People v. Turner, No. S006229

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Writing for the CourtARABIAN; LUCAS; MOSK
Citation878 P.2d 521,32 Cal.Rptr.2d 762,8 Cal.4th 137
Parties, 8 Cal.4th 440A, 878 P.2d 521 The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Melvin TURNER, Defendant and Appellant.
Decision Date15 August 1994
Docket NumberNo. S006229

Page 762

32 Cal.Rptr.2d 762
8 Cal.4th 137, 8 Cal.4th 440A, 878 P.2d 521
The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
Melvin TURNER, Defendant and Appellant.
No. S006229.
Supreme Court of California,
In Bank.
Aug. 15, 1994.
As Modified on Denial of Rehearing Sept. 21, 1994.

Page 767

[8 Cal.4th 152] [878 P.2d 526] Edward J. Horowitz, Los Angeles, under appointment by the Supreme Court, and Adrienne Dell, San Jose, for defendant and appellant.

Daniel E. Lungren, Atty. Gen., George Williamson, Chief Asst. Atty. Gen., Carol Wendelin Pollack, Asst. Atty. Gen., Robert S. Henry, Susan Lee Frierson, Linda C. Johnson, Sharon Wooden Richard and William H. Davis, Jr., Deputy Attys. Gen., for plaintiff and respondent.

ARABIAN, Justice.

This case reaches us again after a retrial following this court's reversal of defendant's conviction and death sentence. In reversing, we concluded that the prosecution failed to sustain its burden of showing that the challenged prospective jurors were not excluded because of group bias, and the trial court failed to discharge its duty to inquire into and carefully evaluate the prosecutor's proffered explanations, in violation of People v. Wheeler (1978) 22 Cal.3d 258, 148 Cal.Rptr. 890, 583 P.2d 748. (People v. Turner (1986) 42 Cal.3d 711, 728, 230 Cal.Rptr. 656, 726 P.2d 102 [Turner I ].)

[8 Cal.4th 153] At the ensuing retrial in 1987, the jury found defendant guilty of two counts of first degree murder (Penal Code §§ 187, subd. (a), 189), 1 and further found that defendant had personally used a firearm (a handgun). (§§ 12022.5, 1203.06, subd. (a)(1).) The jury also found true the multiple-murder and robbery-murder special-circumstance allegations. (§§ 190.2, subd. (a)(3), 190.2, subd. (a)(17)(i).) Defendant was found guilty of two counts of robbery (§ 211), and personal use of a firearm allegations as to those counts were found to be true. Defendant was also found guilty of one count of grand theft vehicle. (Vehicle Code § 10851.)

Defendant personally waived his right to trial by jury as to three prior felony conviction allegations. The court found the allegations to be true. At the penalty phase, the jury fixed the penalty for murder in the first degree with special circumstances at death,

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[878 P.2d 527] and thereafter the court imposed a sentence of death. 2

The case is before us again on automatic appeal. (Cal. Const., art. VI, § 11; § 1239, subd. (b).) For the reasons that follow, we conclude that the judgment should be affirmed.


A. Guilt Phase

1. Prosecution Evidence

On the night of July 11, 1979, defendant drove codefendant Teague Hampton Scott to the Torrance Airport, where defendant had worked as a security guard. While at the airport, defendant followed a 1979 yellow Mazda RX7 that Scott wanted to steal. The vehicle stopped outside a hangar. When the victims, Dr. George S. Hill, Jr., a surgeon, and Ms. Joella Champion, a schoolteacher, got out of the Mazda and entered the hangar, defendant and Scott got out of their car and followed them. A robbery ensued, during which the victims' jewelry was taken at gunpoint. The victims were then bound hand and foot, gagged, and forced to sit against the wall of the hangar. Each victim was shot in the head once at close range by a .38-caliber gun. Death was immediate.

The victims' bodies were discovered at approximately 11 p.m. on July 12. The door to the hangar, which contained an airplane owned by Champion, [8 Cal.4th 154] was locked, and the light inside was on. The coroner estimated the times of death as late on the evening of July 11, or early morning July 12.

At the time of the murders, the Torrance Airport had recently installed a 24-hour noise monitoring system that included microphones at various locations in and around the airport. The July 11 tape recording indicated that two sharp noises, consistent with gun shots, were recorded approximately three seconds apart at 11:16 p.m. on that date in the area where the bodies were found.

After taking the Mazda and driving to Los Angeles in separate cars, defendant and Scott divided the stolen property. Scott kept Hill's car and drove it around for two days before abandoning it. The car key was subsequently found on the ground near the car. Scott's fingerprints were found on the car and the key.

