Stankewitz, In re, Cr. 24137

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Writing for the CourtMOSK; BIRD; LUCAS
Decision Date25 November 1985
Parties, 708 P.2d 1260 In re Laird Gene STANKEWITZ on Habeas Corpus.
Docket NumberCr. 24137

Page 382

220 Cal.Rptr. 382
40 Cal.3d 391, 708 P.2d 1260
In re Laird Gene STANKEWITZ on Habeas Corpus.
Cr. 24137.
Supreme Court of California.
Nov. 25, 1985.
As Modified Jan. 16, 1986.

[40 Cal.3d 395]

Page 383

[708 P.2d 1261] Frank O. Bell, Jr., State Public Defender, Roy M. Dahlberg, Deputy State Public Defender, and Quin Denvir, Sacramento, for appellant.

John K. Van de Kamp, Atty. Gen., Michael D. Wellington and Robert M. Foster, Deputy Attys. Gen., for respondent.

MOSK, Justice.

Petitioner Laird Gene Stankewitz seeks a writ of habeas corpus after he was convicted of first degree murder and robbery and sentenced to death. His automatic appeal from that judgment is pending in this court. (Pen.Code, § 1239, subd. (b).) In this proceeding he contends he was denied a fair trial because one of the jurors introduced erroneous "law" on a crucial issue into the guilt phase deliberations. We conclude the contention is meritorious and hence the judgment must be vacated.

The events leading to the judgment, insofar as relevant to this petition, are undisputed.

Petitioner was holed up in a cabin in a remote canyon. A few months earlier he had escaped from county jail, and was being actively sought by [40 Cal.3d 396] the police. On the day in question, Scott Whelan and Richard Burrell approached petitioner's cabin and called out to him to unlock a gate that barred their way up a road. Petitioner walked toward the men, who said they were on a camping trip; he inquired what they did for a living; he asked to see some identification, and leafed through the identification cards and money in their wallets. After they talked for a while, petitioner opened the gate and the three went up the road together.

Later, after petitioner had consumed some alcohol and smoked some marijuana, he pointed a gun at Whelan and Burrell and ordered them to hand over their wallets. They complied, and petitioner again leafed through the identification cards and money in each wallet. When Whelan said, "This is all the money we have for our trip. Why are you going to take it all?" petitioner replied, "I am not going to take your money. " (Italics added.) He threw the wallets at their feet, and at his direction they picked them up. Petitioner, obviously concerned that his visitors were law enforcement officers, next made some remark about the two being "pigs" or working for "pigs," and said: "Okay, you guys, I want some good answers and I want them fast. What are you doing up here? What are you really doing up here? No one comes up here for a vacation." The two insisted they had indeed come for a vacation. Petitioner then suddenly shot Burrell; Whelan ran and escaped.

Page 384

While preparing the automatic appeal, petitioner's appellate counsel fortuitously received information that led him to obtain declarations of Marian Sparks and James [708 P.2d 1262] F. Barbieri, who had served as jurors in the case. Each declaration stated in substance as follows: on several occasions during the guilt phase deliberations juror Louis Knapp advised to the other jurors that he had been a police officer for over 20 years; that as a police officer he knew the law; that the law provides a robbery takes place as soon as a person forcibly takes personal property from another person, whether or not he intends to keep it; and that as soon as petitioner took the wallets at gunpoint in this case he committed robbery, whether or not he intended to keep them.

Petitioner now seeks a writ of habeas corpus, contending that he was denied a fair trial by reason of such juror misconduct. 1

[40 Cal.3d 397] When extraneous law enters a jury room--i.e., a statement of law not given to the jury in the instructions of the court--the defendant is denied his constitutional right to a fair trial unless the People can prove that no actual prejudice resulted. (Noll v. Lee (1963) 221 Cal.App.2d 81, 87-94, 34 Cal.Rptr. 223; accord, State v. Sinegal (La.1981) 393 So.2d 684, 686-87; cf. Mattox v. United States (1892) 146 U.S. 140, 149-51, 13 S.Ct. 50, 53, 36 L.Ed. 917 [extraneous factual material].) This rule has special force in capital cases, in which "[i]t is vital ... that the jury should pass upon the case free from external causes tending to disturb the exercise of deliberate and unbiased judgment." (Id. at p. 149, 13 S.Ct. at p. 53.)

