed element

of the witness-killing special circumstance. (§ 190.2, subd. (a)(10).)

Defendant argues that, where the issue is identity, other-crimes evidence is

admissible (see Evid. Code, § 1101) only if it demonstrates highly similar and

distinctive common marks suggesting a common perpetrator. But common marks

are not crucial where the mere fact that the defendant committed a prior offense

gives rise to an inference that he had a motive to commit a later one. (People v.

Pertsoni (1985) 172 Cal.App.3d 369, 375; see Lewis and Oliver, supra, 39 Cal.4th

970, 1001; Stitely, supra, 35 Cal.4th 514, 532; People v. Barnett (1998) 17 Cal.4th

1044, 1120.)

Defendant suggests that, even if the fact of defendant’s responsibility for

the Mishell assaults would be cross-admissible in the Reyna murder case, evidence

of the extent of the Mishells’ injuries was not necessary to prove the motive for

killing Reyna, and should have been excluded as more prejudicial than probative.

(See Evid. Code, § 352.) However, as the People observe, the gravity of the attack

(footnote continued from previous page)
severance, where the statutory requirements for joinder are met, solely on the
ground that evidence in the joined cases is not cross-admissible.


on the Mishells, and the consequent seriousness of the criminal liability defendant

faced in that case, was relevant evidence of the strength of defendant’s incentive to

kill Reyna, the man to whom he had confessed. Hence, the trial court did not

abuse its discretion by ruling that, in a separate murder trial, it would have

admitted this evidence over an Evidence Code section 352 objection.

Given the clear cross-admissibility of the Mishell assault evidence in the

Reyna murder case, no other factor indicates the cases should have been severed.

The Reyna charges carried the death penalty, but because the Mishell evidence

would have been admissible to support those charges regardless of joinder, joinder

produced no additional prejudice in favor of capital punishment. Moreover,

contrary to defendant’s assertion, joinder did not serve to bolster a weak case or

cases. Evidence of defendant’s responsibility for the Mishell assaults was

virtually conclusive, and the evidence that he murdered Reyna, though

circumstantial, was extremely strong.11 Accordingly, the denial of severance did

not constitute an abuse of the trial court’s discretion.

For all these reasons, we similarly conclude, on appeal, that the trial court’s

ruling, proper when made, did not produce, in hindsight, “ ‘a gross unfairness . . .

such as to deprive the defendant of a fair trial or due process of law.’ [Citation.]”

(Sandoval, supra, 4 Cal.4th 155, 174, quoting People v. Johnson (1988) 47 Cal.3d


As indicated above, this evidence included the fact that Reyna told a

number of people defendant had admitted the Mishell assaults to him, that Reyna
gave a police statement to that effect, that Reyna resisted defendant’s pressure to
recant his statement and avoid testifying in the Mishell case, that Reyna left for a
meeting with defendant and was never again seen alive, that a tool identified as
defendant’s was found at the isolated scene where Reyna’s dismembered body
was discovered, and that defendant fled the country immediately after Reyna’s


576, 590; see Stitely, supra, 35 Cal.4th 514, 531.) Defendant’s severance claim

must be rejected.

3. Alleged discovery violation

On Monday, April 12, 1993, after defendant’s testimony had commenced

and the jury had been dismissed for the day, defense counsel announced that, on

the previous Friday, his office had obtained letters sent in 1989 by defendant’s

sister Terri Zambrano (Terri) to a deputy sheriff at the North County jail, where

defendant was housed pending trial, and to the prosecutor himself.

The letters were written in an agitated style, with many words and phrases

underlined and capitalized for emphasis. They expressed Terri’s fear of defendant

and asked that she be notified immediately if his release was imminent.

According to the letters, Terri had obtained a restraining order against defendant

after he tried to rape and kill her, and he had also tried to kill other members of the

Zambrano family. The letter to the prosecutor further stated that defendant had

been “born insane” (capitalization omitted), that the condition was hereditary, that

he was “incurable and untreatable” (capitalization omitted), that prison would not

punish him or improve his condition, and that he “[would] kill again”

(capitalization, underlining, and multiple exclamation points omitted) if given life

without parole.

Defense counsel urged that the People’s failure to disclose the letter to the

prosecutor contravened Brady v. Maryland (1963) 373 U.S. 83 (Brady). Counsel

insisted the revelation of defendant’s mental problems was favorable and material

within the meaning of Brady, because it might have spurred an investigation into

possible mental defenses. That strategy was now foreclosed, counsel urged,

because the defense had already put defendant on the stand, and Terri had died

since the letter was written and sent. On this basis, counsel moved for a mistrial.


The prosecutor responded as follows: He had not seen, and did not know

of, the letter sent to the jail. He had received the letter addressed to him, but

placed little weight on it because of his serious doubts about the author’s state of

mind. In any event, Terri’s letter was the kind of material he would normally

include in discovery, and “[i]f that was not turned over, then it was an oversight.

I turned everything that I have over to them [or] attempted to.”

The prosecutor noted that “[t]here is still remaining alive another sister . . .

that the defense hasn’t spoken with I’ve been told and also [a] brother . . .”

Finally, the prosecutor indicated, “I think [defense] counsel will agree that on a

couple of occasions I have asked them or invited them to go through all the files

that I’ve got to make sure that everything was turned over.”

The court observed that basing an insanity defense on the letter seemed

somewhat of a stretch, while a diminished capacity defense was contradicted by

defendant’s testimony that he did not intend to kill Luis Reyna. On this basis, the

mistrial motion was denied. However, the court noted, the defense could submit

the letter to a psychiatrist for any help it might be at the penalty phase. The court

also admonished that the prosecutor could not use the letter to cross-examine


On appeal, defendant contends the prosecutor’s failure to disclose the

letters was prejudicial misconduct in violation of both the state reciprocal

discovery statute (§ 1054 et seq.), and the federal constitutional obligation, under

Brady, not to suppress evidence materially favorable to the defense. We reject the


12 Defendant arguably has forfeited the state statutory claim. In the trial court,
he mentioned only Brady, not the reciprocal discovery statute, though his 1992
motion long postdates the 1990 adoption of Proposition 115, the initiative measure

(footnote continued on next page)


The federal due process clause prohibits the prosecution from suppressing

evidence materially favorable to the accused. The duty of disclosure exists

regardless of good or bad faith, and regardless of whether the defense has

requested the materials. (United States v. Agurs (1976) 427 U.S. 97, 107; Brady,

supra, 373 U.S. 83, 87.) The obligation is not limited to evidence the prosecutor’s

office itself actually knows or possesses, but includes “evidence known to the

others acting on the government’s behalf in the case, including the police.”

(Kyles v. Whitley (1995) 514 U.S. 419, 437 (Kyles).)

For Brady purposes, evidence is favorable if it helps the defense or hurts

the prosecution, as by impeaching a prosecution witness. (United States v. Bagley

(1985) 473 U.S. 674, 676; see In re Sassounian (1995) 9 Cal.4th 535, 544.)

Evidence is material if there is a reasonable probability its disclosure would have

altered the trial result. (E.g., Banks v. Dretke (2004) 540 U.S. 668, 699.)

Materiality includes consideration of the effect of the nondisclosure on defense

investigations and trial strategies. (Bagley, supra, at pp. 682-683; see In re Brown

(footnote continued from previous page)
that enacted the statute. Moreover, there is no indication defendant made a prior
“informal request” to the prosecution for these materials (either specifically or as
part of a general category of discovery) as the statute requires. (§ 1045.5,
subd. (b).)

However, before trial, defendant made a formal nonstatutory motion, and
obtained a court order, for comprehensive discovery, including disclosure of “[a]ll
material in the possession of the prosecution or law enforcement personnel which
. . . is material to the defendant’s guilt or innocence, or is otherwise relevant to the
determination of penalty.” Moreover, it is difficult to conclude that the statutory
“informal request” procedures apply to specific items of which the party entitled to
disclosure neither knows nor has reason to know. Because the preliminary issues
of forfeiture and statutory compliance are thus close and difficult, we assume
defendant has preserved his statutory claim on appeal. (See People v. Champion
(1995) 9 Cal.4th 879, 908, fn. 6 (Champion).)


(1998) 17 Cal.4th 873, 887 (Brown).) Because a constitutional violation occurs

only if the suppressed evidence was material by these standards, a finding that

Brady was not satisfied is reversible without need for further harmless-error

review. (Kyles, supra, 514 U.S. 419, 435.)

As indicated above, the reciprocal discovery statute independently requires

the prosecution to disclose to the defense, in advance of trial or as soon as

discovered, certain categories of evidence “in the possession of the prosecuting

attorney or [known by] the prosecuting attorney . . . to be in the possession of the

investigating agencies.” (§ 1054.1.) Evidence subject to disclosure includes “[a]ll

relevant real evidence seized or obtained as a part of the investigation of the

offenses charged” (id., subd. (c)) and “[a]ny exculpatory evidence” (id., subd. (e)).

Absent good cause, such evidence must be disclosed at least 30 days before trial,

or immediately if discovered or obtained within 30 days of trial. (§ 1054.7.)

It is clear the prosecutor committed no lapse, constitutional or statutory,

with respect to Terri’s letter to the deputy sheriff. The prosecutor represented,

without contradiction, that his office did not possess that letter and that he was

unaware of its existence elsewhere. Hence, he had no statutory duty to disclose it.

(§ 1054.1.)

Moreover, the record does not show the sheriff’s office was an agency

subject to the statutory or constitutional duty of disclosure. So far as appears, the

sheriff was only defendant’s jailer, and was not involved in the investigation or

prosecution of the charges against him.

Under Brady, the prosecutor’s duty extends to evidence “known to the

others acting on the government’s behalf” (Kyles, supra, 514 U.S. 419, 437),

“[b]ut the prosecution cannot reasonably be held responsible for evidence in the

possession of all government agencies, including those not involved in the

investigation or prosecution of the case. . . . ‘[I]nformation possessed by an


agency that has no connection to the investigation or prosecution of the criminal

charge against the defendant is not possessed by the prosecution team, and the

prosecutor does not have a duty to search for or to disclose such material.’

[Citation.]” (In re Steele (2004) 32 Cal.4th 682, 697 (Steele); see also Brown,

supra, 17 Cal.4th 873, 879 [Brady duty concerns evidence possessed by the

“prosecution team,” which includes “both investigative and prosecutorial


Similarly, the reciprocal discovery statute refers only to evidence possessed

by the prosecutor’s office and “the investigating agencies.” (§ 1054.1.) There is

no reason to assume the quoted statutory phrase assigns the prosecutor a broader

duty to discover and disclose evidence in the hands of other agencies than do

Brady and its progeny. Accordingly, the letter to the sheriff’s deputy was not

within constitutional or statutory disclosure requirements.

Finally, nothing in the letter to the deputy was remotely favorable or

material to the defense. Defendant does not seriously argue otherwise. The letter

did not allude to defendant’s mental condition; it simply represented that he is a

violent person who attacked his own family members in the past and would do so

again if free from incarceration. Hence, this letter was not subject to disclosure

under either Brady or the exculpatory-evidence prong of the discovery statute.

Nor did the prosecutor violate disclosure duties, constitutional or statutory,

with respect to the letter sent to him. In the first place, while he conceded he

might have neglected to “turn[ ] over” this item, he nonetheless agreed the letter

was in his possession, and he pointed out that he had invited defense counsel “on a

couple of occasions . . . to go through all the files that I’ve got to make sure that

everything was turned over.”

Defense counsel neither denied these invitations were made nor asserted

they came too late. He did not indicate that a timely examination of the


prosecutor’s files had failed to reveal the letter. Nor did he suggest the files had

been made available under circumstances that rendered examination impracticable

or unfairly oppressive.

“Although the prosecution may not withhold favorable and material

evidence from the defense, neither does it have the duty to conduct the defendant’s

investigation for him. [Citation.] If the material evidence is in a defendant’s

possession or is available to a defendant through the exercise of due diligence,

then . . . the defendant has all that is necessary to ensure a fair trial . . . .”

(People v. Salazar (2005) 35 Cal.4th 1031, 1048-1049, italics added; see also

People v. Morrison (2004) 34 Cal.4th 698, 715.)

For this reason, as the People observe, the prosecutor’s Brady obligation

may, under proper circumstances, be satisfied by an “open file” policy, under

which defense counsel are free to examine all materials regarding the case that are

in the prosecutor’s possession. (See Strickler v. Greene (1999) 527 U.S. 263, 283,

fn. 23; see also, e.g., United States v. Morales-Rodriguez (1st Cir. 2006) 467 F.3d

1, 15; United States v. Beers (10th Cir. 1999) 189 F.3d 1297, 1304.) Of course, if

the prosecutor relies on such a policy to comply with Brady, the defense may

assume his files contain all the evidence he is obligated to share. (Strickler, supra,

at p. 283, fn. 23.) Concerns might also arise if the prosecutor used the policy to

impose impracticable or unduly oppressive self-discovery burdens on the defense.

But, for reasons detailed above, those concerns are not raised by this

record. For all that appears, the letter was in the prosecutor’s files, and would

have been revealed by a timely, practicable examination of those files pursuant to

the prosecutor’s multiple invitations. Accordingly, defendant fails to demonstrate

a Brady violation. Because we see no reason to assume the reciprocal discovery

statute imposed greater burdens on the prosecutor, we reach a similar conclusion

as to defendant’s claim of a statutory violation.


Finally, we are not persuaded that Terri’s letter to the prosecutor was

material for purposes of Brady, or that any failure to disclose it was prejudicial for

purposes of state law.13 Defense counsel conceded the letter’s only value would

have been to spur an investigation of defendant’s mental problems. Yet the claim

that nondisclosure of the letter may have denied defendant a chance to investigate

and present successful mental defenses is speculative and stretches credulity.

Given the convincing evidence that defendant had savagely assaulted the

Mishells, and had dismembered Reyna’s body after killing him, it is difficult to

imagine that a mental-condition strategy did not otherwise occur to counsel. To

the extent family information was relevant, counsel had ample opportunity, on

their own initiative, to obtain it. Though the defense had already implemented its

guilt phase strategy, and Terri apparently had died, by the time the “born insane”

letter was revealed, there seems no reason why this information was not available

earlier, from Terri or other family members, as the result of a reasonably diligent

defense investigation.

Moreover, the letter’s exaggerated, even hysterical, style rendered its

credibility suspect. Indeed, any notion that the defense believed the letter

provided credible new information about defendant’s mental condition is belied by

the fact that, although mental issues would have been independently relevant at the

penalty phase (see § 190.3, factors (d), (h), (k)), and although the court specifically


No reason appears why any violation of the California reciprocal discovery

statute, considered as such, is not subject on appeal to the harmless-error standard
set forth in People v. Watson (1956) 46 Cal.2d 818, 836, and thus is a basis for
reversal only where it is reasonably probable, by state-law standards, that the
omission affected the trial result. We disapprove any contrary implication in
People v. Bohannon (2000) 82 Cal.App.4th 798, 805-807 (appearing to apply the
Brady materiality standard to violations of the reciprocal-discovery statute).


told counsel they could present the letter to a psychiatrist for use on the issue of

penalty, counsel sought no penalty phase continuance to explore the issues raised

by the letter. And the defense presented no mental-condition evidence at the

penalty phase.

Most fundamentally, there is little chance that evidence of defendant’s

mental illness would have influenced either the guilt or penalty results. The

evidence actually presented made clear that defendant, a successful contractor and

public official, carried on an extramarital affair, then assaulted the Mishells

because he suspected them of exposing it. Defendant took elaborate steps to

establish an alibi for the Mishell beatings. Having admitted his guilt to Luis

Reyna—an admission Reyna reported to the police—defendant pressured Reyna

to recant his police statement, and to avoid testifying against defendant.

When Reyna resisted these efforts, defendant killed him to prevent his

testimony. Using his contractor’s tools, defendant beheaded, dismembered, and

scattered Reyna’s body in an isolated area under circumstances which—even aside

from defendant’s trial admissions—suggested a purpose to hamper the body’s

identification. With his girlfriend’s help, defendant then obtained false identity

documents, fled to Mexico, and lived at large there for many months before he

was apprehended upon his return to the United States. From his jail cell, he

continued his efforts to suppress the proof against him. At the penalty trial, his

niece testified that when she was 15 years old, he had contrived to take her to an

isolated location, where he sexually assaulted her.

Thus, the evidence portrayed defendant as rational, calculating, and

manipulative in the pursuit of venal ends. Under these circumstances, there is no

reasonable chance any mental-condition defense would have succeeded in

exonerating him, reducing his culpability, or preventing a death judgment. The

claim of material, prejudicial nondisclosure of evidence therefore fails.


C. Guilt trial evidentiary issues

1. Neuropsychologist’s evidence regarding Mishells’ recovery and


The prosecution presented testimony by physicians who treated the

Mishells in the immediate aftermath of defendant’s assaults. This testimony

indicated, among other things, the following: Both victims suffered multiple

depressed skull fractures, and both required surgery to relieve injury-related, and

life-threatening, pressure on their brains. Barbara Mishell emerged from her

trauma-induced coma with right-side paralysis, difficulty in swallowing, and an

inability to read, write, or speak. By the time she left the hospital, she still could

not walk, talk, or feed herself. It appeared she would need extensive rehabilitative

therapy, and her prognosis was not good.

Subsequently, defense counsel advised the court it understood the

prosecution intended to present Dr. Price, a neuropsychologist, who had

supervised both victims’ long-term rehabilitative therapy and continued to treat

them at the time of trial. Counsel anticipated Dr. Price’s testimony would concern

the couple’s rehabilitative progress over the two or three years since their release

from the hospital. Counsel objected that such evidence was irrelevant (Evid.

Code, § 210, 350) and cumulative, in that medical witnesses had already

established the serious and extensive nature of the Mishells’ injuries. Counsel also

asserted that this evidence should be excluded as more prejudicial than probative.

(Id., § 352.)

Alluding to the complaint’s allegation that the Mishells had suffered great

bodily injury (GBI), the prosecutor responded that “I don’t think the law says . . .

we have to stop as soon as the minimum burden for [GBI] is met, and I think the

jury has a right to understand the full scope of [those] injuries.” He insisted that


Dr. Price’s testimony would differ from that already presented, because it would

describe the long-term impact of the blows defendant had inflicted.

The court advised the prosecutor that “I think [counsel is] trying to say,

does that help you to prove intent to kill or premeditation. [¶] Why are you doing

this?” The prosecutor again asserted that “I’m doing this to prove the extent of the

[GBI] and to prove intent to kill and to show the full extent of the injuries

[Barbara] suffered, and I think the law entitles me to do that.” Suggesting that the

evidence “might be able to show the issue of the necessary mental state in assault

with a deadly weapon or attempted murder,” the court overruled the objection but

directed the prosecutor to keep his presentation brief.

In his testimony, Dr. Price reported that Robert Mishell had largely

regained his cognitive function, but would have difficulty resuming his career as

an immunology professor because he retained deficits in the areas of memory and

visual spatial functioning. Dr. Price also discussed the characteristics of

posttraumatic amnesia as they might apply to Robert’s recall of the events

surrounding the attacks. Dr. Price related that Barbara continued to exhibit

emotional and behavioral instability related to brain damage, as well as profound

aphasia—the inability to speak or understand speech. He said her prognosis for

regaining the functional use of language was poor.

On appeal, defendant claims Dr. Price’s testimony was irrelevant to the

elements of the attempted murder charges. He urges it was cumulative to the

extensive evidence already produced about the nature and extent of the Mishells’

injuries, served only to inflame the jury, and should have been excluded under

Evidence Code section 352. The court’s error, he asserts, additionally violated his

rights under the Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments.

The evidence was properly admitted. Information about the full extent of

the Mishells’ conditions resulting from the attacks was directly relevant and


probative as to the allegation, not formally conceded by defendant, that he

inflicted GBI on the victims. Nor was the evidence cumulative insofar as it

focused on the long-term effects of the Mishells’ injuries—information not

provided by other prosecution witnesses.

As below, the People correctly observe that they were not required to

withhold evidence of the full extent of the Mishells’ injuries once a minimum

threshold necessary to prove the GBI allegation had been passed. The prosecution

need not sap the force of its case by presenting only the most antiseptic evidence,

even in the face of a defense offer to stipulate. (E.g., People v. Marks (2003)

31 Cal.4th 197, 226 (Marks); Box, supra, 23 Cal.4th 1153, 1199; Pride, supra,

3 Cal.4th 195, 243.) A fortiori, where, as here, the prosecution must convince the

factfinder, beyond reasonable doubt, of charges and allegations the defendant has

not conceded, it need not sanitize its case by presenting only enough evidence to

meet bare legal sufficiency.

Moreover, evidence that the victims, and in particular Barbara Mishell,

suffered not only severe acute trauma, but also substantial long-term deficits and

disabilities, as the result of defendant’s vicious attack was not unduly prejudicial

for purposes of Evidence Code section 352. For this purpose, “prejudicial” means

uniquely inflammatory without regard to relevance. (E.g., People v. Kipp (2001)

26 Cal.4th 1100, 1121.) Dr. Price’s testimony was logically related to the issues,

and was presented in a nonsensational way, through the testimony of an expert

witness. The court acted well within its broad discretion under section 352 (e.g.,

People v. Gurule (2002) 28 Cal.4th 557, 654; Champion, supra, 9 Cal.4th 879,

913) when it ruled the evidence admissible.

Defendant invokes the premise that, when the trial court rules on an

Evidence Code section 352 objection, the record must affirmatively show the court

weighed prejudice against probative value. (See, e.g., People v. Mickey (1991)


54 Cal.3d 612, 656 (Mickey).)14 Defendant insists the instant trial court failed to

satisfy this requirement, or to exercise its discretion correctly, when it used a

mistaken legal theory—that the evidence was relevant to his culpable mental

state—to assess the probative value of the evidence.

Whatever the technical merits of this argument, the evidence was

manifestly admissible, over a section 352 objection, for other reasons presented by

the prosecutor to the trial court. Indeed, under a correct analysis, the probative

value of Dr. Price’s testimony so clearly exceeded its prejudicial effect that the

court might well have abused its discretion by excluding the evidence.

In any event, admission of the evidence was harmless by any applicable

standard. The jury heard conclusive evidence that defendant was the perpetrator

of a vicious assault against the Mishells, in which they each suffered multiple life-

threatening head injuries leading, in Barbara’s case, to severe brain damage from

which she was unlikely to recover. Under these circumstances, additional

evidence confirming the couple’s long-term deficits and disabilities could not,

beyond a reasonable doubt, have influenced the guilt or penalty outcome. No

basis for reversal is demonstrated.

2. Admission of Robert Mishell’s testimony

Defendant claims Robert Mishell’s memory of the events of January 31,

1988, impaired by both his head injuries and his preexisting bipolar disorder, was

unreliable. Hence, defendant urges, Robert’s testimony should have been

excluded under Evidence Code sections 702 (evidence of witness lacking personal


Of course, “the trial judge need not expressly weigh prejudice against

probative value—or even expressly state that he has done so [citation].” (Mickey,
supra, 54 Cal.3d 612, 656; accord, People v. Crittenden (1994) 9 Cal.4th 83, 135


knowledge is inadmissible) and 352 (evidence may be excluded as more

prejudicial than probative). Admission of the evidence, defendant insists, violated

his rights under the Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments.

As evidence of Robert’s faulty recollection, defendant points to inconsistent

details related by Robert at various times, including in his preliminary hearing

testimony and in his interviews with police officers in the hours and days

following the assaults. Perhaps most significantly, defendant notes, Robert’s trial

testimony that defendant arrived at the Mishell residence with a toolbox, thus

suggesting he brought with him the weapon used in the attacks, was contradicted

by what he told the police hours after the attacks.

