People v. Bradford, Cr. 11667

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Writing for the CourtMOSK; TRAYNOR; McCOMB
Citation450 P.2d 46,74 Cal.Rptr. 726,70 Cal.2d 333
Parties, 450 P.2d 46 The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. James BRADFORD, Jr., Defendant and Appellant.
Decision Date13 February 1969
Docket NumberCr. 11667

Page 726

74 Cal.Rptr. 726
70 Cal.2d 333, 450 P.2d 46
The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
James BRADFORD, Jr., Defendant and Appellant.
Cr. 11667.
Supreme Court of California,
In Bank.
Feb. 13, 1969.
As Modified on Denial of Rehearing March 12, 1969.

Page 727

[450 P.2d 47] [70 Cal.2d 336] William R. Freeman, Los Angeles, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for defendant and appellant.

Thomas C. Lynch, Atty. Gen., William E. James, Asst. Atty. Gen., and Thomas Kerrigan, Deputy Atty. Gen., for plaintiff and respondent.

MOSK, Justice.

Defendant James Bradford, Jr., appeals from a judgment entered upon a jury verdict convicting him of first degree murder (Pen.Code, § 187). In the penalty proceeding the same jury fixed the punishment at death. This appeal is automatic (Pen.Code, § 1239, subd. (b)). We affirm the judgment as to guilt but, under compulsion of Witherspoon v. Illinois (1968) 391 U.S. 510, 88 S.Ct. 1770, 20 L.Ed.2d 776, we reverse as to penalty.

On November 11, 1966, in a remote area of the San Gabriel Mountains north of Glendora, two hunters happened upon the semi-nude body of a woman, subsequently identified as Betty Louise Peace. The hunters promptly notified the Los Angeles Sheriff's office, and after photographs of the body and surrounding[70 Cal.2d 337] scene were taken, the body was removed to the county coroner's office.

The next day Dr. Woodard, a staff member of the coroner's office performed a postmortem examination of the dead woman. As of November 12, the date of the autopsy, he was of the opinion the woman had been dead at least three days and could have been dead as long as ten days. There were too many variables, he related, to determine with greater precision the date of death. His examination revealed that the woman had sustained two circular skull fractures but these were not, in his judgment, the cause of death. The primary cause of death, he concluded, was chemical burns. He noticed a slight tissue reaction to the burns which would not have occurred had the victim already been dead when the burns were inflicted. Dr. Woodard testified that the woman could not have survived more than 24 hours following the injury. The chemical burns covered about 60 percent of the total body surface and were concentrated about the face and head. He could not tell whether the victim was conscious or unconscious upon receiving the burns; in the event she was conscious, she would have lost consciousness within 15 minutes. A forensic chemist, Dr. Comp, examined several articles found near the body and uncovered traces of sulphuric acid. It is undisputed that a substantial amount of sulphuric acid had been applied to the victim's body.

Circumstantial evidence linked defendant with the murder. An 'O ring' or gasket with an outside diameter of 2 3/8 inches was found near the deceased's body. The 'O ring' was similar to those sold by the National Seal Division of the Federal Mogul Corporation for use in 'stack-o-drums,' a 15-gallon container in which commercial acid is packaged, manufactured by the Union Carbide Company. While it could not be established with absolute certainty that the 'O ring' in evidence was made by the Federal Mogul Corporation, since 11 other manufacturers, including three in the Los Angeles area, produced similar acid-resistant gaskets, the object in evidence was identical to those used by Union Carbide.

On--November 2, 1966, the Los Angeles chemical plant of McKesson and Robbins, which distributes sulphuric acid in Union Carbide 'stack-o-drums,' sold two drums to one 'John Marshall.' Each drum weighed 220 pounds and contained 15 gallons of sulphuric acid. The shipping clerk recalled the sale at trial since it was an unusual purchase. He believed that defendant had made the purchase but he could [70 Cal.2d 338] not unequivocally identify defendant in court. The name and address which the purchaser had signed on the bill of sale,

Page 728

[450 P.2d 48] however, were demonstrated to be fictitious, and the People's expert testified that the handwriting on the bill of sale was disguised and careful comparison with exemplars of defendant's handwriting persuaded him that defendant had signed the bill.

