State v. McAnulty

Citation338 P.3d 653,356 Or. 432
Decision Date30 October 2014
Docket NumberCC 200927457,SC S059476.
CourtSupreme Court of Oregon
Parties STATE of Oregon Respondent, v. Angela Darlene McANULTY, Appellant.

Daniel J. Casey, Portland, argued the case and filed the briefs for appellant.

Timothy A. Sylwester, Assistant Attorney General, filed the brief and argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief were Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, Anna M. Joyce, Solicitor General, and