The claim is forfeited because defendant did not object at trial to the

introduction of Robert’s testimony. (Evid. Code, § 353, subd. (a); People v. Cudjo

(1993) 6 Cal.4th 585, 622 [defendant must raise claim of testimonial

incompetence at trial].) At the preliminary hearing, defendant was permitted to

examine Robert on the issue of his “competency” to testify. Following that

examination, the preliminary hearing court found Robert “qualified to testify from

his personal knowledge.” Absent a ruling or stipulation that an objection to such

testimony would be deemed renewed at trial, defendant’s failure to renew it means

the issue was not preserved for appeal. (People v. Clark (1990) 50 Cal.3d 583,

623-624 [objection made in prior trial, but not renewed]; cf. People v. Pompa-

Ortiz (1980) 27 Cal.3d 519 (Pompa-Ortiz) [denial of substantial right at

preliminary hearing no basis for appellate reversal of conviction following fair


In any event, the claim lacks merit. The principles governing exclusion of

testimony on grounds of the witness’s lack of capacity are well settled.

“Under . . . current [law], every person is qualified to testify except as provided by

statute. (Evid. Code, § 700.) A person is disqualified as a witness only if he or


she is ‘[i]ncapable of expressing himself or herself [understandably] concerning

the [testimonial] matter’ (id., § 701, subd. (a)(1) . . . ), or is ‘[i]ncapable of

understanding the duty of a witness to tell the truth’ (id., . . . subd. (a)(2) . . . )”

(People v. Anderson (2001) 25 Cal.4th 543, 572-573 (Anderson), italics omitted.)

These issues “are preliminary fact[s] to be determined exclusively by the

court . . . . (Evid. Code, § 405, subd. (a) . . . .)” (Anderson, supra, at p. 573.)

Even if a witness is not entirely disqualified for incapacity to communicate

understandably or grasp the duty to tell the truth, his or her testimony on a

particular matter is inadmissible if he or she lacks personal knowledge of the

subject matter. (Evid. Code, § 702, subd. (a).) The capacity to perceive and

recollect particular facts is subsumed within the issue of personal knowledge.

(Anderson, supra, 25 Cal.4th 543, 573, and authorities cited.)

But, under Evidence Code section 403, subdivision (a)(2), personal

knowledge, including the capacity to perceive and recollect particular events, is

determined in a different manner from fundamental capacity to act as a witness.

Evidence may be excluded for lack of personal knowledge “ ‘only if no jury could

reasonably find that [the witness] has such knowledge.’ ” (Anderson, supra,

25 Cal.4th 543, 573, italics omitted.) Thus, “ ‘if there is evidence that the witness

[can perceive and recollect the events at issue], the determination whether he [or

she] in fact perceived and does recollect is left to the trier of fact.’ ” (Id. at

pp. 573-574, italics omitted.)

Defendant has never claimed Robert was fundamentally disqualified as a

witness. Here, as below, he asserts only that Robert’s testimony about the events

of January 31, 1988, was inadmissible because he lacked the capacity to perceive

and recall those events.

But the record contains ample evidence from which a rational jury could

conclude that Robert did perceive and independently recollect the attacks and their


surrounding circumstances, and correctly identified defendant as the assailant. At

trial, Robert gave a coherent and entirely plausible account of these events, which

account was consistent with the physical evidence. During an extensive cross-

examination, he admitted that, before and since the attacks, he suffered from

chronic bipolar disorder, controlled by medication, but denied that this condition

affected his memory. He conceded he had suffered posttraumatic amnesia during

the two weeks following the attacks, and other instances of forgetfulness were

revealed. Yet the lengthy cross-examination, in which defense counsel took the

witness through an exhaustive review of his preliminary hearing testimony and his

several police statements, indicated only minor variations in these versions.

That Robert’s various accounts were inconsistent in some respects, or that

his testimony revealed lapses in memory, is no basis for a determination that he

was fundamentally unable to perceive or recollect the testimonial events.

(People v. Lewis (2001) 26 Cal.4th 334, 357; Anderson, supra, 25 Cal.4th 543,

574.) In sum, there was no substantial basis for the exclusion of his testimony. It

was up to the jury to decide whether his recollections were accurate. (Lewis,

supra, at p. 358; Anderson, supra, at p. 574.) No error occurred.


3. Admission of “hacker” excerpt from defendant’s letter to Oberman

During her testimony for the People, Celebration Oberman read to the jury,

without defense objection, passages from two letters, previously marked for

identification as People’s exhibits 72 and 73, that defendant had written her from

jail. From exhibit 73, postmarked December 4, 1989, Oberman read: “ ‘If any of

your friends attack me, tell them that you like your toy boys to be darkly

handsome and charming and dangerous, hackers, murderers, pirates, and that I fit

the bill.’ ” From exhibit 72, postmarked December 19, 1989, Oberman read: “

‘Sorry I don’t know more about kitchens. I do know about hacking, however; and

I could easily hack you a cart to make pizzas.’ ”

At the conclusion of the People’s case, defendant objected on relevance

grounds, and under Evidence Code section 352, to admission of these letters, and

in particular to admission of the pages containing the passages Oberman had

read—pages now marked for identification as People’s exhibits 72-A and 73-A,

respectively. Counsel urged that the term “hacking” in exhibit 72-A—there used

in connection with making a pizza cart—did not pertain to any trial issue, but was

highly prejudicial given the facts of the case. As to exhibit 73-A, in which

defendant said he “fit the bill” as a “hacker[ ], murderer[ ], [and] pirate[ ],”

counsel asserted that even if “hacker[ ]” was not related to the “pizza cart”

reference in exhibit 72-A, its use next to the word “murderer[ ]” produced a

prejudicial effect far in excess of its probative value.

The court ruled that exhibit 72-A, the “pizza cart” passage, would be

excluded “on 352,” in that the “hacking” reference there, read in context, appeared

not connected to the case. However, the court admitted exhibit 73-A as “an

admission of guilt,” i.e., that defendant was “ a murderer, a hacker, that kind of

stuff,” and “[t]hat’s why it’s going in.”


In his trial testimony, defendant stated that “hacker” was a “computer term”

which had come to have a pejorative connotation, but originally meant “a person

who would elegantly solve a problem by hacking at it but persistently trying to

find a solution.” He said that while he and Oberman were in Palm Springs, he had

read to Oberman, a “computer illiterate,” from a book about “hackers” as

“computer heroes,” and as a result, she had come to call defendant “her little


Defendant now urges that, by admitting exhibit 73-A, the trial court abused

its discretion under Evidence Code section 352. He asserts the trial court admitted

this exhibit even though it recognized that “hacker” was not used in a murderous

context. In particular, he insists, by placing before the jury defendant’s self-

reference as a “hacker”—an inflammatory term for purposes of this particular

case—the court denied him his Eighth Amendment right to a reliable capital trial.

We find no abuse of discretion. At the outset, defendant is mistaken that

the trial court saw no sinister implication to defendant’s use of “hacker” in exhibit

73-A. On the contrary, as indicated above, while the court considered that the

“hacking” reference in exhibit 72-A was probably innocent, it ruled that the

“hacker” reference in exhibit 73-A could be considered an admission of guilt.

The court properly concluded that exhibit 73-A was probative on this issue.

Though the meaning of the disputed passage was perhaps open to interpretation, a

sinister construction was reasonable. Under these circumstances, it was for the

jury to make the determination. (See, e.g, People v. Kraft (2000) 23 Cal.4th 978,

1032-1035 (Kraft).)

Nor, as the trial court implicitly found, was the evidence so uniquely

inflammatory that its potential for unfair prejudice clearly outweighed its

probative value. Indeed, by admitting this letter excerpt, the prosecution simply


asked the fact finder to interpret the defendant’s own bragging words. There is no

basis to conclude the trial court erred by admitting exhibit 73-A.

Moreover, any error was harmless by any applicable standard. The jurors

had already heard the disputed passages, read to them from the witness stand by

Oberman. Under these circumstances, and beyond a reasonable doubt, later

admission of exhibit 73-A into evidence cannot have affected the guilt or penalty

outcome. No basis for reversal appears.

4. Hearsay objection to Reyna tape recording

On August 7, 1992, prior to jury selection, the prosecution notified the

defense it intended to offer in evidence Luis Reyna’s April 5, 1988, tape-recorded

interview with the police. In this interview, Reyna stated that, during a

conversation between the two men, defendant had admitted his responsibility for

the Mishell assaults; Reyna also indicated that defendant had attempted to enlist

Reyna’s help in establishing an alibi for those offenses.

The notice asserted that the statement was admissible, as an exception to

the hearsay rule, under Evidence Code section 1350. This statute provides a

hearsay exception, in a “serious felony” case, for properly memorialized,

authenticated, trustworthy, and corroborated statements made to a law

enforcement officer by a declarant who thereafter became unavailable as a court

witness because, by clear and convincing evidence, he or she was kidnapped or

killed, with the defendant’s participation or at his behest, for the purpose of

preventing the defendant’s arrest or prosecution.15


Evidence Code section 1350, enacted in 1985 (Stats. 1985, ch. 783, § 1, p.

2523), provides in pertinent part:

“(a) In a criminal proceeding charging a serious felony, evidence of a

statement made by a declarant is not made inadmissible by the hearsay rule if the
declarant is unavailable as a witness, and all of the following are true:

(footnote continued on next page)


Defendant moved in limine to exclude the tape, urging that it did not meet

the requirements of Evidence Code section 1350—interpreted in light of the

federal confrontation clause’s ban on untrustworthy hearsay16—and was more

prejudicial than probative (Evid. Code, § 352).

(footnote continued from previous page)

“(1) There is clear and convincing evidence that the declarant’s

unavailability was knowingly caused by, aided by, or solicited by the party against
whom the statement is offered for the purpose of preventing the arrest or
prosecution of the party and is the result of the death by homicide or the
kidnapping of the declarant. [¶] . . . [¶]

“(3) The statement has been memorialized in a tape recording made by a

law enforcement official, or in a written statement prepared by a law enforcement
official and signed by the declarant and notarized in the presence of the law
enforcement official, prior to the death or kidnapping of the declarant.

“(4) The statement was made under circumstances which indicate its

trustworthiness and was not the result of promise, inducement, threat, or coercion.

“(5) The statement is relevant to the issues to be tried.

“(6) The statement is corroborated by other evidence which tends to

connect the party against whom the statement is offered with the commission of
the serious felony with which the party is charged. The corroboration is not
sufficient if it merely shows the commission of the offense or the circumstances


At the time of defendant’s trial, the federal confrontation clause

(U.S. Const., 6th Amend., cl. 3) was deemed to preclude the use against a criminal
accused, for truth, of the out-of-court statement of a declarant unavailable for
cross-examination only if the statement did not (1) fall within a firmly rooted
hearsay exception or (2) otherwise exhibit “particularized guarantees of
trustworthiness.” (Ohio v. Roberts (1980) 448 U.S. 56, 66.) Thereafter, in
Crawford v. Washington (2004) 541 U.S. 36 (Crawford), the high court overruled
Roberts and held that the confrontation clause forbids the criminal use, for truth,
of all “ ‘testimonial’ ” statements made outside of court by a declarant who does
not appear as a trial witness unless the defendant had a prior opportunity to cross-
examine the declarant. (Crawford, supra, at p. 51.) A “recorded statement,

(footnote continued on next page)


The court denied the defense motion. Among other things, the court

correctly noted that the “corroboration” requirement set forth in Evidence Code

section 1350 applied only to the Mishell assaults—the only charges as to which

Reyna’s statement was offered for its truth, and was thus subject to the hearsay

rule (see Evid. Code, § 1200).17 After confirming it had reviewed a transcript of

the taped statement, and had read the preliminary hearing transcript, the court

ruled that “I am going to admit the recorded statement under [section] 1350 on the

ground there is evidence, clear and convincing, [that] [Reyna’s] unavailability was

caused by the defendant and the statement which concerns the assault is

corroborated by the evidence.”

Defendant renewed his objection prior to the prosecution’s opening

statement, this time explicitly invoking the confrontation clause as well as

Evidence Code section 1350, and again in midtrial, before the introduction of the

taped statement. Subject to certain redactions for other evidentiary reasons, these

objections were again overruled. The tape recording of Reyna’s April 5, 1988,

police statement, as redacted, was played for the jury.

On appeal, defendant again contends the prosecution failed to satisfy the

prerequisites for the admission of Reyna’s statement under Evidence Code section

1350. The claim lacks merit.

(footnote continued from previous page)
knowingly given in response to structured police questioning,” qualifies as
testimonial under Crawford. (Id. at p. 53, fn. 4.)


As we discuss below, Reyna’s taped statement was admissible on the

murder charge not for the truth of the assertions made by Reyna, but as evidence
that he was a significant potential witness against defendant in the Mishell
attempted murder case, and that defendant thus had a motive to kill Reyna to
prevent his testimony.


We review evidentiary rulings, including those involving hearsay issues,

for abuse of discretion. (E.g., People v. Waidla (2000) 22 Cal.4th 690, 725

(Waidla).) Under that standard, the record considered by the trial court amply

supports its conclusion that the statement was admissible under this statute.

Defendant first insists that, at the time of the court’s evidentiary ruling,

there was not clear and convincing evidence defendant knowingly caused Reyna’s

death for the purpose of preventing defendant’s arrest or prosecution.18 But the

taped statement itself was evidence of Reyna’s status as a potential, and

significant, prosecution witness in the Mishell assault case.19 Moreover, the

preliminary hearing disclosed evidence that defendant knew of the threat posed by

Reyna. There Reyna’s sister Yolanda testified, as at trial, that the night before he


Defendant does not dispute that the statutory phrase “for the purpose of

preventing the arrest or prosecution of [the defendant]” (Evid. Code, § 1350,
subd. (a)(1), italics added) extends to killings for the purpose of preventing a
potential witness’s trial testimony against the defendant. Indeed, as the People
point out, comments on the 1985 bill which became Evidence Code section 1350
indicated that “the legislation was ‘motivated by the “murdered witness problem”
. . . serious charges are dismissed, lost or reduced every year because of the
unavailability of prosecution witnesses who have been murdered or kidnapped by
the persons against whom they would testify.’ ” (Dalton v. Superior Court (1993)
19 Cal.App.4th 1506, 1511, quoting Assem. Office of Research, 3d reading
analysis of Assem. Bill No. 2059 (1985-1986 Reg. Sess.).)

Defendant also concedes, as he must, that the attempted murder charges in

the Mishell case were “serious felonies” for purposes of Evidence Code section
1350. (Id., subd. (d); Pen. Code, § 1192.7, subd. (c)(9).)


Evidence Code section 1350 requires that the facts asserted in the recorded

statement be corroborated by some other evidence linking the defendant to the
crime. Otherwise, however, nothing in this statute, or any other principle of which
we are aware, precludes consideration of Reyna’s police statement itself for the
foundational purpose of determining its admissibility over a hearsay objection.


disappeared, Reyna told defendant on the telephone he was not afraid of defendant

and intended to testify against him.20

There was also strong evidence that, within a day after receiving this news

from Reyna, defendant killed him. At the preliminary hearing, Reyna’s mother

Helen testified, as at trial, that on the morning after his telephone conversation

with defendant, Reyna left the family home, with some trepidation, to meet

defendant face to face, and that Reyna never returned. Other preliminary hearing

witnesses recounted the discovery, days after Reyna’s disappearance, of his

decapitated and dismembered body in an isolated location, as well as physical and

forensic evidence linking defendant to the homicide. This included testimony that

bloodstains on the exterior and interior of defendant’s abandoned truck included

samples consistent with the victim’s blood.

Under these circumstances, a strong inference arose that defendant had

murdered Reyna, and had done so to prevent the testimony Reyna threatened he

would give. The trial court was amply justified in finding, by clear and

convincing evidence, that defendant knowingly caused Reyna’s death for this


Defendant also asserts there were insufficient indicia of trustworthiness

surrounding Reyna’s police statement to satisfy either Evidence Code section 1350


Defendant makes much of the notion that, based on the evidence available

when the court ruled Reyna’s statement admissible, defendant had no reason to
fear testimony from Reyna, his erstwhile friend and waterfront commission
colleague, because Reyna subsequently attempted, in an April 13, 1988, interview
with a defense investigator, to recant his police statement. The investigator
testified at the preliminary hearing about this interview. But any such inference
was belied by the later telephone conversation, the night before Reyna
disappeared, in which Reyna advised defendant he was not afraid of him and
intended to tell the truth.


or the confrontation clause. We discuss below (fn. 21, post) any argument

defendant may be understood to advance under the federal Constitution. For

purposes of Evidence Code section 1350, evidence that the statement was

trustworthy is very strong.

At the time of his statement, Reyna was not in custody, nor a suspect in any

crime, but a citizen witness. At the outset of the police interview, he agreed that

he was at the police station “of [his] own free will” and that the police had not

“made [him] any promises or guarantees or set any conditions” on his statement.

Reyna indicated that he and defendant were friends and colleagues on the

Berkeley Waterfront Commission.

Reyna then gave a detailed account of his conversations and encounters

with defendant over several months about the anonymous telephone calls

defendant was receiving, his suspicions that a professor and his wife were

responsible, his determination to handle the matter “his way,” his ultimate account

of his attack on the Mishells, and his efforts to enlist Reyna’s help in constructing

an alibi. At one point, the interviewer, Detective Gustafson, observed that Reyna

was consulting notes he had made of his contacts with defendant over this period.

The record disclosed no motive for Reyna to lie about what his colleague

and erstwhile friend had told him. Indeed, the preliminary hearing testimony of

Reyna’s mother and sister suggested that he later resisted defendant’s efforts to

dissuade him from testifying despite concern for his personal safety.

Defendant urges Reyna’s statement should have been deemed

untrustworthy because Gustafson testified at the preliminary hearing that Reyna

provided no significant new information, and that, prior to his statement, at least

some details, contained in a previously sealed search warrant affidavit, had

become public when the media obtained a copy of the affidavit. Defendant also

notes from the preliminary hearing transcript that Reyna told several persons,


including defense investigator Cramer, that defendant often teased him and he did

not necessarily believe defendant’s claim of responsibility for the assaults.

But Reyna never varied from the substance of what defendant had told him.

Moreover, his uncertainty, before going to the police, about what he should do

with the information, and his subsequent effort to convince Cramer that newspaper

reports had taken his statement out of context, actually support the statement’s

reliability. Reyna spoke to the police despite his deep conflict about his public

responsibility, his friendship for defendant, his willingness to give defendant the

benefit of the doubt, and his concern for his own safety. Ample evidence thus

supports the trial court’s implicit finding that the statement was made under

circumstances indicating its trustworthiness.

Finally, defendant disputes that, at the time of the evidentiary ruling,

Reyna’s statement was corroborated by other evidence linking defendant to the

Mishell assaults. But such corroboration was present in the preliminary hearing

testimony of Robert Mishell, who, as at trial, implicated defendant as his attacker.

The trial court’s finding on this issue was not an abuse of its discretion.21


Insofar as defendant may be understood to have made, and preserved, a

confrontation clause argument against admission of Reyna’s statement, that claim
is extinguished, despite the clear testimonial nature of the statement (Crawford,
supra, 541 U.S. 36, 51; see fn. 16, ante), under the doctrine of forfeiture by
wrongdoing. “[O]ne who obtains the absence of a witness by wrongdoing forfeits
the constitutional right to confrontation.” (Davis v. Washington (2006) ___ U.S.
___, ___ [126 S.Ct. 2266, 2280]; Crawford, supra, at p. 62; see People v. Giles
(2007) 40 Cal.4th 833, 840-841.) At a hearing to determine whether forfeiture by
wrongdoing has occurred, the preponderance of evidence standard applies.
(Davis, supra, at p. ___ [126 S.Ct. at p. 2280]; see also Giles, supra, at pp. 852-
853.) The instant trial court’s finding, by clear and convincing evidence, that
defendant murdered Reyna to prevent his testimony more than satisfied this


Defendant argues, confusingly, that he suffered prejudice insofar as the jury

may have considered Reyna’s statement both for its truth in the Mishell attempted

murder case and as evidence of defendant’s motive to kill Reyna. But having

surmounted the hurdle of Evidence Code section 1350, the statement was

admissible for its truth, despite its hearsay character, as evidence of defendant’s

responsibility for the attacks on the Mishells. Without regard to the hearsay rule,

it was also admissible in the murder case, not for its truth, but to demonstrate

defendant’s motive to kill Reyna as a potential witness against him.

Because the statement was thus admissible for all the purposes defendant

cites, no possibility of juror confusion, or unfair prejudice, is shown. For similar

reasons, there is no merit to defendant’s argument that the undue risk of confusion

and prejudice should have led to exclusion of the statement under Evidence Code

section 352.22

5. Admission of photographs

At the conclusion of jury selection, the court turned to the admission of

photographic evidence proffered by the prosecution. The court first noted that the

People had submitted 15 photographs of various parts of Reyna’s dismembered

body. The court indicated it had “culled [these 15 photos] down . . . to five.”

Citing Evidence Code section 352, the defense objected to only two of the

remaining five—one, five by seven inches, depicting an arm minus a hand, and the


For the first time on appeal, defendant urges that the erroneous admission

of Reyna’s statement forced him, in violation of his Fifth Amendment privilege of
silence, to testify in rebuttal to the statement. This distinct constitutional issue, not
raised in the trial court, is forfeited. (People v. Partida (2005) 37 Cal.4th 428,
435.) In any event, it fails on the merits, because admission of the statement was
not error.


other, also five by seven inches, depicting a severed hand held next to a handless

arm to demonstrate a match.

The court ruled that the photograph of the arm-hand matchup could be

admitted, but reserved judgment on the other disputed photo. The arm-hand

matchup photo was later marked as People’s exhibit 59 and admitted in evidence.

The coroner, Dr. Daugherty, and a forensic anthropologist, Dr. Heglar, each

testified that exhibit 59 showed how they had matched the hand to the wrist by

comparing similar cuts in the appropriate locations. The prosecution did not

introduce the remaining photo to which defendant had objected.

Defendant also sought, under Evidence Code section 352, to exclude seven

photographs, five by seven inches each, taken at different angles of Robert and

Barbara Mishell in their hospital beds, their heads shaved, with the gashes and

stitches in their scalps visible. The three pictures of Barbara showed her

apparently unconscious, with a breathing apparatus in her mouth. The trial court

accepted the People’s argument that the photos were relevant to demonstrate the

extent of the Mishells’ injuries, and were not cumulative or unduly inflammatory.

It ruled the photos admissible. They were later admitted in evidence collectively

as People’s exhibit 5. The Mishells’ physicians used exhibit 5 to illustrate their

testimony about their treatment of the victims’ wounds.

Finally, defendant moved, under Evidence Code section 352, to exclude

eight five-by-seven-inch photos showing the Mishell kitchen as a crime scene,

apparently after the Mishells had been transported to the hospital. Several of the

photos showed blood spots and bloody footprints on the kitchen floor, and one

showed a substantial quantity of pooled blood on the floor. One showed an

overturned kitchen stool; one showed a black robe strewn on the floor; and one

showed blood on the telephone Robert apparently used to call for assistance.


The prosecutor urged that each picture would be relevant to testimony

about what happened on the morning of the assaults, that he had culled these from

many more, and that he had kept them modestly sized to reduce their

inflammatory nature. The motion was denied. The photos, displayed on a board,

were subsequently admitted collectively as People’s exhibit 15. They were used

by various witnesses to illustrate how the kitchen and various evidentiary items in

it appeared after the crimes.

On appeal, defendant contends again that Evidence Code section 352

required exclusion of People’s exhibits 5, 15, and 59, because neither the nature

and extent of the Mishells’ injuries, nor the identity and dismemberment of

Reyna’s body, were disputed. Hence, he urges, the pictures were irrelevant, and

served only to inflame the jury. The error, he asserts, violated his constitutional

rights to due process, a fair trial, and a reliable adjudication at all stages of a

capital trial. The claim fails, for no error occurred.

