People v. Ainsworth

Citation248 Cal.Rptr. 568,45 Cal.3d 984,755 P.2d 1017
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court
Decision Date30 June 1988
Parties, 755 P.2d 1017 The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Steven King AINSWORTH, Defendant and Appellant. Crim. 21354.

Quin Denvir, State Public Defender, under appointment by the Supreme Court, and Steven W. Parnes, Deputy State Public Defender, for defendant and appellant.

John K. Van de Kamp and George Deukmejian, Attys. Gen., Steve White and Robert H. Philibosian, Chief Asst. Attys. Gen., Arnold O. Overoye, Asst. Atty. Gen., Joel Carey and J. Robert Jibson, Deputy Attys. Gen., for plaintiff and respondent.

PANELLI, Justice.

This is an automatic appeal (Pen.Code, § 1239, subd. (b)) 1 from a judgment of death imposed under the 1977 death penalty law. (Former § 190 et seq., Stats.1977, ch. 316, § 5 et seq., pp. 1256-1262.) Defendant was convicted of the first degree murder of Seng "Nancy" Huynh ( § 187) with findings that he was armed with and used a firearm ( §§ 12022, subd. (a), 12022.5). Two special circumstance allegations were found to be true: that the murder was committed while defendant was engaged in the commission or attempted commission of (1) a robbery (former § 190.2, subd. (c)(3)(i)) and (2) a kidnapping (id. subd. (c)(3)(ii)). For reasons set forth hereafter, we affirm the judgment in its entirety.


Defendant and a codefendant, Donald Gene Bayles, were jointly charged with the murder of Ms. Huynh and with the two special circumstances--robbery and kidnaping. 2 For enhancement purposes it was further alleged that defendant and Bayles were armed with and used a firearm ( §§ 12022, subd. (a), 12022.5) in the commission of the murder. Defendant was also charged with, and admitted, two prior robbery convictions.

Pretrial motions for change of venue by defendant and Bayles ( § 1033) were denied, as were pretrial motions for severance ( § 1098) by Bayles. Defendant's motions for severance, made during jury selection and on the first day of trial, were also denied.

At the conclusion of the prosecution's case-in-chief, defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal ( § 1118.1) on the special circumstance allegations was denied. The jury convicted defendant of first degree murder, found the special circumstance allegations true, and sentenced him to death. The jury found codefendant Bayles guilty of murder in the second degree and found true the enhancement allegation that he had been armed with a firearm.

1. Prosecution Case.

Ms. Huynh was last seen alive on September 12, 1978, when she left her home about 3 p.m., driving her automobile, a green Hornet. She was on her way to work in downtown Sacramento. Ms. Huynh worked the evening shift, from 3:45 p.m. to 12 p.m. It was her usual practice to park her car in a lot near her place of work.

About 3 p.m. on September 12, 1978, witness Michael O'Brien was sitting in his car alongside the lot where Ms. Huynh usually parked. He noticed two men walk past his car, one on the left side of the car and the other on the right. He later identified the man who passed on the left as codefendant Bayles. After passing O'Brien's car, Bayles stood near the entrance to the parking lot for about five to ten seconds. Bayles shook his head as if he was in doubt about something and then entered the parking lot, leaving O'Brien's sight. The other man had walked to the parking lot entrance and instantly turned into the lot and disappeared from view. Although O'Brien was unable to identify the man who accompanied Bayles, O'Brien recalled that he was wearing a short-sleeved shirt. The man was about six feet tall, dark, and weighed about one hundred eighty pounds. He had a slight beard, perhaps a mustache, and fairly short, curly hair.

About a minute after Bayles left his sight, O'Brien heard a noise which he described as a "pop." About 30 seconds later, a green Hornet automobile came out of the lot. O'Brien saw three people in the car. Bayles was on the passenger side. In the middle was an Asian woman whom he identified as an "Oriental girl," sitting with her head down. The driver was the man who had earlier passed to the right of O'Brien's car. O'Brien saw the car make a right-hand turn going the wrong way on a one-way street, then turn around. The entire episode, from the time O'Brien first saw the two men until he lost sight of the car, lasted about two minutes.

