People v. Maciel, No. S070536.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Writing for the CourtLIU
Citation304 P.3d 983,160 Cal.Rptr.3d 305,57 Cal.4th 482
PartiesThe PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Luis MACIEL, Defendant and Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. S070536.
Decision Date02 October 2013

57 Cal.4th 482
304 P.3d 983
160 Cal.Rptr.3d 305

The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
Luis MACIEL, Defendant and Appellant.

No. S070536.

Supreme Court of California

Aug. 8, 2013.
As Modified on Denial of Rehearing Oct. 2, 2013.

[160 Cal.Rptr.3d 318]Melissa Hill, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant.

Edmund G. Brown, Jr., and Kamala D. Harris, Attorneys General, Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Pamela C. Hamanaka, Assistant Attorney General, Kristofer Jorstad and Paul M. Roadarmel, Jr., Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.


[304 P.3d 994]

[57 Cal.4th 488]Defendant Luis Maciel was convicted of the first degree murders of Anthony Moreno, Maria Moreno, Gustavo Aguirre, Laura Moreno, and Ambrose Padilla. (Pen.Code, §§ 187, subd. (a), 189; all further undesignated statutory references are to this code.) The jury also found true multiple-murder special-circumstance and weapon use sentence enhancement allegations. (§§ 190.2, subd. (a)(3), former 12022, subd. (a)(1).) The jury returned a death verdict, and the trial court entered a judgment of death. This appeal is automatic. (Cal. Const., art. VI, § 11, subd. (a); § 1239, subd. (b).) For the reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment.

I. Facts
A. Guilt Phase
1. Prosecution Case

a. Circumstances surrounding the murders

1) Overview

On Saturday, April 22, 1995, between 10:00 and 10:30 p.m., three adults—Anthony “Dido” Moreno, his sister, Maria Moreno, and Gustavo “Tito” Aguirre—and two of Maria's children—five-year-old Laura Moreno and six-month-old Ambrose Padilla—were shot to death in a house located at [57 Cal.4th 489]3843 Maxson Road in El Monte, California. Richard “Primo” Valdez, a Sangra street gang member, shot and killed Anthony Moreno and Gustavo Aguirre, while his fellow Sangra gang member Jimmy “Character” Palma shot and killed Maria Moreno and the children. Sangra gang members Danny “Tricky” Logan and Anthony “Scar” Torres also participated in the shootings. The prosecution's theory was that the killings were ordered by Mexican Mafia member Raymond Shyrock, who had recently sponsored defendant (who was also known as “Pelon”) to become a member of the Mexican Mafia. The prosecutor theorized that defendant had conspired to commit or aided and abetted the commission of the murders, but was not present when the shootings occurred. The prosecutor also theorized that Anthony “Dido” Moreno was killed because he had dropped out of the Mexican Mafia; that Gustavo “Tito” Aguirre was killed either because he had robbed drug dealers protected by the Mexican Mafia or because he happened to be in the house at the time of the killings and the gang members had been instructed to leave no witnesses; and that Maria and the children were killed because they were witnesses even though there is a general “rule” in the Mexican Mafia not to kill [160 Cal.Rptr.3d 319]women or children. Defendant asserted an alibi defense, maintaining that he had been at his son's baptism and baptismal party during the murders and the events preceding them.

2) Events before April 22, 1995

Witness No. 15, who like many other witnesses was not identified in the public written record for his protection, testified he was victim Anthony “Dido” Moreno's brother. (See post, pt. II.A.2.) Anthony and Raymond Shyrock had served time in San Quentin State Prison, and in 1972 both men became members of the Mexican Mafia. Anthony dropped out of the Mexican Mafia

[304 P.3d 995]

in 1983. In January 1995, Anthony lived two apartments down from Raymond Shyrock, and in February or March he moved down the street to the house where the murders occurred.

Witness No. 15 had expressed concern to his brother Anthony that “something might happen to him or the family” because Anthony had dropped out of the Mexican Mafia. Anthony ignored these warnings because he was “so involved” with drugs, and told Witness No. 15 that Shyrock “was not a threat to him because he knew him for so many years.” An autopsy photograph showed a tattoo on Anthony's right ring finger that read “EME,” which refers to the Mexican Mafia.

In an 18–month investigation culminating in April 1995, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Sergeant Richard Briones Valdemar and other law enforcement officers secretly videotaped 18 Mexican Mafia meetings. On January 4, 1995, Raymond Shyrock, who Sergeant Valdemar believed was a member of [57 Cal.4th 490]the Mexican Mafia and had primary control over the San Gabriel Valley area in which El Monte is located, stated at a Mexican Mafia meeting, “I don't know if [you] ever heard of this brother named like ... Dido.” Shyrock explained, “He dropped out a long time ago,” and when Shyrock was living in a monthly apartment, the “motherfucker was living right downstairs” in an apartment and “never came up.” After Shyrock moved, Dido “started showing his face, so somebody seen him and told me about it ... but, there's all kinds of people in the pad. There's a whole bunch of youngsters ... and kids. And all kinds of shit. So, I'm trying ... to figure out how to ...—well, I need a silencer is what I need.” Shyrock also said, “I just want to kill him, not the little kids.” Defendant was not present at this meeting.

