People v. Hardy

Decision Date31 May 2018
Docket NumberS113421
Citation233 Cal.Rptr.3d 378,5 Cal.5th 56,418 P.3d 309
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court
Parties The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Warren Justin HARDY, Defendant and Appellant.

Susan K. Shaler, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant.

Kamala D. Harris and Xavier Becerra, Attorneys General, Dane R. Gillette and Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant Attorneys General, Lance E. Winters, Assistant Attorney General, Keith H. Borjon, Joseph P. Lee and Michael J. Wise, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

CHIN, J.

A jury convicted defendant, Warren Justin Hardy, of the first degree murder of Penny Sigler with the special circumstances of murder committed during the commission of robbery, kidnapping for rape, rape, and sexual penetration by a foreign object, and the infliction of torture. ( Pen. Code, §§ 187, 189, 190.2, subd. (a)(17), (18).)1 The jury also found that defendant was an aider and abettor and either had the intent to kill or was a major participant who acted with reckless indifference to human life, but it did not find that he was the actual killer. In addition, the jury convicted defendant of robbery, kidnapping for rape, rape, rape in concert, sexual penetration by a foreign object, sexual penetration by a foreign object in concert, and torture of Sigler. (§§ 206, 209, subd. (b)(1), 211, 261, subd. (a)(2), 264.1, 289, subd. (a)(1).) In connection with the rape and sexual penetration convictions, the jury found true that defendant kidnapped and tortured Sigler. (§ 667.61, subds. (a), (d).) The jury found not true or did not reach a verdict on allegations that he personally used a deadly and dangerous weapon in connection with the charges. Defendant admitted a prior robbery conviction.

After a penalty trial, the jury returned a verdict of death. The trial court denied the automatic motion to modify the verdict and imposed a judgment of death. This appeal is automatic.

We affirm the judgment.

I. THE FACTS

The evidence showed that defendant and two other men, Jamelle Armstrong (defendant’s half-brother) and Kevin Pearson, killed Penny Sigler during a robbery and sexual assault. The crimes took place on the night of December 28–29, 1998, by a freeway embankment in Long Beach.2

A. Guilt Phase

Sometime after 10:00 p.m., December 28, 1998, Sigler left her Long Beach home with six dollars’ worth of food stamps her roommate gave her to buy soda and candy. Sigler’s nude body was discovered the next day on an embankment of Interstate 405 near the intersection of Long Beach Boulevard and Wardlow Road, less than a mile from her home. Her body was near the bottom of the embankment, separated from the streets by a drainage ditch, and, above the ditch, a nylon mesh fence supported by wooden stakes. Near Sigler’s body was a shoe, a broken stake, and other debris, and blood was in the surrounding area.

Sigler suffered extensive injuries. The medical examiner counted 114 injuries, including at least 10 skull fractures that appeared to have been inflicted before death. Other injuries included blunt force injuries to her face, neck, back, chest, abdomen, arms, and thighs, a partially torn right ear, bruising and bleeding of the neck, broken neck bones, a broken rib, a chipped tooth, and bite marks on her breast and knee. Sigler also had bruising and lacerations on her internal and external genitalia, perineum, and anus. Some of the injuries, such as the chipped tooth and the lacerations and bruises to Sigler’s genitalia and anus, were consistent with having been caused by a wooden stake. A wood splinter was recovered from her vagina. Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) from one of the bite marks matched defendant. The medical examiner concluded that blunt force trauma was the major cause of death, but he also found signs of asphyxiation.

Police recovered the cover of a food stamp booklet near Sigler’s body. Through the booklet’s serial number, detectives traced the food stamps to a nearby grocery store. The store’s manager recognized defendant as a regular customer, and remembered that around the time of the murder defendant had purchased food using food stamps. Detectives executed a search warrant of defendant’s home, recovering a pair of shoes with a sole pattern consistent with marks found at the scene, a leather jacket with blood stains, and other articles of clothing. DNA on the jacket and other clothes in defendant’s home matched that of Sigler.

Detectives interviewed defendant the day of the search. He made three unrecorded statements and one recorded statement based on his third unrecorded statement. In his first two statements, defendant denied being involved in Sigler’s death. After being told that Armstrong was also in custody, defendant became visibly upset and related a third version of events. Portions of the transcript and recording of this statement were provided to the jury.

According to this statement, as supplemented by later statements to the detectives, defendant was at a friend’s home the night of Sigler’s death where he, Armstrong, Pearson, and others were drinking. Defendant, Armstrong, Pearson, and two others left around 11:00 p.m. The two others took the "Metro" southbound, while defendant, Armstrong, and Pearson took it northbound to Long Beach. As the three were walking to a bus station along Long Beach Boulevard, they noticed Sigler across the street and, unprovoked, heard her yell at them, "Fuck you, niggers." The three crossed the street to confront Sigler; for defendant, something "clicked" when he heard the slur.

Once they reached Sigler, everyone began yelling at one another. In the process, Sigler grabbed at defendant, and he bit her on her breast in self-defense. Sigler then slapped him in the face. Pearson told defendant and Armstrong to bring Sigler over the fence that ran along the freeway embankment; defendant could not recall how they managed to do so. Pearson then ordered Sigler to lie down, and ordered defendant to remove her shoes. Defendant left to throw away Sigler’s shoes as Pearson removed Sigler’s pants, but in the process tripped and dropped one of the shoes. When he returned, defendant saw Pearson on top of Sigler, and then Pearson ordered Sigler to orally copulate him. Still angry from earlier, defendant punched Sigler in the jaw twice. Sigler reached out her hand to him and asked for his help, but he did nothing. Armstrong then appeared carrying a wooden stick, which he gave to Pearson. Pearson hit Sigler in the face with the stick, then stomped on her with his boots.