Relevant evidence includes all “evidence . . . having any tendency in reason

to prove . . . any disputed fact that is of consequence to the determination of the

action.” (Evid. Code, § 210.) “Except as otherwise provided by statute, all

relevant evidence is admissible.” (Id., § 351.) As the People suggest, the photos

illustrated the nature and extent of the Mishells’ injuries, the scene of the

murderous assault on the Mishells, and the condition of Reyna’s body when found,

indicating that it had been dismembered and scattered by human hands to hamper

its identification. These details bore on matters the prosecution was obliged to

establish beyond a reasonable doubt—that Reyna died by homicide, that the

Mishells suffered an attack with murderous intent, and that they sustained great

bodily injury as a result. Hence, the evidence had a tendency in reason to prove

material facts in the case.


Though defendant suggests these issues were not disputed, he never

stipulated, or offered to stipulate, to any of them. Even if he had, the prosecution

was not required to accept defense concessions as a sanitized alternative to the full

presentation of its case. As we have repeatedly said, the prosecution need not

prove the details of the charges solely from the testimony of live witnesses (Pride,

supra, 3 Cal.4th 195, 243; People v. Turner (1990) 50 Cal.3d 668, 706) nor

“ ‘accept antiseptic stipulations in lieu of photographic evidence.’ ” (Box, supra,

23 Cal.4th 1153, 1199, quoting Pride, supra, at p. 243; see also Crittenden, supra,

at 9 Cal.4th 83, 133.) The jury was entitled to see how the physical circumstances

of the crimes supported the prosecution’s theories. (Pride, supra, at p. 243;

Turner, supra, at p. 706.)

Nor was the trial court’s decision to admit the photographs an abuse of its

discretion under Evidence Code section 352. “ ‘The admission of photographs . . .

lies within the broad discretion of the trial court when a claim is made that they are

unduly gruesome or inflammatory. [Citations.] The court’s exercise of that

discretion will not be disturbed on appeal unless the probative value of the

photographs clearly is outweighed by their prejudicial effect. [Citations.]’ ”

(People v. Ramirez (2006) 39 Cal.4th 398, 453-454 (Ramirez), quoting Crittenden,

supra, 9 Cal.4th 83, 133-134.)

As detailed above, the trial court carefully considered each proffered

photograph. Sensitive to the condition in which Reyna’s body was found, the

court, on its own motion, excluded 10 of the 15 murder scene photos originally

submitted by the prosecution in order to avoid undue cumulative effect. The

prosecutor also culled through the many photos of the Mishell crime scene to

present the minimum he deemed necessary to illustrate his case. The multiple-

angle photos of the injured Mishells showed the many wounds they had sustained

on various parts of their heads. All the proffered pictures were presented in a


modest size, as normal snapshots, to minimize sensationalism. There can be no

doubt that all parties were acutely aware of the duty to refrain from presenting

unfairly inflammatory evidence.23

We have examined the photos. They are unpleasant, but “ ‘[v]ictim

photographs . . . in murder cases always are disturbing. [Citation.]’ ” (Ramirez,

supra, 39 Cal.4th 398, 454, quoting Crittenden, supra, 9 Cal.4th 83, 134.) “The

photographs at issue here are gruesome because the charged offenses were

gruesome, but they did no more than accurately portray the shocking nature of the

crimes.” (Ramirez, supra, at p. 454.) The jury must be protected from

sensationalized illustrations of a crime, “but the jury cannot be shielded from an

accurate depiction of the charged crimes that does not unnecessarily play upon the

emotions of the jurors.” (Ibid.) People’s exhibits 5, 15, and 59 did not cross the

prohibited line. The photographs were properly admitted.

6. Sufficiency of evidence of witness-killing special circumstance

Before trial, defendant moved to strike the witness-murder special

circumstance allegation on grounds this special circumstance only applies to a

victim who was an eyewitness to a prior offense, not simply one to whom the

defendant had made incriminating admissions. The trial court denied the motion.

On appeal, defendant renews his argument as a claim of insufficient

evidence to support the witness-murder special-circumstance finding. Noting that

Reyna’s only relationship to the Mishell case was as the recipient of defendant’s


We do not, of course, suggest that pictures whose prejudicial content

outweighs their probative value may be admitted if modestly sized, or that photos
whose probative content outweighs their prejudicial value are nonetheless
inadmissible if presented in large form. We note only that efforts to minimize the
inflammatory effect of photographic evidence by restricting a photo’s size are
pertinent to weighing the prejudicial effect of the evidence.


incriminating admissions, defendant claims Reyna was thus not a “witness to a

crime” (italics added) as the special circumstance requires. (§ 190.2,

subd. (a)(10).)

As defendant concedes, we have rejected this precise contention. (Jenkins,

supra, 22 Cal.4th 900, 1018; People v. Jones (1996) 13 Cal.4th 535, 550; see

Alvarado v. Superior Court (2000) 23 Cal.4th 1121, 1151; People v. Allen (1986)

42 Cal.3d 1222, 1236-1244, 1273-1274; People v. Weidert (1985) 39 Cal.3d 836,

853.) In Jones, we indicated that “nothing in the language of the applicable

special circumstance or in our decisions applying this special circumstance

supports the suggestion that the special circumstance is confined to the killing of

an ‘eyewitness,’ as opposed to any other witness who might testify in a criminal

proceeding.” (Jones, supra, at p. 550.)

Defendant asks that we reconsider this holding. He advances no

compelling reason to do so. The evidence supports the true finding on the

witness-murder special circumstance.

D. Guilt trial misconduct issue: Prosecutor’s argument that witness


As indicated above, defendant conceded that Luis Reyna died in his

presence, that he dumped Reyna’s body in the Lafayette hills, and that he severed

and scattered Reyna’s head and hands to prevent or delay the body’s

identification. The only disputed issue was how Reyna died. As a prosecution

witness, Celebration Oberman said defendant told her he shot Reyna in the temple

when Reyna insisted he would testify against defendant in the Mishell assault

case. Defendant claimed Reyna pulled a gun, which went off accidentally in the

ensuing struggle. Defendant said he then checked Reyna’s head and neck, but saw

no bullet wound. Crime investigators found no obvious gunshot evidence in


Reyna’s skull or torso. The body’s decomposition prevented forensic

determination of the exact cause of Reyna’s death.

At the request of the autopsy physician, Dr. Daugherty, Dr. Heglar, a

forensic anthropologist, examined and photographed neck vertebrae from Reyna’s

remains for the purpose of determining the cause of certain “deconstruction” of

these bones. Dr. Heglar then testified for the People about his opinions on this


Dr. Heglar first stated that, in “two areas” of interest to Dr. Daugherty, the

incising event appeared to be consistent with saw marks or saw invasion of a

bone.” (Italics added.) The prosecutor then asked Dr. Heglar to illustrate his

conclusions with four photos the witness had taken during his examination of the

fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae. On the first photo, taken of the “anterior” or

front “superior right,” Dr. Heglar noted “a deep squarish indentation into the

bone.” The following colloquy then took place: “[The witness]: Lower on the

body of vertebra C-4, cervical four, is a much deeper but narrower, straight

looking, looks like a black line, a shadow, but an invasion of bone.” [¶] Q: And

is that what you refer to as . . . incised[?] [¶] A: Incised with gunshot or blunt

force.” (Italics added.)

Dr. Heglar pointed out the same two marks in the three other photos, taken

from different angles. He then explained that the two invasion marks indicated

“the possibility of two saw-like instruments, maybe one different from the other.”

(Italics added.) Shown a saw marked as People’s exhibit 40-D, Dr. Heglar

indicated, based on comparative measurements taken in his laboratory, that its

blade pattern was a close, if not identical, match for one of the two “incised

area[s]” in the photos. (Italics added.) Moving on to his comparative examination

of the left arm and severed left hand, Dr. Heglar indicated “that the surfaces there

appear again to have been incised in some manner, were reciprocal by their raised


and lowered area to each other.” (Italics added.) The defense did not cross-

examine Dr. Heglar to clarify what he meant by the word “incise,” particularly in

the phrase “incised with gunshot or blunt force.”

In his closing argument, defense counsel stressed the absence of evidence

of a gunshot wound to Reyna’s skull. Counsel urged this was significant because

it refuted the prosecution’s version, as recounted by Oberman—i.e., that defendant

said he retrieved a gun from the back of his truck, came around to the passenger

door, and shot Reyna in the head. Indeed, counsel argued, “when you intend to

shoot somebody, that’s where you shoot.” On the other hand, counsel suggested,

“[W]hen you don’t intend to kill someone, like wrestling over a gun and it

accidentally goes off, [the bullet] doesn’t get placed so well.”

Thus, counsel asserted, evidence of a bullet wound to the neck would

support defendant’s claim that he saw no head wound, and that the shooting was

an accident. There was such evidence, counsel proposed, pointing to Dr. Heglar’s

testimony about “the incised fourth vertebra that he attributed either to an incise

wound or to a gunshot wound.” (Italics added.)

In rebuttal, the prosecutor said he wanted to talk about the portion of

defense counsel’s argument “where [counsel] ended with the one little piece of

testimony from Dr. Heglar that was taken out of context.” This defense argument,

said the prosecutor, was “what I call something that has nothing to do with the

facts. It’s what I call a lawyer’s game because it’s an attempt to draw something

out of the transcript that was a mistake, a misstatement by the witness, and using it

to try to confuse a clear issue.” (Italics added.)

The prosecutor continued: “What the quoted transcript said . . . regarding

the damage to the fourth vertebra was [‘]incised by bullet or blunt force[’] or

[‘]incised with bullet or blunt force.[’] What Dr. Heglar intended to say very

clearly was [‘] incised as opposed to bullet or blunt force.[’]” (Italics added.)


Asserting that “[s]imple misstatements happen all the time in the

courtroom,” the prosecutor offered several indicia that Dr. Heglar had misspoken.

First, the prosecutor asserted, the witness’s literal statement “made no sense”; as

an expert, Dr. Heglar surely knew that “ ‘incised’ means sharp or cutting,” a

“sharp,” “straight,” “narrow,” and “deep” wound, as “caused by a knife or a saw,”

rather than a “smashing” or “crushing” effect caused by a bullet or other blunt

force trauma. “When a knife or saw goes through a bone,” the prosecutor said, “it

makes a sharp, clean incision, and a bullet or other blunt object . . . smashes

through it. A hammer is a blunt object.”

At this point, defense counsel objected on grounds the prosecutor’s

argument was “not based on anything that I see in evidence.” The court responded

by admonishing the jury that “the statements of the attorneys [are] not evidence;

and you base your decision upon the evidence, the—what the evidence was.” The

court then invited the prosecutor to proceed.

Continuing on the theme of blunt versus sharp, the prosecutor suggested

that to take Dr. Heglar’s statement literally would make as much sense as to say

someone was “cut with a baseball bat” or “stabbed with a hammer.” Moreover,

the prosecutor pointed out, the overall context of Dr. Heglar’s testimony was that

the vertebral damage, and the detachment of the hand from the arm, were caused

by the reciprocating motion of a saw or saws, which defendant himself later

confirmed he used to sever the head and hand from Reyna’s body. The prosecutor

argued that a bullet hole through the neck would have left blood and soft-tissue

damage not seen by the investigators, and that defendant himself said he checked

Reyna’s neck for a pulse, but saw no wound.

On appeal, defendant insists the prosecutor committed misconduct “by

urging the jury to ignore crucial evidence testified to by a state expert witness

which was favorable to the defense, and to instead substitute his own unsworn


interpretation of that testimony.” Assuming such a contention was preserved by

defendant’s trial objection that the prosecutor’s argument was not supported by the

evidence, it nonetheless fails on the merits.24

Defendant cites no authority whatever against a prosecutor’s argument that

his own witness misspoke, or that the defense, in its own argument, has taken the

witness’s testimony out of context. On the contrary, prosecutors have wide

latitude to draw reasonable inferences from the evidence presented at trial, and to

refer to matters of common knowledge (such as the meaning of words). (E.g.,

Mendoza, supra, 24 Cal.4th 130, 172; People v. Hill (1998) 17 Cal.4th 800, 823;

People v. Williams (1997) 16 Cal.4th 153, 221.)

The prosecutor could not misstate or mischaracterize the evidence (e.g.,

People v. Hill, supra, 17 Cal.4th 800, 823; People v. Avena (1996) 13 Cal.4th 394,

420), but he did not do so here. Nor did he “go beyond the evidence” or “put

words in the witness’s mouth” as defendant suggests. Candidly conceding the

testimony the defense sought to exploit, he simply argued an inference, from the

commonly understood meaning of the word “incise,” from Dr. Heglar’s overall

remarks, and from the trial evidence in general, that the witness’s literal

phraseology at this particular point did not express his true meaning. Such an

argument, where based on the record, is not improper.

For the reasons urged by the prosecutor, his argument that Dr. Heglar did

not literally mean to equate “incised” with “blunt force or gunshot wound” was a


As to this claim, as well as to the numerous claims of prosecutorial

misconduct at the penalty phase, defendant urges that, insofar as he failed to
object, or to object adequately, during the trial, the trial court had a sua sponte
duty to control the alleged misconduct. It did not. (E.g., People v. Jones (1997)
15 Cal.4th 119, 181-182; People v. Montiel (1993) 5 Cal.4th 877, 914.)


reasonable interpretation of the evidence.25 It was up to the jury to agree or

disagree. The trial court made this clear by admonishing the jurors that the

prosecutor’s arguments were not evidence, and that they must decide the case on

the evidence itself. No misconduct occurred.

Defendant also asserts the prosecutor committed misconduct by disparaging

defense counsel’s argument as a “lawyer’s game” and an attempt to confuse the

jury by taking the witness’s statement out of context. Because defendant failed to

raise such an objection at trial, where an admonition would have cured any harm,

the claim is forfeited on appeal. (E.g., People v. Stanley (2006) 39 Cal.4th 913,

952 (Stanley); People v. Young (2005) 34 Cal.4th 1149, 1188 (Young);

McDermott, supra, 28 Cal.4th 946, 1001.)

In any event, there was no misconduct. The prosecutor did not engage in

such forbidden tactics as accusing defense counsel of fabricating a defense or

factually deceiving the jury. (Stitely, supra, 35 Cal.4th 514, 560; People v.

Bemore (2000) 22 Cal.4th 809, 846 (Bemore).) He simply used pungent language

to describe defense counsel’s tactical effort to exploit what the prosecutor

considered a slip of the tongue by a People’s witness.

It was clear the prosecutor’s comment was aimed solely at the persuasive

force of defense counsel’s closing argument, and not at counsel personally. We

have found no impropriety in similar prosecutorial remarks. (E.g., Stitely, supra,

35 Cal.4th 514, 559-560 [argument that jurors should avoid “ ‘fall[ing] for’ ”

defense counsel’s “ ‘ridiculous’ ” and “ ‘outrageous’ ” attempt to allow defendant


The People note a definition of “incised” as “made with or as if with a

sharp knife or scalpel: clean and well defined.” (Quoting Webster’s New
Internat. Dict. (3d ed. 1976) p. 1142; see also, e.g., American Heritage Dict. (1985
ed.) p. 650 [“[m]ade with or as if with a sharp instrument”].)


to “ ‘ walk’ free” by claiming he was guilty only of second degree murder];

People v. Gionis (1995) 9 Cal.4th 1196, 1215-1216 [argument that defense

counsel was talking out of both sides of his mouth and that this was “ ‘great

lawyering’ ”]; People v. Breaux (1991) 1 Cal.4th 281, 306-307 [argument that law

students are taught to create confusion when neither the law nor the facts are on

their side, because confusion benefits the defense]; People v. Bell (1989)

49 Cal.3d 502, 538 [argument that defense counsel’s job is to “ ‘confuse[ ]’ ” and

“ ‘throw sand in your eyes,’ ” and that counsel “ ‘does a good job of it’ ”].)

Here, as in the cases cited above, we see no improper attack on counsel’s

integrity, but only on the merits of his trial tactics and arguments. The

prosecutor’s argument was not improper.

E. Guilt trial instructional issues

1. Reasonable doubt instruction

A standard reasonable doubt instruction, as set forth in CALJIC No. 2.90

(5th ed. 1988), was given with certain modifications at defendant’s guilt trial.

Defendant claims the instruction violated his constitutional rights to a jury trial, a

fundamentally fair trial, and a reliable determination of guilt and penalty. In

particular, he urges that the phrases “moral evidence,” “moral certainty,” and

“abiding conviction,” as contained in this instruction, are contradictory, archaic,

and incomprehensible to a modern jury.26


The court modified the then standard instructional definition of reasonable

doubt as follows (nonstandard insertions in brackets): “Reasonable doubt is
defined as follows: It is not mere possible doubt, because everything relating to
human affairs and depending upon moral evidence is open to some possible or
imaginary doubt. [¶] [Now the word ‘moral’ here does not mean religiosity or
truthfulness. The word ‘moral’ means mortal; in other words, evidence from
.] [¶] [So let me start again.] [¶] Reasonable doubt is defined as follows:
It is not a mere possible doubt because everything relating to human affairs and

(footnote continued on next page)


However, the United States Supreme Court upheld this instruction, despite

concerns about its language (Victor v. Nebraska (1994) 511 U.S. 1 [affg.

Sandoval, supra, 4 Cal.4th 155, 185-186]),27 and we have consistently rejected

arguments similar to those defendant makes here. (E.g., People v. Cook (2006)

39 Cal.4th 566, 601 (Cook); People v. Robinson (2005) 37 Cal.4th 592, 637

(Robinson); People v. Maury (2003) 30 Cal.4th 342, 429 (Maury); People v.

Seaton (2001) 26 Cal.4th 598, 668 (Seaton); People v. Ray (1996) 13 Cal.4th 313,

346-347; People v. Davis (1995) 10 Cal.4th 463, 520-521; People v. Jennings

(1991) 53 Cal.3d 334, 385-386.) We do so again.28

(footnote continued from previous page)
depending upon moral evidence[,] [that is, evidence that comes to you from the
mouth of people
,] is open to some possible or imaginary doubt. It is that state of
the case which after the entire comparison and consideration of all the evidence
leaves the minds of the jurors in that condition that they cannot say they feel an
abiding conviction, to a moral certainty, of the truth of the charge. [¶] The law
does not require demonstration of that degree of proof which, excluding all
possibility of error, produces absolute certainty, for such degree of proof is rarely
possible. Moral certainty only is required, which is that degree of proof which
produces an abiding conviction in an unprejudiced mind.” (Italics added.)


CALJIC No. 2.90 (6th ed. 1996) has since been modified to eliminate

references to “moral evidence” and “moral certainty.”


We note that the definition of “moral evidence” inserted by the trial court,

as “evidence from people” or from the “mouth of people,” generally conforms to
the historical explanation of that phrase provided by the majority in Victor v.
, supra, 511 U.S. 1, 10-12, as evidence about the daily affairs of life,
proven by human testimony, that cannot, by its nature, attain objective certainty.
Defendant does not argue that this addition by the court worsened the instruction
constitutionally; in his reply brief, he merely urges that the addition did not cure
the defects in the standard instruction.


2. Witness-killing special-circumstance instruction

Defendant urges the court erred by refusing a proffered defense instruction

that a witness, for purposes of the witness-killing special-circumstance allegation,

must be someone who actually witnessed a crime by the accused, and by later

instructing that, for purposes of the special circumstance, “a witness to a crime

does not necessarily require an eyewitness.” The contention lacks merit. As we

have previously explained, the witness-killing special circumstance is not limited

to eyewitnesses.

3. Instruction regarding defendant’s preoffense statement of motive

The trial court gave a standard general instruction (see CALJIC No. 2.51)

on motive (motive is not an element and need not be shown, but the presence or

absence of motive may tend to establish guilt or innocence; the jury is the

exclusive judge of the weight of motive evidence). The court also instructed, in

standard form (see CALJIC No. 2.71), on extrajudicial admissions by the

defendant (an admission is a statement by defendant which, while not itself an

acknowledgment of guilt, tends to prove guilt when considered with other

evidence; the jury is the exclusive judge whether defendant made such an

admission and, if so, whether it is true in whole or in part; an extrajudicial

admission by defendant should be viewed with caution).

Over defense objection, the trial court also gave an adapted version of

CALJIC No. 2.71.7, stating there was evidence from which the jury might find

that “an oral statement of motive was made by the defendant before the offense

with which he is charged was committed.” In standard form, this instruction

further advised that the jury was the exclusive judge whether such a statement was

made, and that evidence of such an oral statement should be viewed with caution.

On appeal, as below, defendant urges that the issue presented by CALJIC

No. 2.71.7 was adequately addressed by the general instructions on motive and


extrajudicial admissions. As given in his case, defendant contends, CALJIC No.

2.71.7 was an improper “pinpoint” instruction, cumulative to those described

above, “which gave undue emphasis to a vital part of the purported evidence. The

jury was essentially told as a matter of fact that the accused had motive to commit

the homicide in issue.” As a result, he argues, he suffered violations of his

constitutional rights to due process, a fair trial, and a reliable verdict.

However, we have held that both CALJIC Nos. 2.71 and 2.71.7 are

standard cautionary instructions, intended for the defendant’s benefit, which must

be given sua sponte where applicable. (E.g., People v. Garceau (1993) 6 Cal.4th

140, 194; People v. Lang (1989) 49 Cal.3d 991, 1021 (Lang).) As the People note,

defendant does not argue that CALJIC No. 2.71.7, as given in this case, was

unsupported by evidence.29

We have indicated that CALJIC No. 2.71 is broad enough to cover all out-

of-court statements by the defendant offered to prove his guilt. Thus, the

defendant suffers no prejudice when CALJIC No. 2.71.7 is not also given. (Lang,

supra, 49 Cal.3d 991, 1021.) But this is not to say the defendant does suffer error

or prejudice when both are given, as justified by the evidence.

Defendant’s claim that the instruction was biased in form also lacks merit.

Far from presenting motive as a predetermined “fact,” the instruction merely


The most obvious evidence supporting the instruction had to do with

defendant’s motive for attempting to kill the Mishells. In his police statement, as
recounted above, Reyna indicated that, before the assault against the Mishells,
defendant said he suspected a professor and his wife were behind the anonymous
telephone calls exposing defendant’s extramarital affair, and that when Reyna
suggested defendant take his information to the police, defendant said, on more
than one occasion, that he would handle it “his way.”


stated that the jury “may” find the defendant expressed such a motive and must

view any such expression with caution. No error occurred.

In any event, inclusion of CALJIC No. 2.71.7 in the instructions was

harmless by any applicable standard. As noted, the principal effect of the

instruction was to reemphasize, on defendant’s behalf, that his inculpatory

extrajudicial statements, if any, should be viewed with caution. Insofar as the

instruction focused on evidence that defendant had motives to commit the charged

crimes, that evidence was overwhelming. CALJIC No. 2.71.7 cannot have altered

the jury’s views on the subject to defendant’s prejudice. No basis for reversal


4. CALJIC No. 2.71

After the jury was instructed, but before guilt deliberations commenced,

defendant raised a concern about CALJIC No. 2.71, the general instruction

regarding extrajudicial admissions by the defendant, as read to the jury. Defense

counsel suggested that the instruction, as given, was “not pinpoint enough,”

because it failed to specify that the admonition to view such statements with

caution did not apply to exculpatory portions of the defendant’s statement. The

trial court ruled that the instruction as read required no supplementation.

On appeal, defendant urges the trial court erred by giving CALJIC No. 2.71

“over defense objection,” because the jury could interpret the instruction’s

definition of “admissions” to be viewed with caution as including exculpatory

portions of a defendant’s statement. The instruction unfairly compromised his

defense, he asserts, because that defense was based primarily on his own

testimony. He claims violations of his constitutional rights to a fair trial and a

reliable verdict.

We rejected a similar challenge to CALJIC No. 2.71 in People v.

Bacigalupo (1991) 1 Cal.4th 103. As we noted, the instruction, considered as a


whole, “[does] not tell the jury to distrust those portions of defendant’s statements

. . . that [do] not either acknowledge or tend to show his guilt.” (Id. at p. 129.)

