People v. Adair

Decision Date30 January 2003
Docket NumberNo. S098218.,S098218.
Citation62 P.3d 45,29 Cal.4th 895,129 Cal.Rptr.2d 799
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court
PartiesThe PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. Jeanie Louise ADAIR, Defendant and Respondent.

Gil Garcetti and Steve Cooley, District Attorneys, George M. Palmer, Head Deputy District Attorney, Fred Klink and Patrick D. Moran, Deputy District Attorneys, for Plaintiff and Appellant.

John Steinberg, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Respondent.


When a defendant is acquitted of criminal charges, Penal Code section 851.8, subdivision (e),1 authorizes a petition to the trial court for a finding of factual innocence. (See § 851.8, subd. (b).) The question presented here is the appropriate standard of review on appeal from such a finding. (§ 851.8, subd. (p)(1).) From the statutory scheme, we conclude that although the appellate court should defer to the trial court's factual findings to the extent they are supported by substantial evidence, it must independently examine the record to determine whether the defendant has established "that no reasonable cause exists to believe" he or she committed the offense charged. (§ 851.8, subd. (b).) Applying that standard to the facts of this case, we find that defendant failed to carry her burden. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeal.

Procedural and Factual Background

Jeanie Louise Adair (defendant) was charged with the murder of her husband, Robert Adair. (§ 187, subd. (a).) The prosecution also alleged special circumstances of murder carried out for financial gain (§ 190.2, subd. (a)(1)) and while lying in wait (id., subd. (a)(15)) and use of a dangerous or deadly weapon in the commission of the offense (§ 12022, subd. (b)(1)).

Trial Proceedings

Defendant's trial lasted one month and included the testimony of more than 40 witnesses as well as more than 80 exhibits. The Court of Appeal opinion recounts the evidence in substantial detail; however, for present purposes an abbreviated rendition will suffice.

The murder occurred sometime during the early afternoon on November 5, 1996, in the condominium defendant and the victim shared with their children. Sometime between 1:00 and 2:00 p.m., a neighbor heard a banging at his gate and discovered defendant upset and asking for help. She said her husband was lying on the floor not breathing, but told the neighbor not to go inside the residence because "the person is still in there."

When rescue personnel arrived, they found Robert dead with blood around his head. An autopsy concluded Robert had died from multiple blunt force trauma to the head, consistent with blows from a baseball bat. Although the police found some evidence the residence had been ransacked, one detective testified the ransacking was not consistent with a burglary or home invasion robbery. In addition, valuables and cash in plain sight had not been taken.

Defendant gave several descriptions of what took place, some with marked discrepancies. In one version, she explained that about 10:00 a.m., a man posing as a gas company employee gained entry to her home, knocked her down, and kicked her in the face. He then took her upstairs where he bound her hands with electrical tape and gagged her. The intruder asked, "Where is your stuff, bitch? I want your stuff," and searched through drawers and closets for valuables. A noise sounded, which defendant assumed was Robert's arrival, and the intruder went downstairs. She did not hear any further sounds and after managing to free herself went downstairs to find Robert in a pool of blood.

In a different telling, defendant indicated the suspect had pulled a knife on her when entering the residence and told her, "If you scream, I'll kill you, bitch." After she was taken upstairs, tied up, beaten, and kicked, Robert came home and called out to her. At this point, the intruder went to another room, grabbed a baseball bat, warned defendant to keep quiet, and went downstairs; she then heard a "thump." She removed the tape used to bind her with a tool that tightened her knee brace and went downstairs. In some versions, defendant was tied to a chair; in others, she was hog-tied, without a chair being involved. She described the intruder variously as White, Black, and Hispanic.

Prosecution witnesses testified that Robert received two telephone calls at work from defendant, at least one of which came when she claimed to be bound and gagged. Dr. Michael Shapiro, defendant's orthopedic surgeon with whom she was having an extramarital affair, also may have received a call from her at his office about the same time.

