People v. Prince

Decision Date30 April 2007
Docket NumberNo. S036105.,S036105.
Citation57 Cal.Rptr.3d 543,40 Cal.4th 1179,156 P.3d 1015
PartiesThe PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Cleophus PRINCE, Jr., Defendant and Appellant.
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court

Chief Assistant Attorney General, Gary W. Schons, Assistant Attorney General, William M. Wood, John T. Swan and Quisteen S. Shum, Deputy Attorney General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.


Defendant Cleophus Prince, Jr., appeals from a judgment of the San Diego County Superior Court imposing a sentence of death following his conviction of six counts of first degree murder (Pen.Code, § 187, subd. (a)),1 five counts of burglary (§ 459), and one count of rape. (§ 261.) The jury found true one rape-murder special-circumstance allegation and one multiplemurder special-circumstance allegation. (§ 190.2, subd. (a)(3) & (17)(C).) The jury also found true the allegations that defendant used a knife in committing each of the murders. (§ 12022, subd. (b).) Defendant also was convicted of six attempted burglaries (§§ 459, 664) and nine completed burglaries of homes belonging to persons other than the murder victims (§ 459), and perjury. (§ 119.) The jury fixed the punishment at death. The court imposed a judgment of death and also sentenced defendant for the noncapital convictions. Defendant's appeal is automatic. (§ 1239, subd. (b).)

We affirm the judgment in its entirety.

A. Guilt Phase Evidence
1. The prosecution's case

We first provide an overview of the evidence. Defendant and his girlfriend Charla Lewis moved into an apartment in the Buena Vista Gardens apartment complex in the Clairemont area of San Diego in December 1989. Defendant was employed by Expo Builder Supplies beginning on January 10, 1990, usually working from 3:00 p.m. until midnight. Later in the year he was employed at Nacomm Communications.

Tiffany Schultz was murdered on January 12, 1990; Janene Weinhold was murdered on February 16, 1990, and Holly Tarr was murdered on April 3, 1990. All three victims were young, attractive White women who resided in or near the Buena Vista Gardens apartment complex. A resident of that apartment complex testified that in the interval between the Weinhold and Tarr murders, a man she identified as defendant followed her home and stared at her.

The murders were similar to each other in many respects; circumstantial evidence tied defendant to the crimes; DNA and other evidence connected defendant to the Weinhold murder, and Tarr's opal ring was found in Charla Lewis's possession.

In late April 1990, defendant twice attempted to enter apartments at the Torrey Pines Village apartment complex belonging to two young women. In early May 1990 he followed a woman from the beach to the La Jolla Shores beach house she was visiting and tried to force his way into the house, but was foiled when the woman pushed him over and fled.

On May 20, 1990, Elissa Keller was murdered in her apartment on Trojan Avenue in San Diego. The apartment was close to defendant's new residence at the Top of the Hill apartment complex. The murder was similar to the earlier murders; certain circumstantial evidence implicated defendant; he was seen wearing Keller's ring, and various incriminating statements also tied him to the crime.

There was evidence that on August 2, 1990, defendant committed another burglary of an apartment located in the Top of the Hill apartment complex. The apartment was occupied by three young women. There was evidence establishing that defendant, at a local Thomas Cook Foreign Exchange office, exchanged the lire that were stolen in this burglary.

On September 13, 1990, Pamela Clark and her daughter Amber Clark were murdered in their home in the University City area of San Diego. The murder was similar to the other murders; defendant made incriminating statements, and he was seen wearing Pamela's wedding ring.

A series of burglaries and attempted burglaries in various areas of San Diego was committed between October 1990 and February 1991. Incriminating statements, possession of proceeds of the burglaries, positive identifications of defendant and his automobile, and other evidence tied defendant to the crimes, many of which involved his following young women from a Family Fitness Center on Miramar Drive in San Diego to the women's homes and attempting to enter the women's residences while the occupant showered or prepared to shower.

The defense was mistaken identification and alibi.

A more detailed account of the evidence adduced at trial follows.

