People v. Moore

Decision Date10 May 1957
Docket NumberCr. 5992
Citation310 P.2d 969,48 Cal.2d 541
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of California, Plaintiff and Respondent. v. William Gerald MOORE, Jr., Defendant and Appellant. . In Bank

John C. McCarthy, Ontario, and Theo. G. Krumm, San Bernardino, for appellant.

Edmund G. Brown, Atty. Gen., Clarence A. Linn, Asst. Atty. Gen., Raymond M. Momboisse, Deputy Atty. Gen., Lowell E. Lathrop, Dist. Atty. and J. Steve Williams, Deputy Dist. Atty., San Bernardino, for respondent.

SPENCE, Justice.

Defendant pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity to the charge of murdering one Hulda Hoag. The jury found him guilty of murder in the first degree and fixed the penalty at death. Defendant withdrew his insanity plea and, after his motion for new trial had been denied, the death penalty was imposed. The appeal is automatic under section 1239(b) of the Penal Code.

Mrs. Hoag was killed at some time between 8 and 11 o'clock on the evening of March 16, 1956. In the afternoon of that day defendant, a 33-year-old carnival worker, left a bar in San Bernardino with a woman (not Mrs. Hoag), and the couple entered a taxicab. They discussed whether they should go to a motel or the woman's house, and she gave the driver her address. Defendant argued with the woman when she said he could not enter her home, and he refused to pay the fare since there was 'nothing in it' for him. He left the taxicab and was finally given a ride back to the downtown area by policemen who had investigated the incident.

Defendant entered another tavern about 5 o'clock that afternoon, had several beers, and struck up a conversation with Mrs. Hoag, who was 62 years old. Their friendship apparently ripened quickly, and he invited her to come and live with him. By 7:30, hugging and kissing had led to more intimate advances. Because of this and because Mrs. Hoag had become ill, the bartender asked the couple to leave and called a taxicab for them.

The driver of this vehicle testified that defendant instructed him to drive to the location of the carnival trailers at the National Orange Show. During the trip, which lasted about half an hour, defendant continued 'making love to' Mrs. Hoag. At about 8 o'clock the driver left the couple near a field where the trailers were parked and saw them cross a cable and enter the field. Both had obviously been drinking and Mrs. Hoag, who was staggering, was assisted by defendant.

Defendant testified that he and Mrs. Hoag then sat on the running board of a truck and drank from a bottle which he had with him; that they 'started playing around a little like we did in that bar'; and that they 'got into a little argument.' He told her that they 'had to sleep in the van,' as he 'didn't make the kind of money to sleep in a hotel.' Mrs. Hoag refused to sleep in the van, and he told her 'You are just as bad as the other woman that was in the taxicab after me previous to that.'

A carnival worker who was sleeping in one of the vans heard a woman's voice say 'Don't do this,' or 'Oh, don't do this to me.' He also heard a sound of scraping which seemed to come from the vicinity of an adjoining van. He did not believe that the voice he heard showed distress, and he did not disturb himself.

Shortly before 11 that evening another carnival worker discovered Mrs. Hoag's nude body in field near the trailers and summoned officers. The body was cold, with only slight warmth between the head and shoulders where they were pressed together. There was no pulse. Her clothing and personal effects were scattered over and near the trailers. A pass to a roller derby was also discovered in the vicinity.

Mrs. Hoag had been severely beaten. Her breastbone and eight ribs had been fractured. The body was scratched and bruised but she had died, according to the autopsy surgeon, from shock and hemorrhages from internal injuries. These injuries were caused by blows which could have been administered by a fist, knee, or shod foot. There was no testimony showing that Mrs. Hoag had been actually raped, but the surgeon did testify that there were contusions on the outer section of the sex organs and bruises and scratches on the front surface of the thighs.

Black and white photographs and colored slides, showing the body as it was found and also showing the general area, were admitted in evidence. They were used by the surgeon and other witnesses while explaining the victim's injuries and the scene of the crime.

Footprints were found near the trailers. A footprint expert testified that defendant was wearing shoes that could have made the prints. Defendant was questioned and thereafter arrested. Pictures of footprints made by defendant after his arrest were compared with footprints found at the scene. The prints were similar.

