People v. Rodrigues

Decision Date01 December 1994
Docket NumberNo. S007779,S007779
Parties, 885 P.2d 1 The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Jose Arnaldo RODRIGUES, Defendant and Appellant.
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court

Page 247

Fern M. Laethem, State Public Defender, under appointment by the Supreme Court, Irene Kiebert and Joel Kirshenbaum, Deputy State Public Defenders, for defendant and appellant.

Daniel E. Lungren, Atty. Gen., George Williamson, Chief Asst. Atty. Gen., Ronald A. Bass, Asst. Atty. Gen., Ronald S. Mathias,

Page 248

Gerald A. Engler and Joan Killeen, Deputy Attys. Gen., for plaintiff and respondent.

BAXTER, Justice.

Defendant Jose Arnaldo Rodrigues was convicted by a jury of one count of murder (Pen.Code, § 187), 1 two counts of attempted robbery (§§ 664, 211), and one count of burglary (§ 459). The jury found true the special circumstances that defendant committed the murder while engaged in the crime of robbery or attempted robbery (§§ 190.2, subd. (a)(17)(vii), 211), and while engaged in the crime of burglary (§§ 190.2, subd. (a)(17)(vii), 460). It also found true allegations that defendant personally used a knife in the commission of each offense (§ 12022, subd. (b)), and that defendant had previously served prison terms (§ 667.5, subd. (b)) for accessory to murder (§ 32) and auto theft (Veh.Code, § 10851). After the jury returned a penalty verdict of death, the trial court denied the automatic motion to modify penalty (§ 190.4, subd. (e)). Appeal to this court is automatic. (§ 1239, subd. (b).)

We find no prejudicial error at the guilt or penalty phase of defendant's trial. The judgment is affirmed in its entirety.

1. The Prosecution Case

Epifanio Zavala testified that in May 1987, he was living with his older brother Juan Barragan in an apartment on the second floor of a two-story building at 1100 Sevier in Menlo Park. 2 Zavala was then 19 years old and Barragan was 21.

Although Zavala and Barragan previously worked in restaurants, they did not have jobs the first week of May 1987. Barragan sold small amounts of cocaine and heroin to help make a living. Zavala sometimes helped out by giving drugs to customers. One of those customers was Cynthia Ontiveros, 3 a heroin addict who had bought heroin from the brothers on several occasions.

Ontiveros testified to the following. Although she lived in Hayward with her boyfriend, Richard Lopez, she was in love with Juan Garcia. At approximately noon on May 4, 1987, Ontiveros left Hayward to buy some heroin from Zavala at his apartment. Zavala sold her approximately one gram of heroin for $100. 4 After telling Zavala she might come back, Ontiveros returned to Hayward. During the course of the day, Ontiveros injected about half of the heroin and sold the rest.

At approximately 5 p.m. that evening, Ontiveros was selling heroin in front of the El Tanampa bar on B Street in Hayward. Garcia drove up in defendant's car, with defendant in the passenger seat. 5 Garcia asked Ontiveros how he could make some money. Ontiveros told him not to worry about it, that she would find a way. She told Garcia to meet her at the bar later in the evening.

Garcia and defendant met Ontiveros at the bar after dark. Ontiveros told Garcia she had a connection from whom they could get drugs, and identified Zavala and Barragan because they were young and naive drug dealers who "weren't rough." Ontiveros had never seen the brothers with weapons and had never seen them use or threaten violence in their drug dealing. She thought Garcia and defendant could get drugs from them without a big fight.

Ontiveros, Garcia and defendant then planned how to get the drugs from Zavala and Barragan. They agreed that Ontiveros would go to the apartment first because the brothers knew her and would open the door for her. Once the door was open, Garcia and defendant would rush in and scare the brothers into giving up their drugs. Garcia asked Ontiveros if Zavala and Barragan had any

Page 249

weapons, and she responded that she had never seen any and did not think they had any. Ontiveros apparently thought that the brothers might be beaten or roughed up a little bit, but did not expect any further violence. Ontiveros, Garcia and defendant agreed to use defendant's car, a beige Lincoln, to drive to the brothers' apartment.

Sometime around 11 p.m., Ontiveros, Garcia and defendant arrived at the apartment. Garcia was dressed in black pants, black shoes and a black jacket. Defendant wore a beige long-sleeved jacket. Garcia, who was driving, stopped the car on Sevier Street, some seven or eight houses down from the apartment. Ontiveros went to find out who was in the apartment. It was agreed that Ontiveros would let Garcia and defendant know if the brothers were alone.

Ontiveros went upstairs to the apartment and knocked on the door. Zavala let her in. Once inside, Ontiveros saw Barragan asleep on the couch but did not see anyone else. Zavala told Ontiveros that he had not expected her to return, and that he had no more drugs. After some discussion, Zavala indicated he would give her some money for a "date" if she would stay. After agreeing to this, Ontiveros said she was going to tell her friend who was waiting for her in a car. Zavala walked downstairs with Ontiveros, then went to his own car and locked it while she kept walking. Zavala returned to the apartment and waited for Ontiveros.

After Zavala went upstairs, Ontiveros walked to defendant's car. She told Garcia and defendant that the brothers did not have any drugs, but that they did have money. When Garcia asked how much money, Ontiveros replied she did not know, but said they must probably have "a good amount" because Zavala had not yet bought more drugs. Ontiveros, Garcia and defendant agreed to proceed with the plan to rob the brothers, but to get money instead of drugs.

Garcia moved defendant's car to Madera, the next street over, and parked it approximately 20 to 30 feet from Pierce Road. Ontiveros walked to Madera and met Garcia and defendant there. She saw Garcia obtain an object that looked like a crowbar from the trunk of the car, 6 and noticed defendant had a large knife. The three walked together back to the apartment building.

