People v. Sattiewhite, S039894.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Writing for the CourtWE CONCUR: CANTIL–SAKAUYE
Citation59 Cal.4th 446,174 Cal.Rptr.3d 1,328 P.3d 1
PartiesThe PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Christopher James SATTIEWHITE, Defendant and Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. S039894.,S039894.
Decision Date30 June 2014

59 Cal.4th 446
328 P.3d 1
174 Cal.Rptr.3d 1

The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
Christopher James SATTIEWHITE, Defendant and Appellant.

No. S039894.

Supreme Court of California

June 30, 2014.

See 5 Witkin & Epstein, Cal.
Criminal Law (4th ed. 2012) Criminal Trial, § 820 et seq.

Peter R. Hensley, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant.

Edmund G. Brown, Jr., and Kamala D. Harris, Attorneys General, Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Pamela C. Hamanaka, Assistant Attorney General, Kenneth C. Byrne and David C. Cook, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.


[328 P.3d 10]

I. Procedural History

A jury convicted defendant Christopher James Sattiewhite of the rape (Pen.Code, § 261),1 kidnapping ( § 207), and murder ( § 187) of Genoveva Gonzales. The jury found true the special circumstance allegations that the murder occurred during the commission of the rape and kidnapping ( § 190.2, subd. (a)(17)(B), (C)), and it found that defendant personally used a firearm during the commission of the murder (§§ 1203.06, 12022.5).

The jury returned a verdict of death. The trial court denied defendant's motion for a new trial and for modification of the verdict (§ 190.4, subd. (e)), and it sentenced him to death. This appeal is automatic. (§ 1239, subd. (b).)

The judgment is affirmed in its entirety.

II. Factual Background
A. Guilt phase
1. Prosecution's case

a. The murder of Genoveva Gonzales

Early in the morning of Sunday, January 26, 1992, two fishermen discovered the partially nude body of Genoveva Gonzales in a roadside ditch near the beach on the outskirts of the City of Oxnard. She had been shot in the head three times at close range with a .32–caliber gun. There was one set of footprints near the body and no sign of a struggle. Although blood had pooled under

[328 P.3d 11]

Gonzales's head, there was no blood trail, suggesting that someone had carried her to the ditch, dropped her to the ground, and shot her.

b. Defendant's activities from January 25, 1992, to January 26, 1992

On Saturday, January 25, 1992, Anna Lanier loaned her car to defendant, Bobby Rollins, and Fred Jackson in exchange for drugs. The three men, who were all associated with the Long Beach Crips gang, spent the day driving around the City of Oxnard. At dusk, when Jackson suggested committing a robbery, Rollins decided to leave the group. Later that night, however, Rollins rejoined defendant and Jackson in an alley in Oxnard. He saw Jackson and a woman in the backseat of Lanier's car. Jackson leaned over and pushed the woman down.

According to Rollins, defendant then drove Jackson and the woman to a nearby parking lot at the Mira Loma Apartments, and Rollins followed in a different car. Rollins and defendant then got out of their cars to talk, while Jackson stayed in the backseat with the woman. Defendant told Rollins that they had “just gaffled the lady.” Rollins understood this to mean that they had abducted her. Rollins heard the woman yell in Spanish, and he heard Jackson tell her to “shut up.” The woman then spat on Jackson. In response, Jackson hit her several times and pushed her into a corner of the backseat. In Rollins's view, the woman was not “going along with what Jackson was doing.”

Rollins went to make a telephone call, and when he returned, Jackson was having sex with the woman in the backseat of the car. Defendant told Rollins that when Jackson finished, they were going to drive to “the dead end,” a remote area on Arnold Road, to drink alcohol. Rollins agreed to meet them there.

When Rollins arrived at the dead end, Lanier's car was parked on the side of the road. Defendant was outside, and Jackson was in the backseat, pushing the woman out. She appeared to be unconscious. As Rollins was parking his car, he heard three gunshots. Jackson was still in the backseat of the car, but the woman was lying in a nearby ditch with defendant standing over her. Rollins could see that she was naked from the waist down (except for one sock) and that her jacket and shirt were open, with her bra pushed up above her breasts.

Defendant climbed out of the ditch carrying a gun and wearing gloves. He returned to the driver's seat of Lanier's car, gave the gun to Jackson, and drove off. Rollins followed them to an alley, where they parked and got out of their cars. Jackson removed some clothing from the car and wiped the gun. Rollins saw blood on the clothing. Jackson tossed the clothing into a nearby garbage bin, and defendant did the same with his gloves.

When Rollins asked defendant why he had shot the woman, defendant replied that he had “always wanted to do something like that.” Defendant pointed to his forehead and cheek and said, “I did it right here.”

