People v. Williams

Citation56 Cal.4th 630,299 P.3d 1185,156 Cal.Rptr.3d 214
Decision Date19 June 2013
Docket NumberNo. S030553.,S030553.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
PartiesThe PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. George Brett WILLIAMS, Defendant and Appellant.

56 Cal.4th 630
299 P.3d 1185
156 Cal.Rptr.3d 214

The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
George Brett WILLIAMS, Defendant and Appellant.

No. S030553.

Supreme Court of California

May 6, 2013.
Rehearing Denied June 19, 2013.



See 5 Witkin & Epstein, Cal. Criminal Law (4th ed. 2012) Criminal Trial, § 589, 590.

[156 Cal.Rptr.3d 224]

Daniel N. Abrahamson, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant.


Bill Lockyer and Kamala D. Harris, Attorneys General, Robert R. Anderson and Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorneys General, Pamela C. Hamanaka and Lance E. Winters, Assistant Attorneys General, John R. Gorey, Jamie L. Fuster and Stephanie A. Miyoshi, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

CANTIL–SAKAUYE, C.J.

[299 P.3d 1193][56 Cal.4th 636]A Los Angeles County jury found defendant George Brett Williams guilty of two first degree murders and found true the special circumstance allegations of multiple murder and that the murders were committed while defendant was engaged in the commission or attempted commission of a robbery. (Pen.Code, §§ 187, 189, 190.2, subd. (a)(3), (17).) 1 The jury further found defendant guilty of two counts of second degree robbery and found true that defendant personally used a firearm in the commission of the felony offenses. (§§ 211, 12022.5.) After the penalty phase, the jury returned a verdict of death. The trial court denied defendant's motion for new trial (§ 1181) and for modification of the penalty (§ 190.4, subd. (e)) and sentenced him to death. This appeal is automatic. ( Cal. Const., art. VI, § 11; § 1239, subd. (b).)

We affirm the judgment.

[56 Cal.4th 637]Introduction

On January 2, 1990, Willie Thomas and Jack Barron were fatally shot at close range in a house on Spring Street in Los Angeles. Their bodies were dragged to a truck parked in the garage, where they were found when the police arrived in response to a neighbor's call reporting gunshots. The prosecution's theory was that defendant shot both victims [299 P.3d 1194]in the course of a robbery that had begun as a drug transaction. According to prosecution witnesses, earlier that evening defendant had planned to scam the victims through a fraudulent drug transaction at a bar parking lot by trading fake money for drugs. The victims met defendant at the bar parking lot, but, for reasons unknown, the transaction did not occur there. Instead, later that evening, the victims came to the Spring Street house, which was a frequent hangout for defendant and three associates. According to the testimony of the three associates, all of whom had pleaded guilty in prior proceedings, defendant shot both victims. Additionally, two neighbors to the Spring Street house testified that defendant was present at the house on the night of the killings. The prosecution presented evidence that the pager found at the scene of the crime was defendant's, and that his fingerprints were found in the room where the victims had been shot and on the truck to which the victims' bodies had been dragged. The prosecution also presented evidence that defendant fled Los Angeles after the shooting, and that, upon his return two weeks later, he sought to pay some new acquaintances to fabricate an alibi for him for the night of the killings.

I. Facts
A. Guilt Phase
1. Prosecution Case

The prosecution presented evidence of the murders and the drug deal surrounding it largely through the testimony of two of defendant's accomplices, Patrick Linton

[156 Cal.Rptr.3d 225]

and Dauras Cyprian.2 Their testimony was corroborated by the testimony of other witnesses, telephone records, and physical evidence.

a. Background

Defendant socialized with Patrick Linton, Dauras Cyprian, and Dino Lee. This group often gathered at a house on Spring Street, where Cyprian's half [56 Cal.4th 638]brother, Ernie Pierre, lived.3 On the upstairs floor of the house was a vacant small apartment, where victims Willie Thomas and Jack Barron were shot on January 2, 1990. Cyprian and his mother, Marcella Pierre, lived in a house across the street.

b. Preparations for the Drug Deal

In the week prior to the killings, defendant mentioned to Linton that he intended to “jack someone for some money,” meaning that he intended to scam someone through a fraudulent drug deal. On the day of the killings, defendant was socializing with Linton and Cyprian at the Spring Street house. Defendant told Linton he was going to set up a drug deal with victims Jack Barron and Willie Thomas. Telephone records indicated that, on the day of the killings, three calls were made between defendant's house and an air conditioning business called A.R.A. Victims Barron and Thomas worked at A.R.A. Fellow A.R.A. employee Londell Richardson testified that, on the day of the killings, he overheard a telephone conversation by Thomas and Barron indicating that, after work, they were planning to go to a bar to transact a drug deal involving $50,000 and three or four kilos of cocaine.

In preparation for the drug transaction, defendant, Linton, and Cyprian went to defendant's house, where defendant assembled packages of torn-up phonebook pages, which he wrapped to resemble bundles of cash and then placed in a plastic bag. Defendant also brought three guns, which were later found at the scene of the crime, a .38–caliber Smith & Wesson revolver, a .380–caliber Titan automatic pistol, and a carbine rifle.

c. Meeting at a Bar Parking Lot

Linton testified to the following events: Linton drove defendant and Cyprian in Linton's truck, a blue Chevy Blazer, to the parking lot of a bar. Defendant got out of the truck and went over to talk to Barron, whose [299 P.3d 1195]truck was parked in the back of the lot. Thomas stood next to Barron's truck. Defendant spoke with the victims, Barron and Thomas, for 30 to 45 minutes.4 Defendant returned to Linton's truck and told Linton that they were going to [56 Cal.4th 639]follow Barron and Thomas to a house in South Gate. Barron and Thomas drove out of the parking lot together in a blue Chevy Sprint, an A.R.A. company car that Thomas often drove. Defendant, Linton, and Cyprian followed the Sprint as far as the freeway, but defendant decided at the last moment

[156 Cal.Rptr.3d 226]

not to follow it to the house in South Gate, and told Linton to drive instead back to defendant's house. There they dropped off the guns and the plastic bag of fake cash.

Cyprian gave a slightly different account than Linton of the events at the bar parking lot, testifying as follows: While he was waiting in Linton's truck, he saw a Camaro drive in. A Hispanic man got out of the Camaro and approached Linton's truck. After the Hispanic man walked away, Linton said, “That was Tony.” “Tony” then went over and talked to defendant and Barron. Barron left with Tony in the Camaro. Linton, however, denied seeing someone named Tony that night.

Jose Pequeno's testimony was in accord with Linton's that Barron and Thomas left together in the blue Sprint.

d. Shootings at the Spring Street House

Linton and Cyprian gave substantially similar testimony concerning the events at the Spring Street house later that night. Defendant and Linton drove to the Spring Street house in separate cars. Defendant drove his Mercedes 190, which he parked in the driveway.5 Linton drove his Chevy Blazer, with Cyprian as his passenger, and parked in front of the house. Defendant, Linton, and Cyprian stayed in front of the house drinking beer for about an hour. They eventually made their way to the vacant upstairs apartment and continued to drink and smoke marijuana. At some point, defendant received a page and made a call. Defendant told Linton that Barron wanted to come to the house to do the drug deal. In the meantime, Dino Lee had arrived and joined the others in the upstairs apartment.6 About 10 minutes after Lee arrived, Barron and Thomas arrived in the blue Sprint. Defendant went outside to talk to them. Defendant returned and told Linton that they should go to defendant's house to get the guns and the fake cash. They left and returned while Barron and Thomas waited in their car parked outside.

Defendant, Linton, Barron, and Thomas then went to the upstairs apartment, where Cyprian and Lee were waiting. Linton entered the apartment first, and heard someone say, “Get down.” Cyprian testified that defendant [56 Cal.4th 640]said, “Don't nobody move,” and pulled out a .38–caliber revolver. Linton was armed with a .380–caliber weapon. Barron and Thomas lay prone on the floor. Defendant took shoestrings out of his coat pocket and instructed the others to tie the victims' hands and feet. Cyprian went through the victims' pockets and removed their wallets.

Defendant propped up Barron, who was now bound, against one of the walls, with his feet in front of him and his hands behind his back. Defendant put the .38–caliber revolver up to Barron's face and told him he wanted three kilos of cocaine. At this point, defendant told Cyprian to move the victims' car, which was parked in front of the Spring Street house, in case the victims' associates came looking for them. Cyprian left the [299 P.3d 1196]apartment and went to re-park the victims' car around the block.

Defendant told Barron to talk to his associates on the phone, say that Barron had counted the money, and convince them to give defendant the cocaine. Defendant warned Barron not to speak any Spanish. Kneeling and holding his gun, defendant

[156 Cal.Rptr.3d 227]

dialed the phone and held the receiver up to Barron's ear. Barron told him that the phone was not making a connection. Still holding his gun, defendant brought the phone down and started redialing the number. While defendant was dialing, his gun discharged and shot Barron in the chest. Defendant exclaimed, “Ah, shit, Ah, shit, man.” Defendant then got up off his knees, walked over to Thomas, who was lying bound on the floor across the room, and shot him twice in the head. He then walked back over to Barron and shot him in the head once.

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