People v. Hawthorne, S064769.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Citation205 P.3d 245,46 Cal. 4th 67,92 Cal.Rptr.3d 330
Decision Date23 April 2009
Docket NumberNo. S064769.,S064769.
PartiesThe PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Carlos Anthony HAWTHORNE, Defendant and Appellant.
205 P.3d 245
92 Cal.Rptr.3d 330
46 Cal. 4th 67
The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
Carlos Anthony HAWTHORNE, Defendant and Appellant.
No. S064769.
Supreme Court of California.
April 23, 2009.

[205 P.3d 250]

Lynne S. Coffin and Michael J. Hersek, State Public Defenders, under appointment by the Supreme Court, Arcelia Hurtado and Katherine Froyen, Deputy State Public Defenders, for Defendant and Appellant.

Bill Lockyer and Edmund G. Brown, Jr., Attorneys General, Robert R. Anderson and Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorneys General, Pamela C. Hamanaka, Assistant Attorney General, John R. Gorey and Russell A. Lehman, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.


A jury convicted defendant Carlos Anthony Hawthorne of the first degree murder of Vanessa Sells (Pen.Code, § 187),1 the attempted murder of Kristian F. (§§ 187, 664), the first degree robbery of both Sells and

205 P.3d 251

Kristian (§ 211), and first degree residential burglary (§ 459). It found true special circumstance allegations of robbery murder (§ 190.2, subd. (a)(17)(A)) and burglary murder (§ 190.2, subd. (a)(17)(G)). After a penalty trial, the jury returned a verdict of death, and the trial court imposed that sentence. This appeal is automatic. (§ 1239, subd. (b).) We affirm the judgment.


A. Guilt Phase

1. The Prosecution's Case

a. The burglary, robbery, shootings, and defendant's arrest

On August 25, 1996, 16-year-old Kristian and her mother Vanessa Sells lived in a house on Sunlight Plaza in Los Angeles. In the early evening hours, Kristian was in her bedroom and heard her mother scream from the vicinity of the front door. When Kristian entered the hallway to check on her mother, she saw a man with a revolver in his hand and a bandana covering the bottom of his face. The masked man ordered her to lie on the floor; she complied. Sells then entered the hallway followed by a different man, later identified by Kristian as defendant. Defendant was also armed with a revolver, but was not wearing anything over his face. Defendant ordered Sells, who was crying, to lie on the floor next to her daughter.

Defendant stood watch over the two women as the masked man went through the house. Although Kristian tried to calm her crying mother, defendant threatened to shoot them if they were not quiet and cocked the gun for emphasis. He warned that they would be killed if they reported this incident to anyone. By this time, Sells was crying "very hard" and praying aloud. Defendant ordered Sells to go into her bedroom, followed her, and rummaged through her closet and inside some drawers. As he was looking through everything, he yelled at Sells—who was still crying—to be quiet.

Defendant returned to the hallway and yelled to the masked man to find something to use to tie up the women. Defendant remarked to Kristian that she was a "real pretty girl" and she was "lucky he [was] not Jeffrey Dahmer or he would rape [her]." The masked man produced a T-shirt, but defendant used a telephone cord instead to tie Kristian's hands behind her back and her hands to her feet. Defendant took a silver bracelet with the inscription "Jinneh" from Kristian's wrist and a silver necklace from her neck. He then carried her to her bedroom, placed her on the bed, and searched through her belongings. He ordered the masked man to unplug and take the radio. They then left the bedroom, leaving Kristian there.

From her bedroom, Kristian overheard defendant ask her mother about the location of her money. Sells directed him to her purse on the kitchen table. Shortly afterwards, defendant asked if there was any more money. Sells responded no and explained that she had been laid off from her job two weeks earlier. When defendant inquired about a cellular phone, Sells told him it was in her car. Kristian then heard her mother say she had been cooking and asked defendant to turn off the stove so that the house would not burn down. Defendant retorted, "Do you think this is a fucking joke or something?" He yelled to his masked accomplice, "She think we're playing with her."

Defendant returned to Kristian's bedroom and searched through her closet and dresser drawers. After a few minutes, defendant shouted to his accomplice to check if anyone was outside. The man responded that he saw some neighbors outside and told defendant to "hurry up." Defendant left Kristian's bedroom.