Moreover, insofar as defendant claims the instruction hampered his defense

by inviting the jury to view his trial testimony with caution, the assertion is

patently without merit. Both in standard form and as modified in this case, the

instruction addresses only the subject of extrajudicial admissions.30 Nothing in

CALJIC No. 2.71 admonishes the jury to be skeptical of statements made by the

defendant on the stand. No error occurred.

5. CALJIC Nos. 2.01, 2.02, 2.06

The court instructed, pursuant to CALJIC No. 2.06, that if the jury found

defendant attempted to suppress evidence, the jury could consider this as a

circumstance tending to show consciousness of guilt, but must judge for itself the

weight and significance of such evidence. The court also gave CALJIC Nos. 2.01,

regarding circumstantial evidence generally, and 2.02, regarding circumstantial

evidence of a specific mental state. Among other things, these instructions

explained that all circumstances leading to an inference of guilt must be proved

beyond reasonable doubt; that circumstantial evidence cannot support a conviction

unless it cannot be reconciled with any other rational conclusion; that, between

two reasonable interpretations of the evidence, the one more consistent with

innocence must be accepted; but that a reasonable interpretation must be accepted

over an unreasonable one.


As given, the instruction provided in pertinent part: “An admission is a

statement made by a defendant other than at his trial which does not by itself
acknowledge his guilt of the crimes for which such defendant is on trial but which
statement tends to prove his guilt when considered with the rest of the evidence.”
(Italics added.)


Defendant urges that all such instructions diluted the presumption of

innocence, reduced the prosecution’s burden of proof, and created a mandatory

conclusive presumption of guilt, in derogation of his constitutional rights to due

process and reliable factfinding. As defendant concedes, we have rejected similar

arguments on many occasions. (E.g., People v. Jurado (2006) 38 Cal.4th 72, 127

(Jurado) [CALJIC No. 2.01]; People v. Guerra (2006) 37 Cal.4th 1067, 1139-

1140 [same]; Robinson, supra, 37 Cal.4th 592, 637 [same]; People v. Wilson

(2005) 36 Cal.4th 309, 330 [CALJIC No. 2.06]; Coffman and Marlow, supra,

34 Cal.4th 1, 103 [same]; Maury, supra, 30 Cal.4th 342, 428 [CALJIC No. 2.01];

People v. Hughes (2002) 27 Cal.4th 287, 346-347 [same]; People v. Jackson

(1996) 13 Cal.4th 1164, 1223-1224 [CALJIC No. 2.06].) Defendant presents no

compelling reason to reconsider these authorities. We find no error.

6. Flight instruction

The trial court instructed the jury, pursuant to section 1127c and CALJIC

No. 2.52, that a person’s flight immediately after a crime, or after he is accused of

a crime, cannot alone establish guilt, but may be considered together with other

proven facts in deciding the accused’s guilt or innocence. Defendant urges the

instruction was improper, because he freely admitted his identity with respect to

all the charges, disputing only the nature and degree of the offenses as determined

by his mental state. Because his flight following the crimes had no logical

tendency to resolve that issue, defendant asserts, the instruction allowed the jury to

infer, on an arbitrary basis, the most culpable mental state, and thus the maximum

degree of guilt. This, he argues, violated his constitutional right to due process.

We disagree. At the outset, defendant’s claim that he admitted he

committed crimes against the Mishells and Reyna is, in significant part, wrong.

As to Reyna’s death, defendant testified that Reyna pulled a gun, which went off

accidentally during the ensuing struggle. (See discussion, ante.) In closing


argument, defense counsel reminded the jury that defendant’s testimony was the

only direct evidence of what happened to Reyna. Counsel alluded to the

possibility that the killing was accidental, and therefore urged the jury to acquit

defendant of any crime against Reyna. The jury was instructed that an accidental

killing is not a crime, and that any reasonable doubt on the issue must be resolved

in defendant’s favor.

We have explained that the flight instruction, as the jury would understand

it, does not address the defendant’s specific mental state at the time of the

offenses, or his guilt of a particular crime, but advises of circumstances suggesting

his consciousness that he has committed some wrongdoing. (People v. Bolin

(1998) 18 Cal.4th 297, 327 (Bolin); People v. Crandell (1988) 46 Cal.3d 833, 871

(Crandell).) Thus, the flight instruction—amply supported by evidence of

defendant’s sudden departure for Mexico within days of Reyna’s disappearance—

was manifestly relevant to the issue whether defendant held an honest belief that

Reyna’s death was an accident for which he bore no criminal responsibility.

In any event, we have repeatedly rejected the argument that instructions on

consciousness of guilt, including instructions regarding the defendant’s flight

following the crime, permit the jury to draw impermissible inferences about the

defendant’s mental state, or are otherwise inappropriate where mental state, not

identity, is the principal disputed issue. (E.g., Jurado, supra, 38 Cal.4th 72, 125;

People v. Moon (2005) 37 Cal.4th 1, 28 (Moon); People v. Smithey (1999)

20 Cal.4th 936, 983; Bolin, supra, 18 Cal.4th 297, 327; Crandell, supra, 46 Cal.3d

833, 871; People v. Nicolaus (1991) 54 Cal.3d 551, 579-580.) As we have said,

even where the defendant concedes some aspect of a criminal charge, the

prosecution is entitled to bolster its case, which requires proof of the defendant’s

guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, by presenting evidence of the defendant’s

consciousness of guilt. (E.g., Moon, supra, at p. 28; Nicolaus, supra, at pp. 579-


580.) No reason appears to reconsider the soundness of these decisions and

conclusions. We find no error.

F. Penalty trial misconduct issues

1. Notice and discovery of aggravating evidence

On August 7, 1992, eight months before the penalty phase began, the

People filed their statutory notice of intent to introduce evidence in aggravation

(§ 190.3). The notice included defendant’s alleged 1982 sexual assault on his 15-

year-old niece, Alexandra M. It referred only to a “rape” of the victim, but warned

that the proof would include “all acts committed by the defendant whether or not

they resulted in a plea or finding of guilty.”

Also in August 1992, according to defense counsel, the prosecution

provided the defense with an offer of proof regarding evidence in aggravation

(Offer of Proof). As to the Alexandra M. incident, this document still mentioned

only a rape, but it did provide additional details about the circumstances of the

assault. It also alleged that as a result of the rape, Alexandra M. became pregnant,

had an abortion, and attempted suicide, and that she never reported the crime to

the police because she feared the effect on her grandparents if they ever found


On January 6, 1993, prior to the guilt trial, the trial court ordered a Phillips

hearing32 as to the Alexandra M. incident, to be held if the guilt verdicts made it

31 This document was marked as Court Exhibit F, and, though not admitted
in evidence, was used by defense counsel to cross-examine Alexandra M. before
the jury. It bears a court file-stamp date of January 8, 1993, though defense
counsel represented below, both in writing and orally, that the prosecution
provided it in mid-August 1992.


In People v. Phillips (1985) 41 Cal.3d 29, we suggested that the trial court

may, and sometimes should, conduct a preliminary inquiry prior to the penalty
phase to determine whether there is substantial evidence to prove each element of

(footnote continued on next page)


necessary, in order to allow the defense to cross-examine the complaining witness

prior to the penalty trial. The court also instructed the prosecutor to provide the

defense with “any corroborating evidence” he “would have” in the meantime,

including “[a]ny other witnesses who may have seen it, any police reports, the

extent of any injuries she may have sustained,” the hospital where she was treated,

and any treatment she received.

In mid-April 1993, the prosecutor received, and turned over to the defense,

a letter Alexandra M. wrote immediately after the assault, but did not send, to her

friend Margaret Yen, in which she said she enjoyed the encounter and mentioned

no force or fear.

At the Phillips hearing, held on April 29, 1993, Alexandra M. indicated the

following: Defendant had gagged her with a bandanna. The assault included

sodomy and forcible oral copulation as well as rape. Defendant threatened to kill

Alexandra and various members of her family if she revealed the incident. She

aborted her pregnancy at Planned Parenthood in New York City. She ultimately

revealed the assault to Yen, her parents, her therapist, her godfather, and several

other close friends and family members. In 1988, while defendant was a fugitive,

she disclosed it to FBI agents who came to her house. At some point, her mother

spoke to a Berkeley police detective. In their prior conversations, the prosecutor

did not ask for details, and she had provided them fully only that morning, though

she had mentioned the gag two weeks earlier.

(footnote continued from previous page)
“other criminal activity” the prosecution intends to introduce in aggravation. (Id.
at pp. 72-73, fn. 25.)


Based on the newly disclosed information, defendant moved in limine to

exclude Alexandra M.’s testimony on grounds, among others, that the prosecution

had failed to give fair notice and discovery of the aggravating evidence.

Alternatively, he sought a continuance to investigate the new information.

The motion was heard the day after the Phillips hearing. Defense counsel

indicated that “I don’t think it’s controverted . . . that up to yesterday, even [the

prosecutor] was in possession of only one piece of evidence that had to do with

this case”—i.e., the Margaret Yen letter delivered to the defense two weeks

earlier. The prosecutor represented, without objection from defense counsel, that

he had provided the defense with information about where the abortion took place

as soon as the defense requested it, and that there were no police reports on the

incident. The prosecutor confirmed he had not known, prior to the Phillips

hearing, of any other witnesses or corroborating evidence. The court agreed to

exclude evidence of Alexandra’s attempted suicide, but otherwise denied the


At the ensuing penalty trial, Alexandra M. testified in basic conformity

with her statements at the Phillips hearing. The defense cross-examined her about

the unmailed letter to Yen, and pointed out how her trial testimony differed from

the facts recited in the Offer of Proof. Alexandra insisted at trial that, in July

1992, she had told the prosecutor of the threats to her family—a fact not

mentioned in the Offer of Proof—but the parties ultimately stipulated before the

jury that she did not disclose either the sodomy and oral copulation, or the threats

against her and her family, until the day of the Phillips hearing.

On appeal, defendant renews his argument that the prosecutor violated his

notice and discovery obligations by failing to provide, prior to the Phillips hearing,

the new details Alexandra M. disclosed in the hearing—in particular, the sodomy

and forcible oral copulation, and the identities of the persons Alexandra had told


of the assault. Defendant cites the court’s order of January 6, 1993, that the

prosecutor turn over all corroborating evidence the prosecutor had, as well as the

prosecutor’s duty, under Brady, supra, 373 U.S. 83 and the California criminal

discovery statute (§ 1054.1 et seq.), to disclose exculpatory evidence.33

However, as recounted above, the prosecutor did not know of the additional

sex crimes, or of the corroborating witnesses, until Alexandra M. disclosed them

at the Phillips hearing. The court’s January 1993 discovery order obliged the

prosecution only to turn over corroborating evidence it “would have” between

then and the Phillips hearing. Under the California criminal discovery statute,

disclosure of covered information should be made within 30 days of trial, but is

timely in any event if provided “immediately” after the prosecution becomes

aware of it. (§ 1054.7.) Brady and its progeny do not require disclosure of

information before the prosecution actually or constructively possesses it.

Defendant suggests the prosecutor had a statutory and constitutional duty to

know this information sooner, because Alexandra M. was his intended witness.

Not so. Under section 1054.1, evidence is subject to disclosure, if at all, only to

the extent it is “in the possession of the prosecuting attorney or [known by him] to

be in the actual possession of the investigating agencies.” Under the federal


Insofar as defendant argues that the notice of aggravating evidence required

specifically by the death penalty statute (§ 190.3) was insufficient, the claim lacks
merit. The section 190.3 notice, filed on August 7, 1992, referenced the rape and
warned that “all evidence” surrounding the incident would be presented. Notice
that a particular crime will be presented in aggravation should alert defense
counsel that all crimes committed as part of the same course of conduct will be
offered, and thus substantially complies with section 190.3. (People v. Farnam
(2002) 28 Cal.4th 107, 175 (Farnam); Hart, supra, 20 Cal.4th 546, 639.) In
particular, a notice of rape informs the defense that any unlawful sex act
performed on the same occasion will be introduced. (Pride, supra, 3 Cal.4th 195,


Constitution, evidence is subject to disclosure, if at all, only to the extent actually

possessed by the “prosecution team,” i.e., those government agencies assisting in

the criminal investigation, such as the police. (Steele, supra, 32 Cal.4th 682, 697;

see Kyles, supra, 514 U.S. 419, 437.)

The prosecution “ ‘has no general duty to seek out, obtain, and disclose all

evidence that might be beneficial to the defense.’ [Citation.]” (People v. Panah

(2005) 35 Cal.4th 395, 460 (Panah).) Thus, it need not extract all possible

information from a private citizen who is a potential prosecution witness in order

to disclose it to the defense.34

Defendant also fails to demonstrate, for purposes of Brady and the criminal

discovery statute (§ 1054.1, subd. (e)), that the prosecution failed to disclose

exculpatory evidence. The prosecution did turn over, as soon as it received, the

only arguably exculpatory evidence in the record, Alexandra’s unmailed letter to

Margaret Yen. Alexandra M.’s disclosure, at the Phillips hearing, of the

additional forcible sex acts committed by defendant was certainly not exculpatory.

And the record contains no evidence that persons whom Alexandra revealed she

told about the assault—other than Yen, who did testify for the defense—would

have provided information to impeach Alexandra or otherwise undermine the

prosecution’s case.

Insofar as the court’s January 1993 discovery order required the prosecutor

to turn over corroborating evidence, it is difficult to see how any omission was


The parties stipulated at trial that the prosecutor followed his usual

“practice” of not questioning sexual assault victims about the details of the crimes
perpetrated on them. No evidence suggests that the prosecutor deliberately
delayed asking Alexandra M. detailed questions for the purpose of avoiding
discovery. (See Panah, supra, 35 Cal.4th 395, 460.)


prejudicial. At trial, the People presented no corroborating witnesses or evidence.

In sum, no misconduct or prejudice occurred.35

2. Cross-examination of defense prison expert

Jiro Enomoto, a former Director of the Department of Corrections, testified

for the defense that, based on defendant’s pretrial jail records, he would not pose a

safety risk to prison staff or inmates if sentenced to life without parole. On cross-

examination, the prosecutor elicited the witness’s admissions that he frequently

testified for criminal defendants on prison-adjustment issues, and had done so

perhaps three or four times in the past year.

The prosecutor then asked, “In fact, a few weeks ago you testified across

the hall in the case of the gentleman that was convicted of four separate murders

and six attempted murders that he would adjust well to prison life also; is that

correct?” The witness responded, “That’s correct; yes.” Defendant did not object.

Defendant now insists the prosecutor’s question unfairly impugned the

witness’s credibility, and thus compromised a reliable penalty determination in

violation of the Eighth Amendment. The absence of a trial objection, where an

admonition would have cured any harm, forfeits the claim. The contention lacks


In a related claim, defendant urges the trial court erred when it denied him a

penalty trial continuance to investigate and confront the new information disclosed
at the Phillips hearing. We review such decisions for abuse of discretion.
(Jenkins, supra, 22 Cal.4th 900, 1029, 1037.) Here the court noted, and defense
counsel agreed, that the defense had known for two years that Alexandra M. was a
potential aggravating witness. Eight months before the Phillips hearing, the
defense had received a timely, sufficient statutory notice of aggravating evidence
and, according to defense counsel, had also received the Offer of Proof. The
prosecutor represented, essentially without dispute from the defense, that he had
given discovery to the best of his ability. (See discussion, ante.) Under these
circumstances, the court reasoned, the defense had had ample time to conduct its
own investigation in the interim. We see no abuse of discretion in this ruling.


merit in any event. “[A]n expert’s testimony in prior cases involving similar

issues is a legitimate subject of cross-examination.” (Price, supra, 1 Cal.4th 324,

457.) Despite arguable differences in the facts of the two cases, they involved

“similar issues” of the expert’s views on prison adjustment. The prosecutor was

entitled to expose bias in the witness by showing his propensity to advocate for

criminal defendants even in extreme cases. No misconduct occurred.

3. Alleged “vouching”

As noted above, Alexandra M. testified at trial, as at the Phillips hearing,

that defendant’s sexual assault included sodomy and oral copulation as well as

rape, that he gagged her with a bandanna, and that he threatened to kill members

of her family, and then her, if she told anyone about the incident. She

acknowledged the unsent letter to Margaret Yen, in which she wrote that she

enjoyed the sex and mentioned no force or threats. Smudges on the letter, she

said, were from “my crying.” She admitted she did not disclose the incident to

“anybody other than [her] mother and some people close to [her], friends,” and did

not report it to any law enforcement officer until 1988, when she mentioned it to

an FBI agent.

As in the Phillips hearing, defense counsel cross-examined Alexandra at

some length about details of her trial testimony that were not included in the Offer

of Proof. Counsel particularly sought to determine what details she had told the

prosecutor, and when. She indicated she spoke to the prosecutor by phone in July

1992 and several times thereafter, that he “just asked . . . what had basically

happened,” and that she told him the “basic facts” corresponding to her testimony.

She agreed the Offer of Proof “capture[d] the essence” of what she told the

prosecutor, though she insisted she did tell him, in July 1992, of defendant’s

threats against her and her family. She also agreed she had told the prosecutor

“like two weeks ago” about the bandanna used as a gag.


As a defense witness, Yen testified to her conversation with Alexandra M.

shortly after the assault. In this conversation, Yen recounted, Alexandra did not

seem upset, characterized the encounter as consensual, and described it as “the

seduction of a young girl by an older man.”

In a stipulation later read to the jury, the parties agreed as follows: The

prosecutor first spoke to Alexandra M. in July 1992. Then, and in subsequent

conversations, she mentioned only a rape, not sodomy or oral copulation. Only on

April 29, 1993 (the day of the Phillips hearing) did she mention threats by

defendant against herself and her family. The prosecutor did not believe he asked

her any questions beyond whether she was raped, as was his practice in sexual

assault cases.

In his closing penalty argument, the prosecutor anticipated defense

comments about the discrepancies between the Offer of Proof and Alexandra M.’s

trial testimony. He asked the jury not to “be concerned about the legal document

I’m sure [defense] counsel will talk about in which the [Alexandra M.] sexual

assault was described [only] as a rape. When I spoke with her on the phone,

I didn’t go into detail with her and ask her questions about each individual detail

of the incident. I didn’t think it was necessary; and I didn’t think it was proper to

do that to a woman who was traumatized the way she had, to make her discuss

those details on the phone to a stranger. [¶] It is common for women to refer to a

rape to cover all the incidents of a sexual assault. If you want to blame someone

for the lack of details in that document, blame me. Don’t blame Alexandra.”

The prosecutor also hypothesized why Alexandra M. wrote that she

enjoyed the sex, told Yen it was consensual, and did not report the incident to the

authorities sooner. Citing both Alexandra’s “tearstained” airplane letter and her

later statement, in a second conversation with Yen, that defendant took advantage

of her because she was worthless, the prosecutor said, “It’s very common for a


woman or a girl in this case to have feelings of guilt and shame even though she’s

done nothing wrong. . . . [¶] And it may very well be that Alexandra was so

traumatized by what happened to her that she couldn’t admit at first what

happened, so it took her time to be able to say, to admit and realize what her uncle

had done to her.” Defendant raised no objection.

On appeal, defendant contends this argument constituted improper

vouching for Alexandra M.’s credibility. The prosecutor, defendant claims,

wrongly bolstered her testimony with his personal knowledge and assurances

when he alluded to his telephone contact with Alexandra, stated “why he did or

did not discuss certain things with her,” and asked the jury to blame him, not her,

for any discrepancies. Furthermore, defendant insists, the prosecutor gave

“unqualified expert opinion,” not supported by trial evidence, about the common

effects of rape trauma on the victim’s ability to understand, accept, and report

what happened to her. As a result, defendant urges, he suffered violations of his

federal constitutional rights to due process, confrontation, fair trial, impartial jury,

adequate legal representation, and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment.

(U.S. Const., 5th, 6th, 8th & 14th Amends.)

At the outset, defendant’s failure to raise a vouching objection at trial

forfeits the claim on appeal. (People v. Frye (1998) 18 Cal.4th 894, 970 (Frye);

People v. Medina (1995) 11 Cal.4th 694, 756-757 (Medina).)

The claim also fails on the merits. Impermissible vouching occurs “where

the prosecutor places the prestige of the government behind a witness through

personal assurances of the witness’s veracity or suggests that information not

presented to the jury supports the witness’s testimony.” (People v. Fierro (1991)

1 Cal.4th 173, 211 (Fierro).) But “so long as a prosecutor’s assurances . . . are

based on the ‘facts of [the] record and the inferences reasonably drawn therefrom,

rather than any purported personal knowledge or belief,’ [his] comments cannot be


characterized as improper vouching.” (Frye, supra, 18 Cal.4th 894, 971; see also

Medina, supra, 11 Cal.4th 694, 757.)

Such is the case here. The prosecutor’s references to his telephone contact

with Alexandra M., and his stated reasons for not questioning her about the details

of the assault, are amply supported either directly, or by reasonable inference,

from the trial evidence. The stipulation read to the jury indicated that the

prosecutor first spoke to Alexandra in July 1992, one month before filing the Offer

of Proof, that in this and subsequent conversations she mentioned only a rape, and

that it was “his practice” not to subject sexual assault victims to detailed

questioning. Alexandra confirmed that she first spoke with the prosecutor “on the

phone” in July 1992, and told him the “basic” facts of the incident at that time.

Jurors could readily infer that the prosecutor’s restrained questioning “practice” in

sex assault cases stemmed from his sensitivity to the victim’s traumatized state.

Nor was the prosecutor obliged to present a rape trauma expert before

suggesting that feelings of confusion and unwarranted shame might have caused

Alexandra M. to be uncertain about whether the sexual encounter with defendant

was consensual, and to delay reporting the incident. There was substantial

evidence that she was confused and ashamed as a result of the assault. She

testified she was “hysterically crying” immediately after the incident, even though

defendant told her she had enjoyed the experience, and she knew no better.

Alexandra further testified that she remained hysterical as she boarded the

plane home, and that she cried during the flight as she drafted a letter about the

episode to Margaret Yen. In this letter, which was admitted in evidence,

Alexandra said she “enjoyed” the sex, but also that she “hate[d] [her]self,” that

Yen would probably want nothing more to do with her “now that I have shamed

myself and my family,” and that “I can never look at my aunt or my cousins



According to Alexandra, she was a “basket case” during the three months

between the assault and the discovery of her pregnancy. Only then did she tell her

mother, without “go[ing] into detail,” and she still kept the matter secret from

other family members.

Yen, testifying as a defense witness, recounted Alexandra’s statement,

months after the incident, that it must have been caused by her own worthlessness.

Yen could tell from the conversation that Alexandra was feeling “some shame.”

Six years after the assault, when the FBI contacted her family in connection with

defendant’s fugitive status, Alexandra still had told only close family and friends.

Alexandra stated that, even recently, she was reluctant to testify about the assault

because of the effect it would have on her grandfather, who was ill.

This evidence readily permitted an inference that Alexandra M. was

traumatized, confused, and unjustifiably ashamed about defendant’s assault, and

that this might have influenced her reluctance to report the matter. No improper

vouching occurred.36

4. Biblical references

In the midst of his lengthy penalty phase argument, the prosecutor

admonished the jury that the statutory aggravating factors were the only ones the

jury could consider, but said he “want[ed] to speak briefly about the subject of

religion in case there is anybody who may have a problem or may feel an


We also reject on its merits defendant’s argument that the prosecutor

vouched for Alexandra M.’s credibility by asserting that women “common[ly]”
use the word “rape” to refer to sexual assaults generally. This was not an
insinuation that evidence known to the prosecutor, but not presented to the jury,
made Alexandra’s trial testimony more credible, but an argument based on a
matter of everyday experience. The jurors could evaluate this claim for
themselves, and were free to accept or reject it based on their own understanding
of common language usage.


impediment principled by that.” While quotes from the Bible could not be used in

aggravation, he cautioned, he offered them “only . . . to show that the death

penalty has from the beginning of time been repeatedly considered a just and

proper punishment for murderers.”

