People v. Prieto

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Citation30 Cal.4th 226,66 P.3d 1123,133 Cal.Rptr.2d 18
Decision Date21 April 2003
Docket NumberNo. S027555.,S027555.
PartiesThe PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Alfredo PRIETO, Defendant and Appellant.

133 Cal.Rptr.2d 18
30 Cal.4th 226
66 P.3d 1123

The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
Alfredo PRIETO, Defendant and Appellant

No. S027555.

Supreme Court of California.

April 21, 2003.

Rehearing Denied June 18, 2003.

Certiorari Denied November 10, 2003.

133 Cal.Rptr.2d 27
Andrew E. Rubin and Terrence V. Scott, Los Angeles, under appointments by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant

Bill Lockyer, Attorney General, Robert R. Anderson, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Gary W. Schons, Assistant Attorney General, William M. Wood, Holly D. Wilkens and Bradley A. Weinreb, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

Certiorari Denied November 10, 2003. See 124 S.Ct. 542.


This is an automatic appeal (Pen.Code, § 1239, subd. (b))1 from a judgment of death under the 1978 death penalty law. Following a jury trial, defendant Alfredo Prieto was convicted of: (1) one count of first degree murder (§ 187, subd. (a); count 12) with a robbery-murder, a kidnapping-murder, and a rape-murder special circumstance (§ 190.2, subd. (a)(17)); (2) two counts of attempted willful, deliberate, and premeditated murder (§ 187, subd. (a) former § 664, subd. (1), as amended by Stats.1986, ch. 519, § 2, p. 1859;2 counts 13, 14); (3) two counts of attempted robbery (§§ 211, 664; counts 1, 4); (4) two counts of robbery (§ 211; counts 2, 3); (5) three counts of kidnapping for robbery (§ 209, subd. (b); counts 5, 6, 7); (6) three counts of forcible rape (former § 261, subd. (2), as amended by Stats. 1986, ch. 1299, § 1, p. 4592;3 counts 8, 9, 10); and (7) one count of possession of a firearm by a felon (§ 12021, subd. (a); count 15). The jury also found true the allegations that: (1) a principal was armed with a firearm as to count 1 (§ 12022, subd. (a)(1)); (2) a principal was armed with a handgun as to counts 2 through 10 and 12 through 14 (§ 12022, subd. (a)); (3) defendant personally used a firearm as to counts 2 through 10 and 12 through 14 (§§ 12022.5, 1203.06, subd. (a)(1)); (4) defendant personally inflicted great bodily injury as to counts 4, 7, and 10 (§ 12022.7); and (5) defendant had been previously convicted of the serious felony of assault with a firearm as to counts 1 through 10 and 12 through 15 (§ 667, subd. (a)). The jury, however, acquitted defendant on the alternative charge of attempted forcible rape (§§ 261, subd. (2), 664; count 11).

In the penalty phase, the jury returned a verdict of death. After denying defendant's motion for a new trial and reduction of the penalty (§ 190.4), the trial court imposed the death penalty for the murder and a sentence of 47 years and four months, followed by two life terms with the possibility of parole and three life terms without the possibility of parole.

On review, we strike the serious felony enhancement as to count 15 and amend the abstract of judgment to reflect a sentence of life with the possibility of parole as to counts 5, 6 and 7, but affirm the judgment in all other respects.


A. Guilt Phase

1. Prosecution

On September 1, 1990, Lisa H. and her best friend, Yvette Woodruff, picked up Emily D., Lisa H.'s mother, from her workplace around 11:30 p.m. and took her home. At her home in San Bernardino

133 Cal.Rptr.2d 28
County, Emily D. saw Anthony "Cookie" Rangel, her nephew and next-door neighbor, and Connie Ramirez, the sister of Emily's former classmate, and spoke briefly with them. Ramirez invited Emily D. to her place for drinks, and Emily D. accepted the invitation. Emily D. left for Ramirez's house around 1:30 a.m., but drove around for awhile when she spotted police officers in front of the house. She returned to Ramirez's house after the officers left, but left again to return home and pick up some beer she had forgotten to bring

On her way home, Emily D. spotted Lisa H. and Woodruff driving and stopped to speak with them. They then decided to go to Ramirez's house together. At Ramirez's house, Emily D. parked in the driveway, and Lisa H. and Woodruff parked parallel to the street, blocking the driveway. Unbeknownst to the three women, they had interrupted a robbery. Just before their arrival, some men had grabbed Rangel from a van in the driveway and rifled through his wallet. One man wielded a knife; another had a gun. When the three women arrived, the men left Rangel, who fled.

The men then turned their attention to the new arrivals. Upon reaching Emily D.'s car, Vincent Lopez put a knife to her throat and demanded her car keys and money. She complied. Meanwhile, defendant —identified by a large "PNS" tattoo on his neck—and Danny Sorian walked toward Lisa H.'s car. Sorian approached Woodruff, while defendant pointed a gun at Lisa H.'s head, threatened to "blow" her "fucking head off," and demanded her car keys and money. She complied, and defendant and Sorian herded her and Woodruff into the backseat. Soon after, Lopez forced Emily D. at knifepoint into the backseat with the other women. The three men then got into the front seat. After Lisa H. identified the correct key, defendant started the car and drove away.

One of the men turned up the radio, making it difficult for the women to hear their conversation. Lisa H. was hysterical and crying, but managed to lift her head periodically and look around. Emily D. kept her head down and eyes closed. Lopez asked defendant and Sorian to let the women go and told them to let him out if they did not because he did not want to go back to prison.4 Defendant later stopped and Lopez left.

After defendant and Sorian made several stops in an apparent effort to find a replacement for Lopez, Ricardo Estrada joined them. When they stopped for gas, defendant and Estrada got out. Pointing a gun, Sorian reassured the women they would not be hurt if they did what they were told. When defendant and Estrada returned, they drove off again. After getting stuck in the mud once, the three men and their victims reached a dark and isolated field in the City of Ontario.

At the field, each man took charge of a victim. Sorian took Emily D. Defendant initially chose Lisa H. But when she pulled away, he pulled Woodruff, struggling and resisting, from the car and dragged her toward some trees. Estrada then took Lisa H.

Sorian raped Emily D., while Estrada raped Lisa H. During the rape, Emily D. saw Woodruff on the ground struggling with someone on top of her and heard her scream. She also saw Lisa H. on the ground with someone on top of her and heard Lisa H. cry and scream out for her. Meanwhile, as she was being raped, Lisa H. saw Woodruffs legs and heard Wood

133 Cal.Rptr.2d 29
ruff say, "Emily, please get him off of me. Emily, he's hurting me."

After raping Emily D., Sorian told her to put her clothes back on, pulled a knife out and told her not to tell anybody about "what happened out" here or he would "come back and finish" them "off." He then said he didn't "like how these guys are acting, and that he's just going to have to go and take care of them" and walked away. When Estrada finished with Lisa H., Sorian ordered her to put her clothes back on and took her to her mother, where the two women hugged each other. While embracing, they heard a gunshot, and Lisa H. saw a man walk away from Woodruff. She knew the man was not Sorian or Estrada because she could see them standing inside a building.

After the gunshot, Emily D. and Lisa H. were separated. Estrada repeatedly stabbed Lisa H. in the neck and hands and broke his knife blade on her knuckle. After being stabbed and kicked, Lisa H. lay on the ground and pretended she was dead. At the same time, Sorian was stabbing Emily D. When Sorian stopped, Emily D. called out to Lisa H. and asked her if she was all right. Sorian then screamed, "I thought I told you to keep your fucking mouth shut" and stabbed her again, causing Emily D. to lose consciousness.

When she heard the car drive off, Lisa H. ran to Emily D. and helped her up. Together, they went to help Woodruff, but Woodruff did not respond. Emily D. and Lisa H. then ran for help. During thenrun for help, Emily D. told Lisa H. they should lie and tell the police they were blindfolded, because their attackers might return to kill them.

The two women eventually found a security guard at a Kmart distribution center who called the police. The police arrived around 4:00 a.m., and one of the officers spoke with Lisa H. As instructed by Emily D., Lisa H. lied to the officer. Lisa H. then directed the officers to the site of the attacks. At the site, the officers discovered Woodruffs body propped up against a tree with her legs spread apart. One officer thought she had a faint pulse. The paramedics took over and pronounced Woodruff dead at 4:15 a.m.

An autopsy established that Woodruff had died of a gunshot wound to the head. The muzzle of the gun was touching her head, and she probably died within minutes after being shot. The autopsy also revealed abrasions at the entrance to Woodruffs vagina and on her upper back. These abrasions occurred immediately before her death. Woodruff also had some bruising of the hymen, which could have occurred up to one day before her death. Finally, she had numerous postmortem ant bites on the inner side of her thighs.

After discovering Woodruffs body, some officers took Lisa H. to a hospital. Other officers took Emily D. to a different hospital, where she was hospitalized for four days. The police then secured the crime scene and searched for evidence. During the search, the police collected shell casings and Woodruffs clothes. Although an initial screen suggested that there was semen on Woodruffs underwear, subsequent testing detected no semen on her clothes or body. The police also discovered a broken knife blade at the crime scene. The blade, however, contained no fingerprints or blood and did not appear dirty.

At the hospitals, Emily D. and Lisa H. received treatment. Sexual assault kits were obtained, and the police photographed the women and...

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