Other evidence further implicated defendant. His wife's aunt, Mary Huntley, recalled that sometime in October or November defendant had asked her permission to store a package in her garage. She saw a can in the garage the following day, but when asked if it was similar to People's Exhibit No. 43, a 'stack-o-drum,' her memory was unclear: 'Seems like it. I don't know. Wasn't paying attention to that.' At trial Elijah Butler, an uncle of defendant's wife, denied that he had seen a can similar to a 'stack-o-drum' in his sister's garage or backyard; he had previously told David Correa, an investigator from the district attorney's office, however, that he had seen a similar can. Defendant's mother-in-law could not recall with any specificity defendant's visit to her home.

Defendant's wife, Mary Bradford, remembered with clarity the important events. She testified that defendant had asked her aunt for permission to use the garage at her mother's house on November 3; at that time she, her mother and her aunt, and one or two others were playing cards. She recalled that defendant soon returned from her aunt's house, which was nearby, and she watched while defendant discarded something into a trash barrel. Upon defendant's departure she retrieved two tags from the barrel. One of the tags was stamped '11--66,' contained the legend 'Sulphuric Acid, 66 degree BE chemical,' and the name of McKesson and Robbins. A second tag was a caution tag used on 'stack-o-drums.' Later that afternoon she visited her aunt's home where she saw two cans in the garage, one of which was similar to People's Exhibit No. 43. On November 5, two days later, she again visited her aunt's home and this time observed but one can. When she saw defendant on November 5 he gave her jewelry that had belonged to the victim, Betty Peace. Finally, at trial Mrs. Bradford produced shoes, similar in size and brand to those worn by defendant during his trial, which had been, in a chemist's opinion, subject to the action of sulphuric acid. She said defendant was wearing these shoes on November 5 when he reappeared, his clothes in disarray, at his mother-in-law's house.

Defendant had known Betty Peace, the victim, since 1963, [70 Cal.2d 339] when she arrived in California from her home in North Carolina. In the summer of 1964, and again in 1965 and 1966, the couple, representing themselves as husband and wife, journeyed to North Carolina where they visited Betty's mother and aunt. In the summer of 1966 Betty's aunt, who had raised Betty as a young girl, noticed that she had suffered a small head laceration; defendant explained he had hit her with 'that thing,' indicating a pistol on the seat of the car. In the fall of 1966 Betty, who had been in North Carolina, rejoined defendant in Detroit, and they traveled by car as far as Phoenix, proceeding from there by plane to Los Angeles. In Amarillo, Texas, the two had called Betty's aunt, and defendant stated they were going to Los Angeles to pick up a 1967 Buick and would soon return to North Carolina to live. Again at 11 p.m. (Los Angeles time) on November 3 they called Betty's aunt, and defendant assured her they would be leaving the following day for North Carolina.

They had arrived in Los Angeles on November 1, and under the name of Mrs. Betty Bradford had rented a white Ford, license number RTR 730. They spent the nights of November 1 and 2 at the Continental Hotel where defendant registered them as 'Mr. and Mrs. Wilmer Harris,' using his cousin's name and a nonexistent address. On the registration card it was noted that their car bore the license RTR 730. On the morning of November 2 defendant made a hairdresser appointment for Betty; the beautician testified that Betty, whom she had known for several years, came into the shop alone at 1 p.m., and that defendant did not pick her up until early evening. Lastly, prosecution evidence showed that defendant's cousin Wilmer Harris, defendant's wife Mary Bradford, and defendant returned the rented car on November 5. It had been driven 328 miles.

Page 729

[450 P.2d 49] Defendant testified in his own defense. He denied he had purchased two 'stack-o-drums' of sulphuric acid from McKesson and Robbins; on behalf of the defense a handwriting expert testified that the signature and address on the bill of sale could not, in his professional opinion, be ascribed to defendant. Defendant denied he had asked his wife's aunt for permission to store a package; while he admitted that the shoes introduced in evidence belonged to him, he said he had left them with his wife. He explained that on November 2 he had taken Betty to the hairdresser while he visited a barber shop a few doors away. He and Betty spent the night of November 3 at the Flamingo Motel, and he saw Betty for the [70 Cal.2d 340] last time around noon on November 4. He had told her that he and his wife, Mary, had to leave for Oakland to check on some property. According to defendant, Betty was upset by the prospect that he would soon see and go to Oakland with his wife and announced that if he did so, she would return to North Carolina. Defendant testified he gave her $200 for the trip and left for his mother-in-law's house where he spent the rest of November 4, including that night, and November 5. Defendant denied he gave his wife jewelry that belonged to Betty; the last time he saw the jewelry, he said, it was in Betty's possession.

