People v. Reed

Decision Date07 May 2018
Docket NumberS082776
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court
Parties The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Ennis REED, Defendant and Appellant.

Gail Harper, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant.

Kamala D. Harris and Xavier Becerra, Attorneys General, Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Sharlene A. Honnaka and William H. Shin, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.


This automatic appeal follows from defendant Ennis Reed’s 1999 conviction and death sentence for the murders of Amarilis Vasquez and Paul Moreland. Reed contends that several errors occurred during the guilt and penalty phases of his trial. After carefully considering defendant’s claims, we find that they do not merit reversal of the guilt or penalty verdicts. So we affirm the judgment in its entirety.


Defendant Ennis Reed was charged in an amended information with two counts of murder ( Penal Code § 187, subd. (a) ),1 two counts of attempted murder (§§ 667/187(a) ), the special circumstance of multiple murder (§ 190.2, subd. (a)(3) ), and various enhancements. The charges arose out of two separate incidents, but were consolidated in a single trial.

A. Guilt Phase
1. The Vasquez Murder

At around 8:00 p.m. on September 24, 1996, Carlos Mendez and his wife Amarilis Vasquez took a meal break from their jobs at a plastics factory. The couple headed to Tacos El Unico, a Mexican fast food restaurant on Long Beach Boulevard in the City of Compton. Mendez and Vasquez parked in the restaurant’s lot and ordered food to go. After they got back into their pickup truck, the couple noticed a man walking toward the truck with a large pistol. Mendez had never seen the man before. As Mendez started the truck, the man started shooting at them from a distance of roughly 20 feet. Vasquez—sitting in the passenger seat—was hit first, in the head. Mendez was then shot in the right cheek. He got out of the truck and started running, but was hit again, this time in the left thigh. Mendez fled about 15 feet from the truck before realizing that his wife was still inside. By the time Mendez ran back to the passenger side of the truck, the man had disappeared. Vasquez died from the gunshot wound

to her head, while Mendez survived.

Officer James Lewis of the Compton Police Department was one of the first law enforcement officers to arrive on the scene. Officer Lewis interviewed Mendez, who was clearly "very, very upset." Mendez described the shooter as a black male with a black jacket. Later that evening, Detective Michael Paiz of the Compton Police Department interviewed Mendez at the hospital. Mendez described the shooter as a black male "about 5'8? to 5'11? in height, 20 to 25 years in age, clean shaven, short black hair, wearing a black jacket and black pants." At trial, the parties stipulated that Officer Peters of the Compton Police Department would have testified that, on the day of the incident, Mendez described the shooter as "a male black adult, 25 years old, wearing black pants and a black jacket, clean shaven, with short hair, 5'11?, 150 to 180 pounds, medium complexion."

In January of 1997, Detective Paiz showed Mendez a six-photo array that included a photograph of defendant Reed. "[R]ight away," Mendez picked the photo of Reed. In May of 1998, Mendez identified Reed as the shooter at a preliminary hearing that Reed attended. About two months later—on July 14, 1998—Mendez attended a live lineup at the county jail.2 Mendez quickly selected Reed because his face "look[ed] like the same as in the photo." Mendez also identified Reed in court during the trial.

2. The Moreland Murder

On November 22, 1996, Roy Fradiue was hanging out with his friend Paul Moreland at Fradiue’s uncle’s house. The two started drinking sometime that evening—or possibly earlier—and smoked marijuana as well. Moreland died with phencyclidine (PCP) and cocaine in his system; a deputy medical examiner opined he must have ingested the cocaine within hours of his death.

At around 11:00 p.m., Fradiue and Moreland left the house to walk to a store on Long Beach Boulevard in the City of Compton. As the two were walking, Fradiue noticed a man standing with several "dudes" in the yard outside of a duplex on Glencoe Avenue. Fradiue had never seen the man before. He noticed that the man was holding "some type of rifle" with the barrel resting on his shoulder, pointing backward. The man said something to Moreland, but Fradiue could not understand what. Once Fradiue and Moreland passed the duplex, Fradiue heard a shot. He did not see the man fire the rifle but assumed that the man fired into the air because "it didn’t hit nothing." Then, the man started firing at Fradiue and Moreland. Fradiue headed south on Temple Avenue, while Moreland headed north. The man fired once at Fradiue, but the shot hit a pole instead.3 Fradiue kept running and, a few minutes later, he heard "three or four more shots." Roland Darby was at his house near the intersection of Glencoe and Temple at the time of the shooting and recalled hearing a series of shots, a pause,4 and then another series of shots. A few blocks away, Fradiue ran into another friend, who drove him back to his uncle’s house.

Officer George Betor of the Compton Police Department was the first officer to arrive on the scene. He found Moreland’s body at the corner of Glencoe and Temple avenues. Moreland had been shot nine times. Officer Betor collected three shell casings and bullet fragments from the area surrounding Moreland’s body.

