People v. Jones

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Citation225 Cal.App.2d 598,37 Cal.Rptr. 454
Decision Date16 March 1964
Docket NumberCr. 8870
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of California, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. James Alexander JONES, Defendant and Appellant.

George V. Denny, III, Beverly Hills,* for appellant.

Stanley Mosk, Atty. Gen., William E. James, Asst. Atty. Gen., Gilbert F. Nelson, Deputy Atty. Gen., for respondent.

HERNDON, Justice.

This is an appeal from the judgment of conviction entered against appellant after a jury trial upon a charge that 'he did willfully, unlawfully, feloniously and with malice aforethought murder Pamela Miller, a human being.' The jury found that the murder was of the second degree and that appellant was sane at the time of its commission.

The evidence, which is essentially without conflict, established that for several years appellant had been a frequent visitor at the residence occupied by the deceased Pamela Miller, her mother and her eight siblings. Appellant, who was forty-six years of age, admitted to police officers that he had had sexual relations with the twelve-year old victim. This admission was corroborated by the autopsy surgeon to the extent that he testified that the girl's hymen had been torn and that her vaginal opening admitted two fingers easily.

The girl's mother testified that her daughter left for school on the morning of March 27, 1962. She returned shortly thereafter and explained to her mother why she had returned. While they were conversing, appellant came into the house. The mother told him that her daughter had informed her that appellant had been 'driving slow, real slow, behind her on the way to school' and this was why she had returned home. She asked appellant why he had been following the girl and what he was doing in the neighborhood at that time of morning.

Although denying the implied motive for his conduct, appellant tacitly confirmed the reported actions by stating, 'I wasn't following her. There was some people that lived up near the school I had to pick up to take to the unemployment office and that was why I was in the neighborhood at that time.'

The mother stated that she then advised appellant, 'I told you some time ago, don't pick on the children and don't take them to school. I don't care if it is raining or what, don't go unless I give you permission first.' She testified further that she had not given him permission to take her daughter with him and that she told him 'to stay away from her.' This was the first time she had told appellant that her daughter had complained about him. She then accompanied the girl to school herself.

Approximately a half hour after the girl returned from school that day, appellant again entered the house. The girl was watching television. Because of her poor eyesight, she was seated in a chair near the set as was her custom. Appellant sat down on the bed behind her. The mother, who was in the kitchen preparing dinner, heard appellant telling her daughter to move so that he could see the screen. The mother came out of the kitchen and advised appellant that the television set was hers, that her daughter could watch it in any fashion she chose, and that she did not have to move.

After the mother returned to the kitchen she heard appellant again ordering her daughter to move. The mother again informed appellant that he could move as easily as the girl. She testified that she did not recall ever having heard appellant talk to the girl before regarding sitting so near the set and that it was the first time she ever heard him yelling or raising his voice in speaking to her daughter.

After the mother again had rebuked appellant, he suddenly stood up and told her, 'I am going to take her to my home. Don't call the police.' The mother told him she would call the police, and, picking up her youngest child, she ran to the home of her neighbors.

Appellant 'snatched' the girl out of the chair so violently that it fell over. He held her closely and forced her to go out to his car. He placed her in the car on the driver's side. She immediately slid across the seat and leaped out on the opposite side. Appellant followed her. Apparently he had picked up a knife that was on the front seat, for when he caught her at the rear of the car, he seized her by the hair and stabbed her six times. Three incised wounds were also inflicted. After wielding the knife, appellant threw the girl to the ground and kicked her. The stab wounds in the neck and back penetrating both lungs caused her death.

A neighbor who witnessed the assault testified that he picked up a board and approached appellant in an attempt to stop him. After appellant had stabbed the girl, he advanced on this witness with the knife in his hand challenging him to 'come on'. When the witness failed to retreat and other neighbors appeared on the scene, appellant fled to his car and drove away.

