People v. Haskett

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Citation640 P.2d 776,180 Cal.Rptr. 640,30 Cal.3d 841
Decision Date18 February 1982
Docket NumberCr. 21136
Parties, 640 P.2d 776 The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Randy HASKETT, Defendant and Appellant.

Page 640

180 Cal.Rptr. 640
30 Cal.3d 841, 640 P.2d 776
The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
Randy HASKETT, Defendant and Appellant.
Cr. 21136.
Supreme Court of California,
In Bank.
Feb. 18, 1982.

Page 644

[30 Cal.3d 847] [640 P.2d 780] Joseph Shemaria and Joseph F. Walsh, Beverly Hills, for defendant and appellant.

George Deukmejian, Atty. Gen., Robert H. Philibosian, Chief Asst. Atty. Gen., S. Clark Moore, Asst. Atty. Gen., Howard J. Schwab and William R. Pounders, Deputy Attys. Gen., for plaintiff and respondent.

MOSK, Justice.

Defendant Randy Haskett appeals from a conviction of two counts of first degree murder and one count of second degree attempted murder. Because the jury imposed the death penalty, the appeal is automatic. (Pen.Code, § 1239, subd. (b).)


On October 23, 1978, defendant was arrested and charged with the rape, robbery, and attempted murder of his half-sister, Mrs. Gwendolyn Rose, and with the first degree murder of her two sons, Keith and Cameron. The key witness for the prosecution was Mrs. Rose, who testified in substance as follows.

[30 Cal.3d 848] In the morning hours of October 23, Mrs. Rose was awakened when her 11-year-old son Keith returned home after spending the weekend with his grandmother. Her husband had already left for work, but she remained in bed, where her four-year-old son Cameron was also sleeping. Shortly after Keith's arrival, she was awakened again, this time by defendant, who had already entered the house and was apparently in the living room. He identified himself as Randy, and she recognized his voice. He asked her to help him start his car, which he claimed had a dead battery. She responded from the bedroom that she could not help him because she had no cables, but invited him to make himself at home and prepare something to eat.

A few moments later she heard Keith shout that defendant had cut him. She rushed to the living room, where she saw defendant wielding a kitchen knife and observed blood on her son's hand. Defendant then grabbed her hand and told her not to speak or move. He put the children in the bedroom closet, then demanded that Mrs. Rose engage in sex with him. Out of fear, she agreed to capitulate to his sexual demands if he would put the knife down. He did so, but after intercourse he picked it up again and told her he needed money. Again because she was frightened, she emptied her purse on the bed and gave him the contents, slightly over $30. He handed her a pillow case or towel and told her to wipe all the surfaces in the room that he may have touched. After she had finished, he choked, kicked, and repeatedly stabbed her until she sank to the floor motionless. He covered her with a bedspread and went to the closet. Opening the door, he coaxed the boys out, then killed them both by repeated stabbing.

To corroborate Mrs. Rose's testimony, the prosecution offered several photographs of

Page 645

[640 P.2d 781] the corpses and of Mrs. Rose's wounds, the testimony of police officers that they discovered $30 in the pocket of a shirt lying under the covers of defendant's bed, several items of blood-stained clothing found in defendant's washing machine and elsewhere at his residence, the testimony of a sheriff's office criminalist that there was evidence of semen in Mrs. Rose's vagina shortly after the assault, and the testimony of Mrs. Rose's sister that she called the Rose residence on the morning of October 23 and spoke briefly to a man identifying himself as Randy.

Defendant testified that on the morning of the killings he had been with his wife and had visited or talked with various friends and relatives, [30 Cal.3d 849] many of whom supported this alibi at trial. He also asserted that the blood stains were a result of an injury he had sustained over a month before the killings.

The jury returned a verdict of guilty on the murder and attempted murder charges, and found true the allegation that a knife was used in the commission of those crimes. It also found true the special circumstance of multiple murder. It was unable to agree on the rape and robbery counts, however; the verdict forms revealed that the jury was evenly divided on the robbery charge and that it split nine to three on the rape charge, with the majority favoring conviction. After polling the jurors individually and thereby determining that further deliberation would be of no value, the judge declared a mistrial on those counts.


Defendant makes several allegations of error in the guilt phase of trial.


