People v. Mason, No. S004604

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Writing for the CourtPANELLI; LUCAS; BROUSSARD
Citation52 Cal.3d 909,802 P.2d 950,277 Cal.Rptr. 166
Parties, 802 P.2d 950 The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. David Edwin MASON, Defendant and Appellant. Crim.
Docket NumberNo. 23519,No. S004604
Decision Date10 January 1991

Page 166

277 Cal.Rptr. 166
52 Cal.3d 909, 802 P.2d 950
The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
David Edwin MASON, Defendant and Appellant.
No. S004604.
Crim. No. 23519.
Supreme Court of California,
In Bank.
Jan. 10, 1991.
Rehearing Denied March 13, 1991.

Page 169

[52 Cal.3d 918] [802 P.2d 953] Charles C. Marson, San Francisco, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for defendant and appellant.

John K. Van de Kamp, Atty. Gen., Steve White and Richard B. Iglehart, Chief Asst. Attys. Gen., John H. Sugiyama, Asst. Atty. Gen., Dane R. Gillette, Ronald E. Niver and Catherine A. Rivlin, Deputy Attys. Gen., for plaintiff and respondent.

PANELLI, Associate Justice.

I. INTRODUCTION

A jury convicted defendant David Edwin Mason of the murders of Joan Picard, Arthur Jennings, Antoinette Brown, Dorothy Lang, and Boyd Johnson, each in the first degree. ( § 187.) 1 As special circumstances, the jury found that defendant had murdered Picard, Jennings, Brown, and Lang while engaged in the commission of robbery ( § 190.2, subd. (a)(17)(i)) and that defendant had in the same proceeding been convicted of more than one offense of murder in the first degree (id., subd. (a)(3)). 2

[52 Cal.3d 919] The original jury failed to reach a verdict on penalty. A second jury, on retrial of the penalty phase, imposed the sentence of death. We affirm.

II. FACTS

A. Guilt Phase

Between March 9, 1980, and December 7, 1980, defendant entered the homes of, robbed, and strangled four elderly residents of Oakland: Joan Picard (71), Arthur Jennings (83), Antoinette Brown (75), and Dorothy Lang (72). On February 4, 1981, defendant was arrested. On May 9, 1982, defendant murdered Boyd Johnson, an inmate in the Alameda County jail.

1. The Oakland Murders

The prosecution proved that defendant murdered Picard, Jennings, Brown, and Lang primarily through his own admissions. Several weeks before he was arrested, defendant confessed to the four murders in a tape recording that he prepared for his family. Defendant inscribed the tape cassette with the label "David E. Mason--Epitaph." After he was arrested, defendant provided detailed information about the murders to police in four lengthy statements. He also led representatives of the district attorney's office to the places where the murders had occurred.

a. The Murder of Joan Picard

In statements to the police, defendant described Joan Picard's murder in detail. Defendant had known Picard seven or eight years earlier, when he was a teenager. He had done odd jobs for her, such as cleaning and gardening, and considered her a friend. On occasion, Picard invited defendant into her home for refreshments, to talk about religion, and to show him her coin collection. Picard, who was concerned about burglars, also showed defendant her alarm system and its panic buttons.

On March 6, 1980, low on funds, defendant remembered Picard and her coin collection. He took a bus to her home and knocked on her door. Picard, now 73 years old, remembered him and invited him in.

Page 170

[802 P.2d 954] Defendant pulled out an ice pick, told Picard that he planned to rob her, and instructed her not to scream or run. Initially, Picard did not believe what defendant was saying. To convince her that he was serious, he told her, falsely, that he was a drug addict.

Defendant led Picard upstairs, where he found $3 under a stack of newspapers in the bedroom. When she attempted to reach the panic button, he [52 Cal.3d 920] pulled her back and choked her until she lost consciousness. When Picard regained consciousness, she told him to take everything. According to defendant, she said: "I'd rather let you have everything [than] to believe that you're doing this." When defendant began to search the house, Picard tried to escape. Defendant tied her wrists with an electrical cord and told her not to move. After finishing his search, which produced the coin collection, defendant returned to Picard. Afraid that she would identify him, he killed her by tightening a ligature around her neck.

