People v. Bloom, S004639

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Citation48 Cal.3d 1194,774 P.2d 698,259 Cal.Rptr. 669
Parties, 774 P.2d 698 The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Robert M. BLOOM, Jr., Defendant and Appellant. In re Robert M. BLOOM, Jr., on Habeas Corpus. Crim.
Docket NumberNos. 23874,25325,No. S004639,S004639,s. 23874
Decision Date26 June 1989

Dennis P. Riordan, Riordan & Rosenthal, San Francisco, under appointment by the Supreme Court, and James S. Donnelly, Donnelly & Saalfield, Pt. Reyes Station, for defendant and appellant.

John K. Van de Kamp, Atty. Gen., Steve White, Chief Asst. Atty. Gen., Robert R. Anderson, Thomas L. Wilhite, Jr., and Robert C. Schneider, Deputy Attys. Gen., Los Angeles, for plaintiff and respondent.

KAUFMAN, Justice.

Defendant Robert M. Bloom, Jr., appeals from a judgment imposing the death penalty following his conviction of three counts of first degree murder (Pen.Code, § 187; all further statutory references are to this code unless otherwise indicated), accompanied by multiple-murder special-circumstance findings ( § 190.2, subd. (a)(3)) and firearm-use findings ( § 12022.5) as to each count. Additionally, as to one count, the jury found that defendant personally used a dangerous weapon (scissors) to murder his victim. ( § 12022, former subd. (b) [now subd. (d) ].) Defendant also has filed a related habeas corpus petition supplementing one of his appeal contentions. As will appear, we conclude that the judgment should be affirmed in its entirety, and the petition for writ of habeas corpus denied.


Defendant was charged with murdering his father (Bloom, Sr.), stepmother (Mrs. Bloom) and eight-year-old stepsister (Sandra). Defendant, who was 18 years old when these offenses were committed, pleaded not guilty and, as to the murder of Sandra only, not guilty by reason of insanity. After the jury returned guilty verdicts on each count, defendant withdrew his insanity plea and moved to represent himself, with his attorney remaining in the case to advise and assist him. The court granted this motion. At the conclusion of the penalty phase, the jury returned a verdict for imposition of the death penalty.

Following an incident of violence in jail, defendant was relieved of his self-representation status and a hearing was held to determine his competence to cooperate with counsel. After a jury determined he was competent, defendant was again permitted to represent himself for the purpose of participating in the sentence modification proceedings ( § 190.4, subd. (e)). The trial court denied defendant's motion to modify sentence and sentenced him to death. This appeal is automatic. ( § 1239, subd. (b).)


On April 22, 1982, at approximately 4:15 a.m., police officers found Bloom, Sr., shot to death, lying in the front doorway of his residence. Mrs. Bloom, also dead of gunshot wounds, was found on the floor of one of the bedrooms. Sandra, who had been both shot and stabbed, was found on the floor of another bedroom. The child was alive but in very bad condition. She was taken to a hospital where she died the next day without regaining consciousness. In statements to police and in testimony at trial, defendant admitted killing Bloom, Sr., but claimed he did so only after Bloom, Sr., had killed Mrs. Bloom. Defendant claimed memory loss for the time during which Sandra was killed.

A. The Prosecution's Case-in-chief.

Martin Medrano testified that on or about April 15, 1982, defendant asked Medrano to obtain a gun for him, offering to pay $400 to $500. Defendant said he already had a rifle but he wanted a handgun because it would be easier to conceal. Defendant said he needed the gun to kill someone, and that Medrano would read about it in the newspaper. Medrano agreed to obtain the gun but never did.

Ricardo Avila testified that he, like defendant, had been Christine Waller's boyfriend. At lunchtime on April 20, 1982, Avila went to defendant's place of employment to tell defendant his father was looking for him. Avila listened as defendant telephoned his father but remembered only defendant's concluding words: "You are running my life now but you won't be for long." At Waller's residence that evening, Avila heard the sound of five shots being fired in succession. The noise seemed to be coming from the back yard and was followed by the sound of the back door sliding. Going to investigate, Avila encountered defendant carrying a rifle partially concealed under his coat. Avila asked defendant what he was doing but defendant just told him to go away. Defendant entered Waller's brother's bedroom. Avila attempted to follow but defendant told him to stay out.

Waller testified that she was with defendant at her residence on the evening of April 20. Defendant went outside after telling her to remain in the house. Looking out a window, she observed defendant carrying a rifle and walking toward a field behind the house. Waller also testified that Bloom, Sr., constantly bullied and berated defendant, and that defendant tried to satisfy Bloom, Sr., but never seemed able to do so. Raul Rosas testified that he was Waller's brother. In April 1982 he was no longer living at his mother's residence, where Waller lived, but frequently visited there. He had owned a .22-caliber semiautomatic rifle, which he sometimes kept behind a dresser in a bedroom at his mother's residence. He last saw it on or about April 15 in the trunk of his car. He frequently left his car keys on the bedroom dresser or the dining table at his mother's residence. When he looked in the trunk of his car on April 22, the rifle was gone.

Norma White testified that she is the mother of Waller and Rosas. In the two-week period before April 22, defendant slept at her residence four to six times. Defendant used Rosas's bedroom, at the far end of the house. White gave defendant permission to spend the night of April 21-22 at her residence. Defendant was still awake when she retired at 11:30 p.m. on April 21.

Dave Hughes testified he was sleeping in his van in the driveway of his mother's residence, next door to the residence of Bloom, Sr., when he was awakened about 4 a.m. on April 22. He heard Bloom, Sr., shout: "Robert, Robert. Come back." Bloom, Sr., was standing at the end of the driveway of his own residence. After shouting the same words again, Bloom, Sr., began running down the street. A short time later Bloom, Sr., returned with defendant and they entered the Bloom residence together. About three minutes later Hughes again observed Bloom, Sr., standing in the driveway and shouting for "Robert" to come back to the house. Hughes heard a small popping noise, which he recognized as a gunshot from a small caliber weapon, and saw Bloom, Sr., grab the lower portion of his body. As Bloom, Sr., trotted toward the front door of his residence, defendant came running toward him carrying a .22-caliber rifle. Defendant fired two more shots and there was a noise of breaking glass. Bloom, Sr., fell on his back in the doorway. Defendant fired two more shots at Bloom, Sr., as defendant stood directly over him. Defendant then ran into the house. Hughes heard a woman's wordless scream followed by two shots and then, after a brief pause, another shot. Hughes went into his mother's residence and telephoned the police. On his return to the van, Hughes saw defendant leave in a maroon Monte Carlo automobile which had been parked in the Blooms' driveway.

Some of these events were also witnessed by Moises Gameros, who lived across and down the street from the Bloom residence. Gameros testified he was in the bathroom of his residence at about 4 a.m. when he heard someone in the street yelling "Robert, Robert." Gameros saw defendant, holding a rifle, apparently being chased by Bloom, Sr. Defendant and Bloom, Sr., appeared to be arguing but Gameros could not make out the words until Bloom, Sr., in a loud voice, said: "That's it. I'm going to call the police." Bloom, Sr., then walked back to his residence with defendant following 25 feet behind. They both entered the residence, but a short time later defendant came out, followed by Bloom, Sr. Gameros heard a shot and saw Bloom, Sr., run screaming toward his house. Defendant was following 10 feet behind pointing the rifle at Bloom, Sr.'s back. Another shot sounded and Bloom, Sr., fell on the porch. Defendant pointed the rifle down and fired again. Defendant stood in that position for about a minute, during which he made hand motions as if reloading the rifle. Defendant then entered the house. Defendant came out after about five minutes and stood on the porch. After again going inside the residence for a short time, defendant placed the rifle in a car parked in the driveway and drove off in that car.

A police officer who arrived at the scene shortly after defendant's departure found the bodies of Bloom, Sr., and Mrs. Bloom, and critically wounded Sandra. Two bullet holes were found in the living room window, and .22-caliber cartridge casings and live rounds were found at various locations inside and outside the house. When Mrs. Bloom's body was moved, a bullet was found imbedded in the floor beneath her head. Scissors were found on the bed in the bedroom where Sandra was found the sheets and blankets on this bed were stained with blood.

Defendant was found and arrested near Waller's house at approximately 4:30 a.m. Defendant was on foot. Later that morning defendant was observed singing and dancing in his cell. The maroon Monte Carlo, which was registered to Mrs. Bloom, was found one mile from Waller's residence, near a park and an abandoned dump; keys to this vehicle and to the Bloom residence were found in a wash area approximately 70 feet from the vehicle. Despite an intensive search, the rifle used by defendant to commit the murders was never found.

Bloom, Sr., was killed by gunshot wounds to the head, neck, and abdomen. Mrs. Bloom was killed by three shots to the head, entering at the...

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