People v. Jones

Decision Date29 January 1998
Docket NumberNo. S021683,S021683
Citation70 Cal.Rptr.2d 793,17 Cal.4th 279,949 P.2d 890
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court
Parties, 949 P.2d 890, 98 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 789, 98 Daily Journal D.A.R. 1025 The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Ronald Anthony JONES, Defendant and Appellant.

Daniel E. Lungren, Attorney General, George Williamson, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Carol Wendelin Pollack, Assistant Attorney General, John R. Gorey, Robert S. Henry and Allison H. Ting, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

MOSK, Justice.

Defendant, convicted of murdering Lois Anne Haro following sexual offenses and other felonies against her, was sentenced to death and awaits execution at San Quentin prison.

The district attorney filed an information on April 28, 1989, charging defendant, in count 1, with murder (§ 187, subd. (a); this and all unlabeled statutory references are to the Penal Code). Count 2 charged kidnapping The information also alleged four felony-murder special circumstances (§ 190.2, subd. (a)(17))--i.e., that defendant killed while or during "the immediate flight after" (ibid.) committing robbery (§ 211), kidnapping (§§ 207, 209), rape (§ 261), and oral copulation (§ 288a). And it alleged that he used a firearm (§ 12022.5) to kill Haro and, with regard to the murder, kidnapping for robbery, and second degree robbery counts, that a principal was armed with a firearm (§ 12022, subd. (a)), namely a handgun.

[949 P.2d 896] for the purpose of robbery (§ 209, subd. (b)), count 3 second degree robbery (§ 211, former § 212.5, subd. (b)) (Stats.1987, ch. 801, § 1, p. 2509), count 4 forcible rape while acting in concert (§ 264.1), and count 5 forcible oral copulation (§ 288a, subd. (c)).

A jury convicted defendant of all offenses, and found true all the allegations. Following a penalty trial, it returned a verdict of death on the murder count, and the court entered judgment accordingly, also imposing a five-year enhancement for shooting Haro and an additional one-year term because a principal was armed with a gun.

On the other counts, the court sentenced defendant to life imprisonment without possibility of parole for kidnapping for robbery, five years for second degree robbery, nine years for forcible rape while acting in concert, and eight years for forcible oral copulation. It ordered all these sentences to run consecutively except for the second degree robbery term, which it stayed under section 654.


A police officer on patrol on the evening of October 18, 1988, discovered Lois Anne Haro lying in the dirt bordering an isolated road in Pasadena. She died on the way to the hospital. The cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head. A criminalist located semen on Haro's clothing and on vaginal, rectal, and external genital samples taken with a sexual assault kit. Defendant could have left the semen found on the vaginal and external genital samples.

The police apprehended defendant the morning after the crimes after seeing him park Haro's car. When booking him after an initial interrogation they found her credit cards, her automated teller machine card, and the key to her husband's car. They resumed the interrogation that afternoon and defendant made other statements to them in the following days. In his statements, he declared that he and his partner, George Marvin Trone, Jr., abducted Haro at gunpoint from a Pasadena shopping mall where she was buying baby gifts and, while driving from place to place, committed various sexual offenses against her, including three forcible rapes and one act of forcible oral copulation. This attack lasted for about an hour and ended when defendant shot and mortally wounded her. The police learned the latter fact two days after defendant's arrest when he volunteered to them that he had shot Haro, a fact he had initially denied. He later acknowledged in court committing all of the crimes, including aiding and abetting Trone's forcing Haro to orally copulate him, a crime for which no physical evidence had been found but that was charged on the basis of prior confessions.

Although defendant admitted committing the crimes, he disputed his role. Notwithstanding his confession to the police, he denied being the shooter. Thus the only major fact at issue at the guilt phase was whether he or Trone shot and mortally wounded Haro. Defendant testified that he aided Trone in Haro's kidnapping for robbery, robbery, forcible rape, and forcible oral copulation. He also testified to personally raping Haro, but claimed that he did not personally rob her. He expressed remorse for his acts.

As stated, the jury found that defendant shot Haro.

Defendant further testified that he did not try to gain access to Haro's bank account after her death. In rebuttal, the prosecution introduced evidence that the morning after Haro was killed, someone tried, without success, to use her automated teller machine card to withdraw money from her bank account.

