People v. Love
|United States State Supreme Court (California)
|3 Cal.Rptr. 665,53 Cal.2d 843,350 P.2d 705
|22 March 1960
|, 350 P.2d 705 PEOPLE of the State of California, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Albert Ernest LOVE, Defendant and Appellant.
Robert W. Anderson, Pasadena, and Charles A. Skow, Gridley, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for appellant.
Stanley Mosk, Atty. Gen., and G. A. Strader, Deputy Atty. Gen., for respondent.
By information defendant was charged with the murder of his wife. He pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity. A jury found him guilty of murder of the first degree but was unable to agree upon the penalty and was discharged. A second jury fixed the penalty at death and found that defendant was sane at the time of the homicide. Defendant successfully moved for a new trial on the ground of newly discovered evidence, and the order granting a new trial was affirmed by this court. People v. Love, 51 Cal.2d 751, 336 P.2d 169. At the second trial a jury again found defendant guilty of murder of the first degree, fixed the penalty at death, and found that he was sane at the time of the homicide. The trial court sentenced him to death. This appeal is automatic. Pen.Code, § 1239, subd. (b).
On the trial of the plea of not guilty defendant admitted shooting his wife but denied having any intent to harm her and denied that the shooting was deliberate or premeditated.
Defendant and the deceased were married on May 19, 1957. He was then 36 years old and on parole after a conviction of forcible rape. They had difficulties over finances, the care of Mrs. Love's 4-year-old son by a former marriage, and the disapproval of their marriage by her 17-year-old son. Late in February 1958 defendant filed an action for divorce. Shortly thereafter Mrs. Love reported him for a violation of his parole, and he spent two weeks in jail. When he was released, she moved with her children to the house of a friend, Mrs. Nedra Darnell. Defendant went to live with his mother and stepfather.
On March 27, 1958, the day before the homicide, defendant went to a pawnbroker and traded his electric razor for a shotgun that he had formerly owned. His stepfather had said that he wanted a gun to protect his chickens from cats. Defendant took the gun home and placed it in the chicken house. He testified, however, that his real purpose in obtaining it was to have a means of committing suicide. He also purchased three shells and put them in the glove compartment of his car.
Mrs. Darnell testified that during the week before the homicide defendant visited her house repeatedly and that on such occasions he would urge his wife to return to him and she would say that she had not decided yet and needed time to think. Mrs. Darnell stated that on the day before the homicide she saw defendant speaking to his wife in front of the house and that Mrs. Love told her that defendant had made 'some more of his threats' and had said that Mrs. Love 'better have (her) mind made up by noon tomorrow or else.'
Mrs. Darnell also testified that about 11 p. m. on the night before the homicide defendant came to her front door and demanded to see his wife. Mrs. Love turned on the porch light before going out to speak to him and he said,
Shortly after 8 a. m. on March 28th, the day of the homicide, defendant went to a gas station where Mrs. Love had recently given a bad check. He had previously begged the operator of the station not to prosecute her and had volunteered to work in payment of the check. Since it was raining and the work was outside, he was told not to work that day.
About 9:30 a. m. defendant visited Albert Blankenship, an accountant with whom Mrs. Love had left the books of a small trucking business that she and defendant had operated. Defendant said that he needed the books to prepare his tax return. Blankenship refused to give them to him without Mrs. Love's permission. At Blankenship's suggestion defendant went to get her permission, but returned an hour later saying that she refused to see him. Blankenship then gave him the books.
About 11:30 a. m. defendant visited the local office of the Welfare Department. He told his wife's case worker that he would like to support her 4-year-old son.
At noon defendant went home. His mother testified that during lunch he appeared to be very much upset and threatened to commit suicide. Shortly before 2 p. m. he drove her to the restaurant where she worked and said that he would be back later for coffee.
