People v. Gutierrez, No. S073253.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Writing for the CourtMoreno
Citation89 Cal.Rptr.3d 225,200 P.3d 847,45 Cal. 4th 789
PartiesThe PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Alfred Anthony GUTIERREZ, Defendant and Appellant.
Decision Date19 February 2009
Docket NumberNo. S073253.
200 P.3d 847
89 Cal.Rptr.3d 225
45 Cal. 4th 789
The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
Alfred Anthony GUTIERREZ, Defendant and Appellant.
No. S073253.
Supreme Court of California.
February 19, 2009.

[200 P.3d 853]

H. Mitchell Caldwell, Malibu, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant.

Bill Lockyer and Edmund G. Brown, Jr., Attorneys General, Robert R. Anderson, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Pamela C. Hamanaka, Assistant Attorney General, Sharlene A. Honnaka and Robert C. Schneider, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

MORENO, J.


A jury convicted Alfred Anthony Gutierrez of the second degree murder of Dawn Nakatani (Pen.Code, § 187, subd. (a)),1 the first degree murder of Mario Orellano (§ 187, subd. (a)), and the attempted willful, deliberate, and premeditated murder of Sergio Medina (§§ 187, subd. (a), 664). The jury found true sentencing enhancements as to the murder of Mario Orellano and attempted murder of Sergio Medina that defendant personally used a firearm (§ 12022.5, subd. (a)(1)) and that defendant committed the offenses for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with, a criminal street gang (§ 186.22, subd. (b)(4)). The jury also found true a multiple-murder special-circumstance allegation. After a penalty trial, the jury returned a verdict of death. The trial court denied defendant's motions for a new trial and for a reduction or modification of the sentence. This appeal is automatic. (§ 1239, subd. (b).) We affirm the judgment.

I. FACTS

A. Introduction

On October 1, 1996, Dawn Nakatani, defendant's ex-girlfriend and the mother of his child, was beaten, strangled, and left for dead in her Baldwin Park home. A little before

200 P.3d 854

noon, defendant had driven to Nakatani's home, picked up defendant's and Nakatani's three-year-old son, and left. A few minutes after noon, Nakatani's roommate returned home to find Nakatani unconscious and not breathing. Nakatani was transported to Queen of the Valley Hospital, where she died at 12:48 a.m. on October 2, 1996, after being briefly resuscitated.

On October 11, 1996, defendant drove past a gas station where he saw Ralph Benevente, Mario Orellano, Sergio Medina, and others meeting to make plans for the evening. Defendant returned to the gas station moments later, got out of his car with an AK-47-type firearm, and fired several shots at Benevente's car, killing Orellano and injuring Medina.

B. Guilt Phase

1. Murder of Dawn Nakatani

a. Prosecution Evidence

Nakatani and her three-year-old son shared a home with Maria Rios and her daughter. On the morning of October 1, 1996, Rios left the house in the morning while Nakatani and the son slept. Rios came home for lunch around 12:06 p.m. and noticed that Nakatani's room was in disarray. Nakatani's purse and wallet were on Rios's bed, there were candy wrappers at the top of the stairs—a vantage point from which the television could be viewed—and there was a video cassette case for a Casper video on top of the television cabinet. Things were out of place in Rios's bedroom and Rios's bedroom window blinds were open and her bed pillows flattened as though someone had been sitting on her bed looking down at the street through her blinds. Rios became frightened and looked through the rest of the house, finding Nakatani lying face down in the bathroom/laundry room of the home. Nakatani had a bandana tightly knotted twice around her neck; Rios had to use her hands and teeth to untie the bandana. Nakatani was not breathing when Rios found her and her face was bruised and swollen. Rios ran outside screaming and a neighbor called 911. Nakatani was transported to the hospital, where she was briefly resuscitated but died of her injuries early the next morning.