Quoting Genesis 9:6 (“whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his

blood be shed, for in [H]is image did God make man”), the prosecutor said this

stood for two concepts: “The first is that capital punishment for murderers is

necessary to preserve the sanctity of human life, and second being it is man’s

obligation to do it.” The sanctity of life, the prosecutor continued, does not forbid,

but demands, the death penalty for murder, because a lesser penalty “means that

the taking of life is not that serious an offense.”

The prosecutor followed with other biblically attributed quotes on a similar

theme: “He who fatally strikes a man shall be put to death”; “You shall not make

reparations for the soul of a murderer who deserves to die, and he shall be put to

death”; “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord”; “The ruler bears not the

sword in vain for he is a minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him

that doeth evil.”

“That’s all I want to say on that subject, [l]adies and [g]entlemen,” he

concluded. Defendant did not object.

Defendant responded with his own religious references. Counsel noted that

when Cain slew Abel, God did not kill Cain, but banished him with a mark.

Counsel urged that although he was “not a particularly religious person,” he

believed jurors who imposed death might one day face “memory’s accusing

voice” asking “did I do the wrong thing?” He also suggested that “[e]very

philosophical tenet of faith that I’m familiar with, Christianity, Judaism,

Buddhism, almost says the same thing. To err is human, to forgive divine. Man

without mercy is not man at all.”


Defendant now insists the prosecutor’s invocation of the Bible as religious

authority for the death penalty undermined the jurors’ sense of penalty

responsibility, and discouraged them from giving individualized consideration to

mitigating factors. As a result, he urges, he was denied his Eighth Amendment

right to a reliable penalty determination.

At the outset, defendant’s failure to object at trial forfeits the claim on

appeal. (E.g., Vieira, supra, 35 Cal.4th 264, 298; People v. Slaughter (2002)

27 Cal.4th 1187, 1209 (Slaughter); People v. Ervin (2000) 22 Cal.4th 48, 100

(Ervin).) In any event, even if the prosecutor’s argument overstepped proper

bounds, defendant fails to show the remarks at issue warrant reversal of the

penalty judgment.

A prosecutor may not cite the Bible or religion as a basis to impose the

death penalty. (E.g., Ervin, supra, 22 Cal.4th 48, 100; People v. Roybal (1998)

19 Cal.4th 481, 519-521; People v. Wash (1993) 6 Cal.4th 215, 260-261 (Wash).)

On the other hand, we have suggested it is not impermissible to argue, for the

benefit of religious jurors who might fear otherwise, that application of the death

penalty according to secular law does not contravene biblical doctrine (e.g.,

Bradford, supra, 14 Cal.4th 1005, 1063; Arias, supra, 13 Cal.4th 92, 180;

People v. Davenport (1995) 11 Cal.4th 1171, 1223 (Davenport)), or that the Bible

shows society’s historical acceptance of capital punishment (People v. Williams

(1988) 45 Cal.3d 1268, 1325). This prosecutor sought to cast his remarks


However, he did not strictly confine himself to these themes. Though he

insisted he sought only to allay religious misgivings about the propriety of the

death penalty, he did not simply argue that jurors could impose capital punishment

without offending the Bible’s teachings. Instead, he asserted that the Bible, and

particularly Genesis 9:6, makes it man’s duty to impose that penalty to preserve


the sanctity of human life. He urged that the Bible not only permits such action,

but demands it. We recently have suggested or assumed that prosecutorial

arguments substantially similar to the one at issue here are improper. (Vieira,

supra, 35 Cal.4th 264, 297-298; Slaughter, supra, 27 Cal.4th 1187, 1208-1210.)

But even if we similarly assume this prosecutor’s comments went too far,

we find, as in Vieira and Slaughter, that defendant suffered no prejudice. In this

regard, we note that the prosecutor’s biblical comments “were part of a longer

argument that properly focused upon the factors in aggravation and mitigation.”

(Slaughter, supra, 27 Cal.4th 1187, 1210.) Hence, there is no likelihood his

biblical references diminished the jury’s sense of responsibility or displaced the

court’s standard penalty instructions. (Vieira, supra, 35 Cal.4th 264, 297; Wash,

supra, 6 Cal.4th 216, 251.) That defendant himself invoked religious principles is

further evidence he suffered no unfair damage at the prosecutor’s hands. (Ervin,

supra, 22 Cal.4th 48, 100.) Hence, reversal of the penalty judgment is not


5. Comments regarding lack of mental illness evidence

In the midst of his argument that no mitigating factors applied, the

prosecutor discussed, in turn, factor (h) (§ 190.3, factor (h)), i.e., whether the

defendant’s capacity to “appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform

his conduct to the requirements of law was impaired as a result of mental disease

or defect, or the [e]ffects of intoxication.” In that regard, he told the jury “you

have heard not one shred of evidence from a psychologist or psychiatrist or family

member or anybody of any mental impairment on the part of the defendant. You

heard no evidence of any mental disease or effect of intoxication, not from the

defendant, not from anybody.” Defendant did not object.

Later, when discussing factor (k) (§ 190.3, factor (k)), i.e., whether there

was “[a]ny other circumstance which extenuates the gravity of the crime even


though it is not a legal excuse for the crime,” the prosecutor remarked, “No

evidence of unhappy childhood. No evidence of drug or alcohol problems. No

evidence of any mental problems.” (Italics added.) Again, defendant raised no


Defendant claims the prosecutor thus willfully misled the jury, because he

knew there was evidence of defendant’s mental illness—the “born insane” letter

he had received from defendant’s sister Terri Zambrano. (See discussion, ante.)

The prosecutor’s misconduct, defendant asserts, violated his federal constitutional

rights to a fair penalty determination, effective assistance of counsel, freedom

from cruel and unusual punishment, due process, and equal protection of the law.

(U.S. Const., 5th, 6th, 8th, & 14th Amends.) The claim must be rejected.

Once again, defendant’s failure to object at trial to the remarks now

challenged forfeits the claim on appeal. (E.g., People v. Hinton (2006) 37 Cal.4th

839, 903 (Hinton).) In any event, the prosecutor committed no misconduct. He

merely observed, accurately, that the jury had heard no evidence on this subject.

While the prosecutor may not misstate the record, “[i]n general, . . . [he] may

comment on the record as it actually stands.” (People v. Keenan (1988) 46 Cal.3d

478, 509 (Keenan).)

Defendant had obtained a copy of the letter before the end of the guilt trial,

but did not attempt to introduce it, or any related mental evidence, at the penalty

trial. The record contains no explanation for the omission. (See Keenan, supra,

46 Cal.3d 478, 509.) Defendant now suggests the prosecutor’s delay in turning it

over prevented him from conducting a timely investigation of the allegations it

contained, and the letter’s author had, in any event, since died. But defendant had

the letter no later than April 12, 1993, when he moved for a mistrial on Brady

grounds, citing the prosecutor’s failure to disclose it. The defense did not begin to

present its penalty case until May 4, 1993, almost three weeks later.


When it denied a guilt mistrial, the court specifically said defendant was

free to submit the letter to a psychiatrist for whatever help it might be at the

penalty phase. And, despite Terri Zambrano’s death, there were indications that

other members of defendant’s family were still available to provide information

about his mental health. Yet counsel sought no continuance to pursue the matter.

The record thus provides no ground to conclude the prosecutor’s comment

was unfair. Moreover, the trial court gave a standard instruction that statements

by attorneys are not evidence. “Under the circumstances, we find no misconduct

of the sort defendant suggests.” (Keenan, supra, 46 Cal.3d 478, 510, fn. omitted.)

6. Derogatory references to defendant

At a point in his closing penalty argument, the prosecutor addressed the

issue whether the defendant acted under “extreme duress” or “the substantial

domination of another” (§ 190.3, factor (f)). The prosecutor argued, without

objection, that there was no evidence of either because defendant “acted on his

own and did what he did for his own evil reasons.”

Later, the prosecutor urged that defendant deserved no leniency as one who

never before did anything wrong, or killed from an internal breakdown or human

weakness. Defendant, said the prosecutor, was “just the opposite”; he killed to

suit his purposes, as a way of solving his problems, even to the point of carrying

out, in cold blood, the murder and dismemberment of his friend. Thus, the

prosecutor argued, “this man is especially evil, and this man is especially

deserving of the death penalty. [¶] This is not human weakness, ladies and

gentlemen. This is evil. This defendant is much more like the other end of the

spectrum, the hit man, the hired killer, except he does it himself.”

Still later, the prosecutor stressed that “[t]his defendant was not forced into

evil because of some environmental factor. This defendant had everything going

for him. He chose evil, [l]adies and [g]entlemen.” Finally, the prosecutor said,


“All you heard from the defendant are lies, [l]adies and [g]entlemen. He has not

changed one bit over the years. He is still the same dangerous sociopath he has

always been.”

Defendant now urges that the prosecutor committed misconduct, and

injected his personal opinions into the case, by branding defendant as “evil,” a liar,

and a “sociopath.” As a result, he insists, he was denied his constitutional right to

a fair and reliable penalty determination.

Defendant failed to object to any of these comments, though a prompt

admonition would have cured any harm. He has therefore forfeited the claim on

appeal. (E.g., People v. San Nicolas (2004) 34 Cal.4th 614, 665-666.)

His claim lacks merit in any event. There is a wide range of permissible

argument at the penalty phase. (E.g., People v. Ochoa (1998) 19 Cal.4th 353, 463

(Ochoa).) Argument may include opprobrious epithets warranted by the evidence.

(Sandoval, supra, 4 Cal.4th 155, 180.) Where they are so supported, we have

condoned a wide range of epithets to describe the egregious nature of the

defendant’s conduct. (E.g., Farnam, supra, 28 Cal.4th 107, 168 [defendant is

“monstrous,” “cold-blooded,” vicious, and a “predator”; evidence is “horrifying”

and “more horrifying than your worst nightmare”]; People v. Thomas (1992)

2 Cal.4th 489, 537 (Thomas) [defendant is “mass murderer, rapist,” “perverted

murderous cancer,” and “walking depraved cancer”]; Sully, supra, 53 Cal.3d 1195,

1249 [based on facts of crime, defendant is “human monster” and “mutation”].)

Defendant brutally assaulted the Mishells because he believed they had

exposed his extramarital affair. After admitting this to his friend Reyna, he

murdered Reyna to prevent Reyna from testifying to the admission. Defendant

then dismembered and scattered Reyna’s body to hamper its identification. The

prosecutor could properly characterize these acts as “evil,” and could brand

defendant as “evil” for committing them. And, considering that defendant was a


successful contractor and public official whose life began its downward spiral

when he decided to commit adultery, the prosecutor was not amiss for suggesting

that he “chose” his evil course.

Nor did the prosecutor mischaracterize the evidence by saying that

defendant told nothing but lies, and was a sociopath. When a defendant’s

testimony contradicts the strong evidence of his guilt, it is not improper to call him

a liar. (People v. Edelbacher (1989) 47 Cal.3d 983, 1030 [“snake in the jungle,”

“slick,” “tricky,” a “pathological liar,” and “one of the greatest liars in the history

of Fresno County”]; People v. Reyes (1974) 12 Cal.3d 486, 505.) And the label of

sociopath—someone who acts without conscience or remorse—certainly fit

defendant, based on the facts of his crimes. No misconduct occurred.

7. Comments on absence of family witnesses and remorse evidence

As mitigating character witnesses, defendant called persons who knew him

in his adult life as a contractor, computer enthusiast, community activist, and

parent. No family members were presented. There was evidence that his parents

were deceased, and that he wished to spare his children any involvement in the

trial, but that he had a living brother and sister.

In his closing argument, the prosecutor noted defendant’s omission to call

family and childhood witnesses, remarking, “I ask you, who really knows

someone, acquaintances or family, friends, brothers and sisters, the people you

grew up with in your youth? [¶] They really know you; and they were not called,

[l]adies and [g]entlemen. You did not hear from them. You have to ask yourself

what that means and why that was.” The defense raised no objection.

On appeal, defendant urges the prosecutor’s argument unfairly placed

pressure on him to produce a certain kind of mitigating evidence. The failure to

object, where an admonition would have cured any harm, forfeits the point. The

argument is meritless in any event. The prosecutor never suggested defendant had


a legal burden to present family members in mitigation. He merely commented, as

is permitted, on defendant’s failure to call logical witnesses. (E.g., Dennis, supra,

17 Cal.4th 468, 549; Wash, supra, 6 Cal.4th 215, 262-263.)

The prosecutor also argued there was no evidence defendant felt remorse

for his crimes. The prosecutor said, “There is something else you can consider to

see if the defendant deserves sympathy, and that’s remorse. [¶] Is there any

evidence that the defendant has repented or has expressed remorse? [¶] I submit,

[l]adies and [g]entlemen, there has been none, no evidence at all that he has ever

repented, ever expressed remorse for what he did to Luis Reyna in the desecration

of his body, no evidence that he ever admitted the truth of what he did to Luis

Reyna or has ever accepted responsibility for it.” Defendant did not object.

On appeal, defendant first claims these remarks constituted comment on his

failure to testify at the penalty phase, in violation of his Fifth Amendment right

against self-incrimination. (Griffin v. California (1965) 380 U.S. 609 (Griffin);

see Estelle v. Smith (1981) 451 U.S. 454, 462 [5th Amend. privilege applies at

sentencing phase of capital trial].) The claim was not forfeited by his failure to

object, he urges, because an admonition could not have cured the harm.

Even if so (but see Bemore, supra, 22 Cal.4th 809, 854), his Griffin claim

fails on the merits. The prosecutor did not comment that defendant had failed to

take the stand to express remorse; he simply said there was no evidence that

defendant had ever expressed remorse. We have consistently found such penalty

phase argument permissible under Griffin, even where it faults the defendant for

failing to confess guilt and express remorse during his guilt phase testimony.

(E.g., People v. Boyette (2002) 29 Cal.4th 381, 455 (Boyette); Bemore, supra,

22 Cal.4th 809, 854-855; People v. Holt (1997) 15 Cal.4th 619, 691 (Holt);

People v. Osband (1996) 13 Cal.4th 622, 724; People v. Taylor (1990) 52 Cal.3d

719, 744.) We do so again.


Defendant also argues that the prosecutor’s argument improperly implied

he deserved pity or sympathy only if he had expressed remorse. The claim is

forfeited for failure to object on that ground at trial. In any event, it lacks merit.

The prosecutor only said that “something else” (italics added) the jury could

consider sympathetically—an expression of remorse—was absent. He never

stated or implied the jury could not or should not decide defendant deserved

sympathy unless it found he had expressed remorse.

Finally, defendant contends the prosecutor argued that the absence of

sympathetic evidence was an aggravating factor. Again the claim is forfeited for

failure to object, and is also meritless. The prosecutor did not state or imply that

defendant’s failure to express or show remorse in the wake of his crimes was a

factor in aggravation. He urged only that remorse was absent as a possible

mitigating factor. Such argument is permissible. (Cook, supra, 39 Cal.4th 566,

611; Jurado, supra, 38 Cal.4th 72, 141; Mendoza, supra, 24 Cal.4th 130, 187.)

No misconduct occurred.

8. Argument that defendant did not deserve sympathy

The prosecutor devoted substantial portions of his argument to the premise

that the jury should not show defendant sympathy or mercy. Aside from the “no

remorse” remarks detailed above, the prosecutor argued that “[t]here was no basis

for mitigation or to show sympathy or mercy based upon the evidence presented to

you in this trial.” At another point, he noted that defendant had asked for

sympathy under “section (k)” of the death penalty statute (§ 190.3, factor (k); see

CALJIC No. 8.85) because there was nothing else in mitigation. Then he asked,

“What kinds of things could you consider under [factor] (k) as we’ve seen because

there is nothing else there.” In this regard, he urged that sympathy might be

appropriate for someone who had been born in a ghetto, or had suffered a broken

home or childhood abuse, but the “opposite” was true of defendant, who grew up


in an intact family in a beautiful home in Long Beach. Thus, the prosecutor

insisted, defendant had “absolutely no excuse for what he’s done. And he has no

right to ask you for sympathy for what he’s done.”

The prosecutor asked rhetorically what evidence defendant offered to show

he deserved sympathy or mercy, answered sarcastically by alluding to defendant’s

“interest[ ] in old buildings,” and asked “[h]ow many buildings equal a human

life.” “He asks for sympathy,” said the prosecutor, “but look at the viciousness of

his attack on Robert and Barbara Mishell.”

In summation, the prosecutor asserted: “The defendant asks you for

sympathy and mercy. I ask you to tell him no. He has no right. The crimes he

has committed go far beyond the pale, are too horrible. He’s not entitled to

sympathy or mercy. [¶] I will tell you as the prosecutor representing the People

of the State of California, if you show him the same sympathy and mercy that he

showed to Alexandra [M.], the same sympathy and mercy that he showed to

Robert and to Barbara Mishell, the same sympathy that he showed to Luis Reyna,

then I will be satisfied and justice will be done. If this defendant deserves

sympathy, then they all do; and we become defenseless against predators among

us, and they devour us.”

Defendant urges this argument violated his Eighth Amendment right to the

jury’s sympathetic consideration to all character and background evidence

proffered in support of a penalty less than death. (E.g., Eddings v. Oklahoma

(1982) 455 U.S. 104, 114-117.) The gravamen of the claim appears to be that the

prosecutor improperly told the jury that sympathy evidence was irrelevant, and

that defendant was not legally entitled to sympathy or mercy.37


Defendant raised no objection during this argument. However, prior to the

commencement of closing arguments, he filed a written motion to prohibit the

(footnote continued on next page)


The prosecutor made no such assertion. On the contrary, he acknowledged

that sympathy and mercy were factors the jury could consider in deciding the

appropriate punishment, and he indicated that sympathetic evidence, if any, must

be weighed against the evidence of aggravating factors. However, he urged, when

weighed against all the aggravating evidence, the evidence in mitigation was

“nothing,” and “[t]here was no basis for mitigation or to show mercy or sympathy

to this defendant based upon the evidence presented to you in this trial.” (Italics


All the excerpts cited by defendant pursued the same theme, i.e., that this

defendant did not deserve sympathy or mercy on the basis of the evidence actually

presented. The prosecutor’s rhetorical assertions that defendant had no “right” to

“ask” the jury for sympathy or mercy in light of his terrible crimes and the lack of

sympathetic evidence would not reasonably be understood to mean that

consideration of sympathy and mercy was legally foreclosed, or that sympathetic

evidence was irrelevant. Instead, they suggested only that defendant had not

presented a case deserving of consideration on the issue. We have often upheld

such arguments. (E.g., Vieira, supra, 35 Cal.4th 264, 296; Ochoa, supra,

19 Cal.4th 353, 464-465; People v. Jones, supra, 15 Cal.4th 119, 184-185; Arias,

supra, 13 Cal.4th 92, 176-177.) We do so again.

(footnote continued from previous page)
prosecutor from arguing that sympathy should not be considered by the jury. In
the midst of a confusing argument on the motion, counsel said his request was “to
issue an order prohibiting [the prosecutor] from arguing the jury cannot consider
sympathy.” The court, after asking, “How can you do that?,” denied the motion.
In context, the court’s ruling appears only to have meant the prosecutor was free to
argue the evidence did not warrant sympathy or mercy. In any event, given the
firm denial of the preargument motion, we conclude defendant did not forfeit the
issue by failing to renew his objection during the argument itself.


As noted above, the prosecutor said in his final summation that, as the

People’s representative, he would be satisfied if the jury showed defendant the

same sympathy and mercy defendant showed his victims. Defendant contends this

was misconduct, in that the prosecutor used his official position to vouch

personally for the appropriateness of the verdict he was urging. (See People v.

Ayala (2000) 24 Cal.4th 243, 288 (Ayala); People v. Benson (1990) 52 Cal.3d 754,

795 (Benson).)

The claim is forfeited for failure to object at trial. It also lacks merit. Here,

as in Ayala and Benson, no improper vouching occurred. The prosecutor simply

stated “ ‘what was obvious and altogether unobjectionable—i.e., that it was the

People’s position that defendant’s crimes called for the ultimate sanction.’

[Citation.]” (Ayala, supra, 24 Cal.4th 243, 288, quoting Benson, supra, 52 Cal.3d

754, 827.) No misconduct occurred.

9. Appeals to “community vengeance,” “collective conscience,” and

“social contract”

Most of the prosecutor’s closing penalty argument, covering some 33 pages

in the reporter’s transcript, was an attempt to persuade the jury that the balance of

aggravating and mitigating evidence warranted the death penalty. At the

conclusion of his argument, however, the prosecutor said he wanted to talk for a

few minutes about the “philosophy” of capital punishment.

In this regard, the prosecutor indicated that the purpose of the death penalty

is collective vengeance, defined simply as punishment or retribution for a wrong.

He urged that such vengeance is a vital expression of the community’s outrage,

and that the vigor of society’s values is nourished by use of the criminal justice

system to impose punishments that reflect the community’s “controlled

indignation.” He asserted that a society incapable of imposing such punishment


where warranted is decadent and emasculated, and that the jury serves as the

community’s conscience in implementing this sanction.

The prosecutor also invoked John Locke’s concept of the social contract,

whereby each individual surrenders the personal right of vengeance in favor of

state-controlled retribution. The jury’s failure to implement the death penalty, he

argued, would violate this contract, for if society were unable or unwilling to

impose even the most drastic punishment in appropriate cases, individuals, having

lost faith in state justice and protection, might return to vigilantism and personal


Defendant did not object at trial. However, he now claims the prosecutor’s

plea that the jurors act as the community’s conscience and avenger, and that they

apply collective and societal values rather than focusing on a case-specific

determination of the appropriate punishment, diminished their personal sense of

sentencing responsibility, and deprived him of an independent, individualized, and

constitutionally reliable penalty determination, in violation of the Eighth


Because an admonition would have cured any harm, defendant’s failure to

object below forfeits the argument on appeal. In any event, it lacks merit. The

prosecutor never invited the jurors to abrogate their personal responsibility to

determine the appropriate punishment. Nor did he not commit misconduct merely

by describing the jurors, accurately (Witherspoon, supra, 391 U.S. 510, 519-520),

as the conscience of the community (People v. Lucero (2000) 23 Cal.4th 692, 734

(Lucero); People v. Jones, supra, 15 Cal.4th 119, 185-186; see also Lang, supra,

49 Cal.3d 991, 1041) or by noting the jury’s important role in the criminal justice

system (Lang, supra, at p. 1041; Fierro, supra, 1 Cal.4th 173, 248, 249).

Furthermore, the prosecutor did not err by devoting some remarks to a

reasoned argument that the death penalty, where imposed in deserving cases, is a


valid form of community retribution or vengeance—i.e., punishment—exacted by

the state, under controlled circumstances, and on behalf of all its members, in lieu

of the right of personal retaliation. Retribution on behalf of the community is an

important purpose of all society’s punishments, including the death penalty. (E.g.,

Spaziano v. Florida (1984) 468 U.S. 447, 462; see also § 1170, subd. (a)(1) [“the

purpose of imprisonment for crime is punishment”].) And the prosecutor was

entitled to direct some argument, as he clearly intended, against the possibility that

one or more jurors harbored lingering reservations about capital punishment as

“equivalent to the State murdering.”

Our modern cases have suggested that prosecutorial references to

community vengeance, while potentially inflammatory, are not misconduct if they

are brief and isolated, and do not form the principal basis for advocating the death

penalty. (E.g., Hinton, supra, 37 Cal.4th 839, 907; Davenport, supra, 11 Cal.4th

1171, 1222; Wash, supra, 6 Cal.4th 215, 262; People v. Ghent (1987) 43 Cal.3d

739, 771.) Concern about extended comment on this issue appears traceable to

People v. Floyd (1970) 1 Cal.3d 694 (Floyd). There we noted that “[a]lthough this

court has never held that it is improper for a prosecutor in closing argument in a

penalty trial to ask the jury to impose the death penalty for reasons of retribution

or vengeance, we have stated in other contexts that ‘There is no place in the

[sentencing] scheme for punishment for its own sake, the product simply of

vengeance or retribution.’ [Citation.]” (Id. at pp. 721-722.)