On April 2, 1995, defendant walked into a Mexican Mafia meeting that Sergeant Valdemar was monitoring electronically. At the meeting, Raymond Shyrock put defendant up for membership and raised his hand as a sponsor, saying: “[T]his dude has gone way above and beyond the call of duty. Man, this motherfucker is sharp, he's taken care of a lot of business.” He also said, “I know the Vatos [guys] don't know him, but take my word for it, the motherfucker's down. I'm not talking about just violence either. Okay, you know, he takes care of business real good and he's downed a whole lot of motherfuckers in the last year. And he went against his whole neighborhood for us. He's been fighting with them and downed them. And when ... one of his homies killed that one-year-old baby a few months ago, he's the one that took care of them.” Defendant was voted into the Mexican Mafia.

Witness No. 15 knew defendant, who had been a family friend. At times in early 1995, the year Shyrock sponsored defendant as a member of the Mexican Mafia, Witness No. 15 would see defendant and Shyrock together. Defendant seemed [160 Cal.Rptr.3d 320]proud of becoming a member and said he was going to “put in a lot of work.”

Witness No. 15 testified that victim Gustavo “Tito” Aguirre was a family friend. About a month to six weeks before the murders, Witness No. 15 saw Aguirre rob a local drug “connection,” or dealer, of drugs worth about $50 and about $35 in cash. He had also heard that Aguirre committed other robberies in the area involving small amounts of drugs worth $50 or $100. Witness No. 15 said that the drug dealers Aguirre robbed were paying “taxes” to the Mexican Mafia. A “couple of weeks” before the murders, Raymond Shyrock told Witness No. 15 that he was tired of Tito “disrespecting him and robbing dope connections and that sooner or later [he was] going to have to pay for that.”

Witness No. 14, an El Monte Flores gang member, testified that a couple of days before the murders, defendant spoke to him about victim Aguirre. [57 Cal.4th 491]Defendant said to “stay away from Tito because he was no good.” Defendant also told him at some point that Tito was “burning connections” and Shyrock wanted him “taken out.”

3) Events on the afternoon of April 22, 1995

Witness No. 14 testified that about 12:30 p.m. on the day before he learned of the murders, he was in El Monte and saw defendant. They spoke for a few minutes, and

[304 P.3d 996]

defendant invited Witness No. 14 to a baptismal party in Montebello.

Victor “Mugsy” Jimenez, a Sangra street gang member, testified that in April 1995, he owned a blue Jeep. On April 22, 1995, at about 3:00 p.m., Jimenez drove to Anthony “Scar” Torres's house. Torres borrowed Jimenez's Jeep to go purchase beer and was gone for about 10 to 15 minutes; Jimenez had previously told Los Angeles County Sheriff's Detective Stephen Davis, shortly after the murders, that Torres was gone with the Jeep for about 30 to 45 minutes. Jimenez estimated that driving from Torres's house to El Monte would take about 25 minutes each way.

Witness No. 15 testified that after he was paroled on January 12, 1995, he and his brother, victim Anthony “Dido” Moreno, spent every day together procuring and injecting heroin. On April 22, 1995, Witness No. 15 and Anthony obtained money for heroin on three occasions by visiting a “fence” named Hector in a barber shop located at Live Oak and Peck in Arcadia. After the first trip, Gustavo “Tito” Aguirre joined Witness No. 15 and Anthony in injecting heroin at Anthony's home. Witness No. 15 explained that Aguirre “stayed with my sister most of the time,” helping her with child care and household chores.

Witness No. 15 and Anthony returned to Anthony's home from their third and final outing sometime between 2:15 and 3:00 p.m. Between 2:30 and 3:00 p.m., defendant and two clean cut men between the ages of 19 to 21, all dressed in blue jeans, T-shirts, and tennis shoes, came to Anthony's house. One of the men had an “EMF” (El Monte Flores) gang tattoo. Witness No. 15 and Anthony spoke with defendant and his companions outside for 20 to 30 minutes. Defendant asked how they were doing and how the family was doing. He gave Witness No. 15 and Anthony each a quarter-gram of heroin; a quarter-gram was worth about $25 to $35. He also gave them his pager number and said if they needed anything to page him. Witness No. 15 found these gestures unusual because “[o]ther people are not ... that generous on ... general principle.” During the conversation, Witness No. 15 could see two children playing in the yard about 10 feet away. The two men who had [57 Cal.4th 492][160 Cal.Rptr.3d 321]accompanied defendant did not speak but appeared to be “casing out...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT