People v. Geier, S050082.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Citation61 Cal.Rptr.3d 580,41 Cal.4th 555,161 P.3d 104
Decision Date02 July 2007
Docket NumberNo. S050082.,S050082.
PartiesThe PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Christopher Adam GEIER, Defendant and Appellant.
61 Cal.Rptr.3d 580
41 Cal.4th 555
161 P.3d 104
The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
Christopher Adam GEIER, Defendant and Appellant.
No. S050082.
Supreme Court of California.
July 2, 2007.

[61 Cal.Rptr.3d 586]

Michael J. Hersek, State Public Defender, and Barry P. Helft, Chief Deputy State Public Defender, for Defendant and Appellant.

Bill Lockyer and Edmund G. Brown, Jr., Attorneys General, Robert R. Anderson and Mary Jo Graves, Chief Assistant Attorneys General, Gary W. Shons, Assistant Attorney General, William M. Wood, Holly Wilkens and Andrew S. Mestman, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.


Defendant Christopher Adam Geier was convicted by a jury of the forcible rape of Erin Tynan (Pen.Code, § 261, subd. (a)(2)), the murder of Erin Tynan (Pen. Code, § 187, subd. (a)), as to which a felony-murder special circumstance was found to be true (Pen.Code, § 190.2, subd. (a)(17)), two counts of conspiracy to commit murder (Pen.Code, §§ 182, subd. (a)(1), 187), and the murder of Curtis James Dean (Pen.Code, § 187, subd. (a)), as to which financial gain, lying-in-wait and multiple-murder special circumstances were found to be true (Pen.Code, § 190.2, subd. (a)(1), (3), (15). Defendant was also convicted of conspiracy to murder Gail Lebouef (Pen.Code, §§ 182, subd. (a)(1), 187). The jury also found true special allegations that defendant personally used a knife and a handgun in the commission of the offenses. (Pen.Code, §§ 12022, subd. (b), 1203.06, subd. (a)(1).) The jury returned death verdicts for the murders of Erin Tynan and James Curtis Dean. The trial court declined to modify the verdict (Pen. Code, § 190.4, subd. (e)), and sentenced defendant to death on the murder counts.1

61 Cal.Rptr.3d 587

This appeal is automatic. (Cal. Const., art. VI, § 11, subd. (a); § 1239, subd. (b).)

We affirm the judgment.


A. Prosecution Guilt Phase Evidence

1. The Rape and Murder of Erin Tynan

In 1990, Erin Tynan was a military police officer stationed at Fort Irwin in Barstow. In the spring and summer of 1990, Tynan was romantically involved with William Jones, Jr., who was also in the Army. When Jones and Tynan had sexual relations, she used a sponge contraceptive. According to Jones, Tynan, who was Caucasian, had a preference for muscular African-American men like Jones. Jones also described Tynan as a person who cared about her appearance. As part of her grooming routine she kept her fingernails in good shape and would regularly change their color.

Jones was acquainted with defendant, who is Caucasian, and who was also in the Army and stationed at Fort Irwin. At some point, Jones bought a Jennings .22-caliber semi-automatic pistol from defendant. The pistol was in pretty poor condition. There was something wrong with the firing pin that created a problem with the ejection of the cartridge after the gun was fired.

Jones left the Army in late July, 1990, but remained in Barstow until the beginning of August. Before he left Barstow, Jones attended a party with Tynan at the apartment complex in which defendant lived. Defendant was present at the party. Defendant had been acquainted with Tynan before the party and had once told Jones that if he had seen Tynan first "he would have been with her." Jones understood this to mean that defendant wanted to have sex with Tynan.

When Jones left California in August 1990, he left the pistol he had bought from defendant with Tynan. When he spoke to her in October, she told him she wanted to get rid of the gun and had a buyer. He told her to sell it. Robert Bishop, an Army sergeant, who had a dating relationship with Tynan in the fall of 1990, saw a .22- or .25-caliber semiautomatic pistol at her apartment. She kept the gun in her closet and brought it down to show him. Anthony Brunson, another soldier stationed at Fort Irwin, contacted Tynan in late September or mid-October about buying the pistol that Jones had left with her. He had approximately four conversations with her about the gun and was trying to raise the money to purchase it up until the time of her death in November.

Eugene Knox, a soldier stationed at Fort Irwin, began dating Tynan in November 1990. He spent the night of November 13 with Tynan and they engaged in sexual intercourse. The next morning they both went to work at Fort Irwin. Knox last saw her sometime after 12:30 p.m. that afternoon. At 5:42 p.m., Robert Bishop called Tynan from Fort Irwin and asked her if he could come and see her. She told him no because she was tired and wanted to go to bed. At about 8:00 p.m., Joni Lee Jacobsen was visiting her friend, Jesse Hisquierdo, who lived in the apartment adjacent to Erin Tynan's apartment. She and Hisquierdo were watching television when, at about 8:30 p.m., she heard a woman scream in the next apartment. A few seconds later she heard a thump "like someone running into the wall" or "bumping into the wall." She assumed the people next door were "partying" and did not investigate.