In early 1992, Adrienne Wells was defendant's girlfriend. One day she noticed he was “acting weird” and asked him why. Defendant replied that he had “killed a lady.” Defendant said that his friend Jackson had raped the woman and that he (defendant) killed her because she had heard one of their names.

c. The gun

Greg Wells sold a handgun to defendant on January 25, 1992, the morning of the Gonzales murder. Defendant promised to pay Wells later. After two weeks, however, defendant tried to give the gun back. Wells noticed that there was “something on the gun” and refused to take it. He suggested that defendant sell the gun and drove him to see someone who might buy it. On the way, defendant cleaned the gun, which he then sold. The police later recovered the gun after it was used in a robbery. Ballistics tests confirmed that the gun used in the robbery was the gun used to kill Gonzales.

d. The autopsy

Dr. Frederick Lovell, the Chief Medical Examiner for Ventura County, conducted the autopsy of Genoveva Gonzales on January 26, 1992. The cause of death was gunshot wounds

[328 P.3d 12]

to the head and neck. Dr. Lovell found a gunshot wound in the forehead, a double wound in the left cheek, and three bullets lodged in the body. All were contact wounds. Dr. Lovell noted a “very fresh” hemorrhage on the right side of the victim's head that could have resulted from a blow sufficient to render her unconscious. There were scratches on her abdomen and back, as well as bruising on the rear part of the entrance to her vagina. In Dr. Lovell's view, it was not possible to determine whether consensual or nonconsensual sexual activity had caused the bruising.

Genetic testing of sperm samples retrieved from Gonzales's body excluded defendant and Rollins as donors, but the testing did not eliminate Jackson as a possible donor.

Dr. Bruce Woodling, an obstetrician who also conducted forensic medical evaluations, testified as an expert for the prosecution. In his opinion, Gonzales received the injuries on her torso and vagina during a struggle. The subcutaneous bleeding from blunt force trauma, the injuries to the rear part of her vaginal opening, the petechiae in her eyelids, and the scratches on her abdomen, thorax, and hip were all “classic injuries” resulting from sexual assault and forced penetration, not from vigorous consensual sex. Dr. Woodling's opinion was unaffected by the suggestion that Gonzales might have been a drug user and a prostitute.

e. Defendant's statement to police

Sergeant Richard Gatling of the Ventura County Sheriff's Office interviewed defendant while he was incarcerated on unrelated offenses.2 The jurors heard a recording of that interview. Defendant initially denied knowing Gonzales but then said he had met her on the night of the murder while he and Jackson were driving around. Defendant denied shooting her.

2. Defendant's case

In his opening statement, defense counsel conceded that defendant shot Gonzales but asserted that the evidence would show that defendant did so under duress, and therefore that he was not guilty of first degree murder. He also asserted that the evidence would show that Gonzales willingly got in Lanier's car and that she engaged in consensual sexual activity with Jackson, and therefore that she had not been kidnapped or raped.

a. Claim of duress

Lydia Sattiewhite, defendant's sister, testified that after the killing, Rollins told her that “they picked up a girl and that [Jackson] fucked her.” Rollins also told her that “they took [the girl] to Arnold [Road] and told [defendant] to smoke her because [defendant] always stood around and watched them as they do their dirt.” Rollins said that he had threatened to shoot both Gonzales and defendant if defendant refused to shoot Gonzales. In Lydia's opinion, based on years of observing defendant and Rollins together, defendant was afraid of Rollins.

b. Claim that Gonzales was not kidnapped or raped

Defendant presented evidence that in January 1990, Gonzales was convicted of possessing cocaine for sale. According to Michael Black, who had seen Gonzales around his neighborhood and in the company of Rollins, Gonzales sold drugs, used drugs herself, and traded sex for drugs. Lydia Sattiewhite testified that Rollins told her that Gonzales had been drinking on the night of the murder and that she appeared at times to be “going along” with the sex with Jackson, although at other times she pushed him away. Dr. Werner Spitz, a forensic pathologist, reviewed the medical examiner's report and the autopsy photographs. He disagreed with Dr. Woodling's opinion that Gonzales was forced to engage in sexual activity, but he acknowledged on cross-examination that “you don't need a rocket scientist to look at these [crime scene] pictures to determine that there has been a sexual assault here.”

[328 P.3d 13]

Sergeant Gatling testified that Jackson had told him that he and Gonzales had engaged in consensual sex.

3. Prosecution's rebuttal

Defendant told a deputy district attorney during an interview that he was not afraid of Rollins. In addition, there were no records of Gonzales's ever having been arrested for prostitution. Finally, the prosecution's investigator testified that Lydia...

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