Defendant did not testify at the penalty phase. The prosecution introduced evidence of a beating of a high school classmate that may have caused a miscarriage. For this Defense counsel acknowledged in closing argument that the circumstances of the crime were the worst factor in aggravation. Guilt phase evidence that the police found Haro's gift of baby items in her car after the crimes would have emphasized her vulnerability to the jury. And the jury could have concluded from defendant's own guilt phase testimony that he committed the crimes remorselessly--he testified that after kidnapping, raping and helping to kill Haro he went home, enjoyed watching the situation comedy The Honeymooners on television, and ate a late dinner.

[949 P.2d 897] offense he admitted to misdemeanor battery in juvenile court. On his behalf, friends, relatives, and a former teacher gave evidence of good character traits.

But defense counsel nevertheless argued that there was lingering doubt whether defendant or Trone was the shooter; that he had good qualities that justified an exercise of mercy; that he had turned down a plea bargain offer for life imprisonment without possibility of parole; and that even if jurors did not believe he deserved mercy, they could impose a sentence of life imprisonment without possibility of parole as the more severe punishment.


Jury Selection Issues

Claim of Improper Use of Peremptory Challenges

Defendant, who is African-American, contends that the prosecutor improperly exercised peremptory challenges to exclude all four Black prospective jurors. He claims that this procedure violated the state Constitution's implicit guaranty of a representative jury, as explained in People v. Wheeler (1978) 22 Cal.3d 258, 276-277, 148 Cal.Rptr. 890, 583 P.2d 748, and, in the federal Constitution, the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection and Sixth Amendment jury trial provisions. (See generally, People v. Alvarez (1996) 14 Cal.4th 155, 192-193, 58 Cal.Rptr.2d 385, 926 P.2d 365.)

Three times defendant objected to the peremptory challenges and moved for a mistrial under Wheeler. The trial court specifically declared that it found no prima facie evidence of discrimination, and it denied the motions. But it invited the prosecutor to explain informally any reasons for his actions. The prosecutor explained that he challenged Emery H. because he gave conflicting and possibly untrue answers about whether he had followed the case in the newspapers. He could not recall the reason for his challenge to Doris C., except that it was "based upon her answers in her questionnaire and her answers in [individual voir dire] and her attitudes with respect to the death penalty as she expressed [them then]." He challenged Edna A. because she opposed the death penalty on religious grounds. And he challenged Joseph S. because he had earlier stated that realistically he could not impose the death penalty and the prosecutor felt "that these were his true feelings." "I don't think he can vote for death."

The prosecutor stated that he regretted having to challenge Joseph S., that he was "very conscious of the image that this might be creating," and that he wished "that I had Black jurors on this panel that I felt could impose the death penalty under any circumstances or any evidence presented in this case."

We review a trial court's ruling on a motion of this type for substantial evidence. (People v. Alvarez, supra, 14 Cal.4th at p. 196, 58 Cal.Rptr.2d 385, 926 P.2d 365.) "A party who suspects improper use of peremptory challenges must raise a timely objection and make a prima facie showing of strong likelihood that the opponent has excluded one or more jurors on the basis of group or racial identity." (People v. Montiel (1993) 5 Cal.4th 877, 909, 21 Cal.Rptr.2d 705, 855 P.2d 1277.) The court found that there was no showing of such behavior at all, and we examine the record to determine whether evidence supported this finding. " ' "Because Wheeler motions call upon trial judges' personal observations, we view their rulings with 'considerable deference' on appeal." ' " (People v. Crittenden (1994) 9 Cal.4th 83, 117, 36 Cal.Rptr.2d 474, 885 P.2d 887.) We also bear in mind that peremptory challenges are not challenges for cause--they are peremptory.

                [949 P.2d 898] We have said that such challenges may be made on an "apparently trivial" or "highly speculative" basis.  (People v. Wheeler, supra, 22 Cal.3d at p. 275, 148 Cal.Rptr. 890, 583 P.2d 748.)   Indeed, they may be made " 'without reason or for no reason, arbitrarily and capriciously' "(People v. Williams (1997) 16 Cal.4th 635, 663, 66 Cal.Rptr.2d 573, 941 P.2d 752)

The record reveals evidence to support the court's rulings.

Emery H. did give conflicting and possibly untrue answers to questions whether he had followed the case in...

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