People v. Valdez, No. S062180.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Writing for the CourtCHIN
Citation144 Cal.Rptr.3d 865,2012 Daily Journal D.A.R. 11062,281 P.3d 924,12 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 9060,55 Cal.4th 82
PartiesThe PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Richard VALDEZ, Defendant and Appellant.
Decision Date09 August 2012
Docket NumberNo. S062180.

55 Cal.4th 82
281 P.3d 924
144 Cal.Rptr.3d 865
12 Cal.
Daily Op. Serv. 9060
2012 Daily Journal D.A.R. 11,062

The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
Richard VALDEZ, Defendant and Appellant.

No. S062180.

Supreme Court of California

Aug. 9, 2012.

[144 Cal.Rptr.3d 879]Michael J. Hersek, State Public Defender, under appointment by the Supreme Court, Raoul Schonemann and Gary D. Garcia, Deputy State Public Defenders, 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, Sharlene A. Honnaka and Michael R. Johnsen, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.


[281 P.3d 936]

[55 Cal.4th 93]A jury convicted defendant Richard Valdez of five counts of first degree murder (Pen.Code, §§ 187, subd. (a), 189) 1 and, as to each count, found true special circUMSTANCE ALLEGATIONS OF multiple murder ( § 190.2, subd. (a)(3)) and gang and weapon enhancement allegations (§§ 186, subds.(b)(1), (b)(2), 12022, subd. (a)(1), 12022.5, subd. (a).) The jury returned a verdict of death as to each of the victims. The trial court denied the automatic application to modify the verdict ( § 190.4, subd. (e)) and sentenced defendant to death for the five murders. This appeal is automatic. (§ 1239, subd. (b).) We affirm the judgment.

[55 Cal.4th 94]I. Facts
A. Guilt Phase

On April 22, 1995, the bodies of three adults—Anthony “Dido” Moreno, his sister, Maria Moreno, and Gustavo “Tito” Aguirre—and two of Maria's children—five-year-old Laura Moreno and six-month-old Ambrose Padilla—were found at Maria's apartment on Maxson Road in El Monte, California.2 The evidence presented at trial established that defendant, who was a member of the Sangra street gang, shot and killed Anthony and Gustavo while his codefendant and fellow Sangra gang member Jimmy Palma shot and killed Maria and the children.

1. Prosecution Evidence

The Mexican Mafia was formed in 1957 as a prison gang and, by 1977, controlled most of the criminal activity inside California's prisons. Eventually, it extended its influence outside of the prison system and came to exert control over virtually all Hispanic street gangs in Southern California, including Sangra and El Monte Flores. Hispanic gang members are essentially “soldiers” of the Mexican Mafia and would probably be beaten up or killed for refusing to carry out a Mexican Mafia order. Mexican Mafia members take a “blood oath” when they join and “death is the only way out”; those who attempt to leave the gang are eventually killed, even 10 or 15 years after their disassociation. Dido was a member of the Mexican Mafia

[281 P.3d 937]

from 1973 until he dropped out in the mid 1980's. In January 1995, Raymond Shyrock, a Mexican Mafia leader, stated at a Mexican Mafia meeting: “I don't know if [144 Cal.Rptr.3d 880]you have ever heard of this brother Dido. He dropped out a long time ago. He's in an apartment where I was living. The mother fucker was living right downstairs but never showed his face. All kinds of people in the pad, bunch of young sisters and kids, all kinds of shit. So I'm trying to figure out how to—I need a silencer is what I need.”

On April 22, 1995, Dido and Maria were living in Maria's apartment along with her children. In the afternoon, a car parked in Maria's driveway. Simultaneously, a Jeep containing four Hispanic men stopped in front of a neighbor's driveway and idled. Early that afternoon, Sangra gang member Anthony “Scar” Torres had borrowed a Jeep for about 10–20 minutes from Sangra gang member Victor Jimenez. Four tall, bald, Hispanic men wearing white t-shirts exited the car. One of them had a tattoo on his neck with chain letters. Another had a heavy build. The four men walked toward Maria's residence.

[55 Cal.4th 95]About 2:30 p.m., Luis Maciel, who was a Mexican Mafia member and a former member of El Monte Flores, approached Dido and his brother—Witness No. 15 3—in Maria's driveway. With him were two younger men, one of whom had an El Monte Flores gang tattoo on his arm. When the men arrived, Tito, who was at the apartment, ran inside and hid. Tito, who was a drug user, had robbed several Hispanic drug dealers, including at least one who was paying “taxes” to the Mexican Mafia. This would have subjected him to being killed by the Mexican Mafia. Maciel spoke with Dido and Witness No. 15 for about 30 minutes. He seemed nervous and unusually talkative. As he spoke, he faced the apartment's door and periodically looked inside, enabling him to see Maria and her children. He asked about Witness No. 15's family and Tito's whereabouts. At some point, he offered Dido and Witness No. 15 heroin, which the latter found “suspicious” because, in his experience, “people don't normally give away drugs.” Maciel and his companions eventually returned to the car and drove off. Maciel later met with Palma, Witness No. 14, who was an El Monte Flores gang member, and another gang member known as “Diablo,” at Maciel's house. Palma arrived in a Nissan Maxima owned by fellow Sangra gang member Danny “Tricky” Logan. Maciel told Palma, “if anything happens to me, go ahead and contact Diablo.” Palma stated he “was going to take care of some business” for Maciel and was “strapping,” meaning he was carrying a gun. At Maciel's direction, Witness No. 14 gave Palma a small amount of heroin that Maciel had retrieved from his house.

