People v. Mickle, No. S004708

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Citation54 Cal.3d 140,814 P.2d 290,284 Cal.Rptr. 511
Parties, 814 P.2d 290 The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Denny MICKLE, Defendant and Appellant. Crim. 25377, 25540.
Decision Date19 August 1991
Docket NumberNo. S004708

Page 511

284 Cal.Rptr. 511
54 Cal.3d 140, 814 P.2d 290
The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
Denny MICKLE, Defendant and Appellant.
No. S004708.
Crim. 25377, 25540.
Supreme Court of California,
In Bank.
Aug. 19, 1991.
Rehearing Denied Oct. 30, 1991.

[54 Cal.3d 155] [814 P.2d 295] Fern M. Laethem, Public Defender, under appointment by the Supreme Court, Roy M. Dahlberg, Musawwir M. Spiegel, Thomas L. Carroll and John Fresquez, Deputy State Public Defenders, Sacramento, for defendant and appellant.

John K. Van de Kamp and Daniel E. Lungren, Attys. Gen., Richard B. Iglehart, Chief Asst. Atty. Gen., John H. Sugiyama, Asst. Atty. Gen., Ronald S. Matthias, Morris Beatus, Aileen Bunney and Edward P. O'Brien, Deputy Attys. Gen., San Francisco, for plaintiff and respondent.

BAXTER, Justice.

Defendant Denny Mickle was convicted of one count of first degree murder (Pen.Code, § 187) 1 with personal use of a knife (§ 12022, subd. (b)), and arson (§ 451, subd. (b)). Under the 1978 death penalty law, the jury found true a special circumstance that the murder occurred while defendant was engaged in the commission of a lewd and lascivious act upon a minor. (§ 190.2, subd. (a)(17)(v); see § 288, subd. (a).)

In a separate proceeding held after the guilt verdict was rendered but before the penalty phase began, the jury found defendant competent to stand [54 Cal.3d 156] trial. (§§ 1367, 1368.) Defendant purported to appeal from the competence determination. While that appeal was pending in the Court of Appeal, a penalty trial was held. The jury sentenced defendant to death, and the trial court denied the automatic motion to modify the verdict. (§ 190.4, subd. (e).) The death judgment was automatically appealed to this court. (§ 1239, subd. (b).) The interlocutory appeal from the competence determination was transferred here (Crim. 25540) and consolidated with the automatic appeal (S004708/Crim. 25377).

For reasons which will be explained, the interlocutory appeal from the competence determination will be dismissed and defendant's challenges to that determination considered in the automatic appeal from the final judgment. We find no prejudicial error affecting the guilt, competence, or penalty verdicts. The judgment will be affirmed in its entirety.


A. Prosecution Case

1. Crime scene evidence. On February 15, 1983, the victim, 12-year-old Lashan, and her parents, Darrell and Sally K., moved from Pacifica to Daly City. Their new home was the Mission Bell Motel, [814 P.2d 296] which was occupied primarily by permanent residents, including families. Darrell happened to see defendant on the street during the move and asked for his help. Defendant was a longtime acquaintance of Darrell's but apparently had not met Sally or Lashan before. Because defendant had no home and all three adults were unemployed, the K. family agreed to let defendant stay with them and share expenses.

The foursome occupied unit 10. It had a front room with a door facing onto the motel courtyard, a hallway, a bathroom, a kitchen, and a bedroom with a door opening into an alley behind the unit. There was no telephone in the unit, so calls had to be handled through the motel office or at a public booth nearby. Defendant slept on a murphy bed in the front room, and Lashan and her parents slept in the bedroom. The first nine days of joint residence were uneventful.

On February 24, the day of the crimes, Lashan's parents left the motel at noon and drove to Oakland to visit Darrell's sick grandmother. At some point, Sally arranged by phone to have a woman who worked at Lashan's school drive Lashan home in the afternoon. At about 3:45 p.m., Sally called the motel and told defendant about the arrangement. He promised to take care of Lashan until Darrell and Sally returned.

[54 Cal.3d 157] Defendant was in the unit at 4 p.m. when the school employee dropped Lashan off and departed. Lashan was wearing pants and a plaid shirt. At 5:30 p.m., Sally phoned to say that she and Darrell would not be home for awhile. Defendant reported that Lashan had arrived home safely and was doing homework and watching television. This was the first time defendant and Lashan had ever been alone together.

At 7:30 p.m., two rental store employees arrived at unit 10 to repossess the television set. Defendant answered the door and briefly chatted with them. One of the employees went into the bedroom and saw Lashan lying on the bed watching television. He exchanged a few words with her and took the set. The employee could not remember at trial what Lashan was wearing or whether she was lying underneath the covers. He was certain, however, that both defendant and Lashan were acting "normal."

Between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m., a motel resident saw defendant pace "back and forth" between unit 10 and the phone booth near the office. The resident had been working on his car in the courtyard across from the unit since 1 p.m., and had seen defendant make the same trip a few times earlier in the day. Immediately before the resident left the motel premises at 8:30 p.m., he saw defendant enter unit 10.

Defendant was not seen again until 9:50 p.m., when he arrived at the South San Francisco home of his girlfriend, Ruthie. He told her he had walked from the motel, a one hour trip by foot. He was carrying a clockradio, which belonged to the K. family and had been sitting on the television in their bedroom.

At 10:30 p.m., while Ruthie was in the room, defendant called the motel and asked to speak to the residents of unit 10. He hung up moments later and told Ruthie no one was home. Defendant then carried the phone into another room and called Lashan's parents at a relative's house. Defendant told Darrell that he had left the motel at 7:30 p.m., and was calling from the Tenderloin. Defendant also said he needed a key to the unit. When Darrell noted that Lashan could open the door, defendant apologized for being "stupid." Darrell and Sally were disturbed by the call and immediately drove home. Meanwhile, defendant borrowed bus fare from Ruthie and said he was going to the Tenderloin. He left her house for a few hours.

At 10:50 p.m., shortly before Lashan's parents arrived back at the motel, an employee of a nearby restaurant saw flames shooting out of unit 10's bedroom window. The fire was soon extinguished. Lashan's naked, dead [54 Cal.3d 158] body was found lying facedown on the bathroom floor. 2 Her back [814 P.2d 297] was covered with soot and she had been stabbed several times. There was blood but no soot on the floor underneath the body. Bloodstains were found near the bottom of a hallway dresser and the bathroom doorjamb. A motel butcher knife with a bloodstained blade was found on the counter near the kitchen sink. 3

The front room, hallway, bathroom, and kitchen had been heavily damaged by soot, smoke, and heat. Charred paper was found on a burned section of the murphy bed in the front room. In the bedroom, the mattress and base of the headboard had been consumed by flames, but the top of the headboard and nearby furniture suffered only minor blistering and discoloration. In the alley outside, broken glass from the bedroom windows had soot on one side. The doors and windows were locked and showed no signs of forced entry.

Defendant returned to Ruthie's house at about 2 a.m. and spent the night. At 7 a.m., Ruthie awoke and saw a television report which apparently identified defendant as a suspect in the motel crimes. She immediately told him to leave the house and call the police. He disclaimed any knowledge of events described in the report and then left. Ruthie called the police.

Defendant called the police an hour later, at 8 a.m., and said he had heard about the fire on television and wished to discuss it. However, he did not show up at the prearranged meeting place. Defendant made a similar call at 9:30 p.m., identified himself as a "suspect," and was soon taken into custody.

2. Defendant's in-custody statements. A half-hour after being taken into custody on February 25, defendant had three consecutive interviews at the police station. He first spoke with Detectives Reese and McCarthy pursuant to a Miranda waiver (Miranda v. Arizona (1966) 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694), and denied committing the crimes. He said he left Lashan asleep at the motel at 8:15 p.m. on February 24, and rode a bus to the Tenderloin. He claimed to have called Lashan's parents from there and then visited Ruthie.

Defendant next spoke with his parole officer, Mr. Bandettini, pursuant to another Miranda waiver. (Bandettini was identified as a "state investigator" [54 Cal.3d 159] at trial.) Defendant first denied the crimes, but then said he could not "remember" whether he had stabbed Lashan. When asked if he had sex with her, he replied, "I may have."

Detectives Reese and McCarthy immediately resumed questioning. Defendant began by saying he "could have killed" Lashan and "didn't know what [he] was doing." He admitted having "sex" with her, but was unclear about when it occurred. 4 Although defendant first denied any involvement in the fire, he later answered in the affirmative when asked if he could have killed Lashan and set the fire. Defendant repeatedly said that he did not know how many times Lashan had been "stuck," and that his actions were not "intentional."

When asked to describe the evening's activities in greater detail, defendant replied, in somewhat disjointed and emotional terms, that he and Lashan had prepared a meal, played cards, and arm wrestled. He started looking at her and feeling "crazy." He paced back and forth between the motel office and the unit. At some point, he lifted the knife from among the dirty dishes in the kitchen sink, held it in both hands near his head, and attacked her with it. When asked how Lashan got into the bathroom, defendant said he "might have stuck her one time while she was asleep," [814 P.2d 298] and "she might...

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262 practice notes
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    ...that defendant did not object to this evidence on any grounds at trial, and has therefore waived the claim. (People v. Mickle (1991) 54 Cal.3d 140, 186, 284 Cal.Rptr. 511, 814 P.2d 290.) In any event, Fong's testimony strongly suggests that defendant was not only a willing combatant but the......
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  • People v. Spencer, S057242
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    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • 12 d4 Julho d4 2018
    ...waiver, and the prior waiver was "knowing and intelligent," police need not undertake a Miranda readvisement. ( People v. Mickle (1991) 54 Cal.3d 140, 170, 284 Cal.Rptr. 511, 814 P.2d 290 ( Mickle ).) In determining whether a subsequent interrogation is reasonably contemporaneous, we consid......
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    • 26 d4 Agosto d4 2021
    ...was, the jury need not unanimously agree on the basis or ... the ‘theory’ whereby the defendant is guilty."]; People v. Mickle (1991) 54 Cal.3d 140, 178, 284 Cal.Rptr. 511, 814 P.2d 290, fn. omitted ["[T]he unanimity rule does not extend to the minute details of how a single, agreed-upon ac......
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    • 14 d4 Agosto d4 2014
    ...moral culpability. (See People v. Ramirez (1990) 50 Cal.3d 1158, 1173 [270 Cal.Rptr. 286, 791 P.2d 965].)" ( People v. Mickle (1991) 54 Cal.3d 140, 193, 284 Cal.Rptr. 511, 814 P.2d 290 ; see 331 P.3d 1257 People v. Thornton (2007) 41 Cal.4th 391, 457–458, 61 Cal.Rptr.3d 461, 161 P.3d 3 [rec......
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3 books & journal articles
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    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books California Objections
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    • James Publishing Practical Law Books California Objections
    • 29 d3 Março d3 2023
    ...Cal. 3d 612, 286 Cal. Rptr. 801, §10:120 Mickel, People v. (2016) 2 Cal. 5th 181, 211 Cal. Rptr. 3d 601, §2:180 Mickle, People v. (1991) 54 Cal. 3d 140, 284 Cal. Rptr. 2d 511, §§10:100, 22:110, 22:130 Mike Davidov Co. v. Issod (2000) 78 Cal. App. 4th 597, §§1:170, 4:80 Mileikowsky v. Tenet ......

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