Count 1the murder of Tiffany Schultz

On January 12, 1990, Tiffany Schultz, a White woman who was 21 years of age, was seen sunbathing in the doorway of her second floor Canyon Ridge apartment about 10:00 a.m. The Canyon Ridge complex was located across the street from the Buena Vista Gardens apartment complex and shared a recreation center, which Schultz's apartment overlooked. Schultz spoke to a friend on the telephone from 10:00 to 10:30 a.m., but telephone calls placed to her near noon or 12:30 p.m. went unanswered.

Dorothy Curtiss, the manager of the Canyon Ridge apartment complex, was relatively certain that a stranger who approached her in front of her office at approximately 10:30 a.m. on January 12, 1990, was defendant. The stranger requested a hanger so he could unlock his automobile, indicating that the vehicle was parked on the street. When the manager supplied the hanger, the stranger to her surprise and concern walked toward the apartments rather than the street. Curtiss testified her office abutted the stairs that led to Schultz's apartment, and she had seen Schultz sunbathing, clad only in her bikini, within approximately half an hour of encountering defendant.

Persons occupying the apartment located below Schultz's reported to the police that when they arrived at the apartment between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. on January 12, 1990, they heard loud sounds coming from Schultz's apartment. The noise sounded as if someone was being beaten. They also heard running water.

Schultz's roommate discovered her body in one of the bedrooms in the apartment. It appeared there had been a struggle. Schultz was clad only in bikini briefs. She lay on her back, her left leg extended under the bed, while her right leg lay at a 60- to 70-degree angle. One leg was smeared with blood, and there was blood on her crotch. There were at least 47 stab wounds, with a cluster of 20 stab wounds in the right breast and chest area. The wounds were deep, some extending through to the back. There was another cluster of stab wounds in the left area of the chest, also deep, some passing all the way through the body. There were wounds on the neck and upper-right thigh as well as defensive wounds. Her mouth was bruised, and her face had suffered blunt trauma. She would have been motionless when the fatal knife wounds were inflicted. The bathtub was wet, and there was a damp towel nearby. There was no evidence of a sexual assault.

There also was no sign of forced entry. The interior and exterior doorknobs of the door leading to the room where Schultz's body was discovered bore bloody marks in a honeycomb or cross-hatch pattern. It appeared that the assailant had departed by way of the patio, dropping from the second floor balcony to the ground.

Schultz's live-in boyfriend was arrested for the murder but was released after a few days.

Counts 2, 3, and kthe murder and rape of Janene Weinhold and the burglary of her residence

Janene Weinhold, a White woman who was 21 years of age, shared a second-story apartment in the Buena Vista Gardens apartment complex with a roommate. Both were students at the University of California, San Diego. Weinhold drove her roommate to work at 9:00 a.m. on February 16, 1990, telling her she planned to return home to do laundry and homework. Weinhold was to return to pick up her roommate at 2:00 p.m., but failed to do so, an uncharacteristic omission.

Marsha Nelson occupied an apartment below Weinhold's. Nelson testified that between 11:30 a.m. and noon on February 16, 1990, she observed defendant sitting on the stairs leading to Weinhold's secondstory apartment. He appeared sad. She observed him over a period of 15 minutes. Subsequently she heard her dog barking, then heard loud sounds coming from Weinhold's apartment. When Nelson was summoned to a live lineup in June 1991, she identified defendant on a card but then crossed out this identification, explaining to the police that the incident had occurred too long ago for her to make an identification. At trial, she testified that she crossed out her identification because she did not want to become involved.

On February 16, 1990, telephone calls made to Weinhold's apartment from 2:30 p.m. on went unanswered. Weinhold's body was discovered when her roommate returned home that evening at approximately 8:00 p.m. The front door was locked, and there was no sign of a forced

A knife belonging to the occupants of the apartment was found in the sink, displaying a bent tip and blood. Weinhold's body was discovered in her bedroom, one leg up against the bedroom door and the other leg spread. A blouse, trousers, and underpants were nearby, the trousers and underwear inside out as if just taken off. The body was clad only in a bra. There were at least 22 stab wounds, all in the upper chest area, with eight clustered in a pattern in the upper-right breast. Most were deep, and some had penetrated the breastbone and ribs, a circumstance that might cause a knife to bend. The wounds had been administered with great force. Some of the wounds were defensive in nature. There was a bloodstain in a honeycomb or cross-hatch pattern on a doorjamb.

Seminal fluid in Weinhold's vagina was tested, and a genotype match with defendant's blood sample...

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