Picard's daughter found the body two days later. It had been placed in the pantry behind a closed door. Physical evidence from the crime scene substantially corroborated defendant's later statements. Picard's body was on the floor. Around her neck was a wire, twisted tight with a pencil to form a tourniquet. The larynx and hyoid bones in her neck had been fractured, probably by manual strangulation. Asphyxiation due to strangulation was the cause of death. Picard's hands were tied in the front with an electrical cord that had been cut from a clock radio. The clock radio had stopped at 12:29 p.m. Bruises on her face, neck, chest, and arms indicated a severe beating before death. There were bloodstains in the living room, on the stairway, and in the bedroom. The only clothes left on the body were a blue skirt and a brassiere. A sweater had been forcibly removed; fragments of the buttons were scattered on the floor.

Picard's daughter testified that her mother's coin collection was missing. Defendant admitted selling the coins. A pawnbroker testified that he purchased them from defendant for $85 on March 6, 1980, at 4:40 p.m.

Testifying on his own behalf at trial, defendant admitted involvement in Picard's murder, as he had in the Epitaph Tape and in his statements to police. At trial, however, defendant repudiated his earlier confessions and claimed that he had robbed Picard together with an accomplice, Doug Denard. According to defendant's trial testimony, Denard killed Picard against defendant's wishes while defendant was out of the room.

b. The Murder of Arthur Jennings

In his statements to the police defendant also described his murder of 83-year-old Arthur Jennings. As a teenager, defendant had known Jennings as "Niko," someone who would trade money for sexual favors. Defendant had met Jennings for this purpose several times, most often in Jennings's car but twice in his cottage near defendant's junior high school.

On August 18, 1980, looking for "something to do," defendant knocked on Jennings's door. When the door opened defendant pushed it in, causing [52 Cal.3d 921] Jennings, who walked with a cane, to fall backwards onto the floor. Defendant rushed in and fell on top of him. Jennings swung at defendant and struggled. Defendant punched Jennings, put his hands around Jennings's neck, and strangled him. When Jennings stopped breathing, defendant ransacked the house. Defendant left with Jennings's World War I military service ring and about $16.

A Meals-on-Wheels driver had delivered a meal and spoken to Jennings at about 10:30 a.m. The next day, the driver discovered the body lying on a bed in the front room. Physical evidence substantially corroborated defendant's later statements about the murder. Jennings's spine had fractured in a backwards fall, and he had been severely beaten before death. There were bruises on his face, head, neck, and upper body. His larynx and hyoid bones had multiple fractures. The cause of death was asphyxiation due to manual strangulation. The coroner estimated that Jennings

Page 171

[802 P.2d 955] had eaten about an hour before he died, thus placing the time of death at about 11:30 a.m.

At trial, defendant repudiated his earlier statements, claiming that he had never met Jennings and did not kill him. Defendant also presented the alibi that he had been working at Thrift Town, a secondhand shop, on the day Jennings died. Defendant's time card was punched in at 12:31 p.m. and punched out at 9:02 p.m. In rebuttal, the People showed that others could have punched defendant's card. Defendant's brother, who also worked at Thrift Town, punched out for lunch at 12:31 p.m. Karen Worden, defendant's friend, punched out at 9:03 p.m.

c. The Murder of Antoinette Brown

Defendant killed Antoinette Brown, a 75-year-old widow living alone, on November 16, 1980.

The last person who saw Brown alive was Wayne Anderson, a neighbor. At about 4 p.m. on Sunday, November 16, Brown brought Anderson some homemade cookies, and he invited her to Thanksgiving dinner. When Anderson returned from work the next day he saw that Brown's Sunday and Monday newspapers were still at her door. He knocked on her door and telephoned but got no answer. Because Brown still had not collected her newspapers on Tuesday, Anderson called Brown's sister, who had a key to the apartment.

Inside the apartment, Anderson and Brown's sister found the body face down in the bedroom. Around Brown's neck was a knotted ligature fashioned from a silk undergarment. Brown's body was clothed, but her slip had been pulled up above her waist and her brassiere had been pulled down. The [52 Cal.3d 922] autopsy surgeon determined that Brown had died of asphyxiation due to strangulation. Brown had also been beaten before death. There were bruises, scrapes, and cuts over most of her body. In addition, Brown's rings and purse had been taken from the apartment.