Floyd also pointed to another earlier statement of this court, i.e., that

“ ‘[w]hatever may have been the fact historically, retribution is no longer

considered the primary objective of the criminal law [citation] and is thought by

many not even to be a proper consideration [citations].’ ” (Floyd, supra, 1 Cal.3d

694, 722.) Intervening changes in penal philosophy (see discussion, ante) make


these statements suspect, and thus ameliorate concerns about the inflammatory

irrelevance of such prosecutorial argument.

Here, the prosecutor’s comments were not brief or isolated, but neither did

they form the principal basis of his argument. Moreover, his remarks were not

inflammatory. They did not seek to invoke untethered passions, or to dissuade

jurors from making individual decisions, but only to assert that the community,

acting on behalf of those injured, has the right to express its values by imposing

the severest punishment for the most aggravated crimes. This case, the prosecutor

was at pains to suggest, was one of those that deserved such severe punishment.

No misconduct occurred.

10. “Future dangerousness” argument

The prosecutor argued that, based on defendant’s crimes, “there was every

reason to believe he will be as dangerous in prison as he was on the street.”

Alluding to the numerous incident reports in defendant’s jail record, including two

fights, the prosecutor noted that defendant “couldn’t even keep his nose clean” in

jail. Thus, the prosecutor asked, “How will he be in state prison,” where he would

have no incentive to behave. The prosecutor continued in the rhetorical-question

vein, asking, “Would any guard or inmate be safe from this defendant? [¶] And if

he does kill again in prison, what do we say then, Ladies and Gentlemen? What

do we say to the family, that we didn’t know how he was? [¶] . . . [¶] How

many victims must there be before we finally say to this defendant enough?”

Defendant did not object.

Defendant now insists the prosecutor improperly played to the jury’s fears

by speculating on his future dangerousness, thus denying him the reliable penalty

verdict guaranteed by the Eighth Amendment. Defendant’s failure to object at

trial forfeits the claim, and it lacks merit in any event.


As defendant concedes, the prosecutor may not present expert evidence of

future dangerousness as an aggravating factor, but he may argue from the

defendant’s past conduct, as indicated in the record, that the defendant will be a

danger in prison. (E.g., Boyette, supra, 29 Cal.4th 381, 446; People v. Michaels

(2002) 28 Cal.4th 486, 540-541; Ervin, supra, 22 Cal.4th 48, 99; Thomas, supra,

2 Cal.4th 489, 537.) Defendant insists, however, that the prosecutor’s “what if”

approach went beyond the evidence into the realm of emotion. We find no

impropriety. The prosecutor was entitled to present his argument in colorful

terms. (See, e.g., Boyette, supra, at p. 446 [given strong likelihood that defendant

will kill again, “ ‘You have to ask yourselves, do you want to put more families

through that?’ ”]; Michaels, supra, at p. 540 [“ ‘Just think of all the generations of

prisoners that will . . . be exposed to [defendant’s] extreme danger . . . [and] of all

the prison guards who will be lucky enough to meet [him]’ ”].) No misconduct


11. Argument that defendant had received a fair trial

In the course of his argument, the prosecutor commented that defendant,

represented by two “experienced, topnotch criminal defense attorneys” with the

aid of a long-term investigator, had had the “fairest trial imaginable” before “a

judge that is known throughout the state for fairness and his knowledge of the law

on death penalty cases.” The prosecutor further noted that the jurors, after going

through a two-month selection process, had been chosen “specifically because of

[their] fairness and impartiality.” Moreover, the prosecutor observed, defendant

had been able to confront all the witnesses presented against him and had “had the

opportunity to present any and all evidence he wished to on his behalf.” The result

of “all this,” said the prosecutor, was that defendant was guilty beyond doubt of

the charges and deserved the death penalty. Defendant did not object.


Defendant now contends this argument wrongly invoked the prosecutor’s

official prestige, and his purported expertise and personal knowledge, to vouch for

the quality of defendant’s trial representation, the reputation of the presiding

judge, and the fairness of the trial process, thereby reassuring jurors that defendant

had received every protection against arbitrary and unwarranted imposition of the

death penalty. The prosecutor’s assertions, defendant urges, were not supported

by evidence in the record, and were in many respects inaccurate, but were likely to

be accepted by the jurors, who had no basis to evaluate their truth or falsity,

because of the prosecutor’s status. As a result, defendant insists, he suffered

violations of his federal constitutional rights to a fair trial, an impartial jury, due

process, equal protection, and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment. (U.S.

Const., 5th, 6th, 8th & 14th Amends.)

Defendant’s failure to object at trial forfeits the claim. In any event, he

demonstrates no basis for reversal. As the People point out, the prosecutor’s

comments were supported by the record, or by the jurors’ personal observations.

The prosecutor’s global assertion, that defendant had had the “fairest trial

imaginable,” would only be understood as established by the specific factors then

cited by the prosecutor. The jurors could see that defendant was represented by

two attorneys, whom the court had described, in the jurors’ presence, as

experienced, skilled, and competent. The defense investigator testified he had

worked on the case for several years. The trial judge informed the jurors he had

been on the bench a long time and had tried many capital cases—thus suggesting

his reputation and competence in that area were high—and the jurors could

observe his daily handling of the case, including his interactions with the opposing


The jurors also knew they had gone through an extended selection process,

involving questions designed to determine if they were fair and impartial. They


could see the defense had presented numerous witnesses, and had been allowed to

cross-examine prosecution witnesses. In sum, reasonable jurors would understand

the prosecutor’s “fairest trial imaginable” remark simply as an argumentative gloss

on matters directly before them.

Defendant urges the prosecutor was willfully false in his statement that

defendant had the “opportunity” to present “any and all evidence” he wished.

Defendant cites the effect of the prosecutor’s late disclosure of Terri Zambrano’s

“born insane” letter on the defense’s ability to present mental evidence. But as we

have seen, the record gives no indication that the belated acquisition of the letter—

whatever caused the delay—prevented the defense from introducing available,

material evidence.

In any event, the prosecutor’s argument was, at bottom, mere puffery, and

would readily be recognized as such. This is especially so in light of the standard

instruction, given by the court, that statements by attorneys are not evidence.

There was no misconduct, and no conceivable prejudice. Defendant’s claim must

be rejected.

12. Cumulative prejudice from misconduct

Defendant asserts he suffered cumulative prejudice from the multiple

instances of alleged misconduct by the prosecutor in his closing penalty argument.

But we have identified only one possible such instance of misconduct, the

prosecutor’s discussion of biblical themes (see discussion, ante), and have

concluded that, if error, these remarks were clearly harmless. We therefore reject

defendant’s claim of cumulative prejudice.

G. Penalty trial error issues

1. Admission of unadjudicated rape of Alexandra M.

Defendant urges that admission, as aggravating evidence, of the

unadjudicated sexual assault against Alexandra M. violated his federal


constitutional rights to due process, equal protection, a fair and impartial jury, and

a reliable penalty verdict. (U.S. Const., 5th, 6th, 8th & 14th Amends.)38 He

asserts that jurors who had found him guilty of capital offenses could not

impartially judge his guilt of the aggravating crime, and that he was denied the

protection of a unanimous jury verdict beyond a reasonable doubt. We reject the

contention, as we have many times before. (E.g., Stanley, supra, 39 Cal.4th 913,

962; Anderson, supra, 25 Cal.4th 543, 584-585; Jenkins, supra, 22 Cal.4th 900,

1054; People v. Samayoa (1997) 15 Cal.4th 795, 863; Balderas, supra, 41 Cal.3d

144, 204-205.)

Defendant also claims his federal and state due process rights were violated

by virtue of the “pre-accusation” delay in “prosecuting” the 1982 sexual assault on

Alexandra M. But we have consistently held that the prosecution may offer in

aggravation the defendant’s violent criminal activity that occurred at any time.

Absent demonstrable prejudice, the remote time at which that activity occurred

does not violate the defendant’s due process, speedy trial, or fair trial rights. (E.g.,

People v. Yeoman (2003) 31 Cal.4th 93, 136-138; People v. Koontz (2002)

27 Cal.4th 1041, 1088; Anderson, supra, 25 Cal.4th 543, 585-586; Medina, supra,

11 Cal.4th 694, 772.) Though defendant claims prejudice, he demonstrates none

except the damaging nature of the evidence. The evidence was admissible.39


Defendant moved in limine to exclude the Alexandra M. incident from the

penalty phase, claiming, among other things, that the use of unadjudicated
criminal activity as aggravating evidence violates the federal Constitution. The
motion was denied, but the court accepted the parties’ stipulation that this motion
would be deemed “continuing and timely.”

39 There is no merit in defendant’s related claim that the court violated his Fifth,
Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights by instructing, over defense
objection, on the elements of sodomy and forcible oral copulation as related to the
assault on Alexandra M. The argument rests entirely on the premise that it was

(footnote continued on next page)


2. Denial of allocution

At the outset of the penalty trial, defendant moved for permission to

allocute before the penalty jury, i.e., to make a personal statement immune from

cross-examination. Counsel’s attached declaration stated that, if permitted to do

so, defendant would speak about the “constructive worth and value of his life even

as it may exist in prison,” the artistic and vocational activities he might wish to

undertake behind bars, his opportunity to teach other inmates based on his

experience and knowledge, his love for his children, and “[h]is promise of good

behavior while serving out the remainder of his life in prison.” The motion was


Defendant now urges the denial of allocution was error. The consequence,

he insists, was a violation of his federal constitutional rights to due process, equal

protection, and a reliable penalty verdict. (U.S. Const., 5th, 6th, 8th & 14th

Amends.) In particular, he asserts, he was treated unequally compared to

noncapital defendants, who do have a right of allocution at sentencing.

As defendant concedes, we have repeatedly rejected similar arguments.

(E.g., People v. Carter (2005) 36 Cal.4th 1215, 1276; Lucero, supra, 23 Cal.4th

692, 717; People v. Clark (1993) 5 Cal.4th 950, 1036-1037 [summarily dismissing

equal protection argument]; Keenan, supra, 46 Cal.3d 478, 511; People v. Robbins

(1988) 45 Cal.3d 867, 888-890 (Robbins).)

(footnote continued from previous page)
error to admit evidence about these unadjudicated and insufficiently noticed
crimes. We have rejected that contention. The instructional argument thus also


Defendant was later allowed to allocute to the trial court before it ruled on

the automatic motion for modification of the death verdict under section 190.4,
subdivision (e) (§ 190.4(e)). (See discussion, post.)


We have held generally that capital and noncapital sentencees are not

similarly situated for purposes of equal protection. (E.g., People v. Elliot (2005)

37 Cal.4th 453, 488; People v. Williams, supra, 45 Cal.3d 1268, 1330.) With

regard to allocution specifically, we have explained that noncapital sentencees

have no other right to express themselves about the appropriate sentence, while

capital defendants may take the stand and testify on that issue. (Robbins, supra,

45 Cal.3d 867, 889.) In the latter context, a right of allocution immune from

cross-examination contravenes the capital sentencing law’s purpose to provide the

sentencer with all relevant information bearing on the appropriate penalty.

(Keenan, supra, 46 Cal.3d 478, 511.)

Defendant urges that because he did not intend to discuss facts in his

statement, cross-examination would be irrelevant. But his promises to behave

well and be a constructive presence in prison would be a legitimate subject for

cross-examination to test their sincerity based on past conduct. Defendant’s claim

lacks merit.

H. Denial of automatic motion for modification of death verdict

On September 8, 1993, the trial court denied defendant’s automatic motion

for modification of the death verdict (§ 190.4(e)). Defendant claims the ruling

was improper, in that the court disregarded all mitigating evidence.

Defendant did not object below to any aspect of the court’s recitation of its

reasons for denying the automatic modification motion. He has therefore forfeited

his claim. (Lewis and Oliver, supra, 39 Cal.4th 970, 1064, citing People v. Riel

(2000) 22 Cal.4th 1153, 1220 [applying the forfeiture rule to hearings on such

motions following the finality of People v. Hill (1992) 3 Cal.4th 959].) As we

hereafter explain, the contention lacks merit in any event.

Section 190.4(e) requires that, in ruling on the motion, “the judge shall

review the evidence, consider, take into account, and be guided by the aggravating


and mitigating circumstances referred to in [s]ection 190.3, and shall make a

determination as to whether the jury’s findings and verdicts that the aggravating

circumstances outweigh the mitigating circumstances are contrary to law or the

evidence presented. The judge shall state on the record the reasons for his


“ ‘On appeal, we subject a ruling on such an application to independent

review: the decision resolves a mixed question of law and fact; a determination of

this kind is generally examined de novo [citation]. Of course, when we conduct

such scrutiny, we simply review that trial court’s determination after

independently considering the record; we do not make a de novo determination of

penalty.’ ” (People v. Carter (2005) 36 Cal.4th 1114, 1211, quoting Mickey,

supra, 54 Cal.3d 612, 703-704.)

The trial court began its ruling by correctly stating its statutory obligation.

Indicating it had carefully reviewed the guilt and penalty phase evidence, the court

said it was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt of the truth of the guilt and special

circumstance findings, and that defendant had raped Alexandra M. Assessing the

circumstances of the capital crime—the killing of a witness, and the decapitation

and dismemberment of the corpse to hamper identification— the court found them

“totally repulsive,” “heinous,” and “a grave threat to our society,” committed by a

man with a “base, antisocial personality” who had “little regret for his conduct or

the injury caused to innocent people.”

The court indicated it had considered potential factors in mitigation,

including “any circumstances which extenuate the gravity of the crime even

though not a legal excuse for the crime.” In this regard, the court stated, it had

examined all the testimony of “defendant’s neighbors, associates, his children’s

teachers and co-workers,” and of his prison adjustment expert, as well as the

evidence of his participation in civic organizations and his assistance to jail


inmates, but found nothing mitigating in his character or background. On the

contrary, said the court, defendant’s privileged background and adult success

weighed against mitigation. Indeed, said the court, defendant’s life “has been a

life of egocentricity with total disregard for any human being.” Though it had

“considered sympathy and compassion,” the court asserted, in light of the

evidence, “these considerations are not sufficient or do not in any way serve as the

basis of a sentence less than death.”

In sum, the court ruled, “considering all the evidence and by independent

review, the Court’s personal assessment is that the factors in aggravation beyond

all reasonable doubt outweigh those in mitigation, and further the court

independently finds that the evidence of aggravation is so substantial when

compared to the evidence of mitigation that it warrants death and not life without

possibility of parole.”

Thus, the court fully considered all the proffered mitigating evidence and

simply deemed it insufficient to warrant a sentence less than death. On review, we

cannot say that ruling is contrary to law or the evidence. No error occurred.

I. Challenges to capital sentencing scheme

Defendant raises numerous challenges, under the Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and

Fourteenth Amendments, to the California capital sentencing scheme “as applied”

in his case. Some of the issues are presented as claims of instructional error. In

other instances defendant simply suggests that the statutory sentencing scheme

itself, as explicated by the standard instructions given in his case, is

unconstitutional. Still other claims attack the death penalty statute, or the death

penalty process in general, for reasons beyond the instructions. As will appear, no

matter how these arguments are framed, we have rejected all of them.

Defendant urges the trial court erred by failing to instruct that the jury must

find, beyond reasonable doubt (1) the existence of each aggravating factor used to


justify the death penalty, (2) that aggravation outweighed mitigation, and (3) that

death was the appropriate penalty. He is mistaken. (People v. Boyer (2006)

38 Cal.4th 412, 485 (Boyer); Jurado, supra, 38 Cal.4th 72, 143; Stitely, supra,

35 Cal.4th 514, 573; Panah, supra, 35 Cal.4th 395, 499.)

Defendant contends the trial court erred, on similar constitutional grounds,

by refusing his requests to delete from the instructions those sentencing factors

listed in section 190.3 that he deems inapplicable to his case, including factors (d)

(offense committed under “extreme” mental or emotional disturbance), (f)

(defendant’s belief in moral justification or extenuation for his conduct), (h)

(inability to appreciate criminality or conform conduct to law because of mental

disease or defect, or intoxication), (i) (defendant’s age at time of crime) and (j)

(defendant as minor accomplice). (§ 190.3, factors (d), (f), (h), (j).) There is no

such requirement where, as here, the jury was instructed to consider only

“applicable” sentencing factors. (Boyer, supra, 38 Cal.4th 412, 486; People v.

Gray (2005) 37 Cal.4th 168, 236 (Gray); Maury, supra, 30 Cal.4th 342, 439-440.)

In particular, we have made clear that the defendant’s age “is neither aggravating

nor mitigating, ‘but is used in the statute “as a metonym for any age-related matter

suggested by the evidence or by common experience.” ’ ” (Mendoza, supra,

24 Cal.4th 130, 190.)

Defendant finds constitutional error in the court’s failure to designate which

factors are aggravating and which are mitigating. There was no such obligation.

(Boyer, supra, 38 Cal.4th 412, 486; Gray, supra, 37 Cal.4th 168, 236; Kraft,

supra, 23 Cal.4th 978, 1078-1079.)

The sentencing statute and instructions in general, and the mitigating

factors in particular, are not unconstitutionally vague. (Young, supra, 34 Cal.4th

1149, 1226; Lucero, supra, 23 Cal.4th 692, 741; People v. Freeman (1994)

8 Cal.4th 450, 525; Webb, supra, 6 Cal.4th 494, 535.)


The jury need not make written findings of aggravating factors. (People v.

Marlow (2004) 34 Cal.4th 131, 154; Kraft, supra, 23 Cal.4th 978, 1078; Bemore,

supra, 22 Cal.4th 809, 859.)

The jury need not be instructed that it does not have to find mitigating

factors unanimously or beyond a reasonable doubt. (Roldan, supra, 35 Cal.4th

646, 741; Boyette, supra, 29 Cal.4th 381, 466.)

Use of descriptors such as “reasonably believed” and “moral” in sentencing

factor (f) (§ 190.3, factor (f) [whether defendant “reasonably believed” in “moral

justification” for his conduct]) and “substantial” in sentencing factor (g) (id.,

factor (g) [whether defendant acted under “substantial domination” of another])

are not so vague as to erect impermissible barriers to the consideration of

mitigating evidence. (Panah, supra, 35 Cal.4th 395, 500; Boyette, supra,

29 Cal.4th 381, 467.)

The standard sentencing instructions are not constitutionally deficient

insofar as they fail to define mitigation. The presumption that jurors comprehend

the instructions is not rebutted by empirical assertions to the contrary based on

research that is not part of the present record and has not been subject to cross-

examination. (Welch, supra, 20 Cal.4th 701, 772-773; see also Holt, supra,

15 Cal.4th 619, 702.)

The death penalty statute adequately narrows the class of death-eligible

murderers. (People v. Williams (2006) 40 Cal.4th 287, 339; Marks, supra,

31 Cal.4th 197, 237.) Nor is the statute facially invalid insofar as it allows

prosecutors discretion, within its parameters, to decide the cases in which they will

and will not seek the death penalty. (Vieira, supra, 35 Cal.4th 264, 304; People v.

Lucas (1995) 12 Cal.4th 415, 477; Keenan, supra, 46 Cal.3d 478, 505-507.)

The statute is not unconstitutional insofar as it does not require

comparative, or intercase, proportionality review. (Lewis and Oliver, supra,


39 Cal.4th 970, 1067; Stanley, supra, 39 Cal.4th 913, 966; People v. Jablonski

(2006) 37 Cal.4th 774, 837; Panah, supra, 35 Cal.4th 395, 500.) Defendant

claims we also deny intracase proportionality review in capital cases, but he is

mistaken. Upon request, we do undertake to determine whether a particular

defendant’s death sentence “ ‘is so “grossly disproportionate” to the offenses [he

committed] as to constitute cruel or unusual punishment under article I, section 17

of the California Constitution.’ ” (Stanley, supra, 39 Cal.4th 913, 966, quoting

Arias, supra, 13 Cal.4th 92, 193.)

Defendant contends his death sentence was grossly disproportionate to his

individual culpability, but we reject the claim. He was a successful contractor and

public official who brutally assaulted Robert and Barbara Mishell, leaving both

with permanent disabilities, because he believed they had exposed his extramarital

affair. After admitting this assault to his friend and fellow official, Luis Reyna, he

murdered Reyna to prevent Reyna’s testimony against him in the Mishell matter,

then decapitated and dismembered Reyna’s body and dumped it in a remote

location in order to hamper the body’s identification. Under these circumstances,

defendant’s death sentence is not “so disproportionate to his offenses and to his

personal culpability for those offenses as to ‘shock[ ] the conscience’ or ‘offend[ ]

fundamental notions of human dignity.’ ” (Stanley, supra, 39 Cal.4th 913, 967,

quoting People v. Livaditis (1992) 2 Cal.4th 759, 786.)

Defendant urges that the delay in carrying out his death sentence is cruel

and/or unusual punishment in violation of the federal and state Constitutions. But

we have uniformly held that reasonable delays required by the process of

statutorily mandated appellate review do not violate these constitutional

provisions. (E.g., Panah, supra, 35 Cal.4th 395, 500; Ochoa, supra, 19 Cal.4th

353, 477-478.)


Finally, defendant urges that the death penalty is, per se, cruel and unusual

punishment violative of the Eighth Amendment. We continue to reject such

claims. (E.g., Moon, supra, 37 Cal.4th 1, 47-48; People v. Staten (2000)

24 Cal.4th 434, 462 (Staten).)

J. Cumulative penalty phase prejudice

Defendant claims cumulative prejudice from all alleged errors and

misconduct at the penalty phase. We have identified no such error, and only one

possible instance of misconduct, the prosecutor’s biblical references. We have

further found that if misconduct occurred in this respect, it was clearly harmless.

Hence, defendant’s assertion of cumulative prejudice must fail.

K. Other issues

1. New trial motion

Defendant moved for a new trial (§ 1181) on grounds, among others, that

he had been prejudiced by numerous trial court errors and prosecutorial missteps

throughout the course of the guilt and penalty trials (id., subd. 5). The motion

included a “laundry list” of asserted erroneous rulings on defense motions and

objections, and instances of prosecutorial misconduct, with no accompanying

argument as to each individual claim. The trial court denied the motion.

On appeal, defendant urges the trial court thereby erred, violating his rights

under the Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. As below, he lists, in

conclusory fashion, some 30 instances of alleged error and misconduct. Some

have been raised as separate, substantive issues on appeal. Others have not, and as

to those, defendant presents no argument as to why each cited instance was

erroneous or improper.

“ ‘ “ ‘The determination of a motion for a new trial rests so completely

within the court’s discretion that its action will not be disturbed unless a manifest

and unmistakable abuse of discretion clearly appears.’ ” ’ ” (Staten, supra,


24 Cal.4th 434, 466, quoting People v. Cox (1991) 53 Cal.3d 618, 694.)

Defendant fails to meet this test.

We have rejected all defendant’s appellate claims of trial court error and

misconduct, finding no basis therein, singly or cumulatively, for reversal of the

guilt or penalty judgments. Accordingly, those claims, insofar as included in his

new trial motion and arguments, form no grounds for disturbing the trial court’s

ruling. As to the others, claims raised perfunctorily may be rejected on that basis.

(Waidla, supra, 22 Cal.4th 690, 736, fn. 15; People v. Turner (1994) 8 Cal.4th

137, 214, fn. 19.) Defendant has shown no manifest and unmistakable abuse of

discretion in the trial court’s ruling. No basis for reversal appears.

2. Alleged attorney conflict of interest

Defendant argues his trial counsel had a conflict of interest that adversely

affected their performance. The information bearing on this conflict, he asserts,

was contained in the probation and sentencing report read by the judge at the

combined posttrial hearing addressing sentencing and new trial issues.