About 2:30 p. m. defendant went to his attorney's office 'to try to patch up (his) marriage.' He met his wife there and testified that he asked her to return to him but that she refused and threatened to write his parole officer to revoke his parole. As he left he met Mrs. Darnell, who was waiting in a car for Mrs. Love, and said to her, 'What is Jean trying to do to me?' He then drove home, took the shotgun from the chicken house, loaded it, and put it in the front seat of his car. He testified that he intended to drive out into the country and commit suicide, but that he drove first to the house where he and Mrs. Love had lived together 'to go by one more time where I had been happy at.'
Mrs. Love left the attorney's office about 15 minutes after defendant and entered the car in which Mrs. Darnell and four children were waiting. On the way home, at Mrs. Love's suggestion, they drove to her former residence to see if any mail had come. As they were leaving, the car stalled and after several unsuccessful attempts to start it Mrs. Love decided to wait a while before trying again. During this period defendant drove by. Several minutes later he returned and asked if Mrs. Love wanted a push. She said, 'No,' and he left. A few moments later he came by a third time and stopped his car on the opposite side of the street. The time was approximately 3:15 p. m. He called to Mrs. Love, 'Say, I want to get that fishing gear that's in the house.' She shook her head. He called out, 'Oh, I cant', can't I,' and crossed the street with the shotgun. As she said, 'Oh, no, Al,' and then, 'Please don't do it, Al,' he thrust the gun through the car window and fired one shot into the left side of her back at very close range. He said, 'All right, you lousy son of a bitching rat, you take that.'
Defendant ran back to his car and drove away. Shortly thereafter he appeared at the police station accompanied by his attorney. He told the officers that he had shot his wife, that they had been arguing about financial matters and the children, and that he should have shot himself but did not have the nerve. He mentioned that his wife had threatened to write his parole officer and said, 'Now, she will never be able to mail the letter.' He also stated that he had held the gun close to her body so that the shot would not spread and injure the other occupants of the car.
Four psychiatrists testified as to defendant's mental condition. Dr. Bromberg characterized him as an emotionally sick individual who at the time of the homicide was in a distraught state 'brought about by virtue of his rejection feeling of humiliation and based upon a very unstable makeup.' In Dr. Bromberg's opinion defendant's ability to premeditate was 'impaired.' Dr. Green testified in answer to a hypothetical question that in his opinion defendant could and did premeditate killing his wife and that his holding the gun close to her body to avoid injuring others indicates that he was thinking at the time. He also testified, however, that his tests revealed 'a self-protectively evasive, paranoid, impulseridden, extremely hostile, opportunistic, egocentric, emotionally explosive, schizoid psychopath, who is actively agitated in a ruminative, brooding, and self-centered fashion.' Dr. Jackson testified that defendant had a sociopathic or psychopathic personality. He said, however, that defendant had the capacity to premeditate and that in his opinion, based on facts set forth in a hypothetical question, defendant did premeditate and form an intent to kill his wife. Dr. Almada agreed generally with Dr. Jackson and testified that he believed defendant did 'carry on a valuable kind of premeditation.'
Other evidence tended to show that defendant had a most unfavorable environment during his childhood and that as an adult he had repeatedly been in difficulties with women and with the law. He had little education and had been taught to drink and taken into houses of prostitution at a very early age by his father. He had three prior marriages, one to a girl of 14. He had prior convictions of statutory rape, grand larceny, and forcible rape. He had spent over half his adult life in jail.
Defendant contends that there was not sufficient evidence of premeditation and deliberation to support his conviction of murder of the first degree. He maintains that he hoped and planned for a reconciliation with his wife and that his acquisition of the gun on March 27th and his trip home to get the gun on March 28th can be explained as preparations for suicide. He argues that he had no reason to expect to find his wife at their former home and that in the light of the psychiatric testimony it is 'entirely reasonable' to conclude that he killed her in an explosive emotional reaction to the last of a series of frustrations and rejections by her.
Defendant apparently assumes that this court should reverse his conviction if it can reasonably interpret the evidence in a manner consistent with his innocence. This assumption confuses the function of court and jury for it is the jury, not the court, that must be convinced of a defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. 'If the circumstances reasonably justify the verdict of the jury, the opinion of the reviewing court that those circumstances might also reasonably be reconciled with the innocence of the defendant...
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