People v. Edwards

Decision Date22 August 2013
Docket NumberNo. S073316.,S073316.
Citation306 P.3d 1049,161 Cal.Rptr.3d 191,57 Cal.4th 658
Parties The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Robert Mark EDWARDS, Defendant and Appellant.
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court

Quin Denvir, Sacramento, and Michael D. Abzug, Los Angeles, under appointments by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant.

Edmund G. Brown, Jr., and Kamala D. Harris, Attorneys General, Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Gary W. Schons, Assistant Attorney General, Holly D. Wilkens, Adrianne S. Denault and Arlene A. Sevidal, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.


Defendant Robert Mark Edwards was convicted of the first degree murder of Marjorie Deeble. ( Pen.Code,1 §§ 187, subd. (a), 189.) The jury also found true the special circumstance allegations of burglary-murder and torture-murder.2 ( §§ 190.2, subd. (a)(17), (18).) The jury was unable to reach a penalty verdict, and the trial court declared a mistrial. At the second penalty phase trial, the jury returned a death verdict, and the trial court entered a judgment of death. This appeal is automatic. ( Cal. Const., art. VI, § 11, subd. (a); § 1239, subd. (b).) For the reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment.

A. Guilt Phase
1. Prosecution Evidence
a. Murder of Marjorie Deeble
1) The crime scene and condition of the victim's body

In the late afternoon of Thursday, May 15, 1986, Marjorie Deeble was found dead in her single story apartment on Green Street in Los Alamitos, California. The front screen door was closed but unlocked, and the wooden front door was open approximately four inches. There was no sign of forced entry. The screen from a window next to the door had been removed, and was leaning against the building.

Inside the home, loud music was playing in the southeast bedroom. Deeble was discovered in this bedroom. She was lying face-down on the floor between the bed and a dresser. She was wearing a long nightgown that had been pushed up around her waist and no panties. The bottom of the nightgown had been either cut or ripped. Her hands were tied behind her back with material from the nightgown, and with torn telephone cord.

Deeble's neck was in a noose made from a thin belt. The end of the belt was tied to the top drawer handle of the dresser, so that her neck was suspended about eight inches above the floor. The drawer was open about six to eight inches. Blood had run out of her left ear and mouth, and there was blood around her nose. There were two wounds

on her neck, one underneath the belt and one just below. Her left leg was bent and leaning against the bed. Her right leg was fully extended and underneath the bed. Inside Deeble's thigh was a stain that could have been dried semen. She was barefoot, and her ankles bore marks that might have been ligature marks.

A cylindrical mousse can was found in a bed covering on top of the bed. A substance underneath the ridge around the top of the can appeared to be blood, and gave a positive response to a presumptive test for blood. A cap found on the ground next to Deeble appeared to be one that could fit the mousse can. A substance that appeared to be blood was observed just inside the opening of the cap "in a position that if the cap had been placed upon the mousse can, it might have transferred."

On the floor, a pillowcase, a dress, and a scarf were wrapped together with adhesive tape. The dress was bloodstained. The pillowcase was also bloodstained. It was tied to resemble a hood, and appeared to have been cut with pinking shears. More blood was inside the pillowcase than was on the outside.

A sheet was found on the floor. A strip approximately 66 inches long and 15 inches wide had been cut and torn from the left side of the sheet. The irregular cutting was possibly made by the use of pinking shears. A telephone cord and an electrical cord were found tied together either on the floor or on the bed.

The bedroom had been ransacked. Garments lay in the middle of the room, items were knocked over on the credenza, dresser drawers were open, and the contents of a purse were strewn on the floor. A telephone that appeared to have its cord ripped off was against the wall.

Dr. Robert Richards, a pathologist, performed Deeble's autopsy. Because Dr. Richards had retired by the time of trial, his partner, Dr. Richard Fukumoto, testified regarding the autopsy findings. In light of defendant's appellate claims that this testimony violated his confrontation clause rights (see post, at pt. II.B.2.), that the trial court erred in admitting evidence of the uncharged murder of Muriel Delbecq (see post, at pt. II.B.3.), that the evidence is insufficient to support the murder conviction on a theory of torture murder or burglary murder, and that the evidence is insufficient to support the jury's true findings on the torture-murder and burglary-murder special-circumstance allegations (see post, at pts. II.B.4., II.B.5.), we recount the autopsy findings in detail.

Deeble had bruises in her vaginal area, primarily on the labia and vaginal vault. There was bruising and tearing

just inside the opening to the vagina, and a tear and hemorrhaging in the area of the posterior fourchette, or the bottom of the opening to the vagina. On one microscopic slide, Dr. Richards had noted an "underlying submucosal hemorrhage." Dr. Fukumoto testified that the "lining of the vaginal wall is called the mucosa, so a submucosa means the area below that lining of the surface." A "submucosal hemorrhage" means that "there is bleeding beneath the surface lining of the mucus membrane." No tissue response was noted, which Dr. Fukumoto said meant that the injury to the vaginal area was probably less than eight hours old. Deeble's anus was dilated, and bruising and small mucosal lacerations were observed just inside the anus. Dr. Fukumoto opined that the dilation of the anus could have been caused by a finger, penis, or any number of other objects.

