People v. Teale

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Citation45 Cal.Rptr. 729,63 Cal.2d 178,404 P.2d 209
Decision Date16 July 1965
Docket NumberCr. 7577
Parties, 404 P.2d 209 The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Thomas Leroy TEALE and Ruth Elizabeth Chapman, Defendants and Appellants.

Nels B. Fransen, Thomas R. Krehbiel and Richard E. Johnson, Stockton, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for defendants and appellants.

Stanley Mosk and Thomas C. Lynch, Attys. Gen., Doris H. Maier, Asst. Atty. Gen., and Raymond M. Momboisse, Deputy Atty. Gen., for plaintiff and respondent.

PEEK, Justice.

Defendants Thomas L. Teale and Ruth Elizabeth Chapman were convicted by a jury of the first degree murder of Billy Dean Adcock, robbery of the first degree and simple kidnaping. A life sentence was imposed upon the defendant Chapman as to the murder count, and she appeals from the whole of the judgment. The death penalty was imposed upon the defendant Teale, and his appeal is automatic pursuant to the provisions of section 1239, subdivision (b) of the Penal Code. The order denying defendants' motion for a new trial being nonappealable, the defendant Chapman's purported appeal therefrom must be dismissed. (Pen.Code, § 1237.)

On October 17, 1962, defendants registered at a motel in Fresno, where they gave a bad check in payment of their room rental. At approximately 10:00 p. m. on that same day they entered a tavern near Lodi where they remained for nearly three hours and together consumed five bottles of beer. Mrs. Chapman went outside for awhile and upon her return was heard to say to Teale: 'Let's go, we are not going to do anything here,' or 'We can't do anything here, let's go.' They then left the tavern together.

Defendants next appealred at about 2:00 a. m. the following day at the 'Spot Club' in Lodi. The only persons in the bar at that time were the defendants and Adcock, the bartender. Shortly thereafter three persons, including the bartender and a woman of Mrs. Chapman's general description, were observed in front of the Spot Club. The third person in the group, a man resembling the defendant Teale in general appearance, was standing behind the bartender, who apparently was locking the door of the tavern.

The following morning the owner of the bar found it to be in unusual disarray. The cash register had been broken into and approximately $260 was missing. Papers usually kept in the register were scattered about the floor. Routine housekeeping tasks which the bartender generally completed before leaving had not been performed.

Later that morning the victim's body was found in a remote area north of Lodi. It was half submerged in an open ditch by the side of a road. The clothing was torn and there was blood on the face and on the surface of the road nearby. The victim had been shot three times in the head, two bullets apparently penetrating through the same wound on the left side of the head from a gun held as close as two inches. The third bullet entered the back of the head from a gun held some 18 inches away. The time of death from the gunshot wounds was estimated at 3:00 on the morning of the 18th.

The bullets which inflicted the deceased's wounds were fired from a .22 caliber weapon similar to a gun purchased by the defendant Chapman in Reno, Nevada, while there with Teale six days before the killing. Neither the gun which she purchased, nor the gun which fired the fatal bullets was located.

Numerous items of personal property were found in the vicinity of the body, including the victim's wallet from which $50 to $65 in cash had been removed, and a check for $2 bearing a stamp 'Refer to Maker,' which had been signed by Mrs. Chapman.

Evidence connecting defendants with the commission of the crime was submitted by an expert witness for the People who testified that the victim's blood was Type A; that Type A blood was found on the right side of the front floor mat, spattered on the overhead fabric liner, the dome light and clothes rack in the back of defendants' vehicle; that blood had spattered or radiated out from the right front side of the automobile; that Type A blood was found on Mrs. Chapman's fur stole and spattered on a dress, blouse, skirt and shoes in her possession; that Type A blood was also found on defendant Teale's shirt and jacket; that numerous fibers taken from the victim's shoes matched those found in the defendants' automobile, that hairs were found in the automobile which matched those of the victim; that red paint found on the floor mat of the defendants' automobile came from the shoes of the victim, and that in the opinion of the expert the victim had been in the defendants' automobile.

Defendant Teale was arrested in New Orleans on November 2, 1962. At that time he carried a gun which had been purchased by Mrs. Chapman in Reno on the same day on which she purchased the .22 caliber weapon hereinbefore mentioned, and he was driving the automobile which had been in the defendants' possession before and at the time of the killing.

