Jackson, In re

Decision Date31 August 1992
Docket NumberNo. S009490,No. 22165,S009490,22165
Citation11 Cal.Rptr.2d 531,3 Cal.4th 578,835 P.2d 371
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court
Parties, 835 P.2d 371 In re Earl Lloyd JACKSON on Habeas Corpus. Crim.

Joseph Shemaria, Los Angeles, and Eric S. Multhaup, San Francisco, for petitioner.

Paul Hoffman, Los Angeles, and Joan Howarth, San Francisco, as amici curiae, on behalf of petitioner.

George Deukmejian, John K. Van de Kamp and Daniel E. Lungren, Attys. Gen., Robert H. Philibosian, Steve White, Richard B. Iglehart and George Williamson, Chief Asst. Attys. Gen., S. Clark Moore, Edward P. O'Brien and Edward T. Fogel, Jr., Asst. Attys. Gen., Norman H. Sokolow, Susan Lee Frierson, Howard J. Schwab, Michael D. Wellington, Carol Wendelin Pollack and Keith H. Borjon, Deputy Attys. Gen., Ira Reiner, Dist. Atty., Harry B. Sondheim, Chief Deputy Dist. Atty., George M. Palmer and Robert W. Carney, Deputy Dist. Attys., for respondent.

William A. O'Malley, Dist. Atty. (Contra Costa), and Patricia K. Moore, Deputy Dist. Atty., as amici curiae, on behalf of respondent.

GEORGE, Justice.

In People v. Jackson (1980) 28 Cal.3d 264, 168 Cal.Rptr. 603, 618 P.2d 149 (Jackson I ), we affirmed a judgment against petitioner Earl Lloyd Jackson (hereafter defendant), who is currently confined in state prison under a sentence of death imposed pursuant to that judgment for the 1977 murder of two elderly women. In 1981, after the judgment on appeal became final, defendant filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in which he sought relief on a variety of grounds. On November 27, 1981, we issued an order to show cause, subsequently appointed a referee, and after a series of orders adding and eliminating several matters from the referee's consideration, ultimately directed the referee to take evidence and make findings of fact relating to the following three issues: (1) whether the admissions defendant made to two jailhouse informants, Mark Mikles and Ronald McFarland, deliberately were elicited from defendant at the behest of law enforcement officials so as to render the statements inadmissible at trial under the principles set forth in United States v. Henry (1980) 447 U.S. 264, 100 S.Ct. 2183, 65 L.Ed.2d 115; (2) whether the prosecution improperly failed to disclose to the defense any inducements offered by state agents to Mikles or McFarland for their testimony at defendant's trial; and (3) whether defendant's trial counsel failed to provide adequate representation with respect to the special circumstance allegations or the penalty phase of the trial.

After an extensive evidentiary hearing, the referee found that (1) Mikles and McFarland had not elicited statements from defendant at the behest of law enforcement officials, but (2) state officials had offered inducements to Mikles and McFarland for their testimony that had not been disclosed to the defense, and (3) defendant's trial counsel had failed to provide adequate representation with respect to both the special circumstance allegations and the penalty phase. The referee also indicated that, in his view, these constitutional violations required reversal of the special circumstance findings and the judgment as to penalty.

Defendant has not challenged the referee's finding that his admissions to the jailhouse informants were not elicited by law enforcement officials in violation of the holding in United States v. Henry, supra, 447 U.S. 264, 100 S.Ct. 2183, and the record supports this finding, which accordingly we adopt. 1

The Attorney General, however, contests the referee's findings both with regard to the prosecution's asserted failure to disclose to the defense the inducements provided to Mikles and McFarland, and with regard to the alleged inadequacy of the legal representation provided by trial counsel. Additionally, the Attorney General argues that even if the referee's findings on those issues are sustained, they do not provide a sufficient basis for overturning the special circumstance findings or the judgment as to penalty.

After summarizing the facts underlying defendant's conviction, we analyze the referee's findings with respect to (1) the prosecution's alleged failure to disclose inducements made to prosecution witnesses, and (2) the alleged ineffective assistance provided by defendant's trial counsel with regard to the special circumstance allegations and the penalty phase. "Our standard of review of the referee's report is settled. The referee's conclusions of law are subject to independent review, as is his resolution of mixed questions of law and fact. [Citations.] ... The referee's findings of fact, though not binding on the court, are given great weight when supported by substantial evidence. The deference accorded factual findings derives from the fact that the referee had the opportunity to observe the demeanor of witnesses and their manner of testifying. [Citation.]" (In re Marquez (1992) 1 Cal.4th 584, 603, 3 Cal.Rptr.2d 727, 822 P.2d 435.)

