People v. Carpenter

Decision Date29 November 1999
Docket NumberNo. S006547.,S006547.
Citation988 P.2d 531,21 Cal.4th 1016,90 Cal.Rptr.2d 607
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court
PartiesThe PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. David Joseph CARPENTER, Defendant and Appellant.

Rehearing Denied January 19, 2000.1

Fern M. Laethem, State Public Defender, under appointment by the Supreme Court, Kent Barkhurst and Charles J. Press, Deputy State Public Defenders, for Defendant and Appellant.

Daniel E. Lungren and Bill Lockyer, Attorneys General, George Williamson, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Gary W. Schons, Assistant Attorney General, William M. Wood, Laura Whitcomb Halgren and Steven T. Oetting, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.


Two juries have convicted defendant of being the "Trailside Killer" who, in 1980 and 1981, assaulted hikers on remote paths in Santa Cruz and Marin Counties, raped some, shot seven to death, and wounded an eighth. Both juries returned a verdict of death, and the courts imposed judgment accordingly.

The case we now review, tried in San Diego County following a change of venue, is the appeal from the second judgment of death. The jury found defendant guilty of these crimes in Marin County: the first degree murders of Cynthia Moreland, Richard Stowers, Anne Alderson, Diane O'Connell, and Shauna May, the rapes of Alderson and May, and the attempted rape of O'Connell. It found true special circumstance allegations of multiple murder and, as to Alderson, May, and O'Connell, rape murder. It also found that defendant personally used a firearm as to each crime. After a penalty trial, the jury returned a verdict of death, and the superior court imposed that sentence. Later, the same court granted defendant's petition for writ of habeas corpus and vacated the judgment. We reversed that decision, thereby reinstating the death judgment. (In re Carpenter (1995) 9 Cal.4th 634, 38 Cal. Rptr.2d 665, 889 P.2d 985 (Carpenter I).) This appeal is automatic.

Previously, we affirmed defendant's first judgment of death, rendered in Los Angeles for his Santa Cruz County crimes. (People v. Carpenter (1997) 15 Cal.4th 312, 63 Cal.Rptr.2d 1, 935 P.2d 708 (Carpenter II).) We now affirm the second.

A. Guilt Phase
1. Prosecution Evidence

On October 11, 1980, Cynthia Moreland and Richard Stowers were fatally shot in the head near a hiking trail in a heavily wooded area of Point Reyes National Seashore. Hikers heard gunshots in the area sometime around 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. that day. Moreland's and Stowers's bodies were discovered on November 29, 1980, lying facedown near each other.

Two days after the first shooting, on Columbus Day, October 13, 1980, Anne Alderson was fatally shot in the head from close range near a hiking trail on Mount Tamalpais. A caretaker of a nearby inn last saw her alive around 5:30 that evening. Her body was discovered two days later. It was clothed, but the vagina contained sperm, indicating she had had sexual intercourse around the time she died.

On November 28, 1980, Diane O'Connell and Shauna May were fatally shot in the head at Point Reyes National Seashore. Hikers heard shots in the area around 3:10 p.m. that day, followed by more shots about 10 minutes later. The next day, O'Connell's and May's nude bodies were discovered lying facedown side by side about 200 yards from the bodies of Moreland and Stowers. A pair of panties was in O'Connell's "mouth and nose area," and a bloodstained second pair was by her arm. Physical evidence indicated O'Connell had also been strangled, probably while still alive, by something like a narrow piece of cord or wire. No sperm was found on her body. May's vagina and rectum contained sperm, indicating she had had sexual intercourse around the time she died. A vague ligature mark was found on May's left wrist.

The prosecution presented evidence of the March 29, 1981, murder of Ellen Hansen and attempted murder of Steven Haertle in the Santa Cruz Mountains. These crimes were the subject of defendant's earlier trial. In essence, a gunman confronted Haertle and Hansen on a hiking trail, said he wanted to rape Hansen, and then shot both, killing Hansen. (Carpenter II, supra, 15 Cal.4th at pp. 345-346, 63 Cal.Rptr.2d 1, 935 P.2d 708.)2 The prosecution linked defendant to the crimes of this case primarily by showing that defendant shot Hansen and Haertle, and that the same person committed both the Santa Cruz and the Marin County crimes. It presented much of the same evidence of identity as at the first trial. (Carpenter II, supra, 15 Cal.4th at pp. 347-349, 63 Cal. Rptr.2d 1, 935 P.2d 708.) We summarize that evidence.