With respect to the severity of defendant's injuries, some police emergency and medical personnel thought they were inconsistent with her description of events and she was making them appear worse than they were; others believed she had suffered serious injury. Scientific analysis of the tape used to bind defendant found that some segments had been torn and some had been cut, but none had evidence of stretching. Examination of the kneebrace tool revealed no tape residue.

Robert's sister, Simone Adair, testified that sometime in early 1997 defendant told her she had found the gag used in her attack, and it was covered in blood and saliva. In June 1997, however, defendant asked Simone to tell the police that Simone was with defendant's father when the gag was discovered. When Simone told her she would not lie, defendant replied, "Well, then I'm screwed."

As to motive, both personal and financial, the prosecution presented evidence of defendant's extramarital affair with Shapiro, whom she wanted to be with if she could "get rid of Robert." In addition, defendant was uncertain if she wanted to move to Las Vegas, where Robert intended to relocate shortly. She also received approximately $400,000 in life insurance following Robert's death.

The defense took several tacks. Shapiro and his wife, Mindy, had recently begun divorce proceedings, apparently precipitated in large measure by his affair with defendant. Mindy was angry and vindictive and had stolen defendant's medical records and perhaps impersonated her over the telephone. Mindy had also talked about killing or severely injuring defendant and knew an alleged ex-convict in Las Vegas with ties to organized crime. Other evidence tended to establish that someone impersonating a gas company employee was seen outside the Adair residence on the day in question. The individual may have resembled an ex-convict, Gary Pinuelas, who had a history of violence consistent with the injuries sustained by defendant and Robert. Pinuelas and an associate, Robert Kugler, were observed five miles from the Adair residence an hour after the murder. According to one witness, Kugler resembled a man in a gas company uniform seen outside the Adair residence.

A Los Angeles Police Department criminalist opined that blood found on defendant's clothes was consistent with her having been beaten and that he would have expected Robert's blood to be on the bat. He also would have expected to see Robert's blood on the person who wielded the bat, and none was found on defendant's clothing.

On the question of motive, evidence established defendant had shortly before the murder settled a personal injury action in which she recovered $225,000.

Factual Innocence Petition and Hearing

The jury found defendant not guilty. Thereafter, she petitioned the trial court pursuant to section 851.8, subdivision (e), for a finding of factual innocence.

In ruling on the petition, the court found as follows:

"So now what I have done is I have reviewed certain portions of the trial transcript, and I have a fairly good recollection of the evidence. I take very good notes while I am on the bench on my computer, and so I have reviewed my notes as well.

"I think significant in this case is—and I am going to rule based upon my independent review of the evidence, the weight to be given the evidence, including a consideration of the credibility of all witnesses who have testified. It's one thing to read it, it's another thing to be here and listen to it. And while some evidence might seem maybe less significant if viewed in the abstract by reading it, it becomes more significant when you're here to listen to it.

"I think significant in this court's mind is that there was no blood of the victim on Jeanie Adair's clothing, and that testimony came as a complete surprise to the district attorney, based on the statements [the prosecutor] made just after that.

"And the argument that Jeanie Adair had time to clean up, get into her car and drive off somewhere and dump the clothing and get rid of it so that there wouldn't be any blood I don't think is borne out by the evidence. The only evidence that might suggest that is the officer—I can't remember his last name, started with a `K.'

"[The Prosecutor]: Kreitzman.

"[The Court]: Kreitzman, one of the first witnesses to testify, that at some unspecified time he felt the hood of a car that was unidentified, other than it was in the garage and it was warm to the touch.

"There was no evidence of the weather conditions. I don't know what kind of car it was. I don't know whether a kind of car like that could be driven and 10 hours later still be warm to the touch in that particular garage on that particular day. I don't know.

"So there is no reasonable reason why there would be no blood on the clothing of the defendant.

"I would also note that Robert Adair was at the Wells Fargo Bank. Apparently, according to Jeanie Adair's statement that was introduced by the district attorney at trial, she dropped him off at a market near work so he could make a transaction and wire money to his mother. She had testified that she stated that, and there is some corroboration of the fact that he was going to send the money to the mother because, according to Adair's statements, she said that he had told her that there was a problem...

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