As planned, Garcia and defendant went up the back stairs. Ontiveros walked up the front stairs, and knocked on the door. As Zavala let her in, she saw that Barragan was still sleeping on the couch. At that point, Garcia and defendant rushed into the apartment. Garcia hit Zavala with his tire iron and knocked him back onto Ontiveros. Ontiveros became scared and ran back to defendant's car. She waited in the front seat for several minutes until Garcia and defendant returned.

Zavala testified that once inside the apartment, Garcia struck at Zavala's head repeatedly with a tire iron, forcing him back into the apartment through the living room. Zavala yelled at Barragan to wake up. As Barragan stood up, Zavala saw the second attacker, who was wielding a knife in his left hand, hold his brother up against a wall. Zavala, who at this time was being held to the ground and beaten by Garcia, saw the second attacker trying to stab his brother in the face or throat. 7 After the attacker and Barragan fell to the floor during the struggle, the attacker reached over and stabbed Zavala in the left leg and right foot.

During the course of the attack, Garcia said to Zavala: "Calmate cabron, []donde la tienes?" According to Zavala, this translated in English to: "Calm down, damn it, where do you have it?" 8 Zavala answered with a lie, saying "it" was in the closet. He was hoping to have a chance to help his brother if the attacker went to look in the closet. After Zavala responded, however, the man with the knife told Garcia in English to "finish him too." Garcia stabbed Zavala in the back with the pointed end of the tire iron, penetrating to the bones. At that point, the telephone

Page 250

started ringing and the man with the knife said: "Well let's get out of here the police might going to come [sic ]." As the two assailants fled from the apartment, Zavala could see that the one with the knife had an injured arm.

After the assailants left, Zavala answered the phone, which had continued to ring. The caller was Maria Vargas, a friend and neighbor from an apartment downstairs. Zavala told Vargas his brother was dead and to call the police.

Vargas testified that she immediately dialed 911 from a telephone located next to her bedroom window. As Vargas was reporting the murder, she saw two men come down the apartment stairway and pass by the window. Since a light had been shining on the stairway landing that night, Vargas saw the two men clearly enough to provide the following details. The first was a "dark man" who wore dark clothes, had blood on his left hand, and held his left arm down by his side with his right arm across his chest. After reaching the bottom of the stairs, the man stopped and looked through the window at Vargas and her daughter; he then hurried off toward Pierce Street. The second man was an Hispanic with light skin and straight hair. He was about four steps behind the first man as they came down the stairs. The second man also looked through the window at Vargas as he rushed by.

Vanessa Sturns lived in an apartment building next to 1100 Sevier. She testified that shortly after midnight on the morning of May 5, 1987, she got into her car and was beginning to drive to a liquor store when she saw two men in dark clothes climb over a fence into the backyard of her apartment building and walk to Madera. Sturns noticed the men because she had never seen anyone jump that fence before. Because the area was "nicely lit," she could tell that the two men were Hispanic, and that they were not "Black." Sturns was approximately one and a half car lengths from the men as she observed them. As Sturns drove off, she...

To continue reading

Request your trial
2491 cases
  • Dominguez v. Trimble
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of California
    • May 21, 2012
  • People v. Hall
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • May 18, 2018
  • People v. Williams
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • January 17, 2017
  • Rufo v. Simpson
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • January 26, 2001
    ... ... ) other than his or her disposition to commit such an act." (Evid. Code, 1101, subd. (b); People v. Ewoldt (1994) 7 Cal.4th 380, 393.) The trial court denied Simpson's motion in limine to exclude this evidence. The court ruled the evidence was ... (People v. Rodrigues (1994) 8 Cal.4th 1060, 1174 [in limine ruling is necessarily tentative because trial court retains discretion to make a different ruling as the ... ...
  • Request a trial to view additional results
16 books & journal articles
  • Closing argument
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books California Objections
    • March 29, 2023
    ...summation, but may control the duration of argument and limit argument in areas already covered by counsel. People v. Rodrigues (1994) 8 Cal. 4th 1060, 1184, 36 Cal. Rptr. 2d 235. Although broad in scope, discussion during closing argument is not without limits. Comments on the evidence dur......
  • Commonly Used Experts
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Archive Qualifying & Attacking Expert Witnesses - 2018 Contents
    • August 4, 2018
    ...jury. For example, in a prosecution for murder, attempted robbery, and burglary, the California Supreme Court in People v. Rodrigues , 8 Cal. 4th 1060, 885 P.2d 1 (Cal. 1994) held that the trial court properly admitted a videotape showing the relative locations of the victim’s apartment, th......
  • Table of cases
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books California Objections
    • March 29, 2023
    ...608, 124 Cal. Rptr. 143, §9:50 Rodin v. American Can Co. (1955) 133 Cal. App. 2d 524, 284 P.2d 530, §4:120 Rodrigues, People v. (1994) 8 Cal. 4th 1060, 36 Cal. Rptr. 2d 235, §§1:240, 5:20, 8:30, 9:100, 9:120, 13:30, 13:40, 21:30 Rodriguez v. McDonnell Douglas Corp . (1978) 87 Cal. App. 3d 6......
  • Commonly Used Experts
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Archive Qualifying & Attacking Expert Witnesses - 2016 Contents
    • August 4, 2016
    ...jury. For example, in a prosecution for murder, attempted robbery, and burglary, the California Supreme Court in People v. Rodrigues , 8 Cal. 4th 1060, 885 P.2d 1 (Cal. 1994) held that the trial court properly admitted a videotape showing the relative locations of the victim’s apartment, th......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT