People v. Johnson

Decision Date03 January 2022
Docket NumberS070250
Parties The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Michael Raymond JOHNSON, Defendant and Appellant.
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court

Anthony J. Dain, San Diego, under appointment by the Supreme Court, and Tiffany L. Salayer for Defendant and Appellant.

Edmund G. Brown, Jr., and Rob Bonta, Attorneys General, Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Pamela C. Hamanaka, Assistant Attorney General, Keith H. Borjon, Lawrence M. Daniels and Wyatt E. Bloomfield, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

Opinion of the Court by Groban, J.

A jury convicted defendant Michael Raymond Johnson of first degree murder ( Pen. Code, § 187 ), attempted murder ( Pen. Code, §§ 187, 664 ), one count each of kidnapping and spousal rape ( Pen. Code, §§ 207, subd. (a), 262, subd. (a)(1) ), and of being a felon in possession of a firearm (Pen. Code, former § 12021, subd. (a)(1)). It found true the special circumstances of intentionally killing a peace officer engaged in the performance of his duties, and murder during the commission of a kidnapping ( Pen. Code, § 190.2, subd. (a)(7), (17)(B) ), as well as various sentencing enhancements. The jury returned a verdict of death at the penalty phase. The court denied the automatic motion to modify the verdict ( Pen. Code, § 190.4, subd. (e) ), imposed the death sentence, and imposed stayed sentences for the remaining counts. This appeal is automatic. ( Pen. Code, § 1239, subd. (b).) We affirm the judgment.


According to the evidence presented at his trial, in July 1996, defendant armed himself and kidnapped his wife, G.A., from her workplace. She eventually accompanied defendant to a remote mountain area where he forced her to engage in sexual activity. Later that day, after defendant and G.A. had returned to G.A.'s home, the police, responding to a 911 call, arrived and removed G.A. from the house. Defendant then shot and killed one officer at the scene, 26-year-old Ventura County Deputy Sheriff Peter Aguirre, and fired several rounds toward another officer, Deputy Sheriff James Fryhoff, who was able to disable defendant with return gunfire.

A. Guilt Phase
1. Prosecution Evidence

Defendant and G.A. married in 1985 but they had little contact over the following years. They reestablished contact and began a romantic relationship in early 1996. G.A., her 15-year-old daughter from a different relationship, D.G., and D.G.'s boyfriend, Francisco, lived together in a one-bedroom house in Ojai. Defendant began living at the house with G.A., D.G., and Francisco in June 1996.

On July 14, defendant and G.A. went to a secluded mountain area to "make love" at a spot they had visited for this purpose a few times before. They removed their clothes, but then defendant became angry and jealous when G.A. told him she had come there before with D.G.'s father. G.A. explained to defendant that it was a long time ago, and G.A. and defendant then had sex.

On an unspecified date around that same time, G.A. was at home in the shower laughing about something. Defendant, who was also home, accused her of being in the shower with Francisco. G.A. told defendant he was "crazy" because she had been alone in the bathroom and Francisco had been in the living room with D.G..

On July 15, when G.A. returned home from work, she learned that defendant had moved out. On the phone, defendant told G.A. that she was not good enough for him and he wanted a divorce. He said he moved out because he thought G.A. had been talking to Francisco in the shower and he was jealous.

On the afternoon of July 17, defendant came to the residence where G.A. worked as a housekeeper, followed her into the house, and threw a gun on a bed. He had another gun in his pocket. He told G.A., "I love you, I can't leave, I have to stay close to you." G.A. told defendant that he could not stay with her because she needed to work. Defendant repeatedly told G.A. that he had to stay with her, "every minute of every day." He told her he would take her to Wisconsin but that they first needed to rob a bank because they did not have money. G.A., who was doing laundry while they spoke, explained that she needed to work to support her daughter and could not leave. Defendant said he would take G.A. by force.

G.A. had not seen defendant like this before. He was acting strangely, "crazy," and speaking rapidly and loudly. He had a pistol and became angry when G.A. tried to convince him to give her the pistol. He mentioned a movie he was going to write that they had previously joked about, called "Crazy Love," which was a story in which defendant thought he and G.A. were both crazy. He told G.A. they were in the movie at that moment.

While defendant and G.A. were still at her employer's house, defendant told G.A. he wanted her to remove Francisco from her home. G.A. called her daughter at G.A.'s house and told her that she and Francisco needed to leave, mentioning that defendant had two "pistolas."

