People v. Morris, A111366 (Cal. App. 10/11/2007), A111366

Decision Date11 October 2007
Docket NumberA111366
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
PartiesTHE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. LERON LEON MORRIS, Defendant and Appellant.



Appellant Leron Leon Morris (Morris) was convicted of two counts of first degree murder and two counts of first degree residential robbery. He claims on appeal that the court erred in admitting his pretrial statements to police. Morris also asserts that the court erred in its instructions to the jury on conspiracy, robbery and aiding and abetting. Finally, he argues that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel. We affirm.


The Contra Costa County District Attorney charged Morris by information with two counts of first degree special circumstance murder (Pen. Code, §§ 187, 190.2, subds. (a)(3), (a)(17))1 and two counts of first degree residential robbery (§§ 211, 212.5, subd. (a)). The information alleged two special circumstances; the murders were committed during the commission of a robbery, and there were multiple murder victims. The information also alleged enhancements as to each count of personal use of a firearm, intentional discharge of a firearm, and intentional discharge of a firearm causing great bodily injury or death. (§ 12022.53, subds. (b), (c), & (d).)

Following a jury trial, the jury found Morris guilty of all counts, found both special circumstances true, and found the personal use enhancement true as to each count. The jury found the intentional discharge enhancements not true.

The court sentenced Morris to an aggregate term of 20 years plus two consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole. This timely appeal followed.


This case involves the murders of Jared Pulliam and Christal Langston, whose naked, bound bodies were found in the trunk of a burning car at approximately 4:30 p.m. on December 16, 2002.2 At the time of the killings, Karen Novak (Novak) lived on Laverne Way in Concord (the residence) with her minor son, her adult daughter Nicole Cyr (Cyr), and Morris, Cyr's boyfriend. On December 13th, Jared Pulliam delivered three pounds of methamphetamine to Novak by leaving it on the front porch of her residence. Novak did not know Pulliam.

The methamphetamine delivery was arranged by Novak's husband, Joshua, who was incarcerated. Joshua arranged its delivery as a way to repay Novak for money he had stolen from her stock brokerage account, and which he previously, and unsuccessfully, sought to repay with stolen checks. He told Novak she should sell the methamphetamine, and suggested she enlist the help of Dominique Wright, an 18-year-old male cousin of Morris's. Though Novak initially considered selling the drugs, she decided not to.3 Joshua contacted Wright after the methamphetamine was delivered, and arranged for him to sell it.

When the methamphetamine was delivered to her residence on December 13th, Novak told Pulliam and his companion not to leave it on her front porch. They indicated, however, that they "weren't authorized" to do that. Novak left the drugs on her porch until Cyr and Morris arrived home and Morris brought it inside the residence.

That evening, Novak called Pulliam and asked that he retrieve the drugs. Pulliam again responded he was "[no]t authorized" to do so. After a number of telephone calls to Pulliam, Novak ultimately arranged for him to pick up the methamphetamine at her residence on the afternoon of December 16, 2002.

Novak wanted to leave the drugs on her front porch for pick-up, but Morris told her that was not a good plan. Novak and Morris agreed that Morris would handle the methamphetamine pick-up because Novak was "uncomfortable with the whole situation," and would be at work at the scheduled pick-up time. Novak wanted Morris "to let these people know to leave me alone after this," and act "stern."

Prior to the scheduled pick-up date, Morris called Wright and asked for his help with the drug return. Morris asked Wright because he believed the encounter might be dangerous, and he knew Wright's criminal history and what he was capable of doing. A few days before the killings, Wright borrowed a .38-caliber revolver from his father. Morris was with him at the time, but was not in the room when Wright got the gun. Prior to that date, Wright suggested to Morris that they "keep the drugs," but Morris told him that "wasn't an option."

Wright spent the night at the residence on December 15, 2002, and Morris knew that Wright had a handgun with him. Before leaving for work on December 16th, Novak told Wright and Morris to frighten Pulliam so he would never return to her home. Morris replied he had a gun, and it would be on the china cabinet in the living room. Novak and Morris planned that the drug courier would be shown the gun and "advised not to come back."