Accordingly, he insists, the trial court erred by failing, sua sponte, to appoint new

counsel to argue his motion for new trial, and to grant a new trial because of the


We find defendant’s claim unpersuasive. The pertinent facts are these:

In his guilt trial testimony, defendant stated under oath that, on July 19,

1988, the day after Luis Reyna died in his presence, he went with Celebration

Oberman to “[meet] with [his] attorney,” with whom he “had some discussions,”

then went home and packed to leave. Under direct examination, he agreed that, as

he had truthfully written to Oberman in his letter from jail of July 6, 1992, he

decided to leave because (1) he thought that would stop the expected civil suits

arising from the Mishell and Reyna cases, (2) he did not believe the police would

allow him to remain free on bail, and (3) there had been death threats from


Reyna’s brothers. He also indicated he was then thinking about returning as soon

as September or “when I was next scheduled to appear in court.”

On May 20, 1993, following the guilt and penalty verdicts, a probation

officer interviewed defendant for purposes of a sentencing report regarding the

noncapital convictions. As cited by defendant, the report states the following:

During his interview, defendant accused Oberman and Alexandra M. of lying, and

claimed his attorneys had not fully discredited either witness though “there was

clear ammunition to do so.” Defendant then asked whether the officer “really

wanted to hear what I feel were the mistakes made by my attorneys? What I feel

should have been told the jury?” Defendant said he was willing to impart this

information, because he believed it was important and should have been presented

to the jury, but “your report to the court is probably not the place to have [it]

brought out. It will come out at some later time appropriately.” The officer

responded that he was obliged to provide the court with all information he deemed


The report further indicates that, while recounting his version of the Mishell

and Reyna episodes (apparently including information defendant thought was not

sufficiently presented to the jury), defendant stated, as at trial, that he

dismembered Reyna’s body to delay its identification because “I needed time to

confer with my [attorney] about what had happened.” According to defendant, he

did consult his attorney “as soon as he was able to see me.”

At that meeting, which included Oberman and the attorney’s investigator,

defendant claimed, “I told all of them exactly what happened. The advice that

I was given by Tim [Rien] [one of defendant’s trial attorneys] was that I should get

out of the country as quickly as possible! You see that’s some of the information

which the jury never was given. My attorney never tried to impeach Celebration

Oberman when she testified that the first time she ever heard about Reyna’s death


was when I told her while we were lying on a beach in Mexico. All Rien had to

do was to put his investigator on the stand but he refused because, I assume, he has

ambitions to be a judge and he has to maintain a clean record as an attorney in

order to achieve that!” (Italics added.)

After completing his account, defendant again broached the subject of

omitting “these things” from the report. He said, “You see, this really isn’t the

time or the place to bring up these things. It would just complicate my

relationship with my attorneys. I assume that they will need to assist me with my

appeals.” The report states that “[o]ur response to this admonishment was that

[defendant] should never have uttered anything that he wanted kept confidential

from the Court.”

On September 8, 1993, the court held a combined hearing to address

(1) defendant’s pending motion for a new trial, (2) the pending motion for

automatic modification of the death verdict, and (3) noncapital sentencing. At the

outset, defendant was allowed to make a lengthy statement to the court. He

reiterated his claim that there were lying witnesses at trial, conceding that “I was

one. I misstated some truth during the trial.” While blaming various components

of the system for the unjust result in his case, defendant directed mixed praise and

criticism at his own attorneys. However, even though he had been told the

probation officer’s report would include his claim that Attorney Rien had advised

him to leave the country immediately, he said nothing on that subject.

After denying the new trial motion and the motion to modify the death

verdict, the court announced it would pause to read, for the first time, the

probation officer’s report in order to undertake noncapital sentencing.41 Having


As the court indicated, it thereby adhered to the rule that the proper

procedure is to defer reading the probation report until after ruling on the

(footnote continued on next page)


done so, the court did not comment on defendant’s allegations against his attorney,

as contained in the report. Neither did counsel for either side, though all had

received advance copies. (§ 1203, subd. (b)(ii)(E); see id., former subd. (b).) The

court imposed noncapital sentences, pronounced judgment, and concluded the


On appeal, defendant asserts the following: By advising defendant to

commit the additional crime of interstate or foreign flight to escape murder

charges (see 18 U.S.C.A. § 1073), Attorney Rien placed himself in a dilemma.

Rien’s trial duty to defendant required him to show that the true reason for

defendant’s flight was counsel’s advice, not consciousness of guilt. Yet to do so

would expose Rien’s own violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct (see rule

3-210 [attorney shall not advise violation of any law except upon good faith belief

that law is invalid]). The adverse affect of the conflict on counsel’s performance

requires reversal of the guilt and penalty judgments.

“The right to effective assistance of counsel secured by the Sixth

Amendment to the federal Constitution and article I, section 15 of the California

Constitution includes the right to representation free from conflicts of interest.

[Citation.] . . . . To establish a federal constitutional violation, a defendant who

fails to object at trial must show that an actual conflict of interest ‘adversely

affected his lawyer’s performance.’ [Citations.] To show a violation of the

corresponding right under our state Constitution, a defendant need only

demonstrate a potential conflict, so long as the record supports an ‘informed

(footnote continued from previous page)
automatic motion to modify the death verdict. (People v. Lewis (1990) 50 Cal.3d
262, 287; People v. Williams, supra, 45 Cal.3d 1268, 1329-1330.)


speculation’ that the asserted conflict adversely affected counsel’s performance.

[Citations.]” (Frye, supra, 18 Cal.4th 894, 998.)

“When a trial court is aware, or should be aware, of a possible conflict of

interest between a criminal defendant and defense counsel, the court is required to

inquire into the circumstances of the possible conflict and take whatever action

may be appropriate. [Citation.] A trial court’s failure to carry out its duty to

conduct such an inquiry, or to take action based on the results of its inquiry, denies

the defendant the right to due process. [Citation.]” (Frye, supra, 18 Cal.4th 894,


We do not interpret these principles to mean that the court must inquire into

every claim of conflict, however suspect and unfounded. In this instance,

defendant’s unsworn eleventh-hour assertion that his counsel advised him to

engage in criminal flight was, in blunt terms, inherently incredible. During his

extensive sworn testimony, which specifically included the subjects of his

consultation with counsel and his reasons for fleeing, he did not mention it.

Defendant’s unsworn accusation against counsel was made only after the guilt and

penalty verdicts had gone against him. And his statement to the probation officer

was marked by inconsistency. On the one hand, he insisted that counsel’s advice

to flee was something the jury should have heard about. On the other hand, he

proposed that this same information be omitted from the officer’s report, because

the time was not yet right to disclose it.

Though advised that his accusations would indeed be included in the report,

defendant did not allude to them in his subsequent, lengthy allocution to the trial

court—in which he addressed perceived flaws in his legal representation. In the

course of his allocution, defendant admitted he was among the witnesses who had

lied at trial. The trial court obviously agreed with this assessment. In denying the

automatic motion to modify the death verdict, the court declared itself satisfied


beyond reasonable doubt that, contrary to defendant’s trial testimony, he had

murdered Luis Reyna to prevent Reyna’s testimony.

Under these circumstances, the trial court was not obliged to credit,

investigate, or act upon, defendant’s last-minute effort to blame his flight on his

counsel, rather than on his own consciousness of guilt. No error occurred.

Even were we to credit defendant’s claim, and to assume an actual or

potential conflict of interest, defendant fails to raise an inference, or even a basis

for informed speculation, that counsel’s performance was adversely affected. In

arguing otherwise, defendant suggests that evidence of counsel’s advice, if

presented, would have shown he did not flee for venal reasons of his own. But

defendant has never said, on the stand or elsewhere, that counsel’s advice was the

reason he fled. And, as the People observe, such evidence might well have

prejudiced the jurors by suggesting “that [defendant’s] own counsel found [his]

explanation [of the events surrounding Reyna’s death] so incredible that he

advised [defendant] to flee rather than present it to a jury.” In sum, we find no

basis for reversal.

3. Missing records

The reporters’ notes of certain proceedings in this case were lost or

destroyed. Defendant also points to various unreported conferences and

discussions among court and counsel, extending from the time of defendant’s

arrest in the Mishell case through the guilt trial, and including the preliminary

hearing. Defendant seeks a new trial on grounds these omissions denied him a

record adequate for appellate review, in violation of his due process rights.

“An incomplete record is a violation of section 190.9, which requires that

all proceedings in a capital case be conducted on the record with a reporter present

and transcriptions prepared. (See also Cal. Rules of Court, [former] rule

39.51(a)(2) [see now rule 8.610].) Although section 190.9 is mandatory, a


violation of its provisions does not require reversal of a conviction unless the

defendant can show that ‘the appellate record is not adequate to permit meaningful

appellate review.’ [Citation.]” (Frye, supra, 18 Cal.4th 894, 941; see also Seaton,

supra, 26 Cal.4th 598, 699.) Moreover, irregularities in the preliminary hearing

are no basis for reversal on appeal unless defendant can demonstrate a resulting

unfairness in the subsequent trial. (See Crandell, supra, 46 Cal.3d 833, 855;

Pompa-Ortiz, supra, 27 Cal.3d 519, 529-530.)

As we explain, defendant fails to meet these tests. At a record settlement

conference on December 3, 1999, the prosecutor and lead defense trial counsel

Timothy Rien agreed as to the inconsequential nature of most of these discussions,

and the available record supports their recollections.42 Even as to the remainder,

the available record strongly suggests nothing affecting the validity of the

judgment occurred. Thus, there is no basis to conclude the record is inadequate.

The reporter’s notes of a number of 1988 municipal court proceedings

relating solely to the Mishell assault case were destroyed. At the record settlement

proceeding, both the prosecutor and Rien indicated they knew nothing of the

content of these proceedings. Rien’s predecessor, Attorney Schnayerson, who

represented defendant at this early stage, had also professed no recall.

However, the clerk’s transcript confirms, as the prosecutor suggested

during record settlement, that the proceedings were routine, involving

arraignment, bail, time waiver, defendant’s motion for discovery, and substitution


Judge Golde, who had presided at trial, died in October 1998, and the 1999

record settlement proceeding was held before Judge Goodman. Defendant urges
that Judge Golde’s unavailability, and the fact that counsel’s recollections were
sometimes qualified by such words as “probably” and “believe,” undermines the
reliability of the settlement proceedings. For reasons we explain below, we are
not persuaded.


of counsel. Defendant demonstrates no realistic possibility of prejudice from

events occurring during these proceedings.

The reporter’s notes relating to a municipal court proceeding on December

7, 1989, were also lost. At the record settlement proceeding, counsel could not

recall what occurred on that occasion. The pertinent docket entry indicates that a

defense motion for discovery was granted in part, submitted in part, and continued

for further proceedings on January 17, 1990. Defendant shows no realistic chance

that anything warranting reversal took place during this proceeding.

Defendant cites nine unreported conferences or discussions during the

preliminary hearing. At the record settlement conference, trial counsel essentially

agreed that all these unreported matters involved scheduling or evidentiary issues

peculiar to the preliminary hearing itself. The available record supports this

determination. Defendant fails to show, and our careful review does not disclose,

any realistic chance that any of these off-the-record discussions affected the

fairness of his subsequent trial. (Pompa-Ortiz, supra, 27 Cal.3d 519, 529.)

Defendant next cites a number of allegedly unreported pretrial matters in

the superior court. Both the record settlement conference and the available record

indicate that these proceedings involved only the setting and continuation of the

trial date. There is no hint of any controversy on this scheduling issue that might

have affected defendant’s rights. Hence, defendant does not show, and our careful

review does not reveal, any realistic possibility defendant was prejudiced by the

failure to place these oral proceedings on the record.43

43 In one instance—an August 17, 1990, proceeding at which defendant’s
motion for dismissal under section 995 was heard and denied—the minute order
erroneously describes the proceeding as unreported. At the record settlement
proceeding, this was brought to the court’s attention. The court ordered a
reporter’s transcript to be prepared and included in the record, and this was done.

(footnote continued on next page)


Defendant claims prejudice from the failure to report a number of

discussions and conferences during trial. In particular, he points to unreported

discussions during jury voir dire, insinuating that they might pertain to the

prosecutor’s improper dismissal of African-American prospective jurors (see

discussion, ante). The record does not bear out this speculation. Again, defendant

demonstrates no realistic chance that any of these unreported matters had a bearing

on the validity of the judgment. The cited instances are as follows:

On January 19, 1993, there was an unreported bench discussion during

defense cocounsel Traback’s voir dire of Prospective Juror Tracy H. At the record

settlement proceeding, neither counsel recalled the exact content of this

discussion. The record, however, makes clear that it had no ultimate importance.

Immediately following the unreported conference, Traback said in open court that

it concerned the scope of permissible voir dire of Tracy H. The parties later

stipulated to Tracy H.’s excusal for reasons unconnected to her qualifications as a


An unreported bench discussion occurred on January 25, 1993, during

Traback’s voir dire examination of Prospective Juror Cecilia M. At the record

settlement proceeding, counsel agreed the discussion concerned the degree to

which Traback could question Cecilia M. about the details of the case—a tactic the

court had generally not been allowing. The record confirms this recollection.

(footnote continued from previous page)
Defendant also cites an unreported proceeding of February 2, 1993, but that
proceeding did not pertain to him at all. At the record settlement proceeding, all
trial counsel agreed it involved another person and case. The record confirms
counsel’s recollections.


Cecilia M. had disclosed on her questionnaire that she might know something

about the case. At the outset of Traback’s examination on this subject, the court

made clear it would carefully monitor counsel’s questions. Cecilia M. indicated

she remembered some aspects of the Mishell assaults, but nothing about Reyna’s

murder. Traback then asked to approach the bench. After an off-the-record

discussion, he resumed his examination, but on a different subject. Without

exhausting its peremptory challenges, the defense accepted Cecilia M. as a

member of the regular jury. There is no indication anything in the unreported

discussion would affect the validity of the judgment.

Later on January 25, 1993, an unreported discussion took place between

defense counsel and the court just after the voir dire examination of Prospective

Juror Robert M. had begun. At the record settlement proceeding, counsel did not

recall the precise subject of the discussion, but suggested it must have involved an

insignificant matter, such as scheduling, because the prosecutor was not asked to

participate. There is no indication that the discussion, whatever its subject, had

any ultimate importance. Insofar as it concerned Robert M., it cannot have been

material. As the result of subsequent voir dire examination in open court, he was

excused for cause.

On January 27, 1993, there was an unreported discussion between the court

and defense counsel early in the voir dire examination of Prospective Juror

Tom N. At the record settlement proceeding, counsel agreed the discussion

“probably” concerned scheduling or excuse of the juror, and was no doubt

insignificant because the prosecutor was not invited to participate. The record

does not disclose the purpose of the discussion, but there is no indication it was

material. Insofar as it concerned Tom N., it cannot have been relevant. Though

he survived a defense challenge for cause, he was not among the prospective


jurors whose names were drawn to face peremptory challenges. Of course, he did

not sit on the final jury.

On February 3, 1993, there was a bench conference among court and

counsel during the voir dire examination of Prospective Juror Donald C. At the

record settlement proceeding, counsel recalled that the prospective juror had just

said he would always vote for death in a child homicide, and defense counsel

approached the bench to determine whether he could explore that further. The

record does not confirm counsel’s precise recollection, but it does not matter. The

off-the-record discussion occurred during examination of Donald C. about a

newspaper article concerning a judge who had allowed child molesters to plea

bargain. Donald C. said the article had upset him and showed the courts were too

lenient. When, in open court, the trial judge disclosed he was the jurist described

in the article, Donald C. conceded he might have difficulty following the court’s

instructions, and would prefer to be excused. By stipulation, he was.

On February 11, 1993, there was a bench conference among court and

counsel during the voir dire of Prospective Juror David H. At the record

settlement proceeding, the prosecutor indicated he “believe[d]” defense counsel

wanted clarification whether he or the court should examine David H. in a

“somewhat sensitive area.” The record tends to confirm this recollection. After

the bench discussion, which occurred at defense cocounsel Traback’s request,

Traback examined David H. about family organizational affiliations that David H.

had deemed “private” on his questionnaire. Both parties accepted David H., and

he sat on the final jury. Defendant did not exhaust his peremptory challenges.

Hence, the discussion cannot have affected the validity of the judgment.

On March 4, 1993, Traback requested a bench conference at the conclusion

of the voir dire examination of Prospective Juror Diane M. At the record

settlement proceeding, the prosecutor indicated this discussion concerned a


stipulated dismissal of the juror, as indicated by the immediately following events

on the record. The record confirms the recollection.

Defendant cites the following additional unreported proceedings during

trial. Again, he fails to demonstrate any realistic possibility they were material to

the validity of the judgment.

On March 10, 1993, court and counsel met “to discuss peremptory

challenges.” At the record settlement proceeding, the prosecutor indicated this

concerned discussions about how the “big spin” (i.e., the county’s random-draw

procedure for calling qualified jurors into the box to face peremptory challenges)

would work. Lead defense trial counsel Rien did not demur. The record does not

contradict the prosecutor’s recollection. Defense counsel, who were present at the

discussion, posed no objection to the procedure actually employed to select a final

jury. There is no basis to infer defendant was prejudiced by the failure to report

this proceeding.

On Monday morning, March 15, 1993, the jurors, who had been selected

the previous week but not yet sworn, were called into court and excused until the

following Wednesday, apparently to allow argument and resolution, on the

intervening Tuesday, of defendant’s just-filed Wheeler/Batson motion. Then, in

the course of discussions about how to use the remainder of Monday, defense

counsel asked if they “could just have a moment.” After a chambers conference

among court and counsel, discussions resumed in open court about matters to be

addressed at the afternoon session. The noon recess was then called. At the

record settlement proceeding, the prosecutor indicated he “believe[d]” the

unreported chambers conference concerned only scheduling. Lead defense trial

counsel Rien agreed. Nothing in the record casts doubt on this mutual



On March 22, 1993, just before a videotape of the Mishell assault crime

scene was to be played for the jury, defense counsel Traback asked to approach

the bench briefly. After an unreported conference among court and counsel, the

tape was played. At the record settlement proceeding, the prosecutor indicated he

“believe[d]” the off-the-record discussion concerned how to arrange the courtroom

so defendant could see the tape. Lead defense trial counsel Rien agreed. The

record tends to confirm this mutual recollection. At the conclusion of the bench

conference, defendant indicated he could see the videotape screen so long as it was

not turned any further. No basis appears to infer the conference was material to

the judgment.

On March 22, 1993, defense cocounsel Traback sought to cross-examine

Inspector Muller of the Berkeley Police Department about a police report Muller

had prepared in the Mishell assault case. Confusion arose about whether there

were two separate reports, both dated February 25, 1988. Traback requested a

bench conference. After an off-the-record discussion among court and counsel,

the cross-examination of Muller continued. At the record settlement proceeding,

the prosecutor said he “believe[d]” the conference simply sought to ensure that the

witness and counsel were all referring to the same report. Lead defense trial

counsel Rien did not object. The record tends to confirm the prosecutor’s

recollection. There is no basis to believe the discussion was significant to the


On March 29, 1993, Detective Gustafson was on the stand. The prosecutor

asked to have marked for identification two tape cassettes containing the recorded

police statement given to Gustafson by Luis Reyna. This was done. Lead defense

counsel Rien asked to approach the bench. After an unreported discussion among

court and counsel, Detective Gustafson played the tapes for the jury. At the record

settlement proceeding, the prosecutor recalled that the discussion concerned


whether the tapes would be played before or after Gustafson’s authenticating

testimony. Rien agreed. Nothing in the record undermines this mutual


On April 1, 1993, Detective Stockle, a prosecution witness, testified he had

inspected the engine compartment of defendant’s pickup truck several days after

the murder, and had noticed something unusual. When the prosecutor asked what

Stockle noticed, Rien objected and asked to approach the bench. An unreported

chambers discussion among court and counsel followed. Back in open court,

Stockle testified he noticed that there was a new radiator hose, which was

disconnected. He said he found the old radiator hose clamp in the driver’s side

fender area of the compartment, and that he also found cut hose ends in the back

of the truck. At the record settlement proceeding, Rien recalled the chambers

conference concerned whether Stockle could opine that tampering had occurred in

the engine compartment. The prosecutor agreed with this recollection. Stockle

did not give such an opinion. There is no indication the unreported conference

affected the validity of the judgment.

On April 6, 1993, after all guilt phase prosecution witnesses had testified,

and various prosecution exhibits had been moved into evidence, the court asked

lead defense counsel Rien whether he had a motion to present. Rien indicated he

had previously asked “in chambers” that prosecution witness Celebration

Oberman be cautioned not to mention “the arrest in Mexico,” “the jailing in

Mexico, the name of this Court.” The court responded that “[s]he adhered to” that

admonition. As indicated by the prosecutor at the record settlement proceeding,

the subject matter, and the result, of this chambers discussion thus were placed on

the record.

On April 7, 1993, at the conclusion of Detective Muller’s testimony for the

defense, Rien asked to approach the bench. The court called a 10-minute recess,


and court and counsel retired to chambers. When proceedings in open court

resumed, the next defense witness was called. At the record settlement

proceeding, the prosecutor indicated, with respect to the chambers discussion, that

“[t]hat is a scheduling matter.” Rien did not disagree. The record gives no reason

to doubt the prosecutor’s recollection.

On April 15, 1993, court and counsel met “to discuss proposed jury

instructions.” At the record settlement proceeding, the prosecutor indicated he

believed the court had placed the subject matter on the record at a later time. For

the most part, the record supports this recollection. On April 19, 1993, the court

stated that it had just submitted to counsel the instructions it proposed to give and

asked if counsel had any objections. Objections, arguments, and rulings on the

proposed instructions followed, including discussion of instructions proposed by

the defense that the court did not intend to give. There is no basis to infer the

unreported proceedings included additional matters of significance to the


We thus conclude defendant has failed to demonstrate that the record is

inadequate for appellate review. No basis for reversal of the judgment is shown.


The guilt and penalty judgments are affirmed.






At the guilt phase of defendant’s capital trial, the jury found him guilty of the

first degree murder of Luis Reyna, with a special circumstance finding that Reyna

was killed to prevent him from testifying as a witness; the jury also found him

guilty of the attempted murders of Robert and Barbara Mishell. I agree with the

majority’s affirmance of these convictions.

I disagree, however, with the majority’s affirmance of defendant’s sentence

of death rendered at the penalty phase. In my view, the trial court erred in refusing

defense counsel’s request to ask prospective jurors if they would invariably

impose the death penalty in a case involving dismemberment of the murder

victim’s body. A second error occurred when, in closing argument at the penalty

phase, the prosecutor quoted passages from the Bible as authority for the death

penalty. These errors prejudiced defendant, undermining confidence in the

fairness of the penalty phase of defendant’s capital trial. Therefore, I would

reverse the judgment of death.


Before trial, defense counsel asked the trial court to include in the jury

questionnaire a statement to prospective jurors that the murder victim had been

dismembered and a question asking them how it would affect their “philosophical

view of the death penalty.” Counsel expressed concern that the fact of the

victim’s dismemberment “might impel” a juror “to vote for death without regard


to any other mitigating circumstances” that might be presented. The trial court

denied the request. The court told defense counsel that it would “not permit”

counsel “to go into any of the factual issues, including but not limit[ed] to the

dismemberment.” The court explained: “The only facts of the case that the jury

will be permitted to know in voir dire” are those “in the information.” The trial

court’s ruling thus made it clear that the court would not add to the juror

questionnaire any questions about dismemberment and that it would not allow

defense counsel to pursue such questions during voir dire. Defense counsel’s voir

dire of prospective jurors made no mention of dismemberment.