Shortly after noon on the same day, the Department of Health, Division of Vital Statistics, located in downtown Sacramento, had received an unsigned application for a copy of defendant's birth certificate from a man who had come to the department counter. The certificate was to be mailed to defendant in Pacifica. The employee who waited on the customer could not identify defendant at trial as the person who handed her the application, although his face looked "familiar." As the jury was informed, defendant refused to comply with a court order to provide a handwriting exemplar. His fingerprints, however, were found on the application.

Two days after Ms. Huynh's disappearance, on the morning of September 14, 1978, her car was found by police officers on Mori's Point in Pacifica. The car and the area around it were searched and processed for evidence. Bayles' fingerprints were found on two beer cans discovered in some bushes along the edge of the roadway, on the gas cap of the car, on the cellophane wrapper of an empty package of Camel cigarettes found beneath the driver's seat, and on a map in the glove box. Defendant's fingerprints were found on another map in the glove box and on a section of a newspaper found on the front seat of the vehicle. The newspaper was a copy of the Sacramento Bee, Blue Star Edition, 3 dated September 13, 1978.

An expended .45 caliber cartridge casing was found between the front seat cushions on the driver's side of the vehicle. On the floorboard beneath the driver's seat was a cash register receipt from a market in Hamilton City, California, dated September 13, 1978. On the floor beneath the rear seat of the vehicle was a folded and blood-stained napkin. 4 There were also bloodstains on the rear seat cushion and paper bags with blood on them in the trunk of the vehicle. Laboratory analyses indicated that the blood on the napkin, seat cushion, and paper bags was human blood which came from the same individual.

Henry Souza testified that he saw a green Hornet driven out onto Mori's Point about 6 p.m. the evening before the police found Ms. Huynh's car. Two Caucasian men were in the car and left within a few minutes after they arrived. The taller, huskier man was driving. Souza could not say whether defendant and Bayles were the two men he saw.

David Beverdge testified that in September 1978 he owned and operated the food market in Hamilton City which issued the September 13 receipt found in Ms. Huynh's car. Hamilton City is located about 11 miles east of Interstate 5 and is about a 2-hour drive north of Sacramento. Beverdge recalled that on September 13 he sold a six-pack of Budweiser beer to two Caucasian males, who also bought a newspaper. Although Beverdge could not recall what kind of paper the men bought, he recalled it cost 15 cents. Included among the 15-cent papers he sold at the time was the Blue Star Edition of the Sacramento Bee.

Beverdge waited on the men for about two minutes. They both appeared to be in their early 20's. One of them was over six feet, taller and heavier than his companion. The taller man also had lighter hair than his companion, and it was he who purchased the beer and gave instructions. Beverdge saw no one else with the two men, and he did not notice the car they were driving. Beverdge could not identify either defendant.

On the morning of September 16, 1978, two days after the victim's car was found in Pacifica, Ms. Huynh's purse and bra were found on the ground at an interchange area off Interstate 5, about five and one-half miles north of the California-Oregon border. Among the items found in her purse were an empty 12-ounce Budweiser can, a lady's billfold, and a time card signed by the victim. Bayles' fingerprints were on the time card.

On January 20, 1979, nearly four months after her disappearance, Ms. Huynh's body was located in a wooded area approximately seven miles south of Elk Creek, California. The location was about a two-and-one-half-hour drive from Sacramento. Officers from the Sacramento Police Department and the Colusa County Sheriff's office were led to the scene by codefendant Bayles, who had been arrested the preceding day in Corning, California.

The victim's body was found in a clearing behind a log, covered by a 55-gallon drum. The body was in an advanced state of decomposition. The only clothing on the body was a blouse. A pair of slacks were lying across the victim's lower thighs and a pair of shoes was found two or three inches away. Near the victim's feet were a towel, pair of panties, sanitary napkin, box of facial tissues, and a match book.

Dr. Joseph Masters, a pathologist, conducted an examination of the body after it was returned to Sacramento. He discovered a .45 caliber copper-coated slug in the victim's right hip. A hole in the upper portion of the slacks found with the body was consistent with having been made by a .45 caliber bullet. The bullet had entered at the side of the left hip joint, passed through the pelvis, and came to rest on the outer surface of the right hip bone. The path was from left to right, slightly down to up, and very slightly front to back. Because the condition of the skin did not permit a determination of the presence of powder burns, Dr. Masters could make no findings as to the distance from which the shot was fired. The gun could have been right up against the victim when fired. Dr. Masters could not determine whether there had been any kind of injury or...

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