Novak left for work at about 11:15 a.m., leaving Morris, Wright, and Cyr at the residence. Cyr was asleep in the bedroom she shared with Morris. After she left, Novak received a telephone call on her cell phone from Pulliam, who told her "my people are there." Novak called her residence, but there was no answer. When she called back, Wright answered the telephone, and she told him "these people are there."

Shortly thereafter, someone knocked on the door of the residence. Morris retrieved the duffle bag containing the drugs from his bedroom and moved it to a chair near the front door. He answered the door, and a man later identified as Pulliam asked if Morris had anything for him. Pulliam entered the house, and Morris turned to get the duffle bag.

Wright came from the kitchen area with a gun pointed at Pulliam. Pulliam attempted to run out the door, but Wright told him "[d]on't try it. Wright grabbed Pulliam by the hood of his coat, and he fell. Wright punched him and ordered him to take off his clothes, which Pulliam did. A "girl," later identified as Langston, came to the door. Wright let her in and "pretty much repeat[ed] the same process." Pulliam said he had some money in his car, and Wright retrieved $60. Morris told police that Wright robbed Pulliam, "took what he had . . . does the same thing with [Langston], strips her and robbed her too, take her property, little purse and junk like that."

At some point, Wright gave Morris the gun and Morris was left alone with Pulliam and Langston. Morris denied guarding the victims, explaining that "wasn't the description of what I was doing." He stated he was just holding the gun, though he did not know why. Both victims pleaded with him; Pulliam asked Morris to call Novak, and Langston asked him to let her go. Morris did not like what was happening, but did not let them go. He testified he did not have "control of the situation," and did not want Wright to "turn on [him] in any type of way." After Morris realized Wright was going to kill Langston and Pulliam, he testified that he "wasn't going to do anything . . . [because] that would be taking chances, and that's a chance that I didn't want to take."

Pulliam's car was backed into the garage. Wright returned, brought Pulliam to the garage, and put him in the trunk of his car. Wright returned for Langston, who pleaded to be released because she had a son. Wright responded: "Shut up bitch. I have one too." He put Langston in the trunk of the car with Pulliam, and put a pillow4 over both of them. Wright shot Pulliam twice. Langston screamed "Don't shoot me. Don't shoot me." Wright shot her twice. Morris turned away, and heard one more shot.

Morris gave police conflicting stories regarding what happened next. He first stated that Wright took a gas can and drove away, returning about an hour later. Morris ultimately testified that he got a gas can for Wright and followed Wright to Marsh Creek Road in his car. Wright parked Pulliam's car and set it on fire using the gasoline. Wright and Morris left in Wright's car and returned to Novak's residence.

Wright told Morris to dispose of the victim's clothing. Morris put them in bags. He told police he put the bags in the car before it was burned, but at trial testified that Wright did that. At Wright's request, Morris also burned Pulliam's wallet in the fireplace at the residence.5 When police initially told Morris that they found some clothing in the garbage at the residence, he responded "Burnt?" Morris then told police the clothes were his, and that there was a "[w]eird story behind that one." He indicated he "basically caught [him]self on fire" while working on his car. Then, he burned his clothing on a barbecue grill. After Wright and Morris returned to the residence, Wright took five empty bullet casings and one bullet out of the gun and put them in the trash.

After identifying Pulliam and learning of his plan to deliver drugs to the residence, police went to the Novak residence on the evening of December 18th to execute a search warrant. Novak, Cyr, and the minor were at the residence when police arrived, and were brought to a police station for questioning. Police found a gun in the room shared by Cyr and Morris, and learned that Morris was at his mother's home. They went to find Morris under the mistaken belief that he was on parole and that his possession of the gun was a violation of the parole terms. Initially, they handcuffed Morris, though they told him he was not under arrest. They learned that he was not on parole while still at Morris's mother's home and uncuffed him, telling Morris they had been mistaken. The officers asked if he would come to the station and answer some questions, and Morris assented. Deputy Lance Santiago asked if he could re-handcuff Morris's hands in front, saying it was police department policy for passengers to be handcuffed. Morris agreed. Police took Morris to the station, where he agreed to cooperate with police, and answered their...

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