People v. Grimes, S076339

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Writing for the CourtKruger, J.
Citation378 P.3d 320,207 Cal.Rptr.3d 1,1 Cal.5th 698
Parties The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Gary Lee GRIMES, Defendant and Appellant.
Decision Date22 August 2016
Docket NumberS076339

1 Cal.5th 698
378 P.3d 320
207 Cal.Rptr.3d 1

The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
Gary Lee GRIMES, Defendant and Appellant.


Supreme Court of California

Filed August 22, 2016; on rehearing

Cliff Gardner, under appointment by the Supreme Court, Catherine White, San Diego, and Lazuli Whitt for Defendant and Appellant.

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Dane R. Gillette and Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant Attorneys General, Michael P. Farrell, Assistant Attorney General, Ward A. Campbell, Kenneth N. Sokoler and Stephanie A. Mitchell, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

Michael J. Hersek, State Public defender, Barry P. Helft, Chief Deputy State Public Defender, and Nina Rivkind, Deputy State Public Defender, for Office of the State Public Defender as Amicus Curiae.

Kruger, J.

1 Cal.5th 703

A jury convicted defendant Gary Lee Grimes of one count of murder with burglary and robbery special circumstances and one count each of robbery, burglary, conspiracy to commit robbery, conspiracy to commit burglary, and the unlawful driving or taking of a vehicle. (Pen. Code, §§ 182, subd. (a), 187, subd. (a), 190.2, subd. (a)(17), 211, 459.; Veh. Code, § 10851, subd. (a).)1 In connection with the murder, robbery, burglary, and conspiracy counts, the jury found true allegations that defendant inflicted great bodily injury upon the victim, an elderly person (§ 1203.09, subd. (a)), and that the offenses were committed while defendant was on parole (§ 1203.085, subd. (b)). In a bifurcated proceeding, the trial court found true allegations that defendant had served four prior prison terms (§ 667.5, subd. (b)) and had been convicted of a serious or violent felony within the meaning of the “Three Strikes” law (§ 1170.12). The jury returned a verdict of death. The trial court sentenced defendant to death for the murder and imposed a term of six years for the driving or taking of a motor vehicle and four one-year terms for the four prior prison term allegations. Sentences on the remaining counts were imposed and stayed.

Over defendant's objection, the trial court excluded certain statements made by the actual killer of the murder victim in which the killer claimed that he acted alone in committing the murder and that defendant was not involved. After an initial

207 Cal.Rptr.3d 8

opinion was filed in this case, we granted rehearing to clarify the application of the hearsay exception for statements against the declarant's interest. (Evid. Code, § 1230.) We now conclude that

378 P.3d 326

the trial court erred in excluding the statements. Although the error does not require reversal of the murder conviction and the special circumstance findings, it does require reversal of the judgment of death.

1 Cal.5th 704


A. Guilt phase

1. The offenses

In October 1995, defendant, then 33 years old, was staying with a friend, Sheila Abbott (Sheila), in her trailer. Also staying in the trailer were Sheila's son, Shane Fernalld; her daughter, Misty Abbott (Misty); and Misty's boyfriend, Patrick James Wilson, then 19 years old. On the morning of October 18, John Morris, a 20–year–old friend of the family, arrived at Sheila's trailer. At approximately noon, Morris, Wilson, and defendant obtained some medical gloves and bandanas from the trailer. They tried on the bandanas, placing them over their mouths, before putting them in their pockets. They then drove Morris's red sports car to a house in Redding shared by 98–year–old Betty Bone and her daughter. They ransacked the house and took property, including a .38–caliber handgun, a portable music player, some jewelry, a rifle, a telephone in a Styrofoam box, and a brown truck.

Bone was killed. Her body showed evidence of blunt force trauma to the head, ligature strangulation, and stab wounds. There was a telephone cord and a bandana around her neck. There was bruising on her tongue and lip that was likely caused by a gag. Her injuries were consistent with her having been knocked unconscious, strangled, and then stabbed repeatedly. Bleeding due to the stabbing was the primary cause of death, with strangulation as a contributory cause.

