People v. Carter, No. S023000.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Writing for the CourtGeorge
Citation32 Cal.Rptr.3d 838,117 P.3d 544
PartiesThe PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Dean Phillip CARTER, Defendant and Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. S023000.
Decision Date15 August 2005

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117 P.3d 544
32 Cal.Rptr.3d 838
The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
Dean Phillip CARTER, Defendant and Appellant.
No. S023000.
Supreme Court of California.
August 15, 2005.

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Phillip H. Cherney, Visalia, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant.

Bill Lockyer, Attorney General, David P. Druliner, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Gary W. Schons, Assistant Attorney General, Carl H. Horst and Jeffrey J. Koch, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.


Following the guilt phase of the trial, a San Diego County jury found defendant Dean Phillip Carter guilty of the murder of Janette Cullins. (Pen.Code, § 187, subd. (a).)1 The jury also found defendant guilty of the burglary of Cullins's inhabited residence (§§ 459, 460) and the robbery of Cullins (§§ 211, 213.5), finding that during the course of the burglary and the robbery, defendant personally inflicted great bodily injury (§ 12022.7). The jury found true the

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special circumstances that the murder was committed while lying in wait, in the course of a robbery, and in the course of a burglary, and that defendant previously had been convicted of the murders of Susan Knoll, Jillette Mills, and Bonnie Guthrie. (§ 190.2, former subd. (a)(2), (15), (17)(i), (vii), as amended by Prop. 115, § 10, as approved by voters, Primary Elec. (June 5, 1990).)

The jury further found defendant guilty of forcible rape (§ 261) and forcible oral copulation (§ 288, subd. (c)) arising out of his attack on Barbara S. on March 25, 1984 (approximately 18 days prior to the murder of Janette Cullins). The jury found defendant guilty of burglary of an inhabited residence (§§ 459, 460) and robbery (§§ 211, 213.5) in connection with the attack on Barbara S. As to each of the crimes committed against Barbara S., the jury found that defendant had used a deadly weapon, a knife. (§§ 12022, subd. (b), 12022.3, subd. (a).)

At the conclusion of the penalty phase, the jury returned a verdict of death. The court sentenced defendant to death for the murder of Janette Cullins, in addition to imposing a consecutive sentence of 21 years, 8 months, for the crimes committed against Barbara S. This appeal is automatic. (Cal. Const., art. VI, § 11; § 1239, subd. (b).)2

We set aside the special circumstance of lying in wait, but otherwise affirm the judgment in its entirety as to both guilt and penalty.



A. The Prosecution's Case

1. Overview

The prosecution's theory of the case was that defendant, spurned by a number of women who had rejected his clumsy, unwanted advances, embarked upon a crime spree that spanned approximately three weeks in the early spring of 1984, and consisted of sexually assaulting, robbing, and fatally strangling various women whom he previously had befriended.

On March 24, 1984, defendant, who was then 28 years of age, telephoned an acquaintance of approximately one month, Cathleen Tiner, who declined his invitation to "run off to Mexico and get married." That evening, he telephoned another acquaintance, Polly Haisha, then 18 years of age, informing her that he would be arriving in San Diego the next day. Haisha, who had declined defendant's invitation to "quit school and come sail to France," and had cancelled several dates with defendant, asked him never to call her again. Like Tiner and Haisha, Janette Cullins in the weeks leading up to her death also had spurned defendant's advances.

On March 25, 1984, Susan Loyland, with whom defendant had maintained a sexual relationship, traveled to Mexico without defendant, notwithstanding the circumstance that she previously had made plans to travel with him that day. In the evening, defendant broke into Loyland's San Diego residence, raped at knifepoint Barbara S., Loyland's housemate, and also stole money from Loyland's tip cache. Loyland never heard from defendant again.

On March 27, 1984, defendant, having befriended Jennifer S. in the preceding few days, raped her at knifepoint in her Ventura County apartment. He strangled her to the point at which she lost consciousness, and stole her tip money.

Defendant thereafter traveled north to the San Francisco Bay Area, and on April 1, 1984, encountered Tok Kim at a bar located in Lafayette. They commenced a relationship over the next several days, during which period several witnesses observed them together. Kim's decomposed body was discovered on April 13, 1984. Although the cause of her death could not be determined, strangulation could not be excluded as the cause. Kim's vehicle and various personal items were missing.

