Seiterle v. Superior Court of Riverside County

Decision Date15 March 1962
Citation57 Cal.2d 397,369 P.2d 697,20 Cal.Rptr. 1
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court
Parties, 369 P.2d 697 David Jacob SEITERLE, Petitioner, v. The SUPERIOR COURT OF the COUNTY OF RIVERSIDE, Respondent. L. A. 26574.

Earl Klein, Beverly Hills, for petitioner.

Stanley Mosk, Atty. Gen., William E. James, Asst. Atty. Gen., Norman H. Sokolow, Deputy Atty. Gen., William O. Mackey, Dist. Atty., and Roland Wilson, Chief Trial Atty., Riverside, for respondent.

DOOLING, Justice.

The object of this proceeding is to prevent the respondent court from retrying the issue of penalty on two murder counts and so subjecting petitioner to 'double prosecution and double punishment for the same act in violation of his constitutional rights forbidding double jeopardy.' (U.S.Const., 5th Amend.; Cal.Const. art. I, § 13.)

Petitioner was indicted for the murders of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Duvel, and as to both counts he pleaded guilty to murder in the first degree. He also entered pleas of guilty to charges of several other crimes, including two counts of kidnaping for purposes of robbery with bodily harm and one count of conspiracy to commit murder in the first degree. Upon a trial on the sole issue of penalty, the jury fixed his punishment at death for each of the murders and at life imprisonment for each of the kidnaping offenses and for the conspiracy to commit murder. On appeal this court held that the tiral court committed prejudicial error by instructing the jury that 'a prisoner serving a life sentence might be paroled after seven years,' since the alternate punishment from death provided for kidnaping for purposes of robbery with bodily harm is life imprisonment without possibility of parole (Pen.Code, § 209); and had the jury realized that petitioner 'could not be paroled if sentenced to life imprisonment for the kidnapings, it might not have fixed his punishment at death for the first degree murders.' (People v. Seiterle, 56 A.C. 318, 321, 14 Cal.Rptr. 681, 683, 363 P.2d 913, 915.) Accordingly, the judgment was 'reversed insofar as it relate(d) to the issue of penalty for the offenses of first degree-murder' but 'the portion of the judgment' unqualifiedly 'imposing the sentences of life imprisonment for the offenses of kidnaping' was modified by adding the words 'without possibility of parole' and 'as so modified (was) affirmed.' (56 A.C. at pp. 321-322, 14 Cal.Rptr. at page 683, 363 P.2d at page 915; July 24, 1961.)

Retrial of the penalty issue was set for November 6, 1961. Petitioner unsuccessfully argued that such further proceedings contravened the provision of section 654 of the Penal Code precluding multiple prosecutions, and his motion for dismissal of the murder counts was denied.

Petitioner has properly applied to this court for relief. Prohibition is an appropriate remedy to prevent further proceedings in violation of the 'successive prosecution' prohibition of section 654, though the criminal acts are not 'necessarily included offenses.' (Neal v. State of California, 55 Cal.2d 11, 18, 9 Cal.Rptr. 607, 357 P.2d 839; see Rodriguez v. Superior Court, 27 Cal.2d 500, 501, 165 P.2d 1; Abelleira v. District Court of Appeal, 17 Cal.2d 280, 291, 109 P.2d 942, 132 A.L.R. 715.)

Section 654 provides: 'An act or omission which is made punishable in different ways by different provisions of this Code may be punished under either of such provisions, but in no case can it be punished under more than one; an acquittal or conviction and sentence under either one bars a prosecution for the same act or omission under any other.' (Emphasis added.)

It is petitioner's theory that because he has now been convicted and sentenced under the two counts charging him with kidnaping Mr. and Mrs. Duvel with bodily harm to them, section 654 bars the further prosecution of the two murder charges involving the killing of Mr. and Mrs. Duvel as a part of the same transactions. It is only if, as petitioner claims, the record compels the conclusion that the murders of Mr. and Mrs. Duvel were the culmination of an 'indivisible' transaction involving their kidnaping with bodily harm and terminating with their ultimate murders that the provisions of section 654 would properly be applicable. (Neal v. State of California supra, 55 Cal.2d 11, 19, 9 Cal.Rptr. 607, 357 P.2d 839; People v. Brown, 49 Cal.2d 577, 590-594, 320 P.2d 5.) As we stated in Neal 55 cal.2d at pages 19-20, 9 Cal.Rptr. at page 613, 357 P.2d at page 845:

'Whether a course of criminal conduct is divisible and therefore gives rise to more than one act within the meaning of section 654 depends on the intent and objective of the actor. If all of the offenses were incident to one objective, the defendant may be punished for any one of such offenses but not for more than one. * * *

'Thus in People v. Logan, 41 Cal.2d 279, 290, 260 P.2d 20, defendant, who chose to commit robbery by first knocking out his victim with a baseball bat and then taking his valuables was convicted of both robbery and assault. We reversed the assult conviction on the ground that the double punishment violated section 654. In In re Chapman, 43 Cal.2d 385, 387, 273 P.2d 817, however, we held that when the assault is not a means of perpetrating the robbery but is an act that follows after the robbery is completed the defendant is guilty of two punishable acts. Likewise in People v. Greer, 30 Cal.2d 589, 600, 184 P.2d 512, statutory rape and lewd and lascivious conduct were held to be one act since both offenses arose from a single act of sexual intercourse. In People v. Slobodion, 31 Cal.2d 555, 561-563, 191 P.2d 1, however, we sustained convictions for sex perversion and lewd and lascivious conduct, even though both acts were closely connected in time and a part of the same criminal venture since the act giving rise to the lewd and lascivious conduct was separate and distinct and was not incidental to or the means by which the act of sex perversion was accomplished.'

At the outset we notice that there was no trial on the issue of guilt of any of the offenses here involved because petitioner pleaded guilty to all of them. By pleading guilty to all of them without reserving, or attempting to reserve in any fashion, the question whether the kidnapings with bodily harm and the murders constituted indivisible transactions so as to prevent their double punishment under Penal Code, section 654, petitioner, at least prima facie, admitted that the crimes were separate and not indivisible. (See Berg v. United States, 9 Cir., 176 F.2d 122; Rice v. United States, 5 Cir., 30 F.2d 681; Ex parte Thomas, D.C., 55 F.Supp. 30; Ex parte Hall, 94 N.J.Eq. 108, 118 A. 347; People ex rel. Hetenyi v. Johnston, 10 A.D.2d 121, 198 N.Y.S.2d 18; People ex rel. Hornbeck v. Jackson, 7 A.D.2d 689, 179 N.Y.S.2d 315, cert. den. 359 U.S. 972, 79 S.Ct. 886, 3 L.Ed.2d 838.)

Evidence concerning the crimes was introduced by the prosecution and defense in the previous trial before a jury to determine the punishments to be imposed for the several crimes to which petitioner had pleaded guilty. That evidence was summarized in People v. Seiterle, supra, 56 A.C. at page 319-320, 14 Cal.Rptr. at pages 681, 682, 363 P.2d at pages 913, 914. As stated in that opinion at page 319, at page 681 of 14 Cal.Rptr., at page 913 of 363 P.2d: 'The evidence is conflicting as to whether defendant said it would be necessary to kill the Duvels because they would recognize him.' Petitioner's confederate Gentry testified that petitioner had so stated when they were planning the robbery and that he, Gentry, had expressed his disagreement. Petitioner not only denied making this statement but testified at length that at no time did he intend to kill either of them, and further testified that the killings were the sole acts of Gentry without petitioner's cooperation or consent. Gentry, who was admittedly the only one who stabbed the two victims, testified that the stabbing 'was sort of an impulsive thing that happened all of a sudden'; and that once he started he couldn't stop. It is clear that the record does not compel the finding that the killings were part of a preconceived plan and hence, in the language of Neal v. State of California quoted supra, that 'all of the offenses were incident to one objective.' The record is equally consistent with the view that the kidnapings were completed before the murders, which followed as an afterthought.

The only question remaining is the claim of petitioner that the murder of the victims is the very and only bodily harm inflicted upon them which rendered petitioner guilty of the offenses for which he has already been sentenced, i. e., kidnaping for the purpose of robbery with infliction of bodily harm. (See People v. Carter, 56 A.C. 568, 584, 15 Cal.Rptr. 645, 364 P.2d 477.) The victims were each tied by their hands and feet to the posts of the a bed with their arms and legs extended in a spreadeagle fashion. Mr. Duvel was nude and Mrs. Duvel nude to the waist, and wearing only a knee-length pajama lower. They were left in this position for some considerable length of time while petitioner and Gentry ransacked the house looking for money. The autopsy surgeon testified that he found in his examination of the body of Mr. Duvel 'bruises of the right leg about the ankle, just above the ankle, and also above the ankle of the left leg' and that it was his conclusion that these were caused by 'the constricting bands that had been tied around his ankles.' There was also a gag consisting of a stocking and an overlapping two-inch strip of sheeting material brought through his mouth and knotted in the back of his head. There was on the dead body a 'creasing of the side of the face and neck from the material that had been tied around these parts.' There had been a subsequent attempt to throttle Mr. Duvel but since this was a part of the attempt at his murder, it cannot be looked to as furnishing bodily harm antecedent to the murder....

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  • People v. Morris
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
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    ...record. Therefore, the prima facie presumption 'that the crimes were separate and not indivisible' (Seiterle v. Superior Court, 57 Cal.2d 397, 400-401, 20 Cal.Rptr. 1, 3, 369 P.2d 697, 699) was not overcome at the trial court The majority opinion interprets the stipulation to describe 'the ......
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