In the late afternoon, Palma asked fellow Sangra gang member Witness No. 16 for a ride to his sister's house. While the two men drove around, Palma said he was expecting a page and, after receiving it, would need Witness No. 16 to take him to the Alhambra house of fellow Sangra gang member Torres. Palma said “they had to take care of something” and “the brothers wanted him.”

Witness No. 13, who was Torres's sister, arrived at Torres's house about 7:00 or 7:30 p.m. A short time later, two men arrived looking for Torres; one had a “Sangra” tattoo on his neck and said his name was Jimmy. Jimmy Palma had a “Sangra” tattoo on his neck. Torres was not at home, and the two men left. Torres later arrived at the house accompanied by defendant, who was a Sangra gang member[144 Cal.Rptr.3d 881]known as “Primo.” They went into Torres's room and started making telephone calls. More Sangra gang members, including Palma, Logan, Jose “Pepe” Ortiz, “Creepy,” 4 and Witness No. 16, subsequently arrived and went into Torres's room. At some point, Ortiz, who seemed to be in charge, stated that there was “a problem in El Monte” and [55 Cal.4th 96]that they had to go there “to take care of something.” Witness No. 16 understood Ortiz's comment to mean they were going to kill someone. While in Torres's room, Ortiz and Palma took

[281 P.3d 938]

methamphetamine and Palma shaved his head.

Sometime before 9 p.m., the men left for El Monte in two groups. Logan drove in his Nissan Maxima with defendant, Palma and Torres, and Witness No. 16 followed in his Ford Thunderbird with Ortiz and Creepy. When they arrived in El Monte, Logan pulled into, or stopped in front of, Maria's driveway on Maxson Road and turned off his headlights. Witness No. 16 drove a few blocks further down the street, pulled over, and turned off the car and the headlights. Ortiz exited the Thunderbird, walked back toward Maxson Road and looked up and down the street. According to several witnesses who were visiting Maria's neighbors that night, the driver of the Nissan remained in the car while three Hispanic men exited and walked down Maria's driveway. After six to eight gunshots rang out, the three men—one holding a handgun—ran back to the Nissan, which then drove away with its lights off. Witness No. 8, who was one of Maria's neighbors, also heard several gunshots at Maria's apartment. A short time later, Maria's six- or seven-year old son—crying, screaming, and covered in blood—came to Witness No. 8's house and said his mother and siblings had been shot. Witness No. 8 then called the police.

Ortiz returned to Witness No. 16's car as police began to arrive and said “Let's go,” “Let's get out of here.” When they returned to Torres's house, Logan's Nissan was already in the driveway and defendant, Palma, Logan and Torres were inside listening to a police scanner “to see if the people were dead.” The men began discussing the shootings on Maxson Road. In front of defendant, Palma said that, while he showed a man some heroin, “Primo had shot him in the head.” He also said that, “after the man had got shot,” “the lady with the baby said that it wasn't her problem,” at which point he “pulled out the gun and shot her and let off rounds on the kids.” Defendant confirmed Palma's statements, explaining that “he had shot one guy in the temple and another guy running away from him.” Torres said he had “stood by the door with the shotgun making sure nobody would walk up.” Logan drove the Nissan and waited in the car while the murders took place.

Responding to Witness No. 8's call, police arrived at the scene of the shooting about 10:40 p.m. They found Dido lying on the ground in a pool of blood just outside of the door to Maria's apartment. Inside the door, Maria was lying face down on the floor in a pool of blood. Next to her, Laura was lying face down in a pool of blood and Ambrose was lying on his back with a gunshot through his eye. Tito was lying face down between the bed and the wall. A three- or four-year-old girl was hiding in the corner.

[55 Cal.4th 97]Dido died from a single gunshot to the head. The bullet entered his skull near the right ear and exited from the left side. A contact wound to the skin indicated that the gun had been pressed to his head when fired. Tito died from a gunshot to the top of the head. A contact wound indicated [144 Cal.Rptr.3d 882]that the gun had been pressed to his head when fired. Tito also had a nonfatal gunshot wound through his left shoulder. The position of his body was consistent...

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