Kim Pinto, Nakatani's sister, testified that defendant had called her the evening before Nakatani was found strangled to tell her that he was upset that Nakatani would not let him see his son, and that she had "better talk to [Nakatani] or else he will take care of her his way." Defendant's grandmother testified that defendant, along with two men, dropped defendant's son off at her house shortly after noon on October 1, 1996 even though she was too infirm to babysit. Earlier that day, defendant's mother, Janet Gutierrez, had spoken with Nakatani to make arrangements to pick up the boy. Janet Gutierrez arrived at Nakatani's home a little after noon, saw Rios screaming, and was told that the child was not there. Janet Gutierrez left Nakatani's home, called defendant's grandmother from a nearby gas station to see if defendant was at his grandmother's house, and learned that defendant had dropped the child off there earlier that day.

Two days later, defendant went to the police in response to a notice in the newspaper that he was being sought in connection with Nakatani's murder. Deputy Sheriff Sean Heieck testified that, as they were walking to a jail cell, defendant told him that Nakatani used methamphetamine and had sex with multiple partners. Shortly thereafter, Deputy Heieck put defendant in an "isolation cell," where he was able to observe defendant sitting alone and heard defendant thrice repeat, unprovoked by any questioning, "I had to do what was best for my son." Sergeant David Watkins testified that defendant was released later that day because the case could not be presented to the district attorney within 48 hours.

Dr. Eugene Carpenter, Jr., the deputy medical examiner, testified that Nakatani died by ligature strangulation, and had also suffered abrasions and blunt-force trauma consistent with being held against carpet while being strangled. The strangulation must have occurred no more than 20 minutes before emergency personnel began administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation, which began at 12:14 p.m.

200 P.3d 855

More than two months later, on December 7, 1996, Pinto was driving defendant's son to his maternal grandmother's house and mentioned that the next day they were going to visit his mother's grave at the cemetery. The boy responded that he would "untie my mommy," that he saw his "daddy and his mean friend tie[ ] up my mommy," and that he hit his dad to get him to stop, at which point defendant carried him upstairs and placed a Casper video in the video cassette recorder for him to watch.

b. Defense Evidence

Defendant testified that he had been concerned about the environment in which his son was being raised, which sometimes had led to arguments with Nakatani. On October 1, 1996, although defendant had planned for his parents to pick up his son from Nakatani's home, he received a call from Nakatani requesting that he come to pick up the child because his parents were running late. Defendant did not have a driver's license, but he told Nakatani that he would get a ride over and pick up their son at 11:30 a.m.

Defendant and two unnamed cohorts2 drove to Nakatani's home and walked into her garage to pick up defendant's son. Defendant and Nakatani began arguing, which escalated into a physical altercation. Nakatani grabbed defendant's shirt and scratched his chest, and the two exchanged kicks. Defendant testified that he walked out of the garage with his son while the two men walked towards Nakatani. The two men returned to the car one or two minutes later, and defendant, the boy, and the two men drove away.

When the two men returned to the car, defendant asked them what had happened with Nakatani. They replied, "She got crazy with us." When defendant asked them to elaborate, one of them said, "I don't want to talk about it in front of your son." After dropping his son off at defendant's grandmother's house, defendant again asked what had happened. Defendant testified that they replied that she "got crazy with them, and they f ... ed her up." When defendant again asked them to elaborate, they replied, "Don't worry about it." Defendant became worried and fled to Mexico, but returned the next day and went to the police after learning that he was being sought in connection with Nakatani's death.

2. Murder of Mario Orellano and Attempted Murder of Sergio Medina

a. Prosecution Evidence

On October 11, 1996, Ralph Benevente, along with his friends Mario Orellano, Sergio Medina, and twin brothers Aaron and Salvador Cervantes, were out for the evening in Benevente's car. Shortly before midnight, the five men were at a gas station on Francisquito Avenue in Baldwin Park. The gas station was well lit, and there were a number of other people there. Benevente and Medina testified that they saw an old, "beat-up," red or maroon car drive past the gas station. The car stopped, and defendant got out of the passenger's seat to stare at, or "mad dog," Orellano. The red car drove away, and Benevente became nervous and asked Orellano to get in his car. Benevente moved his car so that it was between the gas station's office area and the gas pumps. Benevente and Medina then saw the red car return and saw defendant jump out of the passenger side of the vehicle with an AK-47-type assault rifle and fire six shots. Medina was shot three times, once in his back, and once in each leg. Medina spent a week and a half in the hospital, and was confined to bed for three months. Orellano was shot in his abdomen, which caused him to bleed to death internally.

