People v. Bloyd

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Writing for the CourtPANELLI; BIRD; REYNOSO
Citation233 Cal.Rptr. 368,729 P.2d 802,43 Cal.3d 333
Parties, 729 P.2d 802 The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Dale Michael BLOYD, Defendant and Appellant. In re Dale Michael BLOYD on Habeas Corpus. Crim. 22464, Crim. 25554.
Decision Date02 January 1987

Page 368

233 Cal.Rptr. 368
43 Cal.3d 333, 729 P.2d 802
The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
Dale Michael BLOYD, Defendant and Appellant.
In re Dale Michael BLOYD on Habeas Corpus.
Crim. 22464, Crim. 25554.
Supreme Court of California,
In Bank.
Jan. 2, 1987.
Rehearing Denied Feb. 11, 1987.

[43 Cal.3d 340] [729 P.2d 805]

Page 370

Tom Lundy, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for defendant and appellant and petitioner.

John K. Van de Kamp, Atty. Gen., Daniel J. Kremer, Chief Asst. Atty. Gen., Arnold O. Overoye, Asst. Atty. Gen., Edmund D. McMurray and Willard F. Jones, Deputy Attys. Gen., for plaintiff and respondent.

PANELLI, Justice.

Defendant Dale Michael Bloyd was convicted on one count of first degree murder and one count of second degree murder. (Pen.Code, § 187.) 1 The jury found that he used a firearm in the commission of each murder (§ 12022.5). A special circumstance allegation, multiple murders (§ 190.2, subd. (a)(3)), was found to be true. The judgment of death was entered under the 1978 death penalty law (§ 190.1 et seq.). The appeal is automatic. (Cal. Const., art. VI, § 11; § 1239, subd. (b).)

Defendant also seeks a writ of habeas corpus based on a claim that he received ineffective assistance by trial counsel. The Attorney General concedes error in counsel's failure to present mitigating evidence at the penalty phase of the trial (People v. Deere (1986) 41 Cal.3d 353, 222 Cal.Rptr. 13, 710 P.2d 925). We therefore grant the petition and reverse the judgment of death. In all other respects, the judgment is affirmed. If the People do not elect to retry the issue of penalty, defendant remains sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.


A. Facts

Martha Jones (hereafter Martha) and her father, William North (hereafter North), were shot to death in the early morning hours of April 27, 1981. [43 Cal.3d 341] Their bodies were found by Donald North, brother and son of the victims, respectively, in the hallway of the motor home owned by North in Yuba County. Defendant was arrested two days later in Susanville.

The prosecution's case, based almost entirely on circumstantial evidence, was premised on the theory that defendant first

Page 371

killed Martha and thereafter killed North. Defendant, who did not deny being at the scene, claimed that Martha first killed her father and thereafter accidentally killed herself when defendant attempted to defend himself against her assault on him.

1. Prosecution Case.

The North family had gathered at the mobilehome because the mother was in the hospital. Donald North, 60 years old, had come from Alaska. Defendant, 32, and Martha, with whom he lived, had travelled from Booneville with Eric, defendant's nine-month-old son by a prior marriage. [729 P.2d 806] Also present in the late afternoon and evening of April 26 were Martha's daughter, Rebecca, and Rebecca's boyfriend, Jim.

Sheriff's deputies described the crime scene: The body of North, clad only in a pair of slacks, was slumped forward with the legs bent under the body. His body was near a wall heater and partially obstructed the narrow, 31-inch wide hallway. His body was between Martha's body and the door of the master bedroom in which he slept. The body of Martha, clad in a blue bathrobe, lay outside the door of the other bedroom, which was next to the living room. Each victim had been shot in the head; the officers retrieved lead fragments and the copper jackets from two .357 magnum rounds. One of the copper jackets was found lying on Martha's prone body; the second was taken from a hole in the door of the master bedroom.

In the wall near Martha's head, about 21 inches from the floor, there was a horizontal gouge with a visible lead streak. The gouge mark ran parallel to the floor toward the rear of the trailer where, from the door of the master bedroom, the officers removed the copper-jacketed bullet. The bullet's lead core was intact. The gouge mark near Martha's head was spattered on both sides with blood. Also found down the hall, near the bullet (which was about 16 inches from the floor), were bone and hair materials later proved to be Martha's.

