People v. Williams

Citation751 P.2d 901,44 Cal.3d 1127,245 Cal.Rptr. 635
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Decision Date11 April 1988
Parties, 751 P.2d 901 The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Stanley WILLIAMS, Defendant and Appellant. In re Stanley WILLIAMS on Habeas Corpus. Crim. 21977, 23806.

John K. Van de Kamp, Atty. Gen., Steve White, Chief Assistant Atty. Gen., William R. Weisman, Herbert Wilkinson, Susanne C. Wylie, Christine C. Franklin, Michael Nash, Robert R. Anderson and Joan Comparet, Deputy Attys. Gen., Los Angeles, for plaintiff and respondent.

Bert H. Deixler, Leslie A. Swain, Los Angeles, for defendant and appellant.

LUCAS, Chief Justice.

Defendant was convicted of the murders of Alvin Owens, Thsai-Shai Yang, Yen-I Yang, and Yee Chen Lin, with special circumstances as to each count of felony murder (robbery) and multiple murder. The jury also convicted him of robbing each of these victims, and found he personally used a firearm during the commission of each crime. It then returned a verdict of death. This appeal under the 1978 death penalty law is automatic. A petition for a writ of habeas corpus was filed in conjunction with the appeal, and we issued an order to show cause thereon and appointed a referee. For purposes of consideration and disposition, we have consolidated the two matters herein. After careful review of defendant's arguments, we affirm the judgment, and deny the petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

A. The "7-Eleven" Murder

Alvin Owens was an employee at a 7-Eleven store in Whittier. Alfred Coward, known as "Blackie," testified as an immunized witness and gave the following account of Owens' death:

Approximately 10:30 p.m. on February 27, 1979, defendant came to Coward's house. The two went to the home of James Garrett (where defendant was staying) and defendant went inside, returning with a sawed-off shotgun. He was accompanied by a man named Darryl, who was wearing a brown corduroy jacket. The three men made several stops, including one to obtain "Sherms" (cigarettes containing phencyclidene (PCP)). They all shared a Sherm cigarette, and then picked up Tony Simms, who was dressed in a green jogging suit and a cap. Defendant shared a second Sherm with Coward and Simms, and asked Simms if he knew where he could "make money" in Pomona.

Taking two cars, the foursome made two unsuccessful restaurant and liquor store robbery attempts, 1 and eventually went to a 7-Eleven store where Owens, the victim, was sweeping the parking lot. Simms and Darryl went into the store followed by Owens, defendant and Coward. Coward testified he saw no one with a weapon except defendant, who approached Owens and told him to keep walking. Owens walked toward the back rooms of the store with defendant and Coward following him. Defendant told Owens to lie down and Owens complied. Coward heard a gun being loaded, heard a shot and glass breaking, 2 followed by two more shots. The group then returned to Simms' house where the money was divided. 3 Simms asked why defendant had shot Owens and defendant explained he did not want to leave any witnesses. He also said the shotgun shells could not be traced and that he had retrieved a few of them.

Coward saw defendant later that morning at the home of defendant's brother. He stated defendant told his brother, "You should have heard the way he sounded when I shot him." Defendant then made a growling noise and laughed hysterically for a number of minutes.

B. The Brookhaven Motel Murders

Robert Yang and his family owned and lived in the Brookhaven Motel on South Vermont Street in Los Angeles. About 5 a.m. on March 11, 1979, he heard a woman's screams and three or four shots. A few minutes later he left his bedroom and saw that the door separating the motel office from the living quarters was open. It appeared the door had been forced open from the outside. He discovered his father, mother and sister had all been fatally wounded by shotgun fire. The cash drawer was open and empty.

The police found two shotgun shell casings at the scene. A firearms expert testified that one of the shells could have been fired only from a weapon identified as having been purchased by defendant in 1974.

Three witnesses provided testimony regarding defendant's involvement in the Brookhaven incident. Samuel Coleman, testifying as an immunized witness, said that on March 10 he and defendant went to the Showcase Bar where he remained until it closed around 6 a.m. He last remembered seeing defendant about 2:30 a.m., but the next day defendant told him that he had robbed and killed some people on Vermont Street. Defendant said he got approximately $50 and was going to use it to buy PCP.