Although jury misconduct during deliberations is most often raised by motion for new trial and appeal (see, e.g., People v. Hutchinson (1969) 71 Cal.2d 342, 346, 78 Cal.Rptr. 196, 455 P.2d 132), it may also be alleged as a ground of habeas corpus (see, e.g., In re Winchester (1960) 53 Cal.2d 528, 531-32, 2 Cal.Rptr. 296, 348 P.2d 904). The threshold question is whether evidence of such misconduct may be received from the jurors themselves.

The Legislature has declared that evidence of certain facts is admissible to impeach a verdict: "Upon an inquiry as to the validity of a verdict, any otherwise admissible evidence may be received as to statements made, or conduct, conditions, or events occurring, either within or without the jury room, of such a character as is likely to have influenced the verdict improperly. " (Evid. Code, § 1150, subd. (a), italics added.) It is settled that jurors are competent to prove "objective facts" under this provision. (People v. Hutchinson, supra, 71 Cal.2d at p. 351, 78 Cal.Rptr. 196, 455 P.2d 132.) By contrast, the Legislature has declared evidence of certain other facts to be inadmissible for this purpose: "No evidence is admissible to show the effect of such statement, conduct, condition, or event upon a juror either in influencing him to assent to or dissent from the verdict or concerning the mental processes by which it was determined." (Evid. Code, § 1150, subd. (a), italics added.) [40 Cal.3d 398] Thus,

Page 385

jurors may testify to "overt acts"--that is, such statements, conduct, conditions, or [708 P.2d 1263] events as are "open to sight, hearing, and the other senses and thus subject to corroboration"--but may not testify to "the subjective reasoning processes of the individual juror...." (People v. Hutchinson, supra, at pp. 349-50, 78 Cal.Rptr. 196, 455 P.2d 132.)

Among the overt acts that are admissible and to which jurors are competent to testify are statements. Section 1150, subdivision (a), expressly allows proof of "statements made ... either within or without the jury room...." In People v. Pierce (1979) 24 Cal.3d 199, 208, 155 Cal.Rptr. 657, 595 P.2d 91, we held that jurors may testify to such statements.

Although this evidence may be received, it must be admitted with caution. Statements have a greater tendency than nonverbal acts to implicate the reasoning processes of jurors--e.g., what the juror making the statement meant and what the juror hearing it understood. They are therefore more apt to be misused by counsel in an effort to improperly open such processes to scrutiny. But no such misuse is threatened when, as here, the very making of the statement sought to be admitted would itself constitute misconduct. Such an act is as much an objective fact as a juror's reading of a novel during the taking of testimony (Hasson v. Ford Motor Co. (1982) 32 Cal.3d 388, 410, 185 Cal.Rptr. 654, 650 P.2d 1171), or a juror's consultation with an outside attorney for advice on the law applicable to the case (People v. Honeycutt (1977) 20 Cal.3d 150, 154-158, 141 Cal.Rptr. 698, 570 P.2d 1050). 2

We must next decide whether the statement of juror Knapp related in the declarations constituted misconduct. (See, e.g., People v. Pierce, [40 Cal.3d 399] supra, 24 Cal.3d at p. 207, 155 Cal.Rptr. 657, 595 P.2d 91; People v. Honeycutt, supra, 20 Cal.3d at p. 156, 141 Cal.Rptr. 698, 570 P.2d 1050.)

In our system of justice it is the trial court that determines the law to be applied to the facts of the case, and the jury is "bound ... to receive as law what is laid down as such by the court." (Pen. Code, § 1126.) "Of course, it is a fundamental and historic precept of our judicial system that jurors are restricted solely to the determination of factual questions and are bound by the law as given them by the court. They are not allowed either to determine what the law is or what the law should be. " (Noll v. Lee, supra, 221 Cal.App.2d at pp. 87-88, 34 Cal.Rptr. 223, italics in original.) In the case at bar the court correctly instructed the jurors at the very beginning of its charge that "[y]our ... duty is to apply the rules of law that I state to you to the facts as you determine them," and that "[y]ou must accept and follow the rules of law as I state them to you." Turning to the applicable law, the court correctly instructed the jury on the elements of the crime of robbery, including the requirement that the perpetrator have

Page 386

a specific intent to permanently deprive the victim of his property.

