People v. Thompson

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Writing for the CourtARGUELLES; LUCAS; MOSK; BROUSSARD
Citation246 Cal.Rptr. 245,45 Cal.3d 86,753 P.2d 37
Parties, 753 P.2d 37 The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Thomas Martin THOMPSON, Defendant and Appellant. Crim. 23924.
Decision Date28 April 1988

Page 245

246 Cal.Rptr. 245
45 Cal.3d 86, 753 P.2d 37
The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
Thomas Martin THOMPSON, Defendant and Appellant.
Crim. 23924.
Supreme Court of California,
In Bank.
April 28, 1988.
As Modified on Denial of Rehearing June 23, 1988.

Page 250

[45 Cal.3d 96] [753 P.2d 42] John K. Van de Kamp, Atty. Gen., Steve White, Chief Asst. Atty. Gen., John W. Carney, Keith I. Motley and Jay M. Bloom, Deputy Attys. Gen., for plaintiff and respondent.

Quin Denvir, Denvir & Correio, Sacramento, for defendant and appellant.

ARGUELLES, Justice.

This case involves the rape and murder of 20-year-old Ginger Fleischli on September 11, 1981. For these offenses, the jury convicted defendant of one count of first degree murder (Pen.Code, §§ 187, 189) 1 and one count of forcible rape (§ 261, subd. (2)) and found true allegations that defendant personally used a knife in the commission of these crimes (§ 12022, subd. (b)). In addition, the jury found true one special circumstance allegation: that the murder occurred in the commission of rape (§ 190.2, subd. (a)(17)(iii)). At the penalty phase, the jury returned a sentence of death. The matter is before us on automatic appeal. (§ 1239.)

We conclude that the judgment should be affirmed in its entirety.

45 Cal.3d 97

GUILT PHASE

FACTS

A. The Prosecution Case

The prosecution's theory was that the victim Ginger Fleischli was raped and then killed by defendant Thomas Thompson to prevent her from reporting the rape and thereby possibly interfering with an imminent and illegal foreign venture defendant had planned. Fleischli met defendant through David Leitch who, in defendant's view, had a motive to kill her himself. Fleischli had lived with David Leitch in an apartment at 1261 Ocean Front in Laguna Beach. 2 In August 1981, Fleischli moved out of the apartment and defendant moved in. By September, Fleischli had apparently moved in with David Leitch's ex-wife, Tracy Leitch, whom she had known for some six years.

About 7:30 p.m., on September 11, 1981, Fleischli and Tracy Leitch met at a pizza parlor on Balboa Island, where they encountered defendant and David Leitch. David and Tracy Leitch decided to visit David Leitch's father since David wanted to discuss working for him on the following Monday. There was some discussion about defendant and Fleischli going along, and the foursome got into Leitch's car and went to the Sandpiper Inn on Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna Beach. Defendant and Fleischli remained there drinking, however, while David and Tracy Leitch left. Tracy Leitch later testified that at the pizza parlor Fleischli had expressed fear that she would be killed if she went with defendant.

Fleischli and defendant were joined around 9:30 p.m., by Afshin Kashani. The evening included drinking and dancing both at the Sandpiper Inn and later at a nearby bar known as the Boom-Boom Room. Kashani and defendant, in addition to drinking, also smoked some hashish provided by Kashani.

About 1 a.m., defendant, Kashani, and Fleischli walked back to the Ocean Front apartment where defendant and Kashani smoked additional hashish. Around 2 a.m., Fleischli left to get some soda at a nearby liquor store; and in her absence, defendant told Kashani he wanted to be with [45 Cal.3d 98] Fleischli that weekend and Kashani could have her after defendant left the country. 3

Page 251

Kashani left the apartment, but on the way to his truck realized he had forgotten his cigarettes and walked back to the apartment to retrieve them. When he arrived, the door was open and defendant seemed nervous, handing Kashani's cigarettes out [753 P.2d 43] to him through the door rather than inviting him back into the apartment. 4

Fleischli was not seen alive again.

Tracy Leitch testified that the next morning, September 12, she asked defendant where Fleischli was and defendant told her Fleischli had left with Kashani from the Sandpiper Inn. Again that evening, when Tracy encountered defendant at a party, she expressed concern about Fleischli's whereabouts, and defendant referred to Fleischli in the past tense saying he had liked her, she was a nice girl. The following day Tracy Leitch filed a missing person's report with the Newport Beach Police Department.