Defendant gathered the clothing and one shoe into a plastic bag he found nearby and climbed back over the fence with Armstrong and Pearson. Looking back at Sigler’s body, he saw a stick protruding from Sigler’s vagina. He returned to Sigler’s body to remove the stick. Defendant gave inconsistent statements as to what happened to the stick: in one version, he threw it into the parking lot; in another, he threw it into a dumpster; and in a third, he gave it to Armstrong, who put it in a dumpster.

The three boarded a bus, transferred to another bus, and went to defendant’s home. Somewhere along the way, Pearson discarded the bag with Sigler’s clothes. All three left their clothing at defendant’s home. Defendant claimed Pearson threatened to kill him if he talked.

The defense cross-examined prosecution witnesses but did not present any witnesses of its own. Defendant stipulated that he had a prior attempted robbery conviction.

B. Penalty Phase
1. Prosecution evidence

Cory Garro testified regarding the facts behind the prior attempted robbery conviction.

One night in December 1996, as Garro and his wife were walking to their hotel in Long Beach, three men accosted them. One of the men (not defendant) pressed a gun to Garro’s chest. The men demanded Garro hand over his wallet; while one man removed Garro’s wallet, another tried to take his wife’s purse. She screamed, causing the men to flee. Defendant later told police that he and two other men had attempted to rob Garro and his wife. One of the other men held the gun.

On April 11, 1996, police responded to a call from defendant’s residence in Long Beach. There, they found defendant’s young son bleeding from a two-inch puncture wound on the back of his leg. Defendant repeatedly told his son to say that the injury had been an accident. Defendant gave conflicting accounts of what had happened, but ultimately he told a police detective that he had a knife in his front pocket with the blade pointing upward. When defendant went to say good bye to his son, he lifted him up and set him on his lap, causing the knife to stab him. He had forgotten about the knife. Police found a bloodstained knife with a five-inch blade in a kitchen drawer.

Monty Gmur, whose house defendant had visited before Sigler’s death, testified that defendant, Armstrong, Pearson and another man had been working in Gmur’s music studio the evening of the murder. At some point, defendant left and returned with alcohol, which he drank with the other men. Defendant and the others were at Gmur’s house for three to four hours; Gmur was in another part of the house much of this time. Gmur believed that defendant and the others had been drinking, as they showed signs of intoxication and the alcohol bottles were empty.

Teddy Keptra, Sigler’s son, testified about the impact of her murder on him. He had been 16 years old when his mother died, and subsequently dropped out of high school and had difficulty holding a job. He missed his mother and thought of her daily.

2. Defense evidence

Friends, relatives, and mental health experts testified regarding defendant’s childhood, upbringing, and character.

Defendant’s mother, Pamela Armstrong, testified that she and defendant’s father had been together for three years until Pamela discovered that the father was having a baby with another woman. She gave birth to defendant in an attempt to get his father back, but the father abandoned her and defen...

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1 cases
  • People v. McCombs
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • November 1, 2023
    ...Supreme Court has rejected a similar interpretation of the aiding and abetting instruction as that urged by Langi. In People v. Hardy (2018) 5 Cal.5th 56, 96, defendant argued that his jury was not properly instructed that torture and aiding and abetting require specific intent. After quoti......
4 books & journal articles
  • Table of Cases null
    • United States
    • Full Court Press California Guide to Criminal Evidence Table of Cases
    • Invalid date
    ...4-C, §8.4.3(1)(a) People v. Hardy, 65 Cal. App. 5th 312, 279 Cal. Rptr. 3d 586 (1st Dist. 2021)—Ch. 2, §11.1.3(2)(a) People v. Hardy, 5 Cal. 5th 56, 233 Cal. Rptr. 3d 378, 418 P.3d 309 (Cal. 2018)—Ch. 1, §2.2.1, §2.1.1(2); Ch. 3-B, §22; Ch. 6, §3.9.2; §6 People v. Hardy, 2 Cal. 4th 86, 5 Ca......
  • Chapter 1 - §4. Relevance of specific evidence
    • United States
    • Full Court Press California Guide to Criminal Evidence Chapter 1 Relevance
    • Invalid date
    ...485. • Threatening a potential witness. People v. Vines (2011) 51 Cal.4th 830, 866-67, overruled on other grounds, People v. Hardy (2018) 5 Cal.5th 56; see People v. Lybrand (1st Dist.1981) 115 Cal.App.3d 1, 11-12. • Threatening a prosecutor. See Flinner, 10 Cal.5th at 721. • Soliciting ano......
  • Chapter 1 - §2. When is evidence relevant
    • United States
    • Full Court Press California Guide to Criminal Evidence Chapter 1 Relevance
    • Invalid date
    ...Evidence is material if it relates to a fact or proposition in the case that is disputed. Evid. C. §210; see People v. Hardy (2018) 5 Cal.5th 56, 87; People v. Lopez (2d Dist.2021) 65 Cal.App.5th 484, 504. See "Disputed facts," ch. 1, §2.1.2. Federal Comparison Under the Federal Rules of Ev......
  • Chapter 6 - §6. Appellate review
    • United States
    • Full Court Press California Guide to Criminal Evidence Chapter 6 Discretionary Exclusion Under Evid. C. §352
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    ...in determining evidence's relevance and in assessing whether its prejudicial effect outweighs its probative value); People v. Hardy (2018) 5 Cal.5th 56, 87 (same); People v. Clark (2016) 63 Cal.4th 522, 572 (trial court has broad discretion in evaluating whether concerns of undue prejudice,......

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