People v. Fritts

Decision Date01 August 1977
Docket NumberCr. 29887
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of California, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Ralph Clark FRITTS, Defendant and Appellant.

Paul N. Halvonik, State Public Defender, Charles M. Sevilla, Chief Asst. State Public Defender, and F. Elaine Easley, Deputy State Public Defender, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for defendant and appellant.

Evelle J. Younger, Atty. Gen., Jack R. Winkler, Chief Asst. Atty. Gen., James H. Kline and Marc E. Turchin, Deputy Attys. Gen., for plaintiff and respondent.

FLEMING, Acting Presiding Justice.

A jury found appellant guilty of the following charges: Count I, committing a lewd and lascivious act upon M, his stepdaughter, a child under fourteen, between 1 May 1973 and 1 May 1974 (Pen.Code, § 288); Counts II to IV, unlawful sexual intercourse with M, a female under eighteen, on 13, 14, and 15 September 1975 (Pen.Code, § 261.5); Count V, committing a lewd and lascivious act upon S, his daughter, a child under fourteen, on 16 September 1975 (Pen.Code, § 288). The court instituted MDSO proceedings, found appellant to be a mentally disordered sex offender who could benefit from treatment in a state hospital, and committed him for placement in Patton State Hospital (Welf. & Inst.Code, § 6316). Appellant appeals the order of commitment, contending: (1) evidence of uncharged sexual misconduct with appellant's daughter C by a prior marriage and with another young girl was erroneously admitted; (2) Count I is defective as a matter of law in not specifying the exact date of the offense; (3) the court unduly restricted cross-examination of appellant's divorced wife and of the victim M.

Since appellant 'wisely does not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence' (see People v. Kazee (1975) 47 Cal.App.3d 593, 594, 121 Cal.Rptr. 221), we state the facts with appropriate brevity. Prior to the filing of charges appellant lived with his wife Janet, her daughter M by a former marriage, and two children of their own, one of whom was their daughter S. The family owned and operated a retail television sales store. M testified that during the period from 1 May 1973 to 1 May 1974, while she was thirteen years old, she frequently worked in the store after school. On numerous occasions appellant, after closing the store, would take M into the back room, place a blanket on the floor, and have sexual intercourse with her. M could not recall the exact dates of any of the occurrences. She further testified, as charged in Counts II through IV of the information, that on 13, 14, and 15 September 1975 appellant caused her to have sexual intercourse with him in their home at times when they were alone in the house. On September 16 Janet left her husband. Appellant picked up the children at school and brought them home, threatening to take them to Virginia if they tried to follow their mother. That night M escaped through a bedroom window and went to a neighbor, who assisted her in joining her mother. Later that same night, according to S, then ten years old, appellant took S into his bed and attempted intercourse with her, but desisted when she cried and asked him to stop it. Thereafter Janet filed for divorce. On September 22 Janet took M to a doctor to determine if she were pregnant, because the girl had missed three periods, and in the doctor's office M for the first time told her mother that appellant had molested her. Later S came to the house where Janet and M were staying and after some questioning by Janet admitted similar molestation.

Appellant's daughter C by his first wife, seventeen years old at time of trial, testified to repeated acts of sexual molestation by appellant beginning when she was five or six years old. She also testified to suspicious indications of the relationship between appellant and M, such as finding M in appellant's bed. She further testified that one morning appellant got into bed with her when she was sleeping in the same bed with M, and after she resisted appellant's advances he 'proceeded on to' M. C turned her back on what they were doing, but she heard M crying. On numerous occasions when the girls were sleeping together, C would awake during the night to find M gone.

Another witness, Patricia, testified that when she was seventeen she was a temporary resident of appellant's household. One night appellant fondled her in bed but left when she threatened to call Janet.

Both M and S testified that appellant began making sexual advances to them at early ages (five to seven years old for M; seven or eight years for S), and in the case of M regular relations began at about age 13 and continued nearly every other day until the breakup of the household in September 1975. M submitted and did not tell anyone because she was afraid of appellant's possible violence toward her; she had seen him strike her mother twice, once with a broom and once with his fist. S did not tell anyone about sexual advances because appellant told her not to. Daughter C had a 'hunch' what was happening between appellant and M but could not bring herself to tell anyone.

Appellant denied ever having molested any of the alleged victims. He admitted striking his wife, as M had testified.

In our view C's testimony was admissible in evidence. Unquestionably, the part of her testimony that directly corroborated M's testimony about sexual molestation was admissible. Equally admissible was the part of her testimony that described the molestation of herself and M on the same occasion, for it would be impossible to testify about one without referring to the other. Arguable is her testimony about molestation by appellant at times and in places when M was not present. We think such testimony admissible on two grounds:

(1) Her testimony tended to show a continuing plan or design on the part of the accused to use minor female members of his own household, his minor daughters and minor stepdaughter, to satisfy his sexual gratifications and wants. (See People v. Cramer (1967) 67 Cal.2d 126, 60 Cal.Rptr. 230, 429 P.2d 582; People v. Ing (1967) 65 Cal.2d 603; People v. Covert (1967) 249 Cal.App.2d 81, 87--88, 57 Cal.Rptr. 220; People v. Kazee (1975) 47 Cal.App.3d 593, 121 Cal.Rptr. 221.) In many respects the facts are analogous to those in Ing, where the molestation involved a specific class of persons (patients) in a specified location (doctor's office). At bench, the class of persons involved minor female members of appellant's household and the places of occurrence were his residence and place of business. (2) The testimony was also admissible under the theory of People v. Covert, supra, as evidence tending to buttress the credibility of M and S, minor witnesses who had been charged by the accused with fabricating the evidence against him. Where proof necessarily depends on the credibility of testimony of child witnesses about sexual acts performed in private, and where the accusations of misconduct are flatly denied by the accused, evidence of similar acts may be received on the issue of the credibility of the minor witnesses.

At bench,...

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  • Gezzi v. State, 88-266
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • September 27, 1989
    ...the accused, evidence of similar acts may be received on the issue of the credibility of the minor witnesses. People v. Fritts, 72 Cal.App.3d 319, 325, 140 Cal.Rptr. 94, 97 (1977). This language is particularly pertinent here. Although not testifying himself, Gezzi attacked G.G.'s credibili......
  • Com. v. Elder
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • July 22, 1983
    ...with a complainant under the age of consent even if others also have had sexual relations with that person. See People v. Fritts, 72 Cal.App.3d 319, 140 Cal.Rptr. 94 (1977). The defendant argues that he should have been able to admit evidence of the complainant's prior sexual history to cou......
  • People v. Luna, F009135
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • August 23, 1988
    ...and Judicial Responses (1985) 15 Golden Gate L.Rev. 437, 459-460.) Modern protections also apply to children. (People v. Fritts (1977) 72 Cal.App.3d 319, 326, 140 Cal.Rptr. However, until the Legislature or a higher court reexamines the matters of proof, due process, and the element of cont......
  • Elliott v. State, 5067
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
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    ...State v. Thomas, 110 Ariz. 106, 515 P.2d 851 (1973); Fields v. State, 255 Ark. 540, 502 S.W.2d 480 (1973); People v. Fritts, 72 Cal.App.3d 319, 140 Cal.Rptr. 94 (1977); People v. Covert, 249 Cal.App.2d 81, 57 Cal.Rptr. 220 (1967); State v. Hauck, 172 Conn. 140, 374 A.2d 150 (1976); Hunt v. ......
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