Kristian heard both men walking towards the front door and defendant say, "Fuck that. They're going to tell." She then heard a set of footsteps coming back into the house and the masked man say, "Hurry up." Kristian heard her mother scream "no," followed by three gunshots. Defendant appeared in Kristian's bedroom with a gun. He directed her to turn her head away from him, shot her once in the back of the head, and then shot her again. Pretending she was dead, Kristian closed her eyes and held her breath. Defendant went to the side of the bed where her head was facing and said "hey" to her,

205 P.3d 252

but she did not respond. He left the bedroom.

After Kristian thought the two men had left, she untied herself and called 911. While she was speaking to the 911 operator, Jerold Smith, a family friend, arrived and took the phone from her. Kristian tied a shirt around her head to decrease the bleeding and checked her mother. She found her mother tied with a telephone cord and lying motionless on the bedroom floor. Kristian began to cry and told her mother to get up. Her mother did not respond. When Kristian went outside to wait for the ambulance, she noticed that her mother's Lexus automobile was missing from the driveway.

At 7:17 p.m. the following evening, August 26, defendant made a 911 call. He told the operator that he had some helpful information about "some lady missing a Lexus" as had been reported on television and that he had found the keys to that car. When asked how he found the keys, defendant claimed he saw two men—who appeared to be "dope smokers"—switch the license plates on a Lexus car. They abandoned the unlocked car; the keys were under the driver's seat. Defendant said he drove the car to a location near his house, claiming this had occurred around 3:25 p.m. that day. When the operator asked defendant if he would wait there for the police, he replied, "Hell no, they might kill my ass."

Defendant related the car was silver/bronze in color, like "what they [had] said on TV," and provided some crude directions to its location. When asked for better directions, defendant replied he could not stay there and said he would leave the keys on the roof of the car. When the operator asked defendant to place the keys under a mat instead, he refused, saying, "I ain't touching that car no more." When the operator pointed out that defendant had already touched the car, defendant responded, "I wiped my shit off." When the operator suggested defendant use his shirt sleeve to open the door handle and put the keys inside the car, defendant agreed.

Defendant asked if he would be "getting something for this," but refused to give his telephone number for fear the police would come to his house. Although defendant provided his name, race, and age, he refused to meet with the police and explained he did not want to "get labeled as no informant." Nevertheless, he related he was at a pay telephone across the street from a Fedco store, described his clothing, and added he had "real curly hair."

In the meantime, police officers responded to a radio broadcast regarding an auto theft and found the stolen Lexus car near Sunlight Plaza. The dispatcher directed the officers to the pay telephone from which defendant was calling, located about 10 blocks away. The officers found defendant—who was still talking to the operator and holding the keys to the Lexus car—and arrested him. They discovered Kristian's silver necklace and bracelet in defendant's pocket.

Five days after the shootings, Sells died from three gunshot wounds to the head and base of her skull and neck. Kristian survived, with a bullet still lodged inside her head at the time of trial.

b. Defendant's tape-recorded confession

Shortly after defendant's arrest, Detectives Ray Morales and Bill Smith interviewed defendant. Initially, defendant denied any personal knowledge of, or involvement in, the crimes against Sells and Kristian. He claimed that, while walking around, he saw the Lexus car and recognized it from a television news report of the robbery and shooting that occurred the night before. He saw three "dope fiends" taking things from inside the car. After they left, defendant found the car keys inside the unlocked car and drove the car home. His mother warned defendant not to drive the car because the police were looking for it. Defendant asserted that Kristian's silver necklace and bracelet belonged to his sister.

When the detectives expressed disbelief at his story, defendant admitted he was involved in the crimes, but claimed that the other man—whom he called Charles Williams—was the mastermind. Although defendant did not want to be involved in the incident, he went along because Williams was

205 P.3d 253

bigger, had a gun, and had just gotten out of prison. At first, defendant asserted that Williams ordered the women on the ground, demanded money, shot the women, and stole their belongings. Defendant claimed that he was not armed and did not know Williams was going to shoot the women, and that Williams later gave him the stolen jewelry. Defendant volunteered that he turned off the stove when requested by Sells and suggested that the fact he was unmasked supported his nonculpability.

When the detectives continued to express their disbelief, defendant began admitting piecemeal his direct participation in the crimes. He maintained that Williams shot the women, claiming he only held the gun "for a minute," pointed it at the women when they were on the floor, tied up Kristian after Williams ordered him to...

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