Benevente identified defendant as the person who initially got out of the red car and stared at Orellano, and identified him as the shooter in a photo lineup, a corporeal lineup, and at defendant's preliminary hearing. He noted that defendant's appearance had changed in that his mustache was thicker at the time of trial. Medina, who initially did not wish to cooperate with police out of concern for his safety, ultimately identified defendant as the shooter in the photo and

200 P.3d 856

corporeal lineup. Medina also noted that defendant's appearance changed from the photo lineup to the corporeal lineup in that defendant's hair...

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732 practice notes
  • People v. Lynch, No. S026408.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • August 12, 2010
    ...to Vickie outside the presence of law enforcement personnel were testimonial, no Crawford claim appears. (See People v. Gutierrez (2009) 45 Cal.4th 789, 813, 89 Cal.Rptr.3d 225, 200 P.3d 847 [the “statement of a three-year-old declarant made to his aunt is more like ‘a casual remark to an a......
  • People v. Rangel, No. S076785.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • March 28, 2016
    ...relies on the same facts and legal standards as a challenge made on hearsay or other state law grounds. (See People v. Gutierrez (2009) 45 Cal.4th 789, 809, 812, 89 Cal.Rptr.3d 225, 200 P.3d 847 [confrontation clause claim not forfeited on appeal when only a hearsay objection was asserted b......
  • People v. Maciel, No. S070536.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • October 2, 2013
    ...the statements were not made to law enforcement but to fellow gang members and hence were not testimonial. ( People v. Gutierrez (2009) 45 Cal.4th 789, 812–813, 89 Cal.Rptr.3d 225, 200 P.3d 847 [304 P.3d 1020]( Gutierrez ) [statement by a three-year-old to his aunt not testimonial].) Nor do......
  • People v. Johnson, No. S105857.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • July 9, 2015
    ...these norms require the application of the penalty to only the most extraordinary crimes. ( 190 Cal.Rptr.3d 583People v. Gutierrez (2009) 45 Cal.4th 789, 834, 89 Cal.Rptr.3d 225, 200 P.3d 847 ; People v. Panah (2005) 35 Cal.4th 395, 500–501, 25 Cal.Rptr.3d 672, 107 P.3d 790.)61 Cal.4th 787V......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
729 cases
  • People v. Lynch, No. S026408.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • August 12, 2010
    ...to Vickie outside the presence of law enforcement personnel were testimonial, no Crawford claim appears. (See People v. Gutierrez (2009) 45 Cal.4th 789, 813, 89 Cal.Rptr.3d 225, 200 P.3d 847 [the “statement of a three-year-old declarant made to his aunt is more like ‘a casual remark to an a......
  • People v. Rangel, No. S076785.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • March 28, 2016
    ...relies on the same facts and legal standards as a challenge made on hearsay or other state law grounds. (See People v. Gutierrez (2009) 45 Cal.4th 789, 809, 812, 89 Cal.Rptr.3d 225, 200 P.3d 847 [confrontation clause claim not forfeited on appeal when only a hearsay objection was asserted b......
  • People v. Maciel, No. S070536.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • October 2, 2013
    ...the statements were not made to law enforcement but to fellow gang members and hence were not testimonial. ( People v. Gutierrez (2009) 45 Cal.4th 789, 812–813, 89 Cal.Rptr.3d 225, 200 P.3d 847 [304 P.3d 1020]( Gutierrez ) [statement by a three-year-old to his aunt not testimonial].) Nor do......
  • People v. Johnson, No. S105857.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • July 9, 2015
    ...these norms require the application of the penalty to only the most extraordinary crimes. ( 190 Cal.Rptr.3d 583People v. Gutierrez (2009) 45 Cal.4th 789, 834, 89 Cal.Rptr.3d 225, 200 P.3d 847 ; People v. Panah (2005) 35 Cal.4th 395, 500–501, 25 Cal.Rptr.3d 672, 107 P.3d 790.)61 Cal.4th 787V......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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