The next night, Officer Betor and two colleagues chased a man named Chico McLaine—a suspect in an unrelated matter—into a house near the scene of Moreland’s murder. The officers encountered an unidentified man in the house but did not arrest him. The officers also found an SKS rifle and magazine, both of which Officer Betor seized because they fired the same caliber of bullet as the shell casings that the officer had found the night before. A forensic expert identified two of the three casings found near Moreland’s body as having been fired by the SKS rifle. The third shell casing had been "worked through" the weapon but not fired. Tests were inconclusive, however, as to whether the bullet fragments came from the SKS rifle. Law enforcement also could not obtain any fingerprints from the weapon or magazine. When shown the gun during his trial testimony, Fradiue stated that it "look[ed] like" the weapon he saw on November 22.

Officer Marvin Pollard of the Compton Police Department testified that—earlier in the same night as officers pursued McLaine—he had encountered Reed and filled out a field interview card describing their interaction. The card indicated that Officer Pollard encountered Reed near the intersection of Glencoe and Temple avenues. Officer Pollard stated that other officers were present, but that they did not enter any building during the encounter. The interview card included a description of Reed’s tattoo, which Officer Pollard relied on to identify the defendant in court. The card also described Reed as weighing 122 pounds, although Officer Pollard could not recall if the information came from Reed himself or his state ID card. In the "Persons with Subject" area of the interview card, Officer Pollard wrote "I. McLaine."

Fradiue never contacted the police after escaping from the shooting that killed Moreland. In April 1997—roughly six months after Moreland’s death—Officer Paiz contacted Fradiue and showed him a six-photo array that included a photo of Reed. Fradiue testified that he selected Reed’s photo after studying the array for "10 minutes," although Officer Paiz recalled that the identification took roughly "10 seconds." Fradiue thought that the shooter had "real short" hair, and admitted that Reed was the only subject in the lineup with "real short hair." Fradiue also identified Reed at the same post-preliminary hearing lineup that Mendez attended, as well as at trial.

3. Defense Evidence

Reed called a single witness, Foster Slaughter. Slaughter was sitting outside the Zodiac motorcycle club at the time of the Vasquez murder. Slaughter was about 50 feet from Tacos El Unico when someone started shooting at Mendez and Vasquez. Slaughter saw the assailant only from the side but described him as a black male with long hair and a "big long coat." He estimated that the assailant weighed 190 to 200 pounds, although he admitted that the coat could have given him that impression. Slaughter testified that Reed did not "look like the one was there [sic ]."

On rebuttal, the prosecution called Officer Kenneth Roller of the Compton Police Department. Officer Roller interviewed Slaughter immediately after the incident. Officer Roller’s report indicated that Slaughter had described the assailant to him as a black male adult "wearing a three-quarter length black jacket and dark jean pants." The officer testified that he would have included additional information in the description had Slaughter provided any.

The jury convicted Reed of both counts of murder (in the first degree) and both counts of attempted murder. The jury also found true the special circumstance of multiple murder.

B. Penalty Phase

The first penalty phase trial ended in a hung jury, with the jury voting seven to five in favor of life without parole. The penalty phase retrial commenced on July 30, 1999. The parties stipulated that Reed had been convicted of attempted murder on September 12, 1992, "on an aiding and abetting theory ... wherein he was charged as being the driver in a drive-by shooting, not the shooter." A parole officer testified that Reed was released from prison on August 3, 1996, and reported to the parole office two days later. The prosecution also introduced the following evidence specific to the two murders.

1. The Vasquez Murder

Carlos Mendez recounted what happened on the day of his wife’s murder. He also testified about the effect of her death...

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2 cases
  • People v. Pratt
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • January 11, 2022
    ...People v. Reed (2018) 4 Cal.5th 989, 999.) Courts follow a three-step process in ruling on a Batson/Wheeler motion. (Battle, at p. 772; Reed, at p. 999.) "When a party opposing a peremptory strike makes a facie case that the strike was motivated by impermissible discrimination (step 1), the......
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    ...v. Hardy (2018) 5 Cal.5th 56, 82 [race-neutral reason that juror believed police treated him unfairly during prior arrest]; People v. Reed (2018) 4 Cal.5th 989, 1001 [race-neutral reason because brother had negative experience with law enforcement when he was convicted of robbery]; People v......
2 books & journal articles
  • Chapter 2 - §11. Expert opinion
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    • Full Court Press California Guide to Criminal Evidence Chapter 2 Foundation
    • Invalid date
    ...Judicial Council to develop principles and guidelines for the admissibility of eyewitness-identification evidence. People v. Reed (2018) 4 Cal.5th 989, 1028-31 (Liu, J., dissenting). (i) The nature of a controlled substance when chemical testing is not performed. See People v. Sonleitner (2......
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