People v. Adams, B284753

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtSEGAL, J.
PartiesTHE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. GARRETT TAYLOR ADAMS, Defendant and Appellant.
Docket NumberB284753
Decision Date26 August 2019

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
GARRETT TAYLOR ADAMS, Defendant and Appellant.



August 26, 2019


California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

(Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. MA064049)

APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Frank M. Tavelman, Judge. Reversed.

Law Office of Elizabeth K. Horowitz and Elizabeth K. Horowitz for Defendant and Appellant.

Xavier Becerra, Attorney General, Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Lance E. Winters, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Paul M. Roadarmel, Jr. and Stephanie A. Miyoshi, Deputy Attorneys General for Plaintiff and Respondent.

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Garrett Taylor Adams (Adams) appeals from the judgment entered after a jury acquitted him of first degree premeditated murder but convicted him of first degree mayhem felony murder and found he personally used a deadly or dangerous weapon. Adams argues, among other things, that substantial evidence did not support the jury's finding he specifically intended to commit mayhem and that the trial court's instruction on mayhem felony murder was erroneous. We conclude that there was substantial evidence Adams specifically intended to commit mayhem, but that the trial court prejudicially erred when it instructed the jury on the specific intent element of mayhem felony murder. Therefore, we reverse.


A. Adams Shoots Briggs with a Compound Bow and Kills Him

Adams was an experienced, licensed hunter. He had not purchased meat in a store in over seven years. He hunted deer and other game with a rifle and with a compound bow, which is a bow that uses a wheel and pulley system that allows it to be drawn and held at different "draw weights." Adams knew never to point a weapon at anything he did not intend to shoot.

One evening Adams was drinking alcohol with his girlfriend, Bernadette Marquez, at their home in Lancaster. Adams got into a physical altercation with Marquez and went to a local bar. When he returned at 3:00 a.m., he fought again with Marquez.

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Adams's twin brother, Cameron Adams (Cameron), and Cameron's friend, Charles Briggs, arrived and got into an argument with Adams. All three men were drunk. The physical altercation between Adams and Marquez evolved into a fight among Adams, Cameron, and Briggs. The three men wrestled and threw punches at each other, and there was "a lot of yelling." The fight eventually stopped, and Adams went inside the house, leaving Cameron and Briggs in the driveway. Cameron and Briggs argued and shoved each other.

Adams emerged from the house some minutes later with his compound bow and several razor-tip hunting arrows. Adams stood still for a moment before Briggs noticed him with the bow. Briggs said, "What, are you going to shoot me?" Adams told Briggs, "You'd better leave, or I'll shoot you." Briggs, who was angry and yelling, dared Adams to shoot him. He said, "What do you think? I'm scared to die? Shoot it. Just let it go." Adams, who was "very, very angry" and "puffing his chest," walked toward Briggs as Briggs backed away. The distance between Adams and Briggs decreased to several feet and then increased to 20 feet. Adams told his brother to move because he was blocking Adams's shot. Briggs raised his arms away from his body at the elbows and turned his palms up. Adams raised the bow, drew it, aimed at Briggs, and without hesitating fired an arrow.

Briggs hunched over and stepped back saying, "Oh, my God, why'd you do that?" Adams said, "I shot that nigger," "That's what you get, homie," and "I should shoot you with my gun, homie, you better run." (Investigating officers subsequently found a rifle and a loaded magazine in Adams's house.) Adams

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also stated, "When I tell you I'm going to shoot you, you better run."1

The arrow entered Briggs's right upper chest, traveled downward, and protruded out his back. The arrow pierced Briggs's diaphragm, lacerated his liver and pancreas, and ruptured his spleen. Briggs walked down the street before collapsing. A registered nurse happened to see Briggs fall and rendered aid until paramedics arrived. Briggs died during emergency surgery.

B. Adams Makes Up a Story About What Happened

After Adams shot Briggs, he handed the bow to Marquez and told her to put it "somewhere" and call 911. Adams went to a neighbor's house, pounded on the door, said "that nigger got in my house," and asked the neighbor to call the police. Adams told Marquez to "stick to the story and say that someone broke in our house and he had shot [him]."

In a telephone call made and recorded while Adams was in custody, Adams asked an unidentified listener to tell Marquez "to keep her mouth shut . . . cause that's crucial for me." He added, "Make sure . . . when you see her, tell her make sure she's not out there flapping her lips about this shit . . . ."

