People v. Daveggio

Decision Date26 April 2018
Docket NumberS110294
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court
Parties The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. James Anthony DAVEGGIO and Michelle Lyn Michaud, Defendants and Appellants.

David H. Goodwin, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant James Anthony Daveggio.

Janyce Keiko Imata Blair, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant Michelle Lyn Michaud.

Joseph Schlesinger for California Appellate Project as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Defendant and Appellant James Anthony Daveggio.

Kamala D. Harris and Xavier Becerra, Attorneys General, Dane R. Gillette and Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant Attorneys General, Ronald S. Matthias, Assistant Attorney General, Glenn R. Pruden, Catherine McBrien, Sarah J. Farhat and Huy T. Luong, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.


Defendants James Anthony Daveggio and Michelle Lyn Michaud were each convicted of one count of first degree murder ( Pen. Code, § 187, subd. (a) ), two counts of oral copulation in concert by force (id. , § 288a, subd. (d) ), and one count of oral copulation on a person under 18 years of age (id. , § 288a, subd. (b)(1) ). Daveggio pleaded guilty to the oral copulation counts before trial; the remainder of the convictions stemmed from the jury's verdict. The jury also found true two special circumstances—kidnapping and rape by instrument (id. , § 190.2, subd. (a)(17)(B), (K) )—and returned verdicts of death at the close of the penalty phase. The trial court denied the automatic motions to modify the verdicts (id. , § 190.4, subd. (e) ) and sentenced defendants to death. This appeal is automatic. (Id. , § 1239, subd. (b).) We affirm the judgment.


This case arises from the kidnapping, rape by instrument, and murder of Vanessa Lei Samson; the forcible oral copulation of Sharona Doe; and the oral copulation of minor April Doe. At trial, the prosecutor also adduced evidence of four uncharged sexual offenses.

A. Guilt Phase
1. Prosecution case-in-chief

a. Defendants meet, move in together, and are evicted

Defendants met in 1996. Within a few months of their meeting, Daveggio moved into the tri-level Sacramento home in which Michaud was residing. They lived there together until August 1997, when Michaud was evicted. Following the eviction, defendants began living out of Michaud's green Dodge minivan. The minivan had a sliding passenger-side door with a childproof lock, as well as removable back and middle seats. At some point, defendants removed the middle seats.

b. Christina Doe incident (uncharged)

Janet and Ted Williams, who were acquainted with defendants, permitted defendants to stay in their home for a few nights in September 1997. On September 11, after that stay had concluded, Janet and Ted left town for a few days. They later discovered that the screen behind their bathroom window was bent in a manner that appeared consistent with a break-in and that their shower had been used. On or after September 14, Michaud confessed to Janet that she had broken in through the bathroom window and stayed in the house with Daveggio.1 The first uncharged sexual offense occurred during this time period.

The offense involved a close friend of Michaud's daughter, Rachel Doe. In mid-September 1997, Rachel was 12 years old, around three months shy of her 13th birthday. Her friend, Christina Doe, was then 13 years old, and lived near the tri-level. Christina had known Michaud since Christina was four years old, and sometimes spent time with Michaud when Rachel was not present. By mid-September 1997, Christina had also been acquainted with Daveggio for roughly nine months.

One night in September, Michaud knocked on Christina's door. Christina testified that Michaud invited her to go run some errands. They left together in the green minivan, eventually pulling up to and entering a house that Christina had never visited before. According to Janet Williams, Christina's later description of the house's floor plan appeared to describe the layout of Williams's home.

Christina and Michaud entered the residence. When they did, Christina saw Daveggio sitting on the couch. He was watching a television program about mobsters and at some point told Christina that he collected "like baseball cards of serial killers." Michaud was in the room at the time of the comment. When she later stood up and walked into the kitchen, Daveggio followed almost immediately. Defendants used methamphetamine in the kitchen and urged Christina to do the same, notwithstanding her protestations. After Christina snorted the drugs, Michaud took Christina's arm and said she had to speak with her in the restroom.

Once inside the restroom, Michaud locked the door. Michaud told Christina that "she wanted to party with" Christina. When Christina said no, Michaud took a handgun from her pants and put it on the counter. Michaud told Christina, "Don't worry, it is just for protection"—but then told Christina to take off her clothes. When Christina refused, Michaud removed Christina's bra and licked her chest. When Christina refused to take off the rest of her clothes, Michaud undressed her, opened the door, and guided her out. She told Daveggio that Christina was his "present."

Daveggio did not look surprised. He walked toward Christina, moved her toward a bedroom, and began to kiss her, as Michaud removed his pants and licked his anus. Daveggio then orally and digitally copulated Christina while Michaud masturbated. When Daveggio stopped, Michaud orally copulated him, told Christina to do the same, and, when Christina refused, attempted to force Christina to do so. Daveggio then raped Christina for roughly 15 minutes while Michaud licked his anus. Eventually Michaud returned to the bathroom with Christina and instructed her to bathe. Christina testified that while they were getting dressed, Michaud told her "that if I told anybody that she would kill me."

c. Aleda Doe incident (uncharged)

A few weeks after the Christina Doe incident, defendants visited a pawn shop in Reno, Nevada—Daveggio on September 28, Michaud on September 29. Aleda Doe was a 20-year-old student attending night school in the same city. The night of September 29, around 10:00 p.m., Aleda began to walk home after class. Roughly 10 minutes later, a dark-colored van with a light stripe stopped alongside her. A man she later identified as Daveggio grabbed her, pulled her inside, and closed the van's sliding door.

The driver was a thin, pale-faced woman with darker-colored, shoulder-length hair. Daveggio gave directions to the driver and told Aleda "to stay quiet and not to say anything." After groping various parts of Aleda's body, Daveggio instructed Aleda to get undressed. Afraid, she partially disrobed; he took off her bra. Daveggio then sexually assaulted her. At some point during the assault, Aleda tugged on the driver's hair to seek help. The driver ignored her.

After the sexual assault, Daveggio asked Aleda if she was sexually interested in women and wanted the driver to come to the back of the van. Aleda did not respond. At some point, the driver put in a cassette tape and began singing with Daveggio. Daveggio explained to Aleda, a non-native English speaker, that the song was about "a man from Reno or a man in Reno that killed another man just to see him die." Daveggio denied that he had ever killed someone for that purpose and denied having a gun with him at that time. He also told Aleda that they could not return her to Reno because he had kidnapped her and was worried about going to jail.

Aleda attempted to elicit information from the driver. The driver was defensive and told Aleda that she was asking too many questions. Aleda noticed, however, that at some point Daveggio had called the driver "Mickey." Other witnesses testified that Mickey was one of Michaud's nicknames.

Aleda also heard Daveggio ask the driver, "So, what do you think? Should we go ahead and go with the plan?" The driver requested 10 minutes to think about it. Daveggio then asked the driver what she wanted to do, and said he would leave the decision up to her. The driver pulled off the freeway and told Aleda to get out of the van. While Daveggio switched into the driver's seat, Michaud told Aleda to count to 20 and to not look back. Aleda complied. Aleda was eventually able to contact the police, who took her to a hospital at which a nurse collected samples from her face and neck. At a later date, Aleda identified Daveggio in a photo lineup. Aleda did not identify the driver, but described her as named Mickey.

At trial, the court advised the jury that in connection with this incident, Daveggio was convicted in federal court of kidnapping, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, and aiding and abetting a kidnapping; and Michaud was convicted of kidnapping and aiding and abetting a kidnapping. "Both defendants," the trial court instructed, "received substantial prison terms for these convictions."

After those judgments of conviction were rendered, DNA testing was conducted on the samples the nurse collected from Aleda. Material included in some of the samples was consistent with Daveggio's DNA; the "particular profile of nine genetic markers" at issue was only "found in approximately one in 510 billion Caucasians."

d. Rachel Doe incident (uncharged)

Michaud's daughter Rachel had a boyfriend. After Michaud was evicted, she asked the boyfriend's mother if Rachel could stay at the mother's home. The mother obliged.

One morning, a few weeks after the Aleda Doe incident, Michaud appeared at the mother's house. Michaud told Rachel that she wanted to spend time together before defendants left for Oregon to look for a new place to live.

After spending a few hours at the home of one of Michaud's friends (where methamphetamine was present), Michaud invited Rachel to join the road trip to Oregon. Rachel accepted the invitation. During the drive, she fell asleep on the back bench seat. She...

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