James Garrett testified that defendant kept some of his possessions at the Garrett house and stayed there approximately five days a week. Early on the morning of March 13, 1979, defendant told Garrett and his wife that he had heard that some Chinese people had been killed on Vermont Street. He said he did not know how the killings had occurred but thought the killers were professionals because no shells or witnesses had been left. He went on to say that he heard the killings had occurred at 5 o'clock in the morning, that two men had knocked down the door, and that the men had taken $600.

Later, defendant again spoke about how the people were killed. "[A]fter the big guy knocked the door down, he went in the motel, and there was a guy laying on the couch, and he blew him away." Defendant said the man on the couch and a woman at the cash register were shot twice, and another woman was also shot. Garrett testified defendant told him he was the "big guy." 4

Esther Garrett testified to essentially the same matters as her husband James. In addition to the admissions testified to by Mr. Garrett, Esther Garrett said defendant told them the killers were using the money to buy "juice" (PCP) and that the killers had picked up the bullets so there would be no evidence for the police. After her husband left, defendant told Mrs. Garrett he had committed the murder with his brother-in-law.

George Oglesby, also known as "Gunner," provided additional testimony. Oglesby was an inmate who was housed in the same cell block as defendant, a few cells away. 5 Oglesby testified that in late April defendant asked him about the chances of escaping from Atascadero or Patton, where he believed he might be sent. He later asked Oglesby if he wished to be included in an escape plan and Oglesby indicated he did. Defendant outlined a plan complete with drawings that involved escaping while being transferred from jail to court. According to the plan, as summarized by Oglesby, two people from "the outside" would disarm the officer driving the bus. Defendant also planned to kill a person on the bus who was to testify against him, as well as the two officers who would accompany the bus. Defendant later modified the plan to include blowing up the bus in order to prevent the authorities from quickly determining who had escaped.

Oglesby received two notes from defendant, one stating that a female visitor was not the girlfriend who was to be involved in the escape and the second stating that a female visitor had a new shotgun for him. A few days after receiving the notes Oglesby told Lt. Fitzgerald what he knew about the escape.

After talking to Lt. Fitzgerald, Oglesby again communicated with defendant about an escape. In one note defendant stated that someone on the outside had obtained dynamite for him. Another note asked whether they should delay their escape because his brother had been sentenced to three months for an earlier attempt to help him escape from jail. Oglesby testified he told defendant that it probably would be better to escape earlier rather than wait. In another note defendant asked whether they should escape at his next court appearance or try to go to the Los Angeles County Hospital and attempt an escape from there. Another note stated that "Blackie" was a heartbeat away from death and asked if Oglesby's wife had made arrangements to get weapons. In a subsequent note defendant suggested giving Oglesby's wife's phone number to his girlfriend, observed that his girlfriend had gotten a pump shotgun, and stressed his hope that Oglesby's wife had weapons. The note also directed Oglesby to phone his wife and make plans so she could arrange a meeting with a woman named "Lynn" to help with the escape.

The first target date for the escape was June 12, 1979. The plan was aborted, however, because defendant had no way of arranging to get Oglesby to court at the same time. In addition, Oglesby testified that after one of defendant's court appearances, defendant told him he had to cancel the escape attempt because he believed two police vehicles were following the bus. He then altered the plan so the attempt would occur after they left court.

In addition to relating the escape plans, Oglesby also testified defendant told him that he, Blackie, and two others had robbed a motel and had shot the people inside--a man, a woman and a child, possibly a daughter.

C. The Defense

Defendant presented an alibi defense. Beverly McGowan testified that on February 27, 1979, the night of Owens' murder, she and defendant dined and spent the night together.

Fred Holiwell, defendant's stepfather, testified that on Sunday morning, March 11, he arrived at the Showcase Bar around 3:30 a.m. He stated he thought he saw defendant there about 5 a.m. in the parking lot area. He remembered that he had seen his stepson there on this particular night because defendant had been involved in an altercation and had been cut across the chest.

Eugene Riley, an inmate in the same cell block as defendant, testified that on the morning of March 11, 1979, he saw defendant in the parking lot of the Showcase Bar about 5 a.m. and gave him a ride home around 5:30 a.m., and that defendant was smoking a Sherm. 6 Joseph McFarland,...

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