A second neighbor, Paula White, testified that she briefly saw a young, male stranger leave the elevator on the first floor at about 4 p.m. During their investigation, police asked White to select a photograph of the stranger from a set of six. She selected photographs of defendant and one other person.

In his statements to the police, defendant occasionally confused Brown's murder with that of Dorothy Lang, his next victim. Defendant did, however, provide many accurate details. Defendant correctly remembered that the murder had occurred at about 4 p.m. Defendant also correctly remembered that Brown had worn a dark colored dress with a flowered design, that she had driven a full-sized American car, that her apartment building had four floors and a balcony facing the street, that she had lived in the front apartment on the second floor, and that the underground garage, which was not visible from the street, had a cord that opened the door automatically. Defendant also drew for police an accurate diagram of...

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305 practice notes
  • People v. Cooper, No. S004687
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • May 6, 1991
    ...of multiple inferences, or conflicting, the trial court's determination of that juror's state of mind is binding. (People v. Mason (1991) 52 Cal.3d 909, 953-954, 277 Cal.Rptr. 166, 802 P.2d 950 [conflicting responses]; People v. Coleman, supra, 46 Cal.3d at pp. 766-767, 251 Cal.Rptr. 83, 75......
  • People v. Mckinnon, No. S077166.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • October 12, 2011
    ...prejudice.’ ” ( People v. Sandoval (1992) 4 Cal.4th 155, 173, 14 Cal.Rptr.2d 342, 841 P.2d 862, quoting People v. Mason (1991) 52 Cal.3d 909, 934, 277 Cal.Rptr. 166, 802 P.2d 950; see Bradford, supra, 15 Cal.4th at p. 1316, 65 Cal.Rptr.2d 145, 939 P.2d 259.) “[E]ven if cross-admissibility d......
  • People v. Tuilaepa, No. S004786
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • December 28, 1992
    ...for defendant's possession of the item, but such inferences do not render the evidence inadmissible per se. (People v. Mason (1991) 52 Cal.3d 909, 956-957, 277 Cal.Rptr. 166, 802 P.2d 950.) Hence, the court did not err in admitting evidence about the razors and blades and the "battery-pack"......
  • People v. Sapp, No. S023628.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • July 31, 2003
    ...statutory requirements for joinder were met here because the three murder counts were crimes "of the same class." (People v. Mason (1991) 52 Cal.3d 909, 933, 277 Cal.Rptr. 166, 802 P.2d 950.)1 But section 954 also provides that "the court in which a case is triable, in the interests of just......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
305 cases
  • People v. Cooper, No. S004687
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • May 6, 1991
    ...of multiple inferences, or conflicting, the trial court's determination of that juror's state of mind is binding. (People v. Mason (1991) 52 Cal.3d 909, 953-954, 277 Cal.Rptr. 166, 802 P.2d 950 [conflicting responses]; People v. Coleman, supra, 46 Cal.3d at pp. 766-767, 251 Cal.Rptr. 83, 75......
  • People v. Mckinnon, No. S077166.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • October 12, 2011
    ...prejudice.’ ” ( People v. Sandoval (1992) 4 Cal.4th 155, 173, 14 Cal.Rptr.2d 342, 841 P.2d 862, quoting People v. Mason (1991) 52 Cal.3d 909, 934, 277 Cal.Rptr. 166, 802 P.2d 950; see Bradford, supra, 15 Cal.4th at p. 1316, 65 Cal.Rptr.2d 145, 939 P.2d 259.) “[E]ven if cross-admissibility d......
  • People v. Tuilaepa, No. S004786
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • December 28, 1992
    ...for defendant's possession of the item, but such inferences do not render the evidence inadmissible per se. (People v. Mason (1991) 52 Cal.3d 909, 956-957, 277 Cal.Rptr. 166, 802 P.2d 950.) Hence, the court did not err in admitting evidence about the razors and blades and the "battery-pack"......
  • People v. Sapp, No. S023628.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • July 31, 2003
    ...statutory requirements for joinder were met here because the three murder counts were crimes "of the same class." (People v. Mason (1991) 52 Cal.3d 909, 933, 277 Cal.Rptr. 166, 802 P.2d 950.)1 But section 954 also provides that "the court in which a case is triable, in the interests of just......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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