A criminologist testified that while there were several spots of human blood on the trousers which defendant wore on March 16, their areas were too small to identify the type of the blood. No seminal spots were found on defendant's clothing nor were any identifiable fingerprints discovered on the items found at the scene of the killing. There were two small tears on defendant's trousers, near the hip pockets. These could have been made if defendant had backed into a barbed wire fence near the trailers while dragging the body to the place where it was found.

Defendant sought to quit his job the morning after the killing but was told that he could not leave until the carnival closed. His employer testified that defendant did not tell him why he wanted to quit. The employer admitted that he had previously spoken to defendant's former employers who may have stated that they would have liked to have defendant work for them again.

Defendant told a deputy sheriff, and again stated on cross-examination, that he had served a sentence in Iowa for rape.

The sheriff testified that he asked defendant after his arrest why he had killed Mrs. Hoag and defendant replied, 'I don't know why I did it,' that he did not want to hurt any one and that 'I don't remember. I blacked out. I can't remember anything.' The sheriff also testified that defendant later sought to plead guilty to second degree murder and stated that he remembered more than he had told the officers but if he told them more he 'would burn for sure.'

Defendant testified that he had been drinking beer and whiskey all afternoon on March 16, that he met Mrs. Hoag at the bar and gave her a roller derby pass, and that he brought her to the carnival trailers near the fairgrounds. He decided, he said, that they had drunk too much to visit the fair itself or to have intercourse; and when she objected to sleeping in one of the carnival vans, they argued and he left her. He stated that he then went to a tavern in Colton with a fellow employee for more drinks, returned to the carnival, went to sleep in the cab of a truck at the carnival, and awoke the next morning on a carrousel.

Defendant also testified that his employer knew he wished to quit because his former employers had offered him a better job. He stated that he told the sheriff, 'I didn't do it. If I did, I didn't know I did.' He also testified that the sheriff had tried to convince him that he should plead guilty to second degree murder but he refused.

On cross-examination defendant admitted that he had lied during preliminary questioning by sheriff's deputies when he told them that he had returned to the fairgrounds during the afternoon of March 16.

Defendant's only other witness was a woman who also worked at the carnival. She corroborated one phase of his testimony by stating that she was with defendant when he tore his trousers while repairing the carnival equipment.

Defendant contends that the trial court committed prejudicial error in admitting in evidence the three colored slides picturing the victim's body. While the photographer testified that one transparency had a red or orange effect from the light and the type of film used, he also stated that the objects pictured were accurately reproduced and that the color of the body and wounds was not distorted. While such evidence should be faithful and accurate (People v. Goodwin, 9 Cal.2d 711, 714, 72 P.2d 551), it was within the discretion of the trial court to admit the pictures, particularly when the jury had heard the testimony as to the color and its causes. See People v. Burwell, 44 Cal.2d 16, 34, 279 P.2d 744.

Defendant also argues that the transparencies were irrelevant since the surgeon testified that Mrs. Hoag died of internal injuries. These were caused, however, by the external blows, the nature of which appeared from the transparencies. The introduction of photographs showing the body of the victim has been disapproved 'where no useful purpose is served thereby' (People v. Sisson, 1 Cal.2d 510, 511, 36 P.2d 116), but the pictures here were such as would aid the jury in determining the circumstances surrounding Mrs. Hoag's death. See People v. Osborn, 37 Cal.2d 380, 383, 231 P.2d 850; People v. Dunn, 29 Cal.2d 654, 659, 177 P.2d 553.

Defendant next contends that it was prejudicial error to admit the evidence concerning his afternoon taxicab ride with another woman. However, this evidence of defendant's earlier activities was relevant on the question of his intent and purpose in picking up strange women, including Mrs. Hoag. Thus the evidence showed that, within a relatively short time before Mrs. Hoag was killed, defendant had been twice frustrated in his obvious desire and purpose to engage in sexual intercourse. It could therefore be reasonably inferred from all the evidence that defendant had been aroused to the point of using force and that he did use force in attempting to accomplish his purpose with Mrs. Hoag.

'The general tests of the admissibility of evidence in a criminal case are: * * * does it tend logically, naturally, and by reasonable inference to establish any...

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