Ballistics evidence established that a single gun, a .38-caliber Rossi revolver, was used in each of the killings. Documentary evidence showed that Mollie Purnell, defendant's friend, purchased that gun shortly before the first killing. Purnell testified she bought the gun for defendant and gave it to him at his request. Shane and Karen Williams, both bank robbers, testified that defendant gave them the gun on May 13, 1981, shortly before his arrest. Shane hid the gun in a vacant lot after defendant's arrest and later told the police where he hid it. The police found and seized the gun. Other witnesses also connected defendant to a similar-appearing gun. The Haertle/Hansen gunman was clean-shaven. Around the time of that shooting, defendant, who had been clean-shaven, started to grow a beard. Haertle and another witness identified defendant as the gunman at a physical lineup and at trial. Other witnesses could not identify anyone at the physical lineup (at which defendant was bearded) but did identify him in court. One witness identified a different person at a physical lineup but identified defendant in court. Two witnesses connected the gunman to a red Fiat similar to one defendant owned. Several witnesses said the gunman wore a gold jacket containing distinctive lettering like a jacket that defendant's girlfriend had brought from a bar in Montana and that defendant sometimes wore. Evidence showed that the day before the Haertle/Hansen shooting, defendant purchased a pair of Nike shoes with a size and pattern identical to shoeprints the gunman left behind. The jacket and the shoes were never found. Around early April 1981, defendant told his girlfriend the jacket had been stolen from his car. After defendant's arrest, a bag containing an unexpended .38-caliber bullet was found in another of his cars. A semen stain on Alderson's panties was of a type consistent with about 15 to 19 percent of the Caucasian population, including defendant.

2. Defense Evidence

At the first trial, defendant did not contest his identity as the gunman. (Carpenter II, supra, 15 Cal.4th at p. 349 & fn. 2, 63 Cal.Rptr.2d 1, 935 P.2d 708.) At the second trial he did.

An expert testified that a Nike shoe of defendant's size that the police purchased for comparison purposes could not have left the shoeprints at the Haertle/Hansen crime scene because the shoeprints had 28 ridges in one region, while the comparison shoe had 29 ridges. Defendant presented evidence questioning the ability of one witness to observe the gunman and his car, and impeaching the testimony of another who connected him to the murder weapon. Defendant presented an expert who claimed the serological analysis of the semen stain on Alderson's panties was unreliable. He presented evidence suggesting that the gunman wore a jacket different from the one from the bar in Montana, and that the .38-caliber bullet in the bag did not actually come from his car. He also presented several witnesses challenging Mollie Purnell's credibility.

Several witnesses testified about seeing a man who could have been the Haertle/Hansen gunman. One witness testified that on the day of the shooting, she saw the man a few miles from the crime scene pumping gas into a car quite different from a red Fiat. Another witness testified that she saw the man the morning before the shooting; he did not look like defendant. Another witness testified she saw a man wearing a jacket like the gunman's shortly before 5:00 p.m. on March 19, 1981, near the scene of the shooting; he did not look like defendant. Two witnesses testified that they saw the man near the crime scene the day before the shooting. They described the man somewhat inconsistently with defendant's appearance. One said the man appeared unshaven, with one or two days' growth of beard on his face. In court, however, one of these witnesses said defendant looked similar to the man; the other positively identified him as the man.

One of defendant's employers testified that he was working with her at her business called Gems of the Golden West in San Francisco on October 13, 1980 — the day Alderson was killed — until after 4:30 p.m., possibly until 5:30 to 6:00 p.m.

Defendant testified on his own behalf, denying any involvement in these crimes. He said he knew Mollie Purnell but denied ever receiving the Rossi revolver from her. He admitted wearing the jacket his girlfriend had brought from Montana but denied telling her it had been stolen. He believed "she lost it one night when she got drunk." He admitted purchasing the pair of Nike shoes the day before the Haertle/Hansen shooting. He also described in detail his activities during the relevant times. He said he saved receipts and other documents that could establish what he had been doing in case his parole officer ever asked.

Defendant testified that on October 11, 1980 — the day Moreland and Stowers were killed — he took his father shopping, then took his mother to a foot clinic. He produced some documents they received from the clinic that day. They left the foot clinic around 11:00 to 11:30 a.m. and did additional shopping, arriving home around 5:45 p.m. On October 13, 1980, he worked at Gems of the Golden West until 5:30 to 6:00 p.m., then went home. On the day May and O'Connell died, the day after Thanksgiving 1980, defendant was at his...

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