People v. Stanley

Decision Date29 November 1967
Docket NumberCr. 11327
Citation63 Cal.Rptr. 825,67 Cal.2d 812,433 P.2d 913
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court
Parties, 433 P.2d 913 The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Robert Remington STANLEY, Defendant and Appellant.

Russell E. Parsons, Edward I. Gritz, Los Angeles, and Calabro, Calabro & Calabro, Glendale, for defendant and appellant.

Thomas C. Lynch, Atty. Gen., William E. James, Asst. Atty. Gen., and A. Barry Cappello, Deputy Atty. Gen., for plaintiff and respondent.

PETERS, Justice.

Defendant was convicted, after a trial without a jury, of two charges of violating section 288 of the Penal Code with a 10-year-old boy named Steven, and two charges of violating section 288a of that code with a 14-year-old boy named Thomas. The four offenses were alleged to have occurred on April 16, 1965. Defendant appeals from the resulting judgment.

Steven was the sole witness for the prosecution. He testified that on the day in question, which was Good Friday, he and Thomas met defendant, who was a neighbor, at 8 p.m. outside a hobby shop; that after stopping to buy beer they went in defendant's truck to the mountains where they parked and drank beer; that they engaged in acts of oral copulation, and that defendant returned the boys to Steven's home where the boys spent the night. Steven also testified, over objection, that defendant on several other occasions had engaged in other sexual misconduct with him and others.

There are many discrepancies and contradictions in Steven's various stories. These discrepancies are between the story he told to the police, his testimony at the preliminary, and his testimony on direct and cross-examination. Each of these discrepancies is not too important when considered alone, but when considered together they are substantial. They relate to Steven's and Thomas' actions before leaving for the mountains, as to how the claimed acts were performed and what happened then, and as to the location where they are claimed to have occurred. It is of some significance that in asserting each differing version of the facts Steven described the claimed acts in some detail.

He directly contradicted himself in describing where he and Thomas went, and what occurred, after the group returned from the mountains. First, he testified that he and Thomas returned to Steven's home and spent the night there. He described in detail conversations with his older sister and the making of tape recordings by him and Thomas which were supposed to have occurred there. But, when confronted with his testimony at the preliminary hearing that he and Thomas had spent the night at the Thomas' house, he testified that in fact he did so, and then proceeded to narrate detailed conversations which he claimed to have had with Thomas' mother there. He sought to explain the discrepancies by stating that he had not understood the earlier questions as referring to the night of April 16. This explanation is not convincing. The questions by the prosecuting attorney, as well as those by the defense counsel, were clear and unambiguous and could not reasonably have been misunderstood, even by a 10-year-old boy, to refer to any night other than that of April 16.

At the conclusion of Steven's testimony the prosecution rested, without attempting to corroborate his story in any way, and defendant moved to dismiss the counts charging violations with Thomas. The court denied the motion to dismiss. The judge stated that he would excuse Thomas as a witness for the prosecution, but when After a short recess, the defense commenced its case by calling Thomas. The judge stated, 'As your own witness?' Defense counsel answered in the affirmative, and the judge said, 'Very well.'

[433 P.2d 915] defense counsel indicated that he would call Thomas as a witness, the judge stated: 'I will instruct him to return, but it will be as your own witness, and if you call him you will be bound by his testimony because he will be called as your own witness.'

Defense counsel asked only two questions which Thomas answered by stating that he was 14, and that he had stayed at Steven's home on the evening of April 16. The prosecution did not cross-examine.

Five character witnesses, including Steven's older sister who was 17, testified that Steven's reputation for truthfulness was bad. A policeman testified that Steven had told him that the oral copulation incident occurred in a different location than that described at trial. A boy, 16, testified that on April 16 he was with defendant at a model racing car store during part of the time that Steven said he was in the mountains.

Defendant, who was employed at the model racing car store, took the stand and denied the charges. He offered to prove by testimony of a private investigator that the latter had a conversation with Thomas, that the conversation was tape recorded, and that Thomas said that he and Steven had made an agreement to 'get' defendant. The court ruled that such conversations were hearsay, and refused to listen to defense counsel's statement as to the contents of the conversation. 1

Defendant contends that the court erred in admitting in evidence over objection Steven's testimony as to sexual offenses other than those charged. We agree.

