People v. White, 91SA248

Decision Date10 January 1994
Docket NumberNo. 91SA248,91SA248
Citation870 P.2d 424
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Ronald Lee WHITE, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtColorado Supreme Court

Gale A. Norton, Atty. Gen., Raymond T. Slaughter, Chief Deputy Atty. Gen., Timothy M. Tymkovich, Sol. Gen., John Daniel Dailey, Deputy Atty. Gen., Robert Mark Russel, First Asst. Atty. Gen., Robert M. Petrusak, Asst. Atty. Gen., Criminal Enforcement Section, Denver, for plaintiff-appellee.

David F. Vela, Colorado State Public Defender, Michael J. Heher, Deputy State Public Defender, Denver, for defendant-appellant.

Justice VOLLACK delivered the Opinion of the Court.

Appellant Ronald Lee White (White) automatically appeals the district court's sentence of death entered in People v. White, No. 90CR97 (May 16, 1991). 1 The district court entered a judgment of conviction upon White's plea of guilty to the charge of first-degree murder after deliberation of Paul Vosika (Vosika). After holding both a providency hearing on the guilty plea and a sentencing hearing, the district court entered a sentence of death pursuant to section 16-11-103, 8A C.R.S. (1986). We affirm the district court's imposition of a sentence of death.

I. THE FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The district court imposed a sentence of death in the Vosika case based in part on guilty pleas which White entered in two first-degree homicide cases, involving the deaths of Victor Lee Woods and Raymond Garcia. Since some of the issues raised in the direct appeal involve the factual background underlying all three homicides, the facts of each are presented below.

A. THREE HOMICIDES
Victor Lee Woods

On January 25, 1988, White met Victor Lee Woods (Woods) outside of a bar in Colorado Springs when Woods asked White for a ride home. 2 Upon arrival at Woods' home, White stated that Woods invited him inside for a beer. White entered Woods' apartment and read magazines while Woods went to another part of the apartment. Woods returned a few minutes later and made a sexual advance towards White while threatening White with a knife. White took the knife away from Woods and proceeded to beat Woods who subsequently left the room. Woods returned and attacked White, and the two proceeded to have a second fight, during which White repeatedly stabbed Woods. White eventually left Woods in the bedroom and set fires in the bedroom in the immediate area of Woods' body, in the closet, and in the living room.

On April 12, 1988, White entered a plea of guilty to a charge of first-degree murder with respect to Woods' homicide. White received a sentence of life.

Raymond Garcia

White entered the night clerk's office at the Hampton Inn in Pueblo. While attempting to rob the Inn, White shot both Raymond Garcia (Garcia) in the back of his head, and Robert Martinez in his jaw. Garcia died as a result of the gunshot.

On April 8, 1988, White entered a plea of guilty to the charges of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, and aggravated robbery. White received a sentence of life with respect to the first-degree murder charge.

Paul Vosika

On March 26, 1988, Corporal Roger Gomez (Officer Gomez) received a telephone call from a farmer who stated that he had discovered a decomposed animal or human body near the Cedarwood Lane and Abbey Road area in Colorado City in Pueblo County. Officer Gomez proceeded to the location described by the farmer and subsequently discovered a decomposed human torso. Officer Gomez noted that the torso did not have either a head or hands attached to it.

On May 7, 1988, Officer Gomez responded to a telephone call wherein Officer Gomez learned that a skull had been discovered in Rye Mountain Park, in Pueblo County. Officer Gomez went to the location and found the skull in a ravine. Officer Gomez also located some plastic bags, remnants of some black plastic, and a quarter-inch, knotted, white cord in an area where he found what appeared to be a shallow grave. In the same area, Officer Gomez found a pair of black leather gloves, and a miter saw that was partially covered by some pine needles.

On May 9, 1988, Dr. Glen Ferguson, Vosika's stepfather, filed a missing person report, informing Officer Gomez that Vosika had been missing for approximately eight or nine months, since late August or early September, 1987. Dr. Ferguson supplied Officer Gomez with a photograph of Vosika.

James Kramer (Kramer), the Pueblo County Coroner, was present with Officer Gomez when he located both the torso and the skull. After receiving the reports of a forensic pathologist and of a forensic anthropologist, Kramer determined that the torso belonged to Vosika. In May 1988, through both dental identification and cross-referencing dental records, Kramer determined that the skull belonged to Vosika. Kramer ascertained that a single gunshot wound to the head was the cause of Vosika's death. Kramer determined that a gunshot entered the back of Vosika's head and exited in the cheekbone region.