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C. The People's Archery Expert Testifies the Shooting Was Not an Accident

The prosecution's archery expert, Deputy Thomas Marquez, testified Adams's compound bow was for hunting large game such as deer, black bear, elk, and, at close range, moose. The bow was equipped to use razor-tip hunting arrows that measured more than an inch in diameter. The arrows were designed to create a large wound that would cause an animal to bleed out quickly, with the goal of killing the animal "quickly and humanely." The deputy test-fired Adams's bow and concluded it was fairly accurate. In Deputy Marquez's opinion, Adams had fully drawn the bow before he fired the arrow at Briggs. Deputy Marquez viewed a video of the shooting and concluded it was not an accident.

D. The Jury Convicts Adams

The jury acquitted Adams of first degree premeditated murder, but convicted him of first degree mayhem felony murder (Pen. Code, §§ 187, subd. (a), 189).2 The jury also found Adams personally used a deadly or dangerous weapon (§ 12022, subd. (b)(1)). The trial court sentenced Adams to a prison term of 25 years to life for first degree mayhem felony murder plus one year for the deadly or dangerous weapon enhancement.

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A. Substantial Evidence Supported Adams's Conviction for Mayhem Felony Murder

Adams argues substantial evidence did not support the jury's finding he specifically intended to maim Briggs, as required for mayhem felony murder. We address this issue first because, even if one of Adams's other arguments has merit, we would still need to decide whether substantial evidence supported his conviction. (See People v. Morgan (2007) 42 Cal.4th 593, 613 ["[a]lthough we have concluded that the . . . conviction must be reversed . . . we must nonetheless assess the sufficiency of the evidence to determine whether defendant may again be tried for the . . . offense"]; People v. Hill (1998) 17 Cal.4th 800, 848 [reviewing court must address whether substantial evidence supported the defendant's conviction, even where other errors require reversal, because "double jeopardy would prevent" the defendant's retrial]; People v. Garcia (2012) 204 Cal.App.4th 542, 553 ["[w]e address defendant's sufficiency of the evidence argument due to its double jeopardy implications"].) We conclude there was substantial evidence from which the jury could reasonably find Adams had the requisite specific intent.

1. Standard of Review

"We discern sufficiency by inquiring whether evidence was presented from which a reasonable trier of fact could conclude, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the prosecution sustained its burden of proof. [Citation.] Although we assess whether the evidence is inherently credible and of solid value, we must also view the evidence in the light most favorable to the jury verdict

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and presume the existence of every fact that the jury could reasonably have deduced from that evidence." (People v. Mora and Rangel (2018) 5 Cal.5th 442, 488; accord, People v. Mendez (2019) 7 Cal.5th 680, 702.) "'A reversal for insufficient evidence "is unwarranted unless it appears 'that upon no hypothesis whatever is there sufficient substantial evidence to support'" the jury's verdict.'" (People v. Manibusan (2013) 58 Cal.4th 40, 87 (Manibusan); accord, People v. Penunuri (2018) 5 Cal.5th 126, 142.)

"'[E]vidence of a defendant's state of mind is almost inevitably circumstantial, but circumstantial evidence is as sufficient as direct evidence to support a conviction.' [Citations.] Moreover, the standard of review that applies to insufficient evidence claims involving circumstantial evidence is the same as the standard of review that applies to claims involving direct evidence. 'We "must accept logical inferences that the jury might have drawn from the circumstantial evidence. [Citation.]" [Citation.] "Although it is the jury's duty to acquit a defendant if it finds the circumstantial evidence susceptible of two reasonable interpretations, one of which suggests guilt and the other innocence, it is the jury, not the appellate court that must be convinced of the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. [Citation.]" [Citation.] Where the circumstances reasonably justify the trier of fact's findings, a reviewing court's conclusion the circumstances might also reasonably be reconciled with a contrary finding does not warrant the judgment's reversal.'" (Manibusan, supra, 58 Cal.4th at p. 87.)

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2. To Commit Mayhem Felony Murder, the Defendant Must Have the Specific Intent To Commit Mayhem

Section 189, subdivision (a), provides, in relevant part, "All murder . . . that is committed in the perpetration of, or attempt to perpetrate," various enumerated felonies, including mayhem, is...

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