47 Cal.4th 850, S054774, People v. Taylor

Docket Nº:S054774
Citation:47 Cal.4th 850, __ Cal.Rptr.3d__, __P.3d__
Opinion Judge:WERDEGAR, J.
Party Name:THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. KEITH DESMOND TAYLOR, Defendant and Appellant.
Attorney:Michael J. Hersek State Public Defender, under appointment by the Supreme Court, Jay Colangelo, Assistant State Public Defender, Jessica K. McGuire, Ellen J. Eggers and Barry Helft, Deputy State Public Defenders, for Defendant and Appellant. Bill Lockyer and Edmund G. Brown, Jr., Attorneys Genera...
Judge Panel:George, C. J., Kennard, J., Baxter, J., Chin, J., Moreno, J., and Corrigan, J., concurred.
Case Date:December 24, 2009
Court:Supreme Court of California

Page 850

47 Cal.4th 850

__ Cal.Rptr.3d__, __P.3d__

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,


KEITH DESMOND TAYLOR, Defendant and Appellant.


Supreme Court of California

December 24, 2009

San Bernardino County Super. Ct. No. FRE00861 Judge: James A. Edwards

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Michael J. Hersek State Public Defender, under appointment by the Supreme Court, Jay Colangelo, Assistant State Public Defender, Jessica K. McGuire, Ellen J. Eggers and Barry Helft, Deputy State Public Defenders, for Defendant and Appellant.

Bill Lockyer and Edmund G. Brown, Jr., Attorneys General, Mary Jo Graves and Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorneys General, Gary W. Schons, Assistant Attorney General, Holly Wilkens, Alana Cohen Butler and Annie Fraser, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

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Keith Desmond Taylor was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1994 murder of Marilyn Mishak, committed in the course of burglarizing Mishak’s Redlands home and robbing her. Defendant, who represented himself at trial, contends he was mentally incompetent to conduct his own defense and should not have been permitted to do so. We affirm the judgment.

Factual and Procedural Background

On the night of September 1, 1994, someone broke into Marilyn Mishak’s condominium and stabbed and strangled her to death. Defendant was tied to the burglary and killing primarily by his fingerprints found at the scene and by witnesses who placed him in the vicinity at the time. The jury convicted defendant of first degree murder, robbery and burglary, and found true special circumstance allegations of murder in the commission of burglary and robbery. (Pen. Code, §§ 187, 189, 190.2, 211, 459.) The jury set the penalty for the murder at death, and defendant was so sentenced.

Guilt Phase Evidence

On August 31, 1994, defendant stayed with Clemente Calloway at the home of Calloway’s grandmother. On September 1, Calloway and defendant went to dinner at a friend’s house. They left around 9:00 p.m., and on the way home defendant said he wanted to get a beer. Because no drinking was permitted at his grandmother’s, Calloway dropped defendant at a 7 Eleven convenience store a few blocks away, less than a mile from Mishak’s condominium. Defendant did not return to Calloway’s grandmother’s house that night, and Calloway next saw defendant in court.

About 11:30 p.m. on September 1, Kevin Holman, who lived in Mishak’s neighborhood, heard tapping on one of his windows. Soon after that, the doorbell rang and Holman answered it to find a young African-American man in dark clothing. The man asked for “Yolanda”1 and, when told no one by that name lived there, walked away. In a photographic lineup and at trial, Holman identified defendant as the man on his doorstep, though he was not absolutely certain of either identification. About 11:45 p.m., another neighbor, Anne Mills, was awakened by her doorbell ringing. After turning on lights and waiting a few minutes, she looked out the window but saw no one at the door.

Mishak was a developmentally disabled 33-year-old woman who lived alone. Her mother talked to her around 4:00 p.m. on September 1 and went to

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check on her the next day when she did not come to work. She noticed the garage and condominium were uncharacteristically messy; no morning coffee had been made; and a bottle of wine, which Mishak never drank but kept in a cupboard for her father, was on the counter. In the living room, she found Mishak’s body lying on the floor, an electrical cord wrapped around her neck.

Police officers called to the scene found the victim lying facedown with the cord around her neck. She was wearing a bloodstained T-shirt, and her underpants were down at her feet. A knife with a three and one-half-inch handle, similar to ones in a butcher block in the kitchen, was embedded in the victim’s abdomen.