After his return to California Teale was confined with on Waldo Vowel, another prisoner, who testified as to a conversation he had with Teale wherein Teale stated that 'he hoped Mrs. Chapman did not break down and start saying anything, because they didn't have anything on them yet.' Later, the witness testified, he had another conversation with Teale in the prison yard: 'I told him I knew Bill (the deceased), and he (Teale) told me he didn't plan for it to happen that way, and he started relating to me how it happened. He said that they were arguing over money all afternoon, and he said it was his idea to rob him and said he was going to take him out in the country and just run him off up through the vineyard, or something like that, but had no idea of killing him. But he said when they pulled up and stopped, that he opened the door, he didn't say who was driving or nothing, just said when they stopped that he got out to go around go around to the other side of the car to get Adcock, out, and said that Mrs. Chapman shot him once in the back of the head, and then said when he fell, before he could get around the car, he said she shot him two more times.'

Teale further stated, according to the witness, that 'they' would never find the gun. In response to a question as to any statements Teale might have made regarding expected punishment, the witness stated: 'Well, he said out there in the yard, he said if they had anything on him, he said he was going anyway, and he didn't want Mrs. Chapman to 'cop out' or anything, because he said if she didn't, you'd have to prove which one of them done it. Said he was going anyway, it didn't make any difference. So he said if she just kept quiet that she might get off with just seven or eight years.' The foregoing testimony of conversations had with Teale was received under an admonition that the jurors could consider it only as to Teale. No claim is made and the record does not disclose that Teale's fellow prisoner was acting in complicity with the state.

Mrs. Chapman was arrested by an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in St. Joseph, Missouri, on October 26, 1962, and thereafter gave conflicting accounts to the officer of her whereabouts on October 17 and 18. She stated first that she had been in Ukiah from the 17th to the 20th of October, on which latter date she left by bus for St. Joseph. She later stated that on the evening of the 17th and early morning of the 18th she had waited in a bus depot in San Francisco. However it was stipulated at the trial that a registration card for occupancy of a motel room by a 'Mr. and Mrs. T. L. Rosenthal' in Woodland at 4:40 a. m. on October 18, was made out in her handwriting. The clerk of the motel also testified that the registrant gave a false license number, and that the automobile in which the parties arrived was the one found in Teale's possession upon his arrest.

The record is mute as to the factual basis for certain of the requirements which must be satified before testimony of Mrs. Chapman's statements could have been properly introduced by the prosecution. However, the conflicting testimony relative to her whereabouts on October 17 and 18 was elicited on direct examination from the federal agent appearing as a witness for Mrs. Chapman. On cross-examination the officer testified, relative to the conflict in her statements, that she denied she suffered from 'blackouts.'

Neither defendant appeared as a witness.

Mrs. Chapman's first contention, that she was denied her constitutional right to a speedy trial, is not borne out by the record. She voluntarily waived the 60-day limit (Pen.Code, § 1382, subd. (2)) and trial was set for February 5, 1963. On that date appointed counsel, the public defender, withdrew due to a conflict in interest in his representation of both her and the defendant Teale. New counsel appointed for Mrs. Chapman on February 5 instituted discovery proceedings and trial was postponed until March 19, presumably in the defendant's interest. (People v. Donohoe, 200 Cal.App.2d 17, 19 Cal.Rptr. 454.) Prior to the March 19 trial date Mrs. Chapman filed an affidavit that the public defender's prior representation of her would prejudice her right if a joint trial was had, and the court permitted the public defender to withdraw as counsel for Teale also. New counsel was appointed for Teale and trial was again postponed, to give such counsel an opportunity to prepare, until April 16, when trial was had.

Where a continuance is granted upon good cause to a codefendant the rights of the other defendants are generally not deemed to have been prejudiced. (People v. McFarland, 209 Cal.App.2d 772, 26 Cal.Rptr. 596; Ferenz v. Superior Court, 53 Cal.App.2d 639, 128 P.2d 48.) Moreover, assuming without concluding that there was an improper denial of a speedy trial, the error must be prejudicial to merit a reversal therefor. (People v. Wilson, ...

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