Fleischli's body was found on September 14, 1981, in a grove of trees near Interstate 5 in Irvine. Two footprints were found near the body--one made by a smooth soled shoe and the other made by a rippled or wavy soled shoe. 5 The body was wrapped in an old sleeping bag and pink blanket, both of which Obert had left at the apartment when he had moved out. Fibers from the pink blanket matched fibers found in the trunk of David Leitch's car and fibers found on the body matched the carpet in the Ocean Front apartment. A red smear on rope wrapped around the body also matched paint from the trunk of Leitch's car.

Fleischli's head was wrapped with silver duct tape, two towels, a sheet, and her jacket. Her shirt and bra had been cut in front and pulled down to her elbows. There was no evidence of vaginal tearing or bruising. Her Levis were fully zipped but not buttoned. She wore no underwear, shoes or socks, and a vaginal swab revealed the presence of semen consistent with defendant's blood type.

[45 Cal.3d 99] White marks around two fingers suggested she had been wearing rings. 6 Her ankles, hands, wrists, and left elbow showed bruising which had occurred within fifteen minutes to three hours prior to death and appears to have resulted largely from the handling of the body. One bruise to a wrist was consistent with use of handcuffs.

Fleischli had been stabbed five times in the head near her right ear. One of the stab wounds, inflicted with a single-edged knife, extended through the ear two and one-half inches, penetrating the carotid artery and causing death. 7 Subsequent investigation uncovered bloodstains identified as the victim's blood in the carpet at the Ocean Front apartment. 8

Defendant was arrested in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, on September 26, 1981, and handcuffs were found in his possession. Defendant admitted to Deputy Sheriff Coder that Fleischli had come to the apartment that evening; but he claimed she went to the liquor store, Kashani left, and defendant had then fallen asleep. He claimed that to his knowledge she had not

Page 252

returned. Defendant also said that the next morning, Tracy Leitch asked what he had done with Fleischli, and he told her Fleischli had left with Kashani although he now claimed she had never returned. Defendant subsequently also appeared to know the victim had died of stab wounds to [753 P.2d 44] the head even though this information had not been released to the public. Defendant claimed David Leitch had told him this in Mexico.

Two county jail inmates, Fink and Del Frate, testified that during defendant's incarceration before trial he told them he had forced Fleischli to have sex with him and then stabbed her so she would not tell anyone. Del Frate claimed defendant, while earlier suggesting David Leitch had committed the killing, later admitted he had stabbed the victim twice in the head with a scuba knife, and David Leitch had helped him dispose of the body and clean up the apartment. 9 Del Frate testified that defendant told him he wanted to find a witness to implicate Leitch, have Del Frate make an attempt on the [45 Cal.3d 100] life of Tracy Leitch so she would cease protecting her ex-husband, or have Del Frate kill David Leitch and bury the body so authorities would think Leitch was guilty and had fled the country.

B. The Defense Case

Defendant claimed that he did not commit the murder but that David Leitch probably did. 10 Defendant testified that he had moved in with Leitch preparatory to their planned trip to Thailand. Defendant claimed Leitch indicated his mother would give him a boat (something Leitch's mother denied on rebuttal ever discussing with her son); and defendant suggested that rather than smuggle cocaine out of South America as Leitch intended, they should use the boat to pick up Vietnamese refugees and, in return for their gold, give them passage out of Thailand to United States soil. He denied any plan to kill a boat owner or the refugees.

Defendant claimed that on the night of September 11, after Kashani had finally departed, 11 Fleischli returned from her errand to the liquor store. Defendant testified that Fleischli "had a suggestive look and one thing led to the other" and the couple had engaged in consensual sexual intercourse, after which Fleischli got dressed in anticipation that David Leitch was going to pick her up and drive her home. As Fleischli began to dress, defendant, feeling the effects of hashish and alcohol, passed out and remembers nothing until the next morning when he awoke with a hangover to find David and Tracy Leitch in the apartment, Tracy demanding to know what he had done with Fleischli. Defendant slept off his hangover that day, but at a party that night asked Tracy if Fleischli would be there. Tracy allegedly said Fleischli was not going to attend.