Shortly after, G.A.'s employer called to tell G.A. she was free to leave. To convince defendant to leave, G.A. suggested they go for a ride. She suggested they each leave in their own car, but defendant insisted they travel in one car. They left for G.A.'s house.

When they arrived at G.A.'s home, D.G. and Francisco were still there, along with other children. Defendant said everyone could stay except Francisco. G.A. insisted that everyone leave because she was afraid defendant might shoot the children. G.A. did not feel that she could get away from defendant. She told defendant, "Let's go cruising." Because he believed he was being followed, defendant took D.G.'s dog with them because it would bark when it saw people it did not recognize.

They returned to the mountain spot they had visited on July 14. Defendant wanted to move further up the mountains, but G.A. did not want to, so defendant stopped where they were. G.A. testified that defendant kept looking around, "scared," and said that someone was following him. They brought pillows and a blanket from the car, secured the dog to a tree, undressed, and lay down. G.A. explained that she removed her clothes because defendant was removing his clothes like they had done at this location a few times before to have sex, but they had never before had sex while defendant possessed guns.

G.A. testified at trial that defendant then got on top of her and tried to have sex. She testified that defendant was unable to get an erection or ejaculate and did not penetrate her vagina. But she remembered telling Sergeant Garcia that they had sex. The jury heard G.A.'s grand jury testimony in which she said that defendant was able to insert his penis inside her vagina "a little bit."

After about 20 minutes, G.A. told defendant, "Let's go," because the mosquitos were biting her. Defendant packed everything up and they left for G.A.'s home. After they arrived at the house, D.G., who had left the house earlier, called G.A. and asked if she should call the police. G.A. said yes. D.G. called and informed an emergency operator that G.A. was in danger, that defendant had two guns, and that he had made G.A. remove D.G. from the house. D.G. reported that defendant had a criminal record and was planning to rob a bank. Police were dispatched to G.A.'s house.

At the house, defendant wanted to have sex but G.A. told defendant to take a shower. G.A. wanted to distract defendant and for him to surrender to the police. Defendant told G.A. to take a shower with him, so they got in the shower together. While showering, defendant kept the guns on a window ledge near his hands. At no point that day did G.A. feel she could get away from defendant.

Meanwhile, Deputies Aguirre and Steven Sagely responded to the domestic disturbance call, with Deputies Fryhoff and David Sparks responding as backup. Fryhoff and Sparks took positions at the rear of the house while Aguirre and Sagely approached the front and knocked on the front door.

Knowing it was the police, G.A. went to the front door in her towel. Sagely saw G.A. appearing upset, like she had been crying and she was trying to speak. As G.A. was stepping outside and Aguirre was stepping inside, G.A. told the officers that defendant had guns.

The officers remaining outside then heard rapid gunfire from inside the house. While looking in a window, Fryhoff observed defendant running for the front door, so Fryhoff ran toward the front of the house. As he rounded the front corner, he saw defendant on the front lawn, face Fryhoff and fire several rounds toward him. While taking cover, Fryhoff was able to shoot defendant in the chest, and then saw him lying naked on his back with two guns nearby.

The officers found Aguirre inside the house, lying on his back, between a wall and a large potted plant in a corner, "[b]leeding profusely from the face," and struggling to breathe. Deputy Aguirre died from his injuries that were caused by gunshot wounds. His gun was fully loaded and holstered.

After the shootout, defendant was taken into custody and transported to a hospital for treatment of his chest gunshot wound. Psychiatrist Donald Patterson, retained by the district attorney's office, interviewed defendant that night while he was receiving treatment in a hospital emergency room.

The prosecution played portions of the interview during the trial. Defendant described his intense feelings of jealousy for G.A. and belief that she was unfaithful. He confessed to kidnapping her at gunpoint. He also described jumping out from behind a wall and shooting Aguirre after he saw the police pulling G.A. out of the house. He described feeling as if he had been in a movie that afternoon but explained that he was conscious of what he had done and that his acts had been a passive suicide attempt.

The prosecution presented expert testimony on three subjects — Deputy Aguirre's gunshot wounds, bullet forensics, and blood spatter patterns — to support its theory that defenda...

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    ... ... contends that the defendant subsequently initiated further ... discussions with the police, the court must assess whether ... the defendant initiated further communication as a matter of ... fact. ( People v. Johnson (2022) 12 Cal.5th 544 [2022 ... Cal. LEXIS 2, *62-*64] ( Johnson ).) A ... defendant"' "initiates"' further ... communication, exchanges, or conversations of the requisite ... nature [by] ... 'speak[ing] words or engag[ing] in ... conduct that can be "fairly said to ... ...

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