North's body was near the bathroom door, between the doors to the bedrooms. He was crumpled forward, his head down on the threshold of the bathroom. There were vertical gouge marks running downward on the wall heater next to North's head. The marks or striations, one of which tested positive for lead, ran downward from 17 to 14 inches from the floor. There [43 Cal.3d 342] was blood below the striations and near North's head on the wall heater, and there was blood, later determined to be his, on his slacks just below the left knee. There was no blood on his back.

The ballistics expert testified it was "consistent" that the bullet that killed Martha was the same as that which left the lead-streak gouge on the wall near her head and which was found in the bedroom door.

The forensic pathologist testified that Martha (46 years old, 5 feet 8 inches tall, and 107 pounds) died from a pointblank gunshot wound to the head that entered the brain. The wound started at the left eye and went across her head from left to right. The bullet went through the nose and right eye and came out through the right side of the skull. Only two small lead fragments were left in her head. There was no physical evidence of a struggle, no bruises on wrists or on other parts of her body. Asked if the wounds and bullet tracking were consistent with self-infliction by a right-handed person, the pathologist responded: "It's really difficult to do this if one's actually got one's index finger in the trigger guard on a four inch barrel .357 magnum pistol ..."

The entry wound in North's head was in the back to the top and left. The track went down, back to front, and left to right, through the mid-portion of the brain, and exited just below the ear lobe on the right side. The size of the hole suggested a large caliber weapon such as a .357 magnum, fired within a foot of the head. The blood, when wet, had run from the wound to the front of the face and from the ear towards the forehead. The pathologist concluded from North's size and the position of his body, combined with the closeness

Page 372

of the shot, the angle of the bullet track, and the blood going forward from the wound toward the wall heater, that North could not have been standing when the wound was inflicted unless the killer held the gun above the victim's head and pulled the trigger with a thumb. The wound was such that North slumped or fell immediately and died within minutes. The doctor opined that the killer was standing and North's head was down low as if kneeling.

Martha's brother Donald testified that he returned from the hospital visit to his mother about 8:30 or 9 p.m. on the evening prior to the homicide. Martha and defendant[729 P.2d 807] were cooking dinner. He heard a "couple of arguments" between them in the course of the evening--they "cussed" at each other primarily "over the kid." Donald, who had been up all night the night before, retired between 11:30 and midnight; he conversed with his father in the bedroom prior to retiring, continued to hear "mumblings" from the living room, but heard nothing else until the phone rang about 7:30 a.m. the next morning. When awakened by the phone, he opened the door, saw [43 Cal.3d 343] his father in a kneeling position in the hall, and yelled at him to answer the phone. He thought his father was talking to his sister, who was lying on her back. He then realized what had happened and sought help. Donald had heard no gunshots--he was hard of hearing. He saw no guns that evening or at any prior time; he thought Martha and defendant were "mad at each other," but that was "nothing new." Defendant made no threats against Martha, and there were no arguments between defendant and North, nor between Martha and her father.

Martha's daughter Rebecca testified to the close relationship between her mother and grandfather. Rebecca also testified to arguments between her mother and defendant concerning baby Eric. At midnight, Rebecca observed her mother lying on the bedroom floor; defendant walked between the bedroom and living room, mumbling, and on one occasion implored Rebecca to "talk to my mother, that she was upset with him." Rebecca declined. She left the trailer shortly thereafter and returned about 1:20 a.m. Donald and North were in bed. Martha was in the living room. In the presence of Rebecca and her boyfriend, defendant and Martha again engaged in a heated argument, again over who was going to take care of the baby: "They were arguing, my mom was really upset. She was screaming and he was yelling at her." Rebecca and her boyfriend left at 1:30 a.m.

Rebecca testified that her mother owned a gun--a .357 magnum--which had been given her by her son before he went into the service. Rebecca did not see the gun on the evening before the homicide and had never seen her mother fire the weapon. She also stated that her mother took medication, Valium, given her by the doctor. According to Rebecca, Martha had taken one Valium that afternoon, the last she had.

Defendant was arrested in Susanville two days after the incident. After appropriate Miranda warnings, he gave successive statements to Sergeant Burke of the Susanville Police Department on April 29 and to Lieutenant Tindel of the Yuba County Sheriff's office on April 30. He told both the same basic story: After dinner Martha and her father argued. He (defendant) did not argue with Martha. He told one officer he retired at 10:30 or 11 and he told the other he retired at midnight. He woke up when he heard a gunshot. He stood up and saw North dropping in the hall near North's bedroom door. Martha was standing in the hallway near defendant's bedroom. Her hands were on the pistol pointed at him. He grabbed her hand and tried to wrestle the gun out of her hand while pushing the...

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