People v. Winbush, S117489

Decision Date26 January 2017
Docket NumberS117489
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court
Parties The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Grayland WINBUSH, Defendant and Appellant.

Richard Jay Moller, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant.

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Dane R. Gillette and Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant Attorneys General, Ronald S. Matthias, Assistant Attorney General, Glenn R. Pruden, Alice B. Lustre and Karen Z. Bovarnick, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

Corrigan, J.Ten days after he was released from the California Youth Authority, defendant Grayland Winbush murdered a young woman in her home during a robbery. The victim was beaten, stabbed, and ultimately strangled to death while her boyfriend was out Christmas shopping. The jury convicted defendant of murder in the course of a robbery, with personal use of a deadly weapon.1 It fixed the penalty at death. We affirm.

A. Guilt Phase
1. Events Before the Murder

In December 1995, 20-year-old Erika Beeson lived with 21-year-old Mario Botello in an Oakland apartment. The building had a security gate, and visitors had to be "buzzed in" to enter. Botello sold small amounts of marijuana, mostly to people he knew. He grew up in South Berkeley and had been childhood friends with Norman Patterson. He was 14 when he first met defendant.

Defendant was arrested at age 14 for driving a stolen car and spent the next four years in custody at the California Youth Authority (CYA).2 On December 12, 1995, at the age of 19, he was released on parole subject to electronic monitoring. Defendant soon began contacting friends, including Patterson. By that time, Patterson's sister had married defendant's brother.

During the weeks before defendant's release, Patterson and Botello had spent time together. On December 20, about a week after defendant came home, Patterson took defendant to visit Botello's apartment. Botello, Patterson, and defendant spent the visit talking and smoking marijuana. Beeson was home but did not join the conversation. At one point, defendant noticed a shotgun in the room. He asked if Botello could get him a gun, explaining he wanted to rob some drug dealers. The conversation made Botello uncomfortable. He did not want to help defendant, who was acting aggressively. Botello gave defendant $40 and talked about helping him find a job, but defendant did not appear grateful. Defendant and Patterson left after about an hour.

During the next two days, defendant called Botello five or six times asking for help obtaining a large-caliber gun. Defendant said he wanted to rob some drug dealers in Hayward and asked if Botello knew others he could rob. In one conversation, defendant asked if Botello loved his girlfriend. Botello thought the question was odd but did not consider it a threat. He tried to put defendant off politely, hoping he would drop the subject of guns. Nevertheless, defendant insisted Botello find him a firearm by the end of the week.

December 22 was the day of the murder. Around noon or 1:00 p.m., Maceo Smith brought defendant to the house he shared with his girlfriend, Iva Mosely. Smith had long known defendant but had not seen him in four years. Among other things, the two men discussed committing a robbery together later that night. They called Botello to ask about the gun and announced they would be at his apartment in about 20 minutes. Botello and Smith were close friends. Botello left home immediately, however, to avoid encountering defendant. He asked Beeson to say he would be back later.

After defendant and Smith left, Mosely called Beeson to warn her they were coming. The women were friends and had shared their view that defendant was "weird." Beeson was still speaking with Mosely when defendant and Smith arrived, around 3:00 p.m. They climbed over the security gate and knocked on the apartment door. Beeson opened the door a crack and told them Botello was not home.

Defendant was angry that Botello had left and suggested robbing Botello. Smith refused to participate. Later that evening, defendant called Smith repeatedly. Smith avoided the calls. He and Mosely went to a movie, returning home shortly after 9:00 p.m.

Various witnesses established the following timeline. Around 3:45 p.m., Botello went Christmas shopping with his friend Grace Sumisaki. He called Beeson between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. Beeson also spoke to her mother around 6:00 p.m. Two other friends stopped by the apartment in the same time frame. Another friend tried calling Beeson around 8:00 or 9:00 that evening, but the line was busy.

Botello's uncle, Andrew Williams, called around 7:35 p.m. and spoke briefly to Beeson. Williams arrived at Beeson and Botello's apartment between 7:45 and 8:00 p.m. Another young man was ringing the security buzzer, but he soon left. Williams rang the buzzer for about 10 minutes. No one answered. He then went to a friend's house and called the apartment about 10 times between 8:15 and 9:15 p.m. Each time, the line was busy.

2. The Murder

Around 8:00 p.m., defendant and Patterson went to Botello's apartment, intending to rob him. Beeson buzzed them through the security gate and met them at the apartment door. Patterson said he wanted to buy some marijuana. Beeson hesitated when she saw defendant but then let them both inside.

Defendant told Patterson to put the couple's puppies in a bedroom. Patterson returned with Botello's shotgun and picked up some containers of marijuana lying nearby. Defendant searched the bedroom and took $300. Defendant became irritated because Beeson did not seem to be taking the robbery seriously. He removed his belt and forced Beeson to the floor. Both he and Patterson choked her. Beeson struggled throughout but remained conscious. After a few minutes, at defendant's direction, Patterson brought him a butcher knife from the kitchen. Defendant stabbed Beeson repeatedly in the face, shoulder, and neck. He and Patterson left immediately afterward. Defendant took the knife with him. Patterson drove to Aquatic Park in Berkeley, where defendant threw the knife in the lagoon.

