People v. Meneley

Decision Date30 November 1972
Docket NumberCr. 10994
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
PartiesPEOPLE of the State of California, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Darrell Dean MENELEY, Defendant and Appellant.

John M. Poswall, Sacramento, for defendant and appellant (Court-appointed).

Evelle J. Younger, Atty. Gen., Herbert L. Ashby, Chief Asst. Atty. Gen., Crim. Div., William E. James, Asst. Atty. Gen., Appeals Section, Gloria DeHart, Timothy A. Reardon, Deputy Attys. Gen., San Francisco, for plaintiff and respondent.

TAYLOR, Presiding Justice.

Defendant, Darrell Meneley, appeals 1 from a judgment of conviction entered on jury verdicts finding him guilty of the murder (Pen.Code, § 187) of Nancy Breiling, and the kidnapping (Pen.Code, § 207) and assault with a deadly weapon (Pen.Code, § 245) of Linda Houser. He contends that: 1) the consolidation of the Breiling and Houser cases for trial was improper; 2) he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel by the failure to present the defense of diminished capacity, the failure to object to evidence unlawfully seized at the time of his arrest and the failure to object to Mr. Houser's identification evidence based on an unduly suggestive lineup; 3) his statement was erroneously admitted in violation of his Miranda rights; and 4) the prosecution was guilty of prejudicial misconduct. We have concluded that there is no merit to any of these contentions; however, the judgment must be modified to a life sentence.

As there are no contentions concerning the sufficiency of the evidence, a brief summary of the pertinent facts will suffice. Viewing the record most strongly in favor of the judgment, as we must, the following facts appear:

I. The Murder

On Tuesday, October 14, 1969, defendant had been a driver for Bertain's Laundry and Dry Cleaners in Napa for about two weeks. He usually reported for work about 2 p.m. in Napa, loaded his pickup with clean laundry, drove to Fairfield to unload the clean laundry and load his truck with soiled laundry from the company's outlet store, and returned to the plant in Napa about 4 p.m., or shortly thereafter. On October 14, defendant left the outlet store in Fairfield with the soiled laundry about 3:10 p.m.

From about 3:15 to 5:15 p.m., defendant was drinking with his brother Albert in a Fairfield bar about one-half block from Albert's place of employment on Texas Street. As they walked back to the laundry truck about 5:15 p.m., defendant told his brother that the truck had to be back in Napa by 6 p.m.

As he had not arrived at the Bertain plant in Napa by 6:45 p.m., Jean Bertain, the owner, called Harry Foster, defendant's stapfather with whom defendant and his wife lived in Napa. About 7:30 p.m., two other Bertain drivers, Couch and Faulk, searched for defendant, but did not locate him on any of the various routes from Fairfield to Napa.

Just before 6 p.m., the 15-year-old victim entered the Fabric Shop at 838 Texas Street, made a purchase and left the store. One of the victim's teachers, Mr. Maben, saw a Bertain laundry truck in the vicinity of Webster and Empire Streets on October 13, 14 or 15. This intersection was near the Fabric Shop and on the victim's regular route home from school. Maben saw the truck proceeding in the direction away from the school between 4:30 and 6 p.m., or later, with the victim in the passenger seat. The driver of the truck resembled a former student, Eric Smith, whose photograph was offered evidence.

The Bertain's laundry truck, identified by Maben, was the one regularly assigned to defendant and driven by him on October 14. The vacant truck was seen parked on the west side of Wooden Valley Road pointing south, just inside the Napa County line, by Mr. and Mrs Marquez at 6:20 p.m.; about 6:45 p.m. by E. Gregory and D. Woodruff; and about 7 p.m. by L. Capp. About 7:15 p.m., Don McFarland saw the truck on the west side of the road, pointing south, but about one-half mile from the county line. Bertain indicated that there was no reason for any of his trucks to be on Wooden Valley Road as there were no customers in that area.

About 8 p.m., Bertain again called the Foster residence and spoke with defendant's mother. During the conversation, defendant came home. Bertain told defendant to come to the plant to unload his truck. Defendant arrived at the plant about 8:15 p.m. and in response to a question, explained that he had had trouble with the linkage on the carburator and repaired it. Bertain and Couch noticed that there was no grease on defendant's hands or clothing. After the unloading was completed, Couch drove defendant home about 8:45 p.m. Defendant's wife noticed some mud on the cuff of his brown trousers. Faulk, who drove defendant's truck on the mornings of October 14 and 15, experienced no malfunctions.

Bertain and Couch began to unload the truck in the presence of defendant. They found a pair of women's glasses behind the driver's seat and asked defendant about them. Defendant replied that the glasses belonged to his wife and pocketed them. At the trial, Couch and Bertain each separately identified a duplicate pair of the victim's glasses as those found in the truck rather than a pair of glasses belonging to defendant's wife.

About 11 a.m. on the morning of October 15, the victim's body with a stocking tied around the throat was discovered on an embankment off the west side of Wooden Valley Road, approximately the same location where the witness McFarland saw defendant's truck on the prior evening. The body was in a small wooded area on soil dampened by heavy rains.

The autopsy indicated death by strangulation and a large contusion on the back of the head and skull fracture caused by a tremendous force from a heavy flat object. The pathologist concluded that the victim was rendered unconscious by the blow and was strangled about one-half hour later after being dragged up the embankment. The body remained in the position in which it was found for 12--16 hours following death. The presence of undigested food in the stomach indicated that the victim had died within 4--6 hours after her last meal.

On October 16, 1969, defendant was arrested at the Foster home about 2:45 a.m. in the bedroom he occupied with his wife and advised of his Miranda rights. Certain items of his clothing were taken and examined. His shoes had been worn in a damp area; one of them also exhibited Type A blood similar to the victim's. Hair similar to the victim's was found on one shoe and a plaid shirt. A pubic hair of the victim was found behind the driver's seat of the truck. On defendant's Levis there was a fiber that matched the fiber of the victim's dress. Inside the garrote and on defendant's shirt were sinacula seeds. A botanist testified that in the area of Napa and Fairfield, this plant was found only in the area where the body was discovered.

Defendant did not testify in his own behalf. His pathologist expressed the opinion that on the basis of the coroner's report and other data, the time of death was about 11 p.m. on the evening of October 14. Three defense witnesses testified that on the morning of October 15, they were inside a school bus proceeding 15 miles an hour on Wooden Valley Road and did not see the victim's body. However, one of the witnesses who first discovered the body did not initially see it from the roadway.

II. The Kidnapping and Assault

The victim, Linda C. Houser, testified that about 9 p.m. on September 11, 1969, she left her home at 1550 Laurel Street in Napa to take a walk. After purchasing some cigarettes, she was on her way home on Third Street when a car stopped and a made driver asked her if she wanted a ride. She declined as she did not recognize the driver; the car continued on its way.

Shortly thereafter, she saw a man walking about two blocks behind her. At the intersection of Wilson and Laurel Streets, a man, subsequently identified as defendant, approached, and asked directions to Giovannoni's Market. As she walked to Laurel Street, defendant grabbed her and placed a knife on her jaw, saying, 'Shut up. Be quiet or I will kill you.' He first led her west on Laurel to Fuller Park, then again west on Laurel towards the park. After defendant complained of stomach pains, the victim (knowing that her parents and sister were home), suggested that he accompany her to her apartment for a cup of tea. Defendant acquiesced, indicating that he was 'stoned' on methedrine.

As they arrived at the glass side door of the victim's home, defendant stooped over with an apparent stomach cramp. The victim pushed him, ran into the house and slammed the door behind her. As defendant forced his hand through the glass door, the victim screamed. Her parents were awakened and came to the rescue. Defendant entered the house and then backed away, knocked down the victim's father, and was thrown to the ground and beaten by the victim's father, but escaped. Subsequently, the victim's father specifically identified defendant at a lineup.

Defendant's mother and stepfather were both awakened by him about 1 a.m. and noted dust on his wrist and arm. The following day, both saw blood and pieces of glass on the floor of the bedroom occupied by defendant and his wife.

Defendant first contends that the court erred in granting the prosecution's motion to consolidate the Breiling and Houser matters. Penal Code section 954, so far as pertinent, provides for the following bases for joinder: 'An accusatory pleading may charge two or more different offenses Connected together in their commission, or different statements of the same offense or two or more Different offenses of the same class of crimes or offenses, under separate counts, and if two or more accusatory pleadings are filed in such cases in the same court, the court may order them to be consolidated' (emphasis supplied).


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