People v. Bolin, S019786

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Citation956 P.2d 374,75 Cal.Rptr.2d 412,18 Cal.4th 297
Decision Date18 June 1998
Docket NumberNo. S019786,S019786
Parties, 956 P.2d 374, 98 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 4680, 98 Daily Journal D.A.R. 6653 The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Paul Clarence BOLIN, Defendant and Appellant

Page 412

75 Cal.Rptr.2d 412
18 Cal.4th 297, 956 P.2d 374, 98 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 4680,
98 Daily Journal D.A.R. 6653
The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
Paul Clarence BOLIN, Defendant and Appellant.
No. S019786.
Supreme Court of California
June 18, 1998.
As Modified on Denial of Rehearing Aug. 12, 1998.

Page 421

[18 Cal.4th 308] [956 P.2d 383] Richard C. Gilman, under appointment by the Supreme Court, Oxnard, for Defendant and Appellant.

[18 Cal.4th 309] Daniel E. Lungren, Attorney General, George Williamson, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Robert R. Anderson, Assistant Attorney General, Ward A. Campbell, Shirley A. Nelson and Rachelle A. Newcomb, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

BROWN, Justice.

A jury convicted defendant Paul Clarence Bolin of two counts of first degree murder (Pen.Code, § 187; further unspecified statutory references are to the Penal Code), one count of attempted first degree murder (§§ 187, 664), and one count of cultivation of marijuana (Health & Saf.Code, § 11358). It found true allegations of personal firearm use (§§ 1203.06, subd. (a)(1), 12022.5) and a prior serious felony conviction (§ 667, subd. (a)). The jury also returned a true finding on the special circumstance allegation of multiple murder (§ 190.2, subd. (a)(3)) and set the penalty at death. The trial court denied defendant's motion to modify the sentence (§ 190.4, subd. (e)). This appeal is automatic (§ 1239).


A. Guilt Phase

The crimes occurred Labor Day weekend of 1989, when defendant was living in a small cabin located in a secluded mountainous area of Walker Basin in rural Kern County. Vance Huffstuttler also lived on the property in a trailer. Together they cultivated marijuana defendant had planted nearby. Defendant had taken on Huffstuttler as an assistant in the marijuana venture and intended to give him a portion of the profits when they sold the crop.

On Friday, September 1, Steve Mincy and Jim Wilson drove from Garden Grove to a campsite owned by Mincy's father, Robert, near Twin Oaks, also in Kern County. Robert and several other family members and friends had already arrived and were planning to spend the weekend. The next day, Wilson went for a bicycle ride and then met Steve Mincy at a bar in Twin Oaks. Mincy was there drinking with several others, including Vance Huffstuttler; defendant was also among the group. Later, Wilson returned to the campsite, where he agreed to drive Huffstuttler back to his trailer; Mincy accompanied them.

Page 422

[956 P.2d 384] According to Wilson's trial testimony, the trip to Walker Basin took about 45 minutes in his truck, including 30 minutes on rough dirt roads leading into defendant's property. Defendant had already returned to his cabin. Upon [18 Cal.4th 310] arriving, Mincy, Wilson, and Huffstuttler saw him there with Eloy Ramirez, a friend of defendant's who was blind in one eye. When they got out of the truck, Huffstuttler took Mincy and Wilson across a creek bed and showed them numerous marijuana plants under cultivation. Defendant followed shortly thereafter and confronted Huffstuttler about bringing strangers to the location. Wilson testified defendant became "pretty agitated" and began arguing with Huffstuttler. The two returned to the other side of the creek bed toward the cabin, out of Wilson's view, still arguing. Wilson then heard a gunshot from that direction. A moment later, he and Mincy saw defendant appear from behind a line of trees holding a revolver and saying he had "nothing against" them. As Wilson turned and ran, defendant fired a shot that hit him in the shoulder. He heard several more shots as Mincy begged for his life.

According to Ramirez's testimony, when defendant and Huffstuttler returned across the creek bed arguing, defendant went into the cabin and came out with a revolver. Huffstuttler asked, "What are you going to do, shoot me?" Defendant did not respond, but instead fired one shot at close range. Huffstuttler fell to the ground and did not move. Defendant then approached Mincy and Wilson and fired several more rounds. Back at the cabin, he took a rifle and shot at Huffstuttler's inert body. He also took other steps to make the scene appear like the result of a drug deal gone bad. Ramirez refused to assist him. When defendant finished, they both left for Southern California.