On May 12, 1989, while incarcerated at Centennial Correctional Facility, White entered a plea of guilty to a charge of second-degree assault on another inmate, committed on December 12, 1988.

B. STATEMENTS MADE BY WHITE White's Statements to Officer Perko

On November 30, 1989, and on December 8, 1989, White gave statements to Correctional Officer Frank Perko (Officer Perko). Officer Perko prepared a report based on the statements and forwarded the report to the District Attorney's office. White told Officer Perko that he and Vosika were good friends, and had both consumed and sold narcotics together. White stated that their relationship had deteriorated because Vosika owed White a sum of money that he could not pay. White additionally suspected Vosika of stealing his wallet, which had contained $1,500. White confronted Vosika and informed him that if he did not pay White the money he owed White, then White would kill him. Vosika explained that he would rob a place in order to repay White. They agreed to go to Cheyenne, Wyoming, to execute the robbery.

When they arrived at a truck stop in Cheyenne, Vosika refused to execute the plan. White drove to a secluded area, made Vosika get out of the car and kneel, while begging for his life. White stated that he placed a book against Vosika's head and shot him. He subsequently returned to Colorado.

White informed Officer Perko that he buried the body but subsequently unearthed it and severed the head and hands. White stated that he disposed of the parts in different locations, and later gave Officer Perko a map showing where he buried the body parts and the saw. White also indicated to Officer Perko that he wanted to be transferred to Wyoming.

White's Statements to Officer Gomez

In December of 1989, Officer Gomez and Detective McCain went to Centennial to interview White. At that time, investigation of the Vosika murder had been on inactive status. On December 22, 1989, Officer Gomez had a conversation with White, wherein White informed Officer Gomez that Vosika was heavily involved in drugs and stole things from his friends and family in order to maintain his habit. White stated that Vosika stole two ounces of cocaine and approximately $1,500 from White's wallet. White informed Officer Gomez that he had planned on killing Vosika as a result of the thefts. White stated that he planned a robbery of a truck stop in Cheyenne, Wyoming. White intended to take Vosika to the truck stop and direct Vosika to complete the robbery, after which Vosika could repay White the money stolen. White informed Officer Gomez that he planned Vosika's last meal when purchasing a case of beer.

White told Officer Gomez that he proceeded to Wyoming with Vosika, but when the two arrived in Cheyenne, Vosika began to "chicken out" when he saw a security guard. As a consequence, White forced Vosika to go to the rear of the vehicle and kneel on the ground. Vosika, according to White, was crying, so White called him a "bitch" and directed him to "stop crying and die like a man." For the following half hour, Vosika cried and begged for his life. White eventually retrieved a paperback novel from the rear of his vehicle, placed it behind Vosika's head, and shot him through the back of the head. White stated that he used the book to "cause less blood."

White picked Vosika up and threw him in the trunk, covering him with a beige curtain. White returned to Pueblo and retired for the evening. The next day, he watched a television program before driving the body to Colorado City. He found a bushy area near the side of the road. He removed Vosika's body from the trunk and pushed or kicked it through a barbed wire fence. At some point, a man, woman and small child approached in a red truck. White moved the curtain in order to hide the body, but stated that he had a gun accessible in the waistband of his pants and would have shot the people if necessary. The truck eventually drove off. White became upset as a result of the truck's passing, so he struck Vosika's head twice with a shovel. White placed the body approximately thirty feet from the south side of the road and returned to Pueblo.

While in Pueblo, White became concerned that the people in the red truck saw him place the body away from the road. White then decided to return and dismember the body in order to prevent identification of it by destroying evidence of fingerprints and dental charts. White procured a miter saw, a shovel, some plastic bags, and some cord. He returned to the body later that night. White first removed Vosika's hand by placing his foot on Vosika's forearm and holding his hand. White stated that it felt strange to hold Vosika's hand because it felt as if he were holding his own hand. White stated that he was surprised at how easily the hand was removed.

White told Officer Gomez that he wrapped Vosika's head in a plastic bag and secured the bag with a cord. White propped the head up and...

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