Defendant and Patterson picked up Smith shortly after he returned home from the movies. The trio went out drinking. Smith noticed defendant now had money to spend.

3. Investigation
a. Discovery of the Crime Scene

Knowing her boyfriend would be out, Beeson invited two friends to come over. Jennifer Onweller called around 8:00 p.m. to tell Beeson that she and Amy Kekki were on their way. The line was busy, which worried Onweller because she knew Beeson had call waiting. After several tries, Onweller called the operator and confirmed the phone was off the hook.

Onweller and Kekki arrived at Beeson's apartment around 9:30 p.m. and found the security gate propped open. The apartment door was locked, and no one responded when they knocked. The lights and television were on, but the television was tuned to a sports channel, which was unusual for Beeson. The bedroom door was shut, and they could not see Beeson or the dogs inside. Onweller and Kekki then walked around the corner to a park to see if Beeson had taken her dogs for a walk. Unsuccessful, they returned to the apartment, and Onweller began writing a note. As she did so, Botello arrived. He found the door locked and could hear the dogs barking. Not having a key with him, he removed a screen and opened a window to enter.

The apartment had been ransacked. Beeson lay on the living room floor, covered in blood. She was not breathing. A wadded-up strip of masking tape and pieces of a gold rope necklace lay on the floor near her. The robbers had left a roll of masking tape nearby on the floor. Onweller found the telephone, which had been knocked off the hook, and called 911. Botello spoke with the dispatcher. Sounding "frantic" and "terrified," Botello insisted an ambulance be sent immediately.

Police and an ambulance arrived, but Beeson had expired.

An autopsy revealed Beeson died from "[a]sphyxiation due to strangulation and multiple stab wounds

." She had multiple scrapes and bruises on her arms, legs, back, and face, including a bruise on her nose matching the size and shape of Botello's shotgun barrel. A ligature mark circling her neck could have been made by a belt. She also had nine stab wounds on her face and neck.

b. Investigation and Arrests

Botello's shotgun, some marijuana, a piece of stereo equipment, and $300 in cash had been stolen. Botello told police he suspected defendant, Smith, and Patterson were responsible.

On December 26, the police discovered that defendant's electronic monitoring ankle bracelet had been disabled from 7:04 p.m. on the night of the murder through Christmas Day. They conducted a brief parole search and adjusted defendant's bracelet but were not ready to question him about Beeson's murder. They did question Smith, however. Smith gave them an unusually precise, "minute-by-minute" alibi for the night of the murder. As the investigation continued, a number of witnesses reported that defendant was bragging about the murder.

On April 4, 1996, defendant and an accomplice were arrested for robbing a gas station. Defendant initially gave the police two false names. Questioned about the murder, defendant admitted he had met Beeson twice at Botello's apartment but denied ever speaking with her. About a week after this interview, defendant pled guilty to the gas station robbery and remained in custody.

While defendant was in jail, Julia P. called the police anonymously to report that she had heard defendant telling his cousin about the murder. Julia knew defendant's cousin, Lakeisha Lovely, and Patterson's girlfriend, Latonya Wilson. According to the caller, defendant said he had broken off his ankle bracelet, then robbed and killed a young Caucasian girl in her home. When Julia heard "Mario's girlfriend" had been stabbed, she was confused about why defendant would have...

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  • Chapter 5 - §2. Elements for exclusion
    • United States
    • Full Court Press California Guide to Criminal Evidence Chapter 5 Exclusion of Evidence on Constitutional Grounds
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    ...671 F.3d 863, 869; see People v. Case (2018) 5 Cal.5th 1, 25; People v. Wall (2017) 3 Cal.5th 1048, 1065-66; People v. Winbush (2017) 2 Cal.5th 402, 452; People v. Duff (2014) 58 Cal.4th 527, 555; McWhorter, 47 Cal.4th at 347; People v. Thompson (1990) 50 Cal.3d 134, 166. When evaluating th......
  • Chapter 4 - §3. Character evidence offered to prove propensity
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    ...must present evidence to establish that the prior accusation was false. Tidwell, 163 Cal.App.4th at 1457; see People v. Winbush (2017) 2 Cal.5th 402, 469 (relevance requires evidence that accusation was made and that accusation was false); People v. Alvarez (1996) 14 Cal.4th 155, 201 (relev......
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    ...4-A, §3.2.3 People v. Wimberly, 5 Cal. App. 4th 773, 7 Cal. Rptr. 2d 152 (1st Dist. 1992)—Ch. 5-B, §2.2.2(3)(a)[3] People v. Winbush, 2 Cal. 5th 402, 213 Cal. Rptr. 3d 1, 387 P.3d 1187 (Cal. 2017)—Ch. 4-A, §3.3.1(1)(a); C, §6.5.6; Ch. 5-B, §2.2.2; §4.2.1(1); Ch. 6, §2.2.3(1); §3.4.1 People ......
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