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Kim's vehicle was discovered several hundred miles away in Los Angeles County, parked in front of the Culver City apartment in which the bodies of Susan Knoll and Jillette Mills were found stacked in a closed bedroom closet on April 12, 1984. Mills had been sexually assaulted, and each victim had died from asphyxia caused by strangulation. Knoll's vehicle was discovered one block from the apartment. Mills's distinctive Datsun 280 ZX automobile, as well as personal items belonging to both victims, were missing.

On April 12, 1984, the body of Bonnie Guthrie was discovered on the bedroom floor of her Culver City apartment. She had been sexually assaulted and died from asphyxia caused by strangulation. Personal items were missing from her apartment. Later that same day, defendant made an unexpected visit to Cathleen Tiner at her residence in San Diego; Tiner and Janette Cullins had met defendant at a San Diego bar in February 1984. Tiner told defendant she was expecting her date for the evening momentarily and could not see him. Defendant departed.

On April 14, 1984, the body of Janette Cullins was found lying in the closed bedroom closet of her San Diego apartment. The cause of her death was asphyxia caused by strangulation. Near the front door, the presence of wood chips on the floor indicated that someone had broken into her apartment. Cullins had died approximately one to two days earlier. A neighbor had observed that the preceding evening, Jillette Mills's vehicle had been parked in front of Cullins's residence and had departed suddenly and loudly. Cullins's vehicle subsequently was discovered several blocks away. A videocamera at a bank automated teller machine on April 13 recorded a man resembling defendant retrieving money from Cullins's bank account.

On April 17, 1984, an Arizona highway patrol officer observed Mills's vehicle traveling erratically near Ashfork, Arizona. The officer effected a traffic stop and arrested defendant. Inside the vehicle, investigators recovered numerous personal items linking defendant to each one of the deceased women.

In order to explain certain factual differences in the crime scenes at the various residences where the deceased women were found, the prosecution theorized that the reason defendant did not conceal the bodies of Tok Kim or Bonnie Guthrie was that neither victim had a roommate who might discover the body. With respect to the killings of Susan Knoll and Jillette Mills, the prosecution theorized that defendant first murdered Knoll, placing her body in the closet, moved her vehicle to make it appear she was not at home, and then waited until Jillette Mills arrived and murdered her. The prosecution further theorized when defendant broke into Janette Cullins's apartment, murdered her, concealed her body in the closet, and then moved her vehicle, defendant similarly may have intended to kill two women. Cullins's new roommate, Cheri Phinney, whom defendant had met earlier that day, was not yet in possession of an apartment key, however, and did not return to the apartment that evening.

2. The Rape of Barbara S.

The prosecution presented the testimony of a number of witnesses to establish that on March 25, 1984, defendant raped Barbara S. at the residence she shared with Susan Loyland in the marina area of Bay Park, located in San Diego.3

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Barbara S. testified that on that date, she performed yard work at her residence for most of the day, ate dinner, then fell asleep while watching 60 Minutes on television in her bedroom. She awakened to find a man grabbing her and dragging her from her bed. The man held at her throat a "sturdy knife" with a blade about six inches in length. The man repeatedly demanded money and held her while he rummaged through her purse. When he sought more money, Barbara S. directed him to the dresser, where she had $200. That money was missing after the attack.

The man then pushed Barbara S. to her knees and repeatedly told her not to look at him. While he still held the knife, the man forced her to orally copulate him. Barbara S. complied because she was frightened. She recalled that notwithstanding her compliance, the man's penis was "semi-flaccid" and "nothing to write home about."

Shortly thereafter, the man bent Barbara S. over the bed facedown and raped her; the man never attained a full erection, and the incident lasted "maybe a very short time."

The man then "hog-tied" Barbara S.'s hands and feet behind her with her pantyhose, and she heard her car keys being removed from her purse. The man departed, telling Barbara S. that "you shouldn't sleep with the TV on." Thereafter, she heard "[a] motor sound, and he screeched off." She partially freed herself by hobbling to the dishwasher, extracting a knife with her teeth, and using the knife to cut the ligature that bound her feet and hands.

Helen McGirr, a neighbor who was a retired registered nurse, testified that she heard Barbara S.'s cries for help and directed her husband to contact the police, who arrived at the scene approximately 10 minutes later. McGirr found Barbara S. "laying in kind of a curled-up position unclothed at the front door right in...

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