Early on the morning of July 12, 1979, defendant attempted to use Hill's Arco credit card to purchase gasoline. He was driving a Cadillac with a green body and white top. Defendant admitted using a stolen commercial plate on the vehicle, so that the card could not be traced to his car.

Defendant gave the credit card to attendant Steven Burns, and signed the charge slip. The charge slip contained the vehicle's license number. The station manager, Willie Atterberry, said the card was good, but that he needed some identification. Defendant gave Atterberry Hill's driver's license. Hill was White and approximately 34 years old. Defendant was Black and 22 years old. Atterberry said, "No. I need your driver's license." Defendant responded, "This is all I have." Atterberry said, "wait and let me check on it." While he was talking with the station owner, defendant drove off. The charge card was given to police. Hill's estranged wife later received the license and two charge slips in the mail.

On July 31, 1979, defendant and Scott were seen by police in a Chrysler owned by Nathaniel Tribet, defendant's stepfather, driving in and out of the valet parking lot at the Horseshoe Card Club in Gardena. After a high-speed chase, defendant abandoned the vehicle and escaped. Defendant's fingerprints were found on the car. Scott was arrested. Two handguns were taken from the car. One of these guns, a Smith & Wesson .38-special-caliber revolver, was subsequently determined by ballistics evidence to be the murder weapon. It was located under the seat where Scott had been sitting. Scott's fingerprints were found on the murder weapon, and he was in possession of Hill's gold Omega watch.

Nathaniel Tribet was the registered owner of the murder weapon, which he had used in his work as a security guard. Defendant's

Page 769

[878 P.2d 528] brother, Roy [8 Cal.4th 155] Turner, had retrieved the weapon from Tribet's van after Tribet had an accident a few months before the murders. Roy lent defendant the gun on several occasions. The last time Roy saw the gun was when he gave it to defendant and/or Scott with the expectation that it would be sold to Scott.

Several items of Champion's jewelry that she had been seen wearing on the night of her murder were subsequently linked to defendant. On August 3, at the time of defendant's arrest, Champion's unique gold rope chain was found hanging from the rear view mirror in defendant's recently repainted Cadillac. Her engraved, custom-made gold ring with a green turquoise stone was in the possession of defendant's friend, Reverta Austin, who was with him at the time of his arrest. Defendant gave Austin the ring to hold that night because he observed the police following him.

Defendant's residence was searched early on August 4, 1979. In defendant's bedroom, Torrance Police Officer Emilio Paerels retrieved from a green jacket Champion's Inland Door and Gate condominium card, and her "SAM Gold card" from a discount store in Redondo Beach.

Defendant made several inconsistent statements regarding his involvement in the Torrance murders. On August 5, 1979, defendant was interviewed by Compton Police Officer Kay Barger-Collins 3 regarding the unrelated Julia Marmor homicide. 4 During this interview, defendant volunteered information regarding the Torrance murders. Defendant was then interviewed by Torrance Police Officer Green and his partner Officer Paerels. Officer Barger-Collins did not participate in this interview. Defendant waived his right to remain silent and to counsel, and stated that he was speaking to the officers of his own free will. He further stated that there had been no mention of Torrance offering him immunity or any other promises or threats with regard to the airport murders.

Defendant stated that while he was at the airport when the murders occurred, he was not the one who pulled the trigger. Rather, he merely stood guard at the door of the hangar for Scott, and did not enter the hangar. Once Scott had bound the victims and placed them with their backs to the wall, defendant began running to the car because he thought they were leaving. Halfway to the car, defendant heard one shot and then another.

[8 Cal.4th 156] Defendant and Scott subsequently divided the property. Defendant received $60 and the gold ring with a green stone he later gave to Austin. Scott told defendant he had shot the robbery victims in the head because he did not want to leave witnesses behind to testify against him. Defendant said he had learned Scott was trying to blame him for the crime. Defendant was then asked, "I'm curious ... the seriousness of an involvement in a double murder. Why ... are you voluntarily talking to us?" Defendant responded that he was "not going to sit up and take no murder rap for nobody."

On August 7, at his request, defendant was interviewed again. The interview was conducted by Officer Barger-Collins and Gardena Police Officer Dale Pierce. Both of these officers were investigating the Marmor homicide. Defendant stated that he was aware of and freely and voluntarily waived his constitutional rights. Officer Barger-Collins noted that they were talking about the Torrance homicides and that there were "some additional statements that need clarification, or statements that [defendant] wish[ed] to change."

Defendant stated that on the night of the murders, he and Scott entered the hangar after defendant was unable to locate Champion's purse in the Mazda. Defendant bound

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[878 P.2d 529] the woman. Scott gave defendant the gun. Scott then tied up the man.

Scott told defendant to watch the victims, who were tied and...

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