People v. Welch

Decision Date01 June 1999
Docket NumberNo. S011323,S011323
Citation85 Cal.Rptr.2d 203,976 P.2d 754,20 Cal.4th 701
Parties, 976 P.2d 754, 99 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 4127, 1999 Daily Journal D.A.R. 5242 The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. David Esco WELCH, Defendant and Appellant
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court

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George C. Boisseau, Santa Rosa, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant.

Daniel E. Lungren and Bill Lockyer, Attorneys General, George Williamson, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Ronald A. Bass, Assistant Attorney General, Ronald E. Niver and Catherine A. Rivlin, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.


A jury found defendant David Esco Welch guilty of six counts of first degree murder in a single incident during the morning of December 8, 1986. It also found him guilty of two counts of attempted murders in connection with the same incident, and one count of concealing a firearm as an ex-felon. It found true a multiple-murder special-circumstance allegation. (Pen.Code, § 190.2, subd. (a)(3).) 1 At the penalty phase, it fixed his sentence at death. The trial court sentenced him accordingly. This appeal is automatic. (§ 1239, subd. (b).) We affirm the judgment in its entirety.

A. The Prosecution's Case

In the morning hours of December 8, 1986, defendant and his girlfriend at the time, Rita Lewis, broke down the front door of Barbara Mabrey's home in Oakland, and killed six persons as they were sleeping in various rooms. Among the dead were Dellane Mabrey, the 16-year-old daughter of Barbara Mabrey and former lover of defendant, Sean and Darnell Mabrey, Barbara Mabrey's 21-year-old and 22-year-old sons, Catherine Walker and her 4-year-old son, Dwayne Miller, and Valencia Morgan, Dellane Mabrey and Leslie Morgan's 2-year-old daughter. Four people survived the attack: Barbara Mabrey escaped through the back door; her son Stacey Mabrey avoided detection by hiding in a bedroom closet; Leslie Morgan, though shot in the arm, feigned death and later escaped through the back door; and Dexter Mabrey, a nine-month-old child, was

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only grazed by one of the bullets that killed his mother and sister.

Dellane and Valencia had been shot in the head at close range. Sean had been shot in the chest and head while sleeping on the living room couch. His wounds were fatal, puncturing the aorta. Darnell Mabrey had also been fatally shot in the head while sleeping. Catherine Walker and Dwayne Miller had been shot while sleeping on the sofa in the den. They, too, had both been shot in the head at close range while asleep.

Defendant and the Mabreys had serious difficulties with each other in the few months before the shooting. Barbara Mabrey had met defendant in early 1986. Her daughter, Dellane, was dating defendant and said that defendant was Dexter's father. Around September 1986 Barbara and defendant had an argument over Dellane, with Barbara telling him to stay away. On October 9, 1986, shortly after Dexter was born, defendant broke into the house and at gunpoint took Dexter away from Barbara. Dellane and her daughter Valencia went with defendant and were gone for three days.

A few days later, when Barbara was going to the store, defendant drove up to her and spat at her from the car window, yelling "Bitch, you are dead." He followed her home, striking her in the knee with his car as she tried to flee into her home and laughing as he did it. A day later he told one of Barbara's friends to stay out of his business and to tell Barbara that she is a "dead bitch." On October 20, 1986, he confronted her again at a neighborhood market, throwing a liquid into her face. After cursing at her, he knocked her down and kicked her several times as she was on the ground. He escaped from the police on his motorcycle.

On October 29, 1986, defendant entered the Mabrey house about 3:00 a.m. with a friend named Kenny and confronted Leslie Morgan and Dellane, slapping the latter in the face. He pointed the pistol at Barbara, telling her not to get near him and saying that she "better not go to court and testify against him or his people" or else they were going to "take care of" her, and that she would be killed slowly, shooting her arms off first and then her legs. He also ordered Leslie Morgan to leave, forcing him to flee in his underwear. He pointed a .45-caliber pistol towards the floor as he left Dellane's room. He told Darnell Mabrey "don't do anything" as he pointed the gun in Darnell's direction. He left the residence.

Defendant was arrested for the October 29th incident, and wrote Barbara a letter from jail requesting that she drop the charges. He was eventually released on bail.