His first contention is that the evidence is insufficient to sustain the convictions of murder in the first degree. The prosecution presented two theories of first degree murder: premeditation and deliberation, and felony murder. Premeditation and deliberation may be established by proof of a motive for the killing combined with a showing of planning activity or of an exacting method of execution. 1

[30 Cal.3d 850] Several of defendant's actions constituted evidence of planning activity. Defendant was parked outside the Rose residence for several minutes, then entered unannounced and offered a false reason for entry when confronted by Mrs. Rose and her son Keith. He obtained a kitchen knife in advance of the killings, and confined the boys in the closet while assaulting their mother. Moreover, when he forced Mrs. Rose to wipe clean all parts of the room he might have touched, he revealed an intent to leave no traces of his presence. The jury could have interpreted his covering of Mrs. Rose's apparently lifeless body with a bedspread as a calculated attempt to avoid further frightening the boys in order to facilitate their murders. Finally, defendant evidenced a preconceived design by luring Cameron within reach by promising him a

Page 646

[640 P.2d 782] toy truck in exchange for his cooperation. Considered together, these facts amply support a conclusion that the killings were deliberately planned. (See People v. Hillery (1965) 62 Cal.2d 692, 703-704, 44 Cal.Rptr. 30, 401 P.2d 382; People v. Kemp (1961) 55 Cal.2d 458, 472, 11 Cal.Rptr. 361, 359 P.2d 913.)

A motive for killing the boys was also clearly demonstrated. While the boys were in the closet, defendant asked their mother whether it had any other exit, and told her to keep her sons quiet because they made him nervous and because he feared the neighbors might hear them. Defendant thus demonstrated his concern that the boys might jeopardize his escape or assist in his apprehension by alarming others of his presence or informing them of his identity. The record establishes that defendant's concern was well-founded: not only were both boys able to observe defendant on that occasion, but the older boy, Keith, apparently knew defendant by name and could easily identify him. Furthermore, because Mrs. Rose lay motionless after she was attacked, defendant could have concluded she was dead; hence he could have also surmised that by killing her sons, he would eliminate the only witnesses to his crimes.

Defendant stresses that the many stab wounds were randomly inflicted, a method of killing that does not in itself establish premeditation and deliberation. (People v. Anderson, supra, 70 Cal.2d 15, 31, 73 Cal.Rptr. 550, 447 P.2d 942; People v. Granados (1957) 49 Cal.2d 490, 497, 319 P.2d 346; People v. Craig (1957) 49 Cal.2d 313, 319, 316 P.2d 947.) Although the assertion is correct, the strong additional evidence of both planning and motive in the case is more than sufficient to sustain a finding of a preconceived design. (Anderson, supra, 70 Cal.2d at p. 27, 73 Cal.Rptr. 550, 447 P.2d 942.)

[30 Cal.3d 851] Defendant contends that despite the foregoing evidence of premeditation we must reverse the murder convictions because it is possible the jury based its verdict on the felony-murder theory, relying on an alleged attempted robbery that defendant asserts is unsupported by the evidence. (See People v. Green (1980) 27 Cal.3d 1, 69, 164 Cal.Rptr. 1, 609 P.2d 468.) The record reveals to a virtual certainty, however, that the jury found premeditation rather than felony murder.

In convicting defendant of attempted murder in only the second degree, the jury apparently rejected proof that the assault on Mrs. Rose was a result of the commission of the alleged felonies (i.e., robbery or attempted robbery) that would have elevated the assault to an attempted murder in the first degree. Yet the attempt on Mrs. Rose's life was both temporally and causally more proximate to the alleged felonies than were the murders of her sons. We may fairly infer from the absence of a conviction for robbery or attempted robbery, and from the jurors' rejection of the proof of those crimes with regard to the attempted murder of Mrs. Rose, that they also rejected that evidence with regard to the murders of her children. We also observe that as a prerequisite to finding the special circumstance of multiple murder, the jury found the murders were intentional. (See former Pen.Code, § 190.2, subd. (c), enacted by Stats.1977, ch. 316, § 9.) Hence it is apparent that the jury did not rely on the alleged felonies either to impute malice or to fix the degree of murder. For these reasons, and because the evidence of premeditation and deliberation is so substantial, we can be virtually certain the jury relied on that evidence, rather than on any showing of felony murder, to find that the murder of the boys was in the first degree. We conclude that the error, if any, in instructing the jury that it could predicate felony murder on attempted robbery was harmless. (People v. Murtishaw (1981) 29 Cal.3d 733, 742, 765, 175 Cal.Rptr. 738, 631 P.2d 446.) 2

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640 P.2d 783


Defendant contends the trial court abused its discretion by failing to continue the case long enough to allow effective substitution of [30 Cal.3d 852] counsel. We have held that a criminal defendant cannot be deprived of the opportunity to retain counsel of his...

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