Evidence of other crimes is inadmissible if offered solely to prove criminal disposition or propensity on the part of the accused to commit the crime charged. The evidence is then excluded because its probative value is outweighed by its prejudicial effect. The purposes of the exclusionary rule are to avoid placing the accused in a position where he must defend against crimes with which he has not been charged and to guard against the probability that evidence of other criminal acts having little bearing on the question whether defendant committed the charged crime would assume undue proportions and unnecessarily prejudice defendant, as well as to promote judicial efficiency. (People v. Cramer, 67 A.C. 121, 124--125, 60 Cal.Rptr. 230, 429 P.2d 582; People v. Hill, 66 A.C. 531, 551, 58 Cal.Rptr. 340, 426 P.2d 908.)

There are, of course, certain situations in which evidence of other crimes is admissible. In cases involving sex crimes, it has been held that evidence of other not too remote sex offenses with the prosecuting witness is admissible to show a lewd disposition or the intent of Defendant does not dispute the latter rule as a general proposition but urges that an exception to that rule exists where, as here, the only prosecution evidence of the other offenses as well as the only prosecution evidence as to the charged offenses is the testimony of the complaining witness. Defendant's position is that in such cases the ultimate issue is the veracity of that witness as to the charged offenses, and that uncorroborated testimony as to other offenses by the same witness is of no substantial aid to the trier of fact, and may result in great prejudice to the accused.

[433 P.2d 916] defendant towards the prosecuting witness. (People v. Sylvia, 54 Cal.2d 115, 119--120, 4 Cal.Rptr. 509, 351 P.2d 781; see People v. Kelley, 66 A.C. 225, 234, 57 Cal.Rptr. 363, 424 P.2d 947.)

This problem is not a new one. In People v. Smittcamp, 70 Cal.App.2d 741, 745--751, 161 P.2d 983, the trial court instructed the jury that evidence of other acts of sexual intercourse and of improper familiarity between the defendant and the prosecutrix were received to prove the adulterous disposition of the defendant and to render it more probable that the act of sexual intercourse charged was committed and for no other purpose. The Court of Appeal, while recognizing that in prosecutions for sex offenses evidence of other offenses between the parties is ordinarily admitted, reasoned that the evidence of the other offenses is admitted as corroboration of the testimony introduced to prove the commission of the specific offense charged, that this is the only purpose of the evidence of other offenses, that where the only evidence of the other offenses is the testimony given by the prosecutrix herself, her testimony in that regard is only an attempt to corroborate her own testimony, and that the testimony as to the other offenses in such circumstances could not be said to in any way render the guilt of the defendant more probable than if she had testified that the act had been done but the once charged in the information. The same reasoning was applied to similar instructions in People v. Vaughan, 131 Cal.App. 265, 275, 21 P.2d 438; People v. Bell, 96 Cal.App. 503, 507--508, 274 P. 393; and People v. Haugh, 90 Cal.App. 354, 356--357, 265 P. 891.

These cases cannot be distinguished on the ground that they involve instructions to the jury rather than the issue of admissibility of evidence. The cases establish that where the basic issue of the case is the veracity of the prosecuting witness and the defendant as to the commission of the acts charged, the trier of fact is not aided by evidence of other offenses where that evidence is limited to the uncorroborated testimony of the prosecuting witness.

We have been cited to no case, nor have any been found, where uncorroborated testimony of the prosecuting witness as to noncharged offenses has been held admissible where the point has been discussed. In People v. Sylvia, supra, 54 Cal.2d 115, 119--120, 4 Cal.Rptr. 509, 351 P.2d 781, where evidence of such offenses with the prosecuting witness was held admissible, the corroborating evidence consisted of an admission of the defendant. (See also People v. Pilgrim, 160 Cal.App.2d 528, 530--531, 325 P.2d 143.) In People v. Wertz, 145 Cal.App.2d 395, 398, 302 P.2d 613, the evidence consisted of testimony by a witness other than the prosecuting witness, and in People v. LaMantain, 89 Cal.App.2d 699, 701--703, 201 P.2d 598, there was 'some' corroboration. In People v. Jewett, 84 Cal.App.2d 276, 279, 190 P.2d 330, it was held that the testimony of the prosecuting witness as to...

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