People v. Guiuan

Citation18 Cal.4th 558,957 P.2d 928,76 Cal.Rptr.2d 239
Decision Date06 July 1998
Docket NumberNo. S063097,S063097
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Parties, 957 P.2d 928, 98 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 5314, 98 Daily Journal D.A.R. 7431 The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Natalie Nadine GUIUAN, Defendant and Appellant

Natalie Nadine Guiuan, in pro. per., and Corinne S. Shulman, Hydesville, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant.

Daniel E. Lungren, Attorney General, George Williamson, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Ronald A. Bass, Assistant Attorney General, Laurence K. Sullivan and Mia Anna Mazza, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

MOSK, Justice.

In this matter, defendant was convicted of offenses including kidnapping and attempted first degree murder with the help of three accomplices. The accomplices testified at trial as witnesses for the prosecution, and the superior court, without objection by defendant, gave the standard instruction cautioning the jurors to view their testimony "with distrust." The Court of Appeal concluded that the superior court erred in failing sua sponte to tailor the instruction to state that it did not apply to any testimony "favorable" to defendant, but, holding the error harmless, affirmed the judgment of conviction.

We granted review to determine whether the superior court did so err. The answer is negative. The trial court properly instructed the jury, consistent with our holding in People v. Williams (1988) 45 Cal.3d 1268, 1314, 248 Cal.Rptr. 834, 756 P.2d 221. In the absence of any objection, it was not required sua sponte to modify the instruction with regard to testimony that might be construed as favorable to the defendant. We conclude, however, that, to lessen the burden on the trial court, the instruction in Williams should be modified in future cases specifically to indicate that only testimony unfavorable to the defendant should be viewed with care and caution; the instruction is applicable whenever an accomplice, or possible accomplice, testifies. On this basis, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeal.

I.

On July 8, 1994, Natalie Nadine Guiuan and three teenagers, Josh S., Prince W., and Elisha F., kidnapped and attempted to kill Kimberly Marston. The parties do not dispute the underlying facts, which, as relevant here, tell the following tale.

Beginning in June 1994, Guiuan volunteered to work as a confidential informant for the San Mateo County Narcotics Task Force. Although she told the officer to whom she was assigned that she did not use drugs, she was evidently a regular user of cocaine and methamphetamine. Around the same time, she began having trouble with her 13-year-old daughter Kimberly S., who had recently returned to live with her and her three younger daughters after many years of separation, but was now staying in a "fort" or clubhouse behind the home of a teenage friend.

On July 1, Guiuan told Marston that Kimberly S. was being held by "some gang." Although Guiuan was 33 years old and Marston was 24, Guiuan referred to her as "Baby." Marston, who considered Guiuan her "best friend," referred to her as "Mom." Marston introduced Guiuan to 15-year-old Jason M., whom she described as a junior cadet with the Daly City Police, suggesting that he might be able to talk to the gang members. Marston, also a regular drug user, asked Guiuan to obtain methamphetamine for her. Guiuan agreed; accompanied by Jason, she purchased drugs from a supplier she was planning to set up for a "major bust." The same day, Jason introduced Guiuan to Josh and Prince, both 14 years old.

On July 3, friends of Kimberly S. called Guiuan and told her she could "come and get" her daughter. After she brought Kimberly S. home, Guiuan asked Josh to watch her so she would not run away. Josh introduced Guiuan to his friend Elisha, aged 15, as someone who could help with Kimberly S.

On July 6, Marston moved temporarily to Guiuan's home. That evening, while driving in her car with Marston and Josh, Guiuan said that she thought gang members were following her. Later, at her home, she said she saw unknown snipers outside using night scopes to see inside. She was afraid that the snipers' presence was related to her working as an informant. Apparently to avoid suspicion, she accused Marston and Jason of being "snitches" who had endangered her and her children. That night, she rented a motel room, where the group relocated. There, Prince and Josh harassed Marston, trying to get her to admit to being a "snitch."

On July 7, in the early morning, Marston attempted to leave the motel to go to work. Guiuan refused to allow her to do so; she attacked Marston with a knife and the others joined in with their hands and a flashlight. Later that day, they confined Marston in Prince's basement.