The autopsy showed Mishak had been strangled and stabbed in the abdomen, piercing her liver. Either event could have been fatal. Her body also bore bruises in several areas. The medical examiner opined the stabbing and strangling had probably occurred within a few minutes of each other, as the amount of bleeding and hemorrhaging indicated the victim was alive during each.

Mishak’s father testified that after her killing he tested the garage door and found that when its handle was pulled upward from the outside, the motion activated the automatic garage door opener and the door opened fully. Doors from the garage into the laundry room and the dining room bore pry marks and had been propped open. A twisted metal strip and a spatula-like tool, which police found on the garage floor, could have been used to pry open the doors. Also found on the garage floor was a paper bag containing a beer bottle.

In the bedrooms, closets and drawers were open. Mishak’s jewelry boxes were sitting on the bed and rug in her bedroom, and the contents of her purse had been emptied onto the floor. The victim’s mother later examined the condominium’s contents and identified several missing items, including the garage door opener and the victim’s wallet, watches and other jewelry.

When a latent fingerprint from the paper bag containing the beer bottle was compared to fingerprints in law enforcement databases, it matched defendant’s fingerprint. Defendant’s fingerprints were then compared to others taken from the victim’s condominium. They matched latent fingerprints on the frame of an exterior door, on the wine bottle found on the kitchen counter, and on one of Mishak’s jewelry boxes.

A police detective visited 20 to 25 stores in the vicinity to find any that sold 40-ounce bottles of Magnum Malt Liquor, the type of bottle found in the paper bag on the garage floor, and used No. 8 size bags certified as 50 percent

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recycled by Scientific Certification Laboratories, the type of bag found on the garage floor. He found only one match for the combination of bag and beverage: the 7-Eleven store where Calloway left defendant to buy beer on the night of the killing.

Called to the stand by defendant, another of Mishak’s neighbors testified that early on the morning of September 2, 1994, she saw a man, whom she described to police as White or Hispanic, walking in the area and carrying a paper bag. Several days later, also in the early morning, she saw the same person from closer up; this time he was wearing a backpack and looked like a teenager.

Defendant also called a clerk at the 7-Eleven store and re-called the principal police investigator, Detective Garcia, in an effort to suggest the crimes may have been committed by Jesse Mason, who Garcia had learned was also staying at Calloway’s grandmother’s house at the time. Garcia had shown the clerk a photograph of Jesse Mason as part of a photographic lineup. She recognized one picture in the lineup (which did not include defendant’s photograph) as that of a regular customer. Some days later, Garcia interviewed Mason and searched his residence, but eliminated him as a suspect when his fingerprints failed to match any of the latent prints taken from the crime scene.

Finally, defendant extensively examined the forensic specialist who lifted latent fingerprints from the scene, a detective who helped collect evidence at the scene, a clerk in the fingerprint examiner’s office, and the supervisor of that office regarding the numbering system used to mark latent prints and other evidence and the procedures the examiner’s office followed for logging and tracking prints. His apparent goal was to cast doubt on the identification of his fingerprints at the scene by proving gaps or discrepancies in the collection and comparison procedures.

Penalty Phase Evidence

The prosecution presented evidence of three incidents involving defendant. In 1988, defendant had broken into a woman’s mobilehome in Lemoore at night; when she awoke and confronted him, he knocked her to the floor with his fist. In 1991, he led an Emeryville police officer on a high speed chase, ran when his car crashed, lunged at the officer during his arrest and, even after being handcuffed, threatened and kicked at the arresting officers. Finally, in 1994, he rang a doorbell in Alameda at 6:15 a.m. and, when the resident did not answer, broke into the garage by smashing a door. Police had difficulty arresting him, and he was carrying a pistol. The prosecution also presented evidence defendant had previously been convicted of residential burglary and auto theft.

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Defendant presented no penalty phase evidence.


I. Procedures for Determining Competence to Stand Trial

Defendant contends the procedures by which the trial court found him competent to stand trial were constitutionally deficient in several respects. We find no error in the procedures employed.

The question of competence to stand trial was first raised in pretrial proceedings, after defendant’s first request to represent himself was denied.2 In explaining its finding that defendant was not competent to represent himself, the trial court (Judge McCarville) observed: “[W]hile the record, the written record, may reflect [defendant] has given articulate responses [to the court’s questions regarding self-representation,] the court will note by his own facial expressions and by certain time delays from the time questions were posed by the court and his responses, and what I will call quizzical looks on his face, while he appeared to give intelligent responses, the court...

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