More than 10 years after our grant of habeas corpus review, and in the aftermath of judicial proceedings beset by extended delay reminiscent of that described in Charles Dickens's Bleak House, we reject defendant's claim that errors at his 1978- 1979 trial require that the judgment sentencing him to death be set aside. 2


In our opinion on defendant's automatic appeal, we summarized the evidence presented at trial (Jackson I, supra, 28 Cal.3d 264, 283-285, 168 Cal.Rptr. 603, 618 P.2d 149) and thus need recount those facts only briefly here.

The evidence disclosed that on 2 separate occasions within a 10-day period, defendant (then 19 years of age), accompanied by 1 or more other persons, burglarized the apartments of 2 elderly women, Mrs. Vernita Curtis, who was 81 years of age, and Mrs. Gladys Ott, who was 90 years of age. Both women resided in the same apartment building in which defendant temporarily was staying, and the motive on both occasions apparently was to steal money or other items of value; in both instances, television sets, toasters, and other household or personal items were taken.

At the time of each burglary, the elderly resident was asleep in her apartment and apparently awoke, discovering the intruders while the crime was in progress. The perpetrators responded to the victims' protests by severely beating the elderly women with blows to the head, neck, and chest. In the first incident, Mrs. Curtis still was alive when discovered by her neighbors but, after four days of hospitalization, died from the severe injuries inflicted upon her. In the second incident, Mrs. Ott was dead when discovered, and appeared to have been beaten, and perhaps strangled, to death. The autopsy of Mrs. Ott revealed, in addition to massive bruises to her face, neck, and body, an extensive vaginal laceration apparently caused by the insertion of a foreign object into her vagina.

On learning that the police were looking for him, defendant went to a police station and agreed to make a tape-recorded statement. After initially denying participation in the crimes, defendant ultimately admitted that he and others had burglarized both apartments. In his statement to the police, however, defendant denied having been the person who inflicted the severe beatings on the victims, claiming with respect to Mrs. Curtis that he simply held her while another participant struck her, and with respect to Mrs. Ott that others inflicted the majority of the blows, that he struck her only once, and that he believed she was alive when he left her apartment.

In addition to introducing defendant's statement to the police, the prosecution presented a number of witnesses who testified to statements defendant made to them admitting his complicity in the crimes. A neighbor, Ilena Gaines, testified that when Mrs. Curtis was being removed from her apartment on a stretcher, defendant was standing outside the building and smiled, laughed, and stated "he was the one who did that." 3 The prosecution also introduced a transcript of the preliminary hearing testimony of Debria Lewis, another acquaintance of defendant, who stated that shortly after the killings defendant pointed to a newspaper article concerning Mrs. Curtis's murder and stated, "This is what I done." Lewis stated that when she asked defendant for an explanation, he replied: "If she had just been still--had been still and given him the money, that she would have been walking around today." In this same conversation defendant described the two victims to Lewis as "two old bags [who] were a nuisance and ... got what they deserved." The prosecution also called Debra Hall, defendant's cousin, who testified that defendant had told her, in reference to a news article concerning both victims, that "This is what I did, that it was because I needed some money."

Finally, in addition to the above evidence, the prosecution called as witnesses the two jailhouse informants, Mikles and McFarland, referred to above. Each informant testified that defendant, in separate conversations with each of them during his confinement after arrest, made detailed admissions as to his actions during the burglaries. 4 Both testified that defendant admitted killing the two women and boasted about repeatedly striking Mrs. Ott in the face and forcibly inserting a wine bottle into her vagina. 5

The defense did not present any evidence at the guilt phase.

On the basis of the foregoing evidence, the jury convicted defendant of two counts of first degree murder and two counts of burglary, finding true the two special circumstance allegations--a burglary-murder special circumstance and a multiple-murder special circumstance--alleged, under the applicable 1977 death penalty law, with respect to the killing of Mrs. Ott.

At the penalty phase, the prosecution introduced evidence that the neck of a wine bottle found close to Mrs. Ott's body contained...

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