It is undisputed that defendant and his wife went to Oakland on November 6 and returned to Los Angeles the next day. On November 8, accompanied by Gloria Dixon, an acquaintance who wanted to go east, defendant departed for Chicago by way of Phoenix where he picked up his car. He testified that before he left, he had tried to reach Betty...

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45 practice notes
  • People v. Kuhns, Cr. 14439
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 8 Septiembre 1976
    ...was interposed before the trial court. They suggest that it should be applied as a procedural change. (See People v. Bradford (1969) 70 Cal.2d 333, 343, 74 Cal.Rptr. 726, 450 P.2d 46, change in testimonial privilege, cert. den. 399 U.S. 911, 90 S.Ct. 2204, 26 L.Ed.2d 566; People v. Snipe (1......
  • People v. McGowan, B263026
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 19 Noviembre 2015
    ...evidence may be obtained by the time of trial. In any event, an unlawful arrest is not a bar to trial. (See People v. Bradford (1969) 70 Cal.2d 333, 344–345, 74 Cal.Rptr. 726, 450 P.2d 46.) Gerstein is concerned only with probable cause for pretrial detention and does not purport to hold th......
  • People v. Cleveland, No. S024416
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • 25 Marzo 2004
    ...p. 1348; see also 2 Jefferson, Cal. Evidence Benchbook (Cont.Ed.Bar 3d ed. Mar.2002 Supp.) § 36.21, p. 811; People v. Bradford (1969) 70 Cal.2d 333, 342, fn. 2, 74 Cal.Rptr. 726, 450 P.2d 46 [acts of placing cans in garage and giving wife the victim's jewelry "are not `communications' withi......
  • People v. Laursen
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 21 Enero 1972
    ...in which he is physically present has jurisdiction over his person and affords him a fair trial at that place. (People v. Bradford (1969) 70 Cal.2d 333, 344-345, 74 Cal.Rptr. 726, 450 P.2d 46; People v. Willingham (1969) 271 Cal.App.2d 562, 567-570, 76 Cal.Rptr. 760; Witkin, Cal.Crim.Proc.,......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
45 cases
  • People v. Kuhns, Cr. 14439
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 8 Septiembre 1976
    ...was interposed before the trial court. They suggest that it should be applied as a procedural change. (See People v. Bradford (1969) 70 Cal.2d 333, 343, 74 Cal.Rptr. 726, 450 P.2d 46, change in testimonial privilege, cert. den. 399 U.S. 911, 90 S.Ct. 2204, 26 L.Ed.2d 566; People v. Snipe (1......
  • People v. McGowan, B263026
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 19 Noviembre 2015
    ...evidence may be obtained by the time of trial. In any event, an unlawful arrest is not a bar to trial. (See People v. Bradford (1969) 70 Cal.2d 333, 344–345, 74 Cal.Rptr. 726, 450 P.2d 46.) Gerstein is concerned only with probable cause for pretrial detention and does not purport to hold th......
  • People v. Cleveland, No. S024416
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • 25 Marzo 2004
    ...p. 1348; see also 2 Jefferson, Cal. Evidence Benchbook (Cont.Ed.Bar 3d ed. Mar.2002 Supp.) § 36.21, p. 811; People v. Bradford (1969) 70 Cal.2d 333, 342, fn. 2, 74 Cal.Rptr. 726, 450 P.2d 46 [acts of placing cans in garage and giving wife the victim's jewelry "are not `communications' withi......
  • People v. Laursen
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 21 Enero 1972
    ...in which he is physically present has jurisdiction over his person and affords him a fair trial at that place. (People v. Bradford (1969) 70 Cal.2d 333, 344-345, 74 Cal.Rptr. 726, 450 P.2d 46; People v. Willingham (1969) 271 Cal.App.2d 562, 567-570, 76 Cal.Rptr. 760; Witkin, Cal.Crim.Proc.,......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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