People v. Carrington, S043628.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Citation211 P.3d 617,97 Cal.Rptr.3d 117,47 Cal. 4th 145
Decision Date27 July 2009
Docket NumberNo. S043628.,S043628.
PartiesThe PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Celeste Simone CARRINGTON, Defendant and Appellant.
211 P.3d 617
97 Cal.Rptr.3d 117
47 Cal. 4th 145
The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
Celeste Simone CARRINGTON, Defendant and Appellant.
No. S043628.
Supreme Court of California.
July 27, 2009.

[211 P.3d 629]

Lynne S. Coffin and Michael J. Hersek, State Public Defenders, under appointment by the Supreme Court, Barry P. Helft, Chief Deputy State Public Defender, and Kathryn E. Collier, Deputy State Public Defender, for Defendant and Appellant.

Bill Lockyer and Edmund G. Brown, Jr., Attorneys General, Robert R. Anderson, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Gerald A. Engler, Assistant Attorney General, Bruce Ortega and Amy Haddix, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.


After a jury trial, defendant Celeste Simone Carrington was convicted of the first degree murders of Victor Esparza and Carolyn Gleason, and the jury found true, as to each count of murder, allegations of burglary and robbery special circumstances. (Penal Code §§ 187, subd. (a), 190.2, subd. (a)(17)(I) & (VII), 1203.06, subd. (a)(1), and 12022.5, subd. (a).)1 The jury also found true a multiple-murder special circumstance. (§ 190.2, subd. (a)(3).) Defendant was convicted of the second degree attempted murder of Dr. Allan Marks, and an allegation that she personally inflicted great bodily injury during the commission of that crime was found true. (§§ 664, 187, subd. (a); 12022.7.) She was convicted of the robbery of each of these three victims, as well as eight counts of commercial burglary. (§§ 211, 460, subd. (b).) Except as to five of the counts of commercial burglary, allegations that defendant personally used a firearm in the commission of these offenses were found true. (§§ 1203.06, subd. (a)(1) and 12022.5, subd. (a).) After the penalty phase of the trial, the jury returned a verdict of death, and the trial court denied defendant's motion to modify the verdict to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. (§ 190.4, subd. (e).) This appeal is automatic. (§ 1239, subd. (b).)

For the reasons discussed below, we reverse defendant's convictions for burglary in counts 9 and 10 and affirm defendant's remaining convictions and death sentence.


A. Guilt Phase

The offenses of which defendant Celeste Carrington was convicted arose out of four separate incidents. Most of the facts underlying these offenses were admitted by defendant in her statements to the police, which she made shortly after her arrest. The first incident involved the burglary of a Dodge dealership located at 640 Veterans Boulevard in Redwood City, on the night of January 17, 1992. In her statement to the police, defendant admitted the following. She previously had been employed as a janitor for several companies and, having worked in this building, defendant was aware that the back entrance was often left unlocked. She went to that location with gloves and a crowbar, which she used to force open several interior doors. Among other items, she stole a .357 magnum revolver and five bullets.

The second incident involved the burglary of a building located at 1123 Industrial Road in San Carlos and the murder of Victor Esparza, on the night of January 26, 1992. In her statement, defendant admitted the following. She previously had worked on the premises as a janitor and had retained a key to the building. She borrowed a car from her neighbor and drove to the location,

211 P.3d 630

armed with the .357 magnum revolver she had stolen from the Dodge dealership. She used her key to enter the building, accidentally setting off the alarm. Victor Esparza, who was cleaning the facility, observed her in an office cubicle. She told him that she worked in the building and must have accidentally set off the alarm. Esparza asked her to call the building manager to report the alarm, took out his wallet, and handed her a telephone number. Defendant displayed the gun and took his wallet, which contained about $45 or $55 in cash. She also demanded the personal identification number (PIN) for his automated teller machine (ATM) card, which he wrote down. As defendant walked out of the cubicle, she turned around and shot Esparza. She later attempted to use his ATM card, but the PIN he had given her was invalid. Defendant admitted that she intended to kill Esparza, and that the experience was exciting and made her feel powerful.

The forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy on Esparza, Peter Benson, testified that Esparza died of a gunshot wound to the head, inflicted from a distance of approximately six inches. Benson concluded that the angle of the gunshot wound was not inconsistent with the victim having been shot while kneeling and looking up at the shooter, nor was it inconsistent with the possibility that the victim was standing. Celia Hartnett, a criminalist for the San Mateo County Sheriff's Laboratory who examined Esparza's body at the crime scene, testified that in her opinion—based upon the position of the body and the clothing, the pools of blood on the carpet, the blood on the clothing, and an abrasion on the forehead—he probably was on his knees when he was shot, with his arms raised in a defensive position; he likely fell forward and then rotated onto his back. Hartnett believed that Esparza was shot from a distance of between six inches and one foot.

The third incident involved the burglary of an office building located at 777 California Street in Palo Alto in Santa Clara County and the murder of Carolyn Gleason, on March 11, 1992. In her statement to the police, defendant admitted the following. She previously had worked as a janitor in the building and had retained a key. A neighbor gave her a ride to the premises from her apartment in East Palo Alto. Defendant brought a pair of gloves, a screwdriver, and the same .357 magnum revolver she had used to kill Victor Esparza. Her key would not open the door. She observed two cars in the parking lot and two janitors working in the building. She waited for these individuals to leave before using the screwdriver to open the door. Defendant walked through the facility looking for money but found none. She heard Caroline Gleason enter and go into an office. Defendant watched her and eventually encountered her in the copy room. When defendant displayed the gun, Gleason begged her to put it away. According to defendant, she did not want to hurt Gleason, but she became nervous and pulled the trigger.

After shooting Gleason, defendant took Gleason's keys and about $400 from her desk. She went outside to the parking lot and entered Gleason's car, where she found Gleason's purse, which contained her ATM card and PIN. Defendant drove the car to a bank in Palo Alto, where she made two unsuccessful attempts to withdraw money from Gleason's account, but was able to withdraw $200 from an ATM at a 7-Eleven store and another $100 from a second bank. She left the car in a hospital parking lot and took a taxi back to her apartment.

An autopsy indicated that Gleason died as the result of a single gunshot to the head fired from a very close range. The prosecution's forensic expert, criminalist Hartnett, opined—based upon the position of Gleason's body, the height of the blood spatters, the angle of the gunshot wound, and the presence of gunshot residue on Gleason's sleeve—that the victim was kneeling and had tried to cover her face when shot.

The fourth incident involved the burglary of a medical office building located at 80 Brewster Street in Redwood City and the attempted murder of Dr. Allan Marks, on the evening of March 16, 1992. Defendant, in her statement to the police, admitted the following. As in two of the earlier incidents, she brought with her a key she had retained

211 P.3d 631

from her prior employment at the building as a janitor, a pair of gloves, and the same .357 magnum revolver. The doors to the building still were unlocked when she arrived at 5:30 p.m. After discovering that she was unable to open any of the internal offices with her key, defendant hid in a closet for a few hours. She emerged from the closet and spent some time in the building before observing Dr. Marks leaving his office after a late appointment. She decided to rob him and pulled out the gun. When Marks observed her, he "went crazy" and the two struggled over the gun. During the struggle she pulled the trigger three times, resulting in one misfire and two shots. Marks managed to force her out of the office and locked the door. Defendant fled the building, taking with her some access cards and prescription drugs.

Dr. Marks testified to a somewhat different version of the shooting. According to his account, as he was about to leave his office defendant pushed the door open and came "barreling through," causing the door to push him to the side. He recognized her as a former janitor in the building and began screaming and waiving his hands. Defendant was standing about three feet from him, holding a gun in her right hand. She pointed it at his upper body, and he heard gunshots. He was shot in the left shoulder, left thumb, and right forearm. After being shot, Marks collapsed to his knees and defendant left the office. He closed the door behind her and called 911.

Defendant was arrested a few days later. Her apartment in East Palo Alto was searched pursuant to three warrants obtained by the Los Altos, Palo Alto, and Redwood City Police Departments. The police found evidence that connected defendant to all four incidents: the keys to the Redwood City Dodge dealership; the gun that had been taken from the dealership, which was the weapon used to shoot Esparza, Gleason, and Marks; Gleason's pager and purse, and the key to the building in which she was shot; a box from Gleason's office that held petty cash; a piece of paper with Gleason's PIN on it; and a drug kit taken from a doctor's office in the medical building in which Marks was shot. After the search was completed, police officers from each of the...

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