On the following day, the automobile was located at the place where appellant had abandoned it. The ignition keys were concealed under a seat protector and a butcher knife with a rusty blade was found in the car. Appellant was taken into custody six weeks later. In his statement to the police, he substantially confirmed the events immediately preceding the killing as reported by the victim's mother. He stated that after the killing, he threw away the murder weapon. After changing his coat he abandoned the car, traveled via Long Beach, San Diego and Yuma, Arizona, to Boyser, Louisiana. He said that he had intended to go on to Florida, but that the integration problems existing there discouraged him. In Louisiana he obtained a social security card under another name and gave his address as Phoenix, Arizona. Thereafter, he worked his way back to Los Angeles where he was apprehended.

Appellant's statements regarding the actual killing that followed his placing the girl in his car were as follows: 'Q. What did she do, slide over? A. Slid over and I followed her in and when she slid over, she opened the door and started to get out. And I didn't even pay too must attention that the knife was over there, and it looked like she was going to grab it, and she threw her arms up and I think the knife slashed her arms, and I was so dumbfounded, and I saw the blood come, and she just started screaming and fighting. Q. Did she say anything? A. She said, 'Oh'. And that's all I ever remember her saying. Q. That was one of the times you stabbed her? A. I don't know I stabbed her because she had her back turned to me. I was trying to hold her and I had the knife in my hand, too, and I think something happened and I think she fell or something. I grabbed her back and she fell over and I just went crazy. I don't remember what all I did. I was scared and I was just--my mind was just about gone.' He also sought to explain the presence of the murder weapon by stating that he was 'working on the car with some kind of a butcher knife.'

Since the recited circumstances of the killing are conceded, it is obvious that the evidence is sufficient to support the verdict. When the killing is proved to have been committed by appellant and nothing further is shown, the presumption of law is that it was malicious and an act of murder; but in such a case the verdict should be murder of the second degree. (People v. Wells, 10 Cal.2d 610, 617, 76 P.2d 493.) The burden of proving circumstances in mitigation is on the appellant. (People v. Wells, supra, 10 Cal.2d p. 617, 76 P.2d 493; People v. Hall, 212 Cal.App.2d 480, 482, 28 Cal.Rptr. 164.)

In addition, an assault with a dangerous weapon made in a manner to endanger life and resulting in death is sufficient to sustain a verdict of second degree murder. Malice is implied from the assault. (People v. Watkins, 178 Cal.App.2d 41, 44, 2 CalRptr. 707; People v. Torres, 94 Cal.App.2d 146, 149-150, 210 P.2d 324.) Finally, it is apparent that appellant's conduct in forcing the girl from her home and into his car amounted to a kidnapping and that the killing occurred in the perpetration, or attempted perpetration, of this felony.

Appellant made no attempt to establish facts in mitigation, and does not now point to any evidence which could possibly warrant a determination that this killing occurred while he was in such heat of passion as would naturally be aroused in the mind of an ordinarily reasonable person in the same circumstances. 1 His sole defense centered around his contention that he was suffering from psychomotor epilepsy and that the actual killing occurred while he was in a fugue state resulting therefrom. Expert witnesses testified that if this were the case, appellant would have been unconscious at the time of the killing and, hence, not responsible for his actions.

A court-appointed doctor testified that he had administered an electroencephalograph test to appellant which produced readings in his opinion indicating brain damage consistent with psychomotor epilepsy in a dormant stage. However, he also testified that many people have brain damage without having psychomotor epilepsy and that the markings shown on the electroencephalogram could have been caused by 'nightmares' 2 although they were more consistent with psychomotor epilepsy. He further testified that a person would have no recollection of any events occurring while he was in the fugue or seizure state; that if a person did remember any such event, it would indicate that he was not experiencing a true attack. He, therefore, concluded that it would be most important to determine whether a person was responding truthfully when he reported a lapse of memory. This doctor did not converse with appellant personally.

A second court-appointed doctor testified that, based upon his original conversation with appellant and his reading of the preliminary transcript, he had suggested the electroencephalograph examination. He felt that appellant might have...

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