Defendant claimed that the next day, September 13, he saw David Leitch washing his car. On Tuesday, September 15, one day after Fleischli's body had been discovered, defendant claimed David Leitch came to the apartment very nervous and tense and told defendant they were going to leave that day for Cabo San Lucas to await the boat his mother was arranging for their Southeast Asian trip. They packed, put some things in storage, and drove to Mexico in Leitch's car, finally camping on the beach at Cabo San Lucas.

Defendant claimed that when no boat arrived, he asked Leitch to call his mother. After a call, Leitch told defendant Fleischli had been murdered, [45 Cal.3d 101] stabbed with a pocket knife in the head. A day or two later Leitch left, allegedly to make another call. Instead, he pawned his car (its trunk having been freshly washed out) and bought an airline ticket back to the...

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248 practice notes
  • People v. Mayfield, No. S005620
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • January 2, 1997
    ...268 Cal.Rptr. 126, 788 P.2d 640; People v. Lang (1989) 49 Cal.3d 991, 1017, 264 Cal.Rptr. 386, 782 P.2d 627; People v. Thompson (1988) 45 Cal.3d 86, 110, 246 Cal.Rptr. 245, 753 P.2d Here, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in permitting the impeachment. Defendant's testimony that ......
  • People v. Hernandez, No. S004559
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • November 28, 1988
    ...as to permit effective appellate review. (Id. at pp. 793-794, 230 Page 234 Cal.Rptr. 667, 726 P.2d 113; see also People v. Thompson (1988) 45 Cal.3d 86, 140, 246 Cal.Rptr. 245, 753 P.2d 37.) Defendant asserts that nothing indicates the trial judge exercised his independent judgment. Further......
  • People v. Cooper, No. S004687
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • May 6, 1991
    ...553, 578, 180 Cal.Rptr. 266, 639 P.2d 908), the court has discretion to admit such photographs if relevant. (People v. Thompson (1988) 45 Cal.3d 86, 114-115, 246 Cal.Rptr. 245, 753 P.2d 37.) An issue at trial was whether one person alone could have killed all four victims, or whether three ......
  • People v. Ledesma, No. S014394.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • August 17, 2006
    ...their decision and to overcome the common misperception that all life prisoners may eventually be paroled. (See People v. Thompson (1988) 45 Cal.3d 86, 129-130, 246 Cal.Rptr. 245, 753 P.2d 37.) Furthermore, defense counsel himself informed jurors during voir dire that life without parole me......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
248 cases
  • People v. Mayfield, No. S005620
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • January 2, 1997
    ...268 Cal.Rptr. 126, 788 P.2d 640; People v. Lang (1989) 49 Cal.3d 991, 1017, 264 Cal.Rptr. 386, 782 P.2d 627; People v. Thompson (1988) 45 Cal.3d 86, 110, 246 Cal.Rptr. 245, 753 P.2d Here, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in permitting the impeachment. Defendant's testimony that ......
  • People v. Hernandez, No. S004559
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • November 28, 1988
    ...as to permit effective appellate review. (Id. at pp. 793-794, 230 Page 234 Cal.Rptr. 667, 726 P.2d 113; see also People v. Thompson (1988) 45 Cal.3d 86, 140, 246 Cal.Rptr. 245, 753 P.2d 37.) Defendant asserts that nothing indicates the trial judge exercised his independent judgment. Further......
  • People v. Cooper, No. S004687
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • May 6, 1991
    ...553, 578, 180 Cal.Rptr. 266, 639 P.2d 908), the court has discretion to admit such photographs if relevant. (People v. Thompson (1988) 45 Cal.3d 86, 114-115, 246 Cal.Rptr. 245, 753 P.2d 37.) An issue at trial was whether one person alone could have killed all four victims, or whether three ......
  • People v. Ledesma, No. S014394.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • August 17, 2006
    ...their decision and to overcome the common misperception that all life prisoners may eventually be paroled. (See People v. Thompson (1988) 45 Cal.3d 86, 129-130, 246 Cal.Rptr. 245, 753 P.2d 37.) Furthermore, defense counsel himself informed jurors during voir dire that life without parole me......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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