61 Cal.Rptr.3d 588

The next day, November 15, Tynan failed to report for duty. About 3:00 p.m., a Barstow police officer, Alan Schieb, was dispatched to her apartment to check up on her. When he arrived he saw that the lights were on inside the apartment and the television was playing rather loudly. The door was locked. He knocked at the door, but received no response. Schieb left and returned two hours later with Sergeant Beringer, a military police officer. Shortly after 5:00 p.m., the apartment manager let them into Tynan's apartment. Schieb observed that the dead bolt was not locked, only the door knob lock. The living room did not appear to be disturbed. Schieb and Beringer went into the bedroom and. turned on the light. They found Tynan's body lying on the bed. She was clad in a turquoise-colored housecoat that was open, exposing her breasts. A sheet was pulled up to her navel. Schieb called the police dispatcher and asked for the paramedics and detectives to be alerted.

Detective Leo Griego arrived at scene in response to Schieb's call. Griego determined there had not been a forcible entry into the apartment. On the dining room table he observed bottles of nail polish and polish remover spread out on a cloth mat. He also found a wallet with Tynan's identification, credit cards and some cash. There were no indications that a struggle had taken place in the apartment. In the kitchen, Griego found two pots on the stove, one containing noodles and the other broccoli. The food was reasonably fresh. In the bathroom he found two empty containers for sponge contraceptives in the waste basket, but no contraceptives.

Griego went into bedroom and examined Tynan's body. He observed that the fingernail on her right hand ring finger was broken off and that strands of hair were embedded in the other nails of her right hand. The fingernails of her left hand were also damaged and hair was found in the fingertip area of her left hand. A pair of panties was found rolled up on the carpet. Tynan was not wearing anything other than the house coat. Detective Griego observed that Tynan had suffered various injuries including discoloration to her left eyebrow, abrasions and bruises around her knees and blood smears around her left ear and a puncture wound in the same area. Griego initially believed the puncture was a gunshot wound but later concluded it was a stab wound. There was also blood on her foot. There was moist blood on the carpet and on the bedsheet. Griego found a .22-caliber cartridge on the top shelf of the bedroom closet, but no gun.

Tynan's body was examined by Pathologist Edward Yeager. He testified that the stab wound behind Tynan's ear had partly severed her carotid artery. He also found injuries to Tynan's head, neck, upper torso and legs, and observed an "impact abrasion" on her forehead. Yeager observed an abrasion to her anus but found no evidence of vaginal tearing or abrasion. The absence of such injuries, however, did not in his opinion preclude nonconsensual sexual activity. According to Yeager, the cause of death was the stab wound and manual strangulation.

Police criminalists removed various items from the bedroom and from Tynan's body for testing. The strands of hair embedded in her fingernails were collected for microscopic analysis by forensic serologist David Vreland. Vreland concluded that seven of the hairs found in Tynan's hand could have come from defendant.2

61 Cal.Rptr.3d 589

David Gregonis, a sheriffs criminalist, collected forensic samples from Tynan's body, including pubic hairs and vaginal and rectal swabs. Seminal fluid was detected on the vaginal swab and it was submitted for DNA testing. That testing revealed that the DNA matched defendant's DNA. DNA testing on a piece of Tynan's bedsheet that contained semen revealed that the DNA banding pattern was consistent with Eugene Knox's DNA. Other seminal fluid found on the comforter did not match defendant's DNA.

Rhonda Contreras lived with Sue Kennedy, defendant's girlfriend at the time of the Tynan murder, Contreras, a drug addict, testified that shortly after Tynan's murder she heard defendant say "the bitch had gotten what she deserved." Defendant said that Tynan was "kind of sleazy" and that, had she been his girlfriend, he would not have put up with her behavior. He told Contreras that Tynan had been brutally beaten and stabbed in the back of the neck or head, information that had not yet appeared in the press. Geier was cleaning a semiautomatic pistol while he made these comments and referred to the gun as his "baby." James Winstein, a fellow Fort Irwin soldier who was involved in the conspiracy to murder Gail Lebouef (see post), testified under a grant of immunity that, in December 1990, defendant told him he had murdered Tynan.

2. The Conspiracy to Murder Gail Lebouef

Gail Lebouef was the ex-wife of Jeffrey Hunter, defendant's sergeant at Fort Irwin; the two divorced in September 1989....

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