After the murder, defendant, Wilson, and Morris returned to Sheila's trailer, with Morris and Wilson in Morris's car and defendant driving the brown truck that had been taken from Bone's residence. They unloaded items from the truck. Defendant showed a bag of jewelry to Sheila and asked whether it was real; she told him it was costume jewelry. Defendant drove the truck to Shasta Lake, with Morris and Misty following in Morris's car. Defendant drove the truck into the lake, and the three returned to Sheila's trailer in Morris's car.

Later that afternoon, defendant, Morris, and Misty were in defendant's brown Camaro when they approached a roadblock that had been set up by the Shasta County Sheriff's Department. Before reaching the roadblock, defendant and Morris threw their guns into the bushes. When they went through the roadblock, defendant identified himself to an officer as “Gary Woods” and gave the officer a false Social Security number. He was wearing a pair of white fingerless gloves, similar to the type of gloves that Bone's daughter kept in the brown truck.

1 Cal.5th 705

They returned to Sheila's trailer and then left for Sacramento. Misty and her baby rode in Morris's car and defendant drove in his car with Misty's brother, Shane Fernalld. They spent the night in Sacramento with Morris's aunt. In her apartment, they left a bag of jewelry and the box containing a telephone that had been taken from Bone's house. The next day, Fernalld left defendant at the apartment complex in Sacramento.

2. Defendant's arrest and statements to police

Morris was arrested on October 21, 1995, three days after the crime, and killed

207 Cal.Rptr.3d 9

himself in his jail cell the next afternoon. Wilson was arrested the following day. On that same day, a deputy sheriff recovered a long kitchen knife and a pocket knife that had been buried near Sheila Abbott's property. DNA from both knives was consistent with a mixture of Bone's DNA and Wilson's DNA; none of the DNA on the knives could have come from defendant.

Defendant was arrested the following day as he drove into the parking area of the Sacramento apartment complex. As he got out of the car, a loaded .22–caliber handgun fell out of the driver's side door. Defendant called Sheila from jail, and she told him that Morris had killed himself.

In a tape-recorded interview played for the jury at trial, defendant admitted to detectives that he was involved in the burglary and robbery. He denied any involvement in the murder, however, claiming Morris had killed

378 P.3d 327

Bone while defendant was in the back of the house. According to defendant, it had been Morris's idea to break into a house because he needed money to pay for his automobile insurance. Defendant said that he, Morris, and Wilson each had a bandana that Sheila had given them, and they had latex gloves that were obtained from her first-aid kit. Morris drove defendant and Wilson to Bone's neighborhood, an area in which defendant had formerly lived. In the car, defendant handed Morris a gun, which was wrapped in a bandana, and Morris put it in his pants. They then watched a house in the neighborhood and saw a woman outside. Morris said they could kill her and take their time going through the house, but defendant replied that he was “not into killin' people.”

Defendant told the detectives that when they arrived at the Bone house, Morris and Wilson knocked on the door. Initially no one answered; Morris commented that no one was there and defendant concluded they would just be committing a burglary. Then Morris said that someone was in the house. Defendant walked back to the car and saw Bone answer the door. Wilson asked for a girl named Debbie and Bone replied, “no, my daughter's name is Barbara.” Wilson pushed the door open, hitting Bone and knocking her to the ground. Defendant walked through the open door. At some point he saw Bone

1 Cal.5th 706

lying on the floor with Morris on top of her; Bone was pleading with him to let her go. Defendant said to Morris, “Don't hurt no women, don't hurt nobody.” He said he went into the back of the house because he “couldn't deal with it.” When he returned he saw Morris strangling Bone, who was tied up with a phone cord. Morris said, “I can't leave no witnesses,” and “that fucking bitch won't die.” Defendant then saw Morris rummaging through the kitchen looking for a knife, after which he saw or heard Morris stabbing Bone forcefully and repeatedly. Morris gave Wilson a paper sack containing the knives that were later recovered, and told him to get rid of them.

According to defendant, Morris ordered him to take Bone's truck....

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