While at home with Dellane, Darnell, Sean, Stacey, Valencia and Dexter, Barbara received a visit from defendant on December 6, 1986, who apologized to her, although Barbara did not accept the apology. He came over with his two pit bull puppies, which had been placed in the yard, and, when he discovered one of them to be missing, angrily began accusing Darnell, Sean and Steve Early (who was also at the house) of taking the puppy. Denying he had taken the dog, Early left in his car with defendant close behind. As defendant left he told those present they had better find his dog or they would all be dead. Defendant then shot through Early's back window, all the while saying, "you stole my dogs, you motherfucker." He also said, as he was leaving, that they had better find his dog or they would all be dead.

Early the next day, on December 7, 1986, defendant and Rita Lewis went to the Mabrey house, asking Barbara not to testify against him in court, where she was scheduled to appear on December 9. He also talked about Barbara's involvement in taking his dogs. Later that evening, Stacey's car was hit by a car driven by Vanessa Walker. A car with defendant, Dolores Walker, and two men, "Billy the Kid" and William Henderson, drove up to the scene. Defendant got out of the car with a pistol in his hand and pistol-whipped Stacey's friend Perry. He kicked Dolores out of the car, saying something about a dog. Barbara heard him say that "you Stone City niggers" -- referring to the Stonehurst area of Oakland -- "better get my dog or somebody's going to die." Later he told Dolores Walker that "its [sic ] going to be some bullshit tonight."

In the early morning hours of December 8, 1986, defendant returned to the Mabrey

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house. Stacey, Barbara and Leslie Morgan all identified defendant as the shooter that morning. They all identified Lewis as his accomplice.

According to this testimony, defendant was carrying an Uzi carbine in his hand and Lewis was holding a .38-caliber revolver. Stacey Mabrey went to his room and hid near the closet as defendant looked past him in the room and asked, "where's Chuck," Stacey's younger brother, who normally slept in the room. Stacey heard several more shots. Urged by Lewis to leave, defendant left the house, limping and holding on to Lewis and another person who helped him into a car.

Barbara also woke up to gunshots and heard Dellane screaming, "no, Moochie, 2 don't." She saw Lewis pointing a gun and telling defendant to get out of the way. Lewis had a pistol in her hands and Barbara heard more gunfire before she escaped out of the house by the rear.

Leslie Morgan testified that defendant stood at close range as he shot Dellane, saying, "this is for you, bitch." He also shot Valencia in the head. Leslie grabbed him and struggled with him, knocking his Uzi to the ground. Rita Lewis shot Leslie in the shoulder as they struggled. After defendant found his gun, he shot Leslie twice more in the arm and Leslie played dead. Leslie did, however, see defendant straddle Dellane's body and heard another gunshot.

Defendant and Lewis went to Beverly Jermany's residence at 2116 103d Avenue in Oakland shortly after the murders, about 5:00 a.m. Defendant, who was a second cousin of Jermany, was laying on the porch and could not walk. He was in pain and only semi-conscious. Lewis told Jermany that she had accidentally shot him. She was carrying a pillowcase. Jermany asked Lewis whether it contained drugs and she said it did not. She took the pillowcase outside and did not return with it. Jermany eventually notified the police that defendant was at her house, and he and Lewis were apprehended.

The murder weapons were found in a pillowcase in the backyard of Jermany's house. There was an Uzi, a Smith and Wesson .357 handgun and a .38-caliber Taurus revolver. The Uzi had a 25-round capacity and was loaded with one round in the chamber and four rounds in the magazine. The .357 handgun was loaded and contained three live rounds and three spent rounds. The .38-caliber revolver was loaded with two live rounds and four expended cartridges. One slug recovered at the murder scene was fired from a Smith and Wesson .357. Other bullet fragments could have been fired by either a Smith and Wesson or a Taurus.

Burned clothing was recovered from the fireplace. Blood found on tennis shoes recovered from 2116 103d Avenue matched Leslie Morgan's blood. One of the tennis shoes could have made a shoe print found on Barbara Mabrey's front door.

B. The Defense

The defense was characterized by differing strategies by trial counsel and by defendant. Defendant was the first witness for the defense. Taking the stand without a recess, and over defense counsel's protest that he wanted time to speak with him to find out what questions to ask, defendant testified generally that he did not commit the murders. He declined to answer questions about who had shot him, and testified that he was shot in the leg between midnight and 5:00 a.m. in an incident at Scotty's liquor store, rather than at Barbara Mabrey's home. Defendant claimed that he had nothing to do with the shooting at the house the morning of December 8, 1986, and never threatened any of the Mabreys. He had gone to his...

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