That night, according to Elisha, Guiuan came up with a plan to kill Marston. They would dress in black clothing, take Marston to Half Moon Bay in Guiuan's car, and kill her with knives supplied by Guiuan. Much of the planning was done in the presence of Kimberly S.

On July 8, in the early morning, Guiuan, Josh, Prince, and Elisha took Marston from Prince's basement and, after she was bound, gagged, and blindfolded, drove to a hilly, isolated spot near Half Moon Bay. They struggled with Marston and attempted to kill her with knives. After trying to slit Marston's throat, Guiuan returned to her car. There, she said that Marston had kicked her in the stomach and that she was in pain. Later, she stood outside the car with Prince, who pretended to be working on the engine. Elisha approached and Guiuan gave her a heavy tire iron with which to hit Marston. Guiuan and Prince then drove around for 45 minutes at Elisha's suggestion, "so that it wouldn't get obvious," while Elisha and Josh continued the attack. After Marston stopped moving, they left her for dead.

Guiuan and the teenagers returned to Guiuan's home. They cleaned the weapons used in the attack and collected the bloodied clothing in a plastic bag, which they later discarded in dumpsters.

That evening, Guiuan informed police that she had overheard a conversation indicating that "Baby" had been "butchered." She said she knew where the body was because she had gone to the area described in the conversation and found it. She led the police to Marston, who was not dead. She was suffering from superficial stab wounds all over her body, a superficial slash wound across her throat, and head lacerations.

At Guiuan's trial, the prosecution called Elisha, Josh, and Prince, among others, to testify concerning the offenses. They identified Guiuan as the leader and driving force behind the confinement of Marston, the plan to kill her, and its execution. They described Guiuan's heavy use of methamphetamine and several instances of bizarre behavior, including her belief that gang members were following her car and that unknown snipers were outside her home. They also stated that she tried to convince them that Marston and Jason were "snitches," and that Marston was to blame for putting her and her children in danger.

Guiuan presented a defense that a mental disorder caused her to believe that Marston was a threat to her and her daughters. She offered evidence to the effect that she lacked intent to kill and acted under duress. She relied on expert testimony that she suffered from "borderline personality disorder," a condition that can make a person psychotic or dissociated under stress. She also testified that she feared people were out to get her because of her own work as a police informant.

The jury instructions included the standard instruction cautioning the jurors that the testimony of an accomplice should be viewed with distrust, in accordance with CALJIC No. 3.18 (5th ed.1988) as follows: "The testimony of an accomplice ought to be viewed with distrust. This does not mean that you may arbitrarily disregard such testimony, but you should give it the weight to which you find it to be entitled after examining it with care and caution in the light of all the evidence in the case." 1 Guiuan did not object to the instruction.

Guiuan was convicted of offenses including kidnapping and attempted first degree murder. She was sentenced to a term of 25 years to life in state prison.

On appeal, Guiuan did not dispute that Josh, Prince, and Elisha, called to testify by the prosecution, were her accomplices. She claimed, however, that the superior court erred in failing sua sponte to modify the standard instruction to view accomplice testimony with distrust to apply only to "those portions which tended to incriminate the defendant." She cited passages from her accomplices' testimony that she claimed would have supported her defenses that she suffered from a mental disorder, lacked intent to kill, and acted under duress. For example, she pointed to Elisha's testimony to the effect that, although she said that she wanted "to get rid of ... Marston," she did not actually say "I want her killed" or "I want her dead." Similarly, Josh testified that she never said that she wanted Marston stabbed, knifed, or hurt, but only that she wanted her "out of here" or "in a safe place" or "taken care of." She also pointed to testimony by the accomplices corroborating her claims that she believed she saw persons outside her home, that her car was being followed when she took her children to the motel, and that Marston was putting her family at risk because she was a "snitch." In addition, she cited testimony by Prince that, during the drive to Half Moon Bay, she said she felt sick and could not go through with it. She also pointed to his testimony that he drove around with her for 45 minutes while Elisha and Josh attacked Marston. 2

The Court of Appeal concluded that the superior court had a duty sua sponte to tailor the instruction regarding accomplice testimony to relate only to statements favorable to the prosecution. It acknowledged that People v. Williams, supra, 45...

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