Meanwhile, after traveling all night over the mountainous terrain, Wilson found his way to a neighboring ranch, where the owner called the sheriff's office. When sheriff's deputies went to defendant's cabin, they found Huffstuttler's body lying near Wilson's truck; Mincy's body was in the creek bed in a fetal position. Both had several fatal gunshot wounds; Huffstuttler had been shot with both a revolver and a rifle. The area inside and outside the cabin was in disarray with broken bottles and marijuana paraphernalia as well as some loose marijuana scattered about. The revolver, wiped clean of fingerprints, was found near Huffstuttler. A knife was found nearby as well. Spent shell casings and bullets were retrieved from near each body. At trial, Criminalist Gregory Laskowski determined that grooves in the bullets were consistent with having been fired from the .45-caliber weapon found at the scene. He also testified that blood spatters around Mincy's body indicated some gunshot wounds had been inflicted while he was running and at least one other while he was in a fetal position.

Despite an extensive search, law enforcement was unable to locate defendant for several months. Authorities eventually arrested him in Chicago where he had been living with friends and family members. Sheriff's [18 Cal.4th 311] deputies also traced the whereabouts of Eloy Ramirez to the house of his girlfriend, Patricia Islas, in Covina, where he had gone after the killings. At trial, Ramirez corroborated the description of events recounted by Wilson.

The defense presented no evidence at the guilt phase.

B. Penalty Phase

1. Prosecution Evidence

At the penalty phase, the prosecution presented evidence of two instances of violent criminal conduct--an unadjudicated assault with great bodily injury of Matthew Spencer and the attempted manslaughter of Kenneth Ross, for which defendant was convicted and sentenced to prison. The prosecution also submitted a threatening letter defendant wrote to Jerry Halfacre while incarcerated awaiting trial. Halfacre had previously had a relationship with defendant's daughter, Paula, and was the father of her child. Among other things, the letter warned Halfacre not to see Paula again or defendant would have him "permanently removed from the face of this Earth." Halfacre had given the letter to his probation officer, who transferred

Page 423

[956 P.2d 385] it to a Kern County District Attorney investigator.

2. Defense Evidence

In addition to testimony that defendant had acted under provocation in the incidents involving Spencer and Ross, the defense presented evidence of his upbringing. Defendant's parents divorced when he was eight years old, and within a few years neither wanted to care for him. He lived on the street until he was 16 years old when he joined the Navy and went to Vietnam. Defendant's two daughters testified he had raised them from young ages when their mother abandoned them. Defendant also raised his stepdaughter, Pamela Castillo, after he and her mother were divorced. Other family members and friends recounted how defendant had helped them in various ways.


A. Pretrial Issues

1. Change of Venue Motion

Prior to trial, defendant moved for a change of venue due to pretrial publicity about the case. Not only had the local television and print media [18 Cal.4th 312] given the killings substantial coverage, the program, America's Most Wanted, featured a television reenactment of the crimes during a segment aired just prior to defendant's arrest. The broadcast apparently led to his identification in Chicago as the alleged perpetrator, and a second airing shortly thereafter described his apprehension. In support of the motion, defendant submitted video taped copies of the television episodes as well as local news clippings reporting the crimes. At the hearing on the change of venue motion, defense counsel also referred to the results of a public opinion survey the defense had undertaken in Kern County. Based on the survey, counsel represented that 45 percent of the people responding indicated they had some knowledge of the case due to the media attention. Of this number, 20 percent had seen the America's Most Wanted reenactment.

Initially, we address defendant's claim counsel was ineffective for failing to make a sufficient record in support of the motion because he failed to have the public opinion survey entered into evidence. We find no deficiency. (See post, at p. 437 of 75 Cal.Rptr.2d, at p. 399 of 956 P.2d.) The trial court had a copy of the survey for its consideration. Counsel orally represented the statistical information he deemed most vital to the motion. Since the prosecutor offered no contradiction, we have concluded those representations were accurate and accepted them as part of the record, but for the reasons discussed below find them irrelevant to our determination of this issue. Defendant fails to identify any other materials that would have bolstered his motion.

After considering the materials presented, the trial court found only the initial television episode a possible basis for granting a change of venue, expressing concern that psychologically those who had watched the reenactment would be unable to set aside its impact. Nevertheless, the court tentatively denied the motion and reserved final ruling to see the number of prospective jurors who had actually viewed it and their reactions. At the close of voir dire, defendant accepted the jury with 16 peremptory challenges remaining, notwithstanding the fact 3 jurors had seen the crime scene...

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