At the guilt phase, a parade of witnesses testified to the circumstances in

which murder victim Luis Reyna’s body parts were found, recovered, medically

examined, and identified. Kelly Morrison described how, while taking a walk in a

wooded area of Contra Costa County on July 18, 1988, he saw a human hand

along the trail. Contra Costa Sheriff’s Deputy Ricky Johnson recovered the hand

and delivered it to the county coroner’s office, where it was fingerprinted. Wayne

Schultz, a reserve officer with the Berkeley Police Department, reported smelling

“something dead” while on an early morning jog on July 24, 1988. Returning to

the brush-covered area two days later during daylight hours, Schultz spotted

something on the slope below the road, and through binoculars saw that it was a

naked body. When Deputy Johnson recovered the body, it was missing its head

and both hands. On July 29, 1988, Sergeant Dennis Burke of the Berkeley Police

Department concluded that a print from the thumb on the severed left hand

matched a latent thumbprint recovered from documents found among Reyna’s

possessions. Some eight months later, on March 17, 1989, James McDonald was

hiking down a deer trail in the same area when he came upon a human skull

lacking its lower jaw. The skull bore no traces of skin, flesh, or hair.


On July 27, 1988, before the skull was found, forensic pathologist Louis E.

Daugherty conducted an autopsy of the body and of the recovered left hand. The

wrists and head had been “completely cut” from the body, but Daugherty was able

to match the recovered left hand to the left forearm of the body. Paul Hermann, a

pathologist with the Alameda County Coroner’s Office, testified that markings on

the severed portion of the neck suggested that the head had been removed with a

small saw. Rodger Heglar, a forensic anthropologist who in August 1988 had

examined portions of the murder victim’s vertebra, testified that portions of the

third vertebra exhibited incision marks “consistent with saw marks,” and that

similar markings appeared on the left forearm.

Defendant’s own testimony at the guilt phase substantiated the findings of the

expert witnesses. He admitted driving to the area with Reyna’s dead body on the

seat next to him and dismembering it to make identification more difficult. After

an unsuccessful attempt with a hatchet, he took a hacksaw from his toolbox, and

severed both of Reyna’s hands at the wrists; he then held Reyna’s head with his

left hand and used his right hand to saw off the head.


“A criminal defendant is entitled to a trial by jurors who are impartial and

unbiased. (U.S. Const., 6th & 14th Amends.; Cal. Const., art. I, § 16.)” (People v.

Roldan (35 Cal.4th 646, 689.) To assure that impartiality, jury selection includes

questioning of prospective jurors in a process called voir dire. “Voir dire plays a

critical function in assuring the criminal defendant that his Sixth Amendment right

to an impartial jury will be honored. Without an adequate voir dire the trial

judge’s responsibility to remove prospective jurors who will not be able

impartially to follow the court’s instructions and evaluate the evidence cannot be

fulfilled.” (Rosales-Lopez v. United States (1981) 451 U.S. 182, 188.)


“The due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires the

sentencing jury in a capital case to be impartial to the same extent required at the

guilt phase.” (People v. Blair (2005) 36 Cal.4th 686, 741.) In a capital case, a

prospective juror who “would invariably vote either for or against the death

penalty because of one or more circumstances likely to be present in the case

being tried, without regard to the strength of aggravating and mitigating

circumstances,” is not impartial and must be excused for cause. (People v.

Kirkpatrick (1994) 7 Cal.4th 988, 1005; accord, People v. Coffman and Marlow

(2004) 34 Cal.4th 1, 46-47; People v. Cash (2002) 28 Cal.4th 703, 719-720;

People v. Ervin (2000) 22 Cal.4th 48, 70; People v. Earp (1999) 20 Cal.4th 826,

853.) To determine during voir dire whether prospective jurors are impartial in

this sense, “either party is entitled to ask prospective jurors questions that are

specific enough to determine if those jurors harbor bias, as to some fact or

circumstance shown by the trial evidence, that would cause them not to follow an

instruction directing them to determine a penalty after considering aggravating and

mitigating evidence.” (People v. Cash, supra, at pp. 720-721.)

Here, the murder victim’s dismemberment by defendant was “a general fact

or circumstance” likely to elicit a strong emotional response from the jurors.

(People v. Cash, supra, 28 Cal.4th at p. 721.) Before trial, defense counsel asked

the trial court to include in the jury questionnaire a statement telling prospective

jurors that the murder victim had been dismembered and a question asking them

how it would affect their “philosophical view of the death penalty.” Voir dire at

the outset of trial would have revealed whether this “general fact or circumstance”

would cause any juror to invariably vote for the death penalty, without considering

mitigating evidence presented by defendant.

The majority insists that the dismemberment of the victim’s body was not a

circumstance “that could cause a reasonable juror . . . invariably to vote for death,


regardless of the strength of the mitigating evidence.” (Maj. opn., ante, at p. 43,

italics omitted.) I disagree. The fact of dismemberment may be of great

significance to a prospective juror. Undoubtedly, there are prospective jurors who

consider the integrity of the body of a deceased person to be extremely important.

The history of torts is rife with lawsuits brought by relatives alleging mishandling

of the bodies of their loved ones. (See, e.g., Christensen v. Superior Court (1991)

54 Cal.3d 868; Conroy v. Regents of the University of California (2007) 151

Cal.App.4th 132; Aguirre-Alvarez v. Regents of University of California (1998) 67

Cal.App.4th 1058; Saari v. Jongordon Corp. (1992) 5 Cal.App.4th 797; Cohen v.

Groman Mortuary, Inc. (1964) 231 Cal.App.2d 1.) Thus, the trial court here erred

in not permitting defense counsel to ask the prospective jurors whether the murder

victim’s dismemberment would affect their views on the choice of penalty.

Relying on People v. Roldan, supra, 35 Cal.4th 646, the majority asserts the

trial court’s ruling was within its discretion. Roldan is not on point. As Roldan

observed, the defense in that case failed to identify what topics it wanted explored

in the trial court’s supplemental questioning of prospective jurors. (Id. at p. 693.)

Moreover, the murder in that case occurred during an armed robbery (id. at

p. 664), and neither the circumstances nor the manner of killing were markedly

different from those committed during other armed robberies.

The majority here, noting that the parties disagreed about the circumstances

surrounding the dismemberment of Reyna’s body, reasons that if the trial court

had permitted the defense to question prospective jurors about the fact of

dismemberment, “the prosecutor could strongly argue he should be permitted to

explore in more detail how prospective jurors might react to all the anticipated

evidence on the issue,” which “could have led to a lengthy examination of

prospective jurors about specific details of the case.” (Maj. opn., ante, at p. 44.)

Not at all. Defense counsel here sought only to explore juror attitudes toward the


subject of dismemberment in general. There was no need to mention the factual

details about when, where, and how this dismemberment occurred.

Because the trial court refused defense counsel’s request to question the

prospective jurors about their views on dismemberment, the record does not reveal

whether any of the individuals who wound up serving on the jury in this case

“held the disqualifying view that the death penalty should be imposed invariably

and automatically” on a defendant who had dismembered his victim’s body.

(People v. Cash, supra, 28 Cal.4th at p. 723.) Therefore the error cannot be

discounted as harmless, and reversal of the judgment of death is compelled.

(Morgan v. Illinois (1992) 504 U.S. 719, 739; People v. Cash, supra, at p. 723.)


In closing argument at the penalty phase, the prosecutor cited the Bible as

authorizing capital punishment. He told the jury: “The commandment to put

murderers to death is universal.” And he quoted Genesis chapter 9, verse 6:

“[W]hoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for in his

image did God make man.” The prosecutor then summarized two concepts he

perceived in that verse: “First, is that capital punishment for murderers is

necessary to preserve the sanctity of human life, and second being it is man’s

obligation to do it.” Thus, he argued, “[o]nly the severest of punishments can

underscore the severity of taking a life,” and imposing “any lesser penalty means

that the taking of life is not that serious an offense.” In the prosecutor’s view, the

biblical text quoted meant that “[p]reserving the life of a murderer compromises

the value of life,” a point he said was reiterated in these two other biblical

passages: “He who fatally strikes a man shall be put to death” (Exodus 21: 12),

and “[y]ou shall not take reparations for soul of a murderer who deserves to die,

and he shall be put to death” (Numbers 35:31). (See People v. Samuels (2005) 36

Cal.4th 96, 133, fn. 6 [same biblical passages cited in argument].) In essence, the


prosecutor here argued to the penalty phase jurors that the Bible not only

authorized but required them to return a verdict against defendant at the penalty

phase of death. A lesser sentence, he asserted, was to shirk their obligation and

cheapen the value of human life.

A prosecutor’s argument to the jury that the Bible authorizes or demands the

death penalty for murder creates the risk that “ ‘such argument may “diminish the

jury’s sense of responsibility for its verdict and . . . imply that another, higher law

should be applied in capital cases, displacing the law in the court’s

instructions.” ’ ” (People v. Hughes (2002) 27 Cal.4th 287, 389; see also People v.

Wash (1993) 6 Cal.4th 215, 261; People v. Samuels, supra, 36 Cal.4th at p. 134;

People v. Slaughter (2002) 27 Cal.4th 1187, 1226 (dis. opn. of Kennard, J.).)

Because defense counsel here did not object to the prosecutor’s argument,

defendant has forfeited the right to claim that the prosecutor’s comments were

misconduct. But counsel’s failure to object violated defendant’s constitutional

right to the effective assistance of counsel. Defense counsel may have decided not

to object because he intended to reply to the prosecutor’s argument with a biblical

argument of his own, however, that is not a legitimate tactical purpose for failing

to object. As I explained in a previous dissenting opinion: “[I]t is improper to

answer one impermissible argument not based on the facts or the law applicable to

the case with another impermissible argument not based on the facts or the law

applicable to the case. A religious argument against the death penalty is no more

acceptable at the penalty phase of a capital case than a religious argument in favor

of the death penalty . . . . It follows that defense counsel’s decision to respond to

the prosecutor’s religious argument by relying on opposing religious authority

cannot be considered a legitimate tactical choice that would excuse his failure to

object to the prosecutor’s impermissible religious argument.” (People v. Wash,


supra, 6 Cal.4th at p. 283 (conc. & dis. opn of Kennard, J.); see also People v.

Slaughter, supra, 27 Cal.4th at p. 1227 (conc. & dis. opn. of Kennard, J.).)

Here, the prosecutor’s appeal to biblical authority invited the penalty phase

jurors to disregard their duty to follow the trial court’s instructions to weigh the

mitigating and aggravating evidence in deciding penalty, whether death or life

without parole. Accordingly, the prosecutor’s improper biblical argument may

well have permitted one or more jurors to overlook the defense evidence in

mitigation, causing the juror or jurors to vote for death without weighing that

mitigating evidence against the prosecution’s evidence in aggravation. Thus, the

prosecutor’s improper reliance on biblical authority prejudiced defendant.

I would reverse the judgment of death in light of the two prejudicial errors:

the one just discussed, and the other pertaining to defense counsel’s request to

question prospective jurors about their attitudes toward dismemberment of the

murder victim’s body.




See next page for addresses and telephone numbers for counsel who argued in Supreme Court.

Name of Opinion People v. Zambrano

Unpublished Opinion

Original Appeal XXX
Original Proceeding
Review Granted

Rehearing Granted


Opinion No.
Date Filed: July 30, 2007

County: Alameda
Judge: Stanley P. Golde


Attorneys for Appellant:

Robert R. Bryan, under appointment by the Supreme Court, Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan, Pamala
Sayasane and Jill Culbert for Defendant and Appellant.


Attorneys for Respondent:

Bill Lockyer and Edmund G. Brown, Attorneys General, Robert R. Anderson, Chief Assistant Attorney
General, Ronald A. Bass, Assistant Attorney General, Ronald S. Mathias and Martin S. Kaye, Deputy
Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

Counsel who argued in Supreme Court (not intended for publication with opinion):

Robert R. Bryan
Law Office of Robert R. Bryan
2088 Union Street, Suite 4
San Francisco, CA 94123-4117
(415) 292-2400

Martin S. Kaye
Deputy Attorney General
455 Golden Gate Avenue, Suite 11000
San Francisco, CA 94102-7004
(415) 703-5853

Opinion Information
Date:Docket Number:
Mon, 07/30/2007S035368

1The People (Respondent)
Represented by Attorney General - San Francisco Office
Martin S. Kaye, Deputy Attorney General
455 Golden Gate Avenue, Suite 11000
San Francisco, CA

2Zambrano, Enrique (Appellant)
San Quentin State Prison
Represented by Robert Russell Bryan
Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan
2088 Union Street, Suite 4
San Francisco, CA

Jul 30 2007Opinion: Affirmed

Sep 8 1993Judgment of death
Oct 6 1993Filed cert. copy of Judgement of Death Rendered
Dec 23 1997Counsel appointment order filed
  Robert R. Bryan Is appointed to represent Applt on His Automatic Appeal, Including Any Related Habeas Corpus Proceedings.
Dec 23 1997Compensation awarded counsel
Mar 23 1998Application for Extension of Time filed
  By Applt to request correction of the Record.
Mar 26 1998Extension of Time application Granted
  To 6-1-98 To request Record correction
May 20 1998Application for Extension of Time filed
  By Applt to request correction of the Record.
May 21 1998Extension of Time application Granted
  To 7-31-98 To request Record correction
Jun 5 1998Compensation awarded counsel
Jul 16 1998Application for Extension of Time filed
  By Applt to request correction of the Record.
Jul 17 1998Extension of Time application Granted
  To Applt To 9-29-98 To request Corr. of Record.
Sep 23 1998Application for Extension of Time filed
  By Applt to request correction of the Record.
Sep 24 1998Extension of Time application Granted
  To 11-30-98 To request Record correction
Nov 23 1998Application for Extension of Time filed
  By Applt to request correction of the Record.
Nov 24 1998Extension of Time application Granted
  To Applt To 1-29-99 To request Corr. of Record.
Jan 25 1999Application for Extension of Time filed
  By Applt to request correction of the Record.
Jan 28 1999Extension of Time application Granted
  To 3-30-99 To request Record correction no further Extensions of time Are Contemplated.
Feb 24 1999Change of Address filed for:
  Atty Robert Bryan.
Mar 23 1999Application for Extension of Time filed
  By Applt to request correction of the Record.
Apr 12 1999Extension of Time application Granted
  To 5-31-99 To request Record correction no further Extensions of time will be granted
May 14 1999Received copy of appellant's record correction motion
  appellant's request for sequential designation of record, correction of transcripts, additional record on appeal, examination of sealed transcripts and to settle record (17 pp.)
May 24 1999Compensation awarded counsel
Jun 15 1999Change of Address filed for:
  Attorney General - S.F. Office.
Dec 17 1999Record on appeal filed
  C-14 (3,734) and R-29 (3,726) Including Materials Under Seal; Clerk's Transcript includes 1,763 pagse of Juror Questionnairs.
Dec 17 1999Appellant's opening brief letter sent, due:
Jan 3 2000Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Bryan
Jan 12 2000Application for Extension of Time filed
  To file Aob.
Jan 13 2000Extension of Time application Granted
  To 3/27/2000 To file Aob.
Mar 21 2000Application for Extension of Time filed
  To file Aob.
Mar 24 2000Filed:
  Suppl to Appl for Eot to file Aob.
Mar 27 2000Extension of Time application Granted
  To 5/26/2000 To file Aob.
May 16 2000Application for Extension of Time filed
  To file Aob.
May 16 2000Extension of Time application Granted
  To 7/25/2000 To file Aob.
Jul 17 2000Application for Extension of Time filed
  To file AOB.
Jul 18 2000Extension of Time application Granted
  To 9/25/2000 to file AOB.
Sep 18 2000Application for Extension of Time filed
  To file AOB. (5th request)
Sep 25 2000Filed:
  Supplemental declaration of counsel in support of applic. for ext. of time.
Sep 26 2000Counsel's status report received (confidential)
Sep 29 2000Extension of Time application Granted
  To 11/27/2000 to file AOB.
Nov 20 2000Application for Extension of Time filed
  To file AOB. (6th request)
Nov 21 2000Extension of Time application Granted
  To 1/26/2001 to file AOB.
Dec 7 2000Counsel's status report received (confidential)
Jan 22 2001Application for Extension of Time filed
  To file AOB. (7th request)
Jan 29 2001Extension of Time application Granted
  To 3/27/2001 to file AOB.
Mar 6 2001Counsel's status report received (confidential)
Mar 21 2001Application for Extension of Time filed
  To file AOB. (8th request)
Apr 6 2001Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Bryan
Apr 10 2001Extension of Time application Granted
  To 5/28/2001 to file AOB, based on counsel's representation that he anticipates draft of brief compl. by May 2001.
Apr 12 2001Order filed:
  Due to clerical error the order filed, 4/10/2001 is amended as follows: Extension of time is granted to 5/29/2001 to file AOB.
May 11 2001Counsel's status report received (confidential)
May 17 2001Application for Extension of Time filed
  To file AOB. (9th request)
May 24 2001Extension of Time application Granted
  To 6/28/2001 to file AOB. No further extensions of time are contemplated.
Jun 6 2001Filed:
  Augmented RT (12 Pp.)
Jun 12 2001Counsel's status report received (confidential)
Jun 14 2001Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Bryan
Jul 6 2001Filed:
  Applic. of applt for permission to file AOB late. (brief submitted under separate cover)
Jul 6 2001Filed:
  applt's applic. to file AOB in excess of the page limit.
Jul 10 2001Order filed:
  Applt.'s application to file late AOB and application to file AOB in excess of page limit are granted.
Jul 10 2001Appellant's Opening Brief filed - (290 Pp.)
Jul 11 2001Received: Declaration from atty. Robert Bryan - Confidential
Jul 20 2001Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Bryan
Aug 3 2001Application for Extension of Time filed
  To file resp.'s brief. (1st request)
Aug 7 2001Extension of Time application Granted
  To 10/9/2001 to file resp.'s brief.
Sep 10 2001Counsel's status report received (confidential)
Oct 4 2001Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Bryan
Oct 5 2001Application for Extension of Time filed
  To file resp.'s brief. (2nd request)
Oct 12 2001Extension of Time application Granted
  To 12/10/2001 to file resp.'s brief.
Nov 2 2001Counsel's status report received (confidential)
Nov 13 2001Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Bryan
Nov 28 2001Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Bryan
Dec 7 2001Request for extension of time filed
  To file resp.'s brief. (3rd request)
Dec 14 2001Extension of time granted
  To 2/8/2002 to file resp.'s brief. Dep. AG Kaye anticipates filing the brief by 4/9/2002. Only one further extension totaling 60 additional days is contemplated.
Jan 14 2002Counsel's status report received (confidential)
Jan 30 2002Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Bryan
Feb 6 2002Request for extension of time filed
  To file resp.'s brief. (4th request)
Feb 14 2002Extension of time granted
  To 4/9/2002 to file resp.'s brief. Dep. AG Kaye anticipates filing the brief by 4/9/2002. Only one further extension for no more than 30 additional days is contemplated.
Feb 25 2002Change of Address filed for:
  Applt. counsel Robert R. Bryan.
Apr 8 2002Request for extension of time filed
  to file resp's brief. (5th request)
Apr 11 2002Extension of time granted
  To 4/16/2002 to file resp.'s brief. Dep. Atty. General Kaye anticipates filing the brief by 4/16/2002. After that date, no further will be granted.
Apr 11 2002Respondent's brief filed
  (217 pp.)
May 9 2002Application for relief from default filed
May 9 2002Request for extension of time filed
  To file reply brief. (1st request)
May 15 2002Filed:
  Suppl. declaration in support of application for extension of time to file reply brief.
May 20 2002Order filed
  Applt.'s motion for relief from default is granted. Extension of time granted to 7/1/2002 to file reply brief. Counsel anticipates filing that brief by 10/31/2002. Only two further extensions totaling 122 additional days are contemplated.
Jun 12 2002Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Bryan
Jul 10 2002Application for relief from default filed
  by applt. for extension of time to file reply brief.
Jul 10 2002Request for extension of time filed
  To file applt.'s reply brief. (2nd request)
Jul 15 2002Counsel's status report received (confidential)
Jul 15 2002Order filed
  Appellant's application for relief from default is granted. Extension of time is granted to 9/3/2002 to file applt.'s reply brief. Counsel anticipates filing that brief by 10/31/2002. One further extension totaling 58 additional days is contemplated.
Jul 26 2002Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Bryan
Aug 29 2002Request for extension of time filed
  to file reply brief. (3rd request)
Sep 3 2002Extension of time granted
  to 10-31-2002 to file reply brief. After that date, no further extension is contemplated. Extension granted based upon counsel Robert Bryan's representation that he anticipates filing the brief by 10-31-2002.
Sep 20 2002Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Bryan
Oct 29 2002Request for extension of time filed
  To file appellant's reply brief. (4th request)
Oct 29 2002Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Bryan
Nov 4 2002Extension of time granted
  To 11/21/2002 to file appellant's reply brief. Extension is granted based upon counsel Robert R. Bryan's representation that he anticpates filing that brief by 11/21/2002. After that date, no further extension will be granted.
Nov 21 2002Appellant's reply brief filed
  (135 pp.)
Nov 21 2002Counsel's status report received (confidential)
Dec 9 2002Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Bryan
May 20 2003Related habeas corpus petition filed (concurrent)
  no. S116021.
May 21 2003Counsel's status report received (confidential)
May 21 2003Filed:
  Declaration of attorney Robert Bryan (confidential)
May 27 2003Filed:
  Supplemental declaration of attorney Bryan (confidential).
Jun 11 2003Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Bryan
Jun 24 2003Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Bryan
Oct 15 2003Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Bryan
Dec 12 2006Received:
  letter from respondent, dated December 12, 2006, with missing page 41 of respondent's brief.
Dec 18 2006Filed:
  Amended declaration of service of respondent's letter of December 12, 2006.
Dec 21 2006Exhibit(s) lodged
  People's: 5, 15, 49, 50, 57, 59 and 62; Defendant's: A and B (video cassettes); and Court's A1-15 and B (5 juror questionnaires).
Jan 8 2007Filed:
  amended declaration of service of respondent's letter of December 12, 2006.
Feb 16 2007Exhibit(s) lodged
  Court's exhibits, D and F.
Mar 7 2007Oral argument letter sent
  advising counsel that the court could schedule this case for argument as early as the May calendars, to be held the first week and last week of May 2007, 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 3 2007Case ordered on calendar
  to be argued Tuesday, May 1, 2007, at 1:30 p.m., in San Francisco
Apr 13 2007Filed letter from:
  Supv. Deputy Attorney General Martin Kaye, dated April 13, 2007, re focus issues for oral argument.
Apr 20 2007Filed letter from:
  atty Robert R. Bryan, dated April 17, 2007, re focus issues for oral argument.
Apr 27 2007Received:
  letter from appellant, dated April 26, 2007, with additional authority.
Apr 30 2007Received:
  letter from appellant, dated April 27, 2007, with additional authority.
May 1 2007Cause argued and submitted
May 10 2007Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Bryan
Jul 27 2007Notice of forthcoming opinion posted
Jul 30 2007Opinion filed: Judgment affirmed in full
  Majority Opinion by Baxter, J. ----- joined by George C.J., Werdegar, Chin, Moreno, Corrigan, JJ. Concurring and Dissenting Opinion by Kennard, J.
Aug 30 2007Remittitur issued (AA)
Aug 31 2007Exhibit(s) returned
  to the superior court.
Sep 6 2007Received:
  receipt for remittitur acknowledged by superior court.
Sep 6 2007Received:
  acknowledgment of receipt of exhibits.
Oct 29 2007Received:
  letter from U.S.S.C., dated October 24, 2007, advising that extension of time was granted to December 27, 2007 for filing a petition for writ of certiorari.
Jan 8 2008Received:
  letter from U.S.S.C., dated January 3, 2008. Petition for a writ of certiorari was filed on December 27, 2007. No. 07-8509.
Mar 3 2008Certiorari denied by U.S. Supreme Court

Jul 10 2001Appellant's Opening Brief filed - (290 Pp.)
Apr 11 2002Respondent's brief filed
Nov 21 2002Appellant's reply brief filed
If you'd like to submit a brief document to be included for this opinion, please submit an e-mail to the SCOCAL website