[708 P.2d 1264] In Honeycutt we held it "egregious misconduct" for a juror, during deliberations, to consult an outside attorney on certain questions of law involved in the case, even though the advice the attorney gave was largely correct and the errant juror did not convey it to the other members of the panel. We explained, "Such conduct in clear violation of the trial court's admonitions interjects outside views into the jury room and creates a high potential for prejudice.... [W]e cannot condone a practice whereby a juror receives outside counseling relative to the applicable law, as to do so would subordinate the court's evaluation of the law to that of the juror's outside source and would be contrary to legislative directives that the court shall instruct on the applicable law (Pen. Code, § 1127) and maintain control of the proceedings (Pen. Code, § 1044)." (20 Cal.3d at p. 157, 141 Cal.Rptr. 698, 570 P.2d 1050.) Because the prosecution failed to rebut the presumption of prejudice arising from that overt act of misconduct, we unanimously reversed the defendant's first degree murder...

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  • Lais v. Ford, Case No. SACV 11-0420-JPR
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
    • November 28, 2012
    ...and successive, citing In re Clark, 5 Cal. 4th 750, 765, 797, 782, 21 Cal. Rptr. 2d 509, 518, 530, 540 (1993), and In re Stankewitz, 40 Cal. 3d 391, 396 n.l, 220 Cal. Rptr. 382, 384 n.l (1985). (Lodged Doc. 19.) On March 24, 2010, Petitioner filed a habeas petition in the state superior cou......
  • People v. Sassounian
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • May 30, 1986
    ...she would vote, is plainly inadmissible under the provisions of Evidence Code section 1150, subdivision (a). 38 (In re Stankewitz (1985) 40 Cal.3d 391, 397, 220 Cal.Rptr. 382, 708 P.2d 1260; People v. Ryner (1985) 164 Cal.App.3d 1075, 1082-1083, 211 Cal.Rptr. 140; People v. Sutter, supra, 1......
  • People v. Hernandez, No. S004559
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • November 28, 1988
    ...358, 363-364, 196 Cal.Rptr. 796; People v. Ladd (1982) 129 Cal.App.3d 257, 264, 181 Cal.Rptr. 29; and see In re Stankewitz (1985) 40 Cal.3d 391, 397, 220 Cal.Rptr. 382, 708 P.2d 1260.) The trial court quite properly conducted a hearing into whether and to what extent the jury as a whole may......
  • People v. Jackson, No. S139103.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • August 1, 2016
    ...595 P.2d 91 (Pierce )); or made erroneous statements of law to the rest of the jury during deliberations (see In re Stankewitz (1985) 40 Cal.3d 391, 399–400, 220 Cal.Rptr. 382, 708 P.2d 1260 ).Second, the surrounding circumstances do not show a substantial likelihood of actual bias. (See Ne......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
205 cases
  • Lais v. Ford, Case No. SACV 11-0420-JPR
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
    • November 28, 2012
    ...and successive, citing In re Clark, 5 Cal. 4th 750, 765, 797, 782, 21 Cal. Rptr. 2d 509, 518, 530, 540 (1993), and In re Stankewitz, 40 Cal. 3d 391, 396 n.l, 220 Cal. Rptr. 382, 384 n.l (1985). (Lodged Doc. 19.) On March 24, 2010, Petitioner filed a habeas petition in the state superior cou......
  • People v. Sassounian
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • May 30, 1986
    ...she would vote, is plainly inadmissible under the provisions of Evidence Code section 1150, subdivision (a). 38 (In re Stankewitz (1985) 40 Cal.3d 391, 397, 220 Cal.Rptr. 382, 708 P.2d 1260; People v. Ryner (1985) 164 Cal.App.3d 1075, 1082-1083, 211 Cal.Rptr. 140; People v. Sutter, supra, 1......
  • People v. Hernandez, No. S004559
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • November 28, 1988
    ...358, 363-364, 196 Cal.Rptr. 796; People v. Ladd (1982) 129 Cal.App.3d 257, 264, 181 Cal.Rptr. 29; and see In re Stankewitz (1985) 40 Cal.3d 391, 397, 220 Cal.Rptr. 382, 708 P.2d 1260.) The trial court quite properly conducted a hearing into whether and to what extent the jury as a whole may......
  • People v. Jackson, No. S139103.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • August 1, 2016
    ...595 P.2d 91 (Pierce )); or made erroneous statements of law to the rest of the jury during deliberations (see In re Stankewitz (1985) 40 Cal.3d 391, 399–400, 220 Cal.Rptr. 382, 708 P.2d 1260 ).Second, the surrounding circumstances do not show a substantial likelihood of actual bias. (See Ne......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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