Dr. Fukumoto agreed with the prosecutor that the vaginal and rectal areas are "full of lots of nerve endings," and so trauma to those areas is "highly painful." He opined the injuries were caused by an object that did not have sharp edges, and that exhibit No. 16, the mousse can found in Deeble's bed, was consistent with an object that could have caused the injuries. From the microscopic examination, Dr. Fukumoto opined that the injuries to the vaginal and rectal areas were inflicted before death.3

There was bleeding in the tissues near the tail of Deeble's pancreas. Dr. Fukumoto testified that the pancreas is an organ located deep within the body, and it requires a "tremendous amount of ... localized" blunt force to the area to damage the pancreas. In the stomach area, Dr. Richards had observed food that was virtually untouched by digestion. Dr. Fukumoto opined that such a finding would indicate that Deeble died within an hour after eating.

Blood was coming out of Deeble's left ear, and there was extensive hemorrhaging in the middle ears which extended from the middle ear into the bone of the skull. The right ear drum was torn, and the left ear drum had a break that according to the autopsy report was "incisional." Dr. Fukumoto explained: "[A]n incision to a forensic pathologist .... is not a tear. It is something that is caused by a sharp instrument or an instrument that has a point." Dr. Fukumoto said that "if the ear drums are torn, associated with massive bleeding in the middle ears, this could be due to a massive increase in pressure as a result of the struggle of the victim in his or her attempt to get a breath." Dr. Fukumoto opined that an amount of pressure that would tear an ear drum, and the infliction of an incisional injury to an ear drum would, in each case, be extremely painful.

Dr. Richards's most prominent finding from the neck up was "marked engorgement"—which occurs when blood vessels are dilated and filled with blood—in the neck, upper neck, and face area. Dr. Fukumoto testified that strangling can have this effect, and when there is venous but not carotid compression, the face becomes red and eventually bluish or purplish as well as engorged.4 The whites of Deeble's eyes had conjunctival hemorrhages

, or bleeding, and there was a marked swelling of the eyelids. There were abraded lacerations in the left chin area. There was a crescent in the bridge area of the nose that was consistent to Dr. Richards with "fracturing of the bridge." Dr. Richards palpated Deeble's nose and believed that it was broken, but no fracture was visible to him on an x-ray. Dr. Fukumoto reviewed x-rays of the nose and testified that one showed "somewhat flattening" that "may reflect fracturing at the bridge of [the] nose." An internal examination revealed numerous pinpoint hemorrhages in the scalp and muscle tissue which were evidence of trauma, and subarachnoid hemorrhaging inside the skull. Dr. Fukumoto opined that the injuries above the neck were the result of blunt force trauma, and that Deeble had suffered at least one significant blow to her face. A substance that appeared to be the residue of adhesive tape was observed in an area extending from the mouth over to the lower left cheek.

An autopsy photograph showed a deep furrow created by the ligature around Deeble's neck. Dr. Fukumoto opined that features of the furrow indicated that there was an "abrasive sideways movement" either by the victim in an attempt to loosen the ligature, or by the perpetrator as he moved the ligature back and forth, and that the ligature and struggling against it would be extremely painful.

Dr. Fukumoto stated that when one is strangled, it takes five to six minutes for the brain to die, and the individual may lose consciousness well before then; in an extreme ligature or manual strangulation, loss of consciousness can occur in less than a minute. He opined that the cause of death was "asphyxiation

due to ligature strangulation." This opinion was...

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3 cases
  • The People v. Moody
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • September 28, 2023
    ...prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.'" (People v. Edwards (2013) 57 Cal.4th 658, 715, original italics (Edwards).) Because the of the evidence is ultimately a legal question, we examine the record in the ligh......
  • People v. Williams
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • March 30, 2023
    ...prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.'" (People v. Edwards (2013) 57 Cal.4th 658, 715.) so doing, a reviewing court presumes in support of the judgment the existence of every fact the trier could reasonably de......
  • People v. Romero, F078737
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • December 12, 2019 support of the judgment the existence of every fact the trier could reasonably deduce from the evidence.' [Citation.]" (People v. Edwards (2013) 57 Cal.4th 658, 715.) We also resolve all conflicts in the evidence and draw all reasonable inferences in support of the jury's determination. ......
3 books & journal articles
  • Chapter 2 - §11. Expert opinion
    • United States
    • Full Court Press California Guide to Criminal Evidence Chapter 2 Foundation
    • Invalid date
    ...100 (forensic pathologist gave opinion that sexual assault and drowning of victim occurred fairly concurrently); People v. Edwards (2013) 57 Cal.4th 658, 708-09 (pathologist who did not perform autopsy gave opinion that injuries occurred before death and were "highly painful"); People v. Ta......
  • Table of Cases null
    • United States
    • Full Court Press California Guide to Criminal Evidence Table of Cases
    • Invalid date
    ...(1989)—Ch. 1, §4.8.2 People v. Edwards, 11 Cal. App. 5th 759, 217 Cal. Rptr. 3d 782 (6th Dist. 2017)—Ch. 5-C, §4.1.2 People v. Edwards, 57 Cal. 4th 658, 161 Cal. Rptr. 3d 191, 306 P.3d 1049 (2013)—Ch. 2, §11.1.1(1)(c); Ch. 3-A, §4.3.3; Ch. 4-A, §4.1.4(2)(a) People v. Edwards, 17 Cal. App. 4......
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    • United States
    • Full Court Press California Guide to Criminal Evidence Chapter 4 Statutory Limits on Particular Evidence
    • Invalid date
    ...committed both acts. People v. Daveggio (2018) 4 Cal.5th 790, 828; People v. Sánchez (2016) 63 Cal.4th 411, 453; People v. Edwards (2013) 57 Cal.4th 658, 711; Ewoldt, 7 Cal.4th at 403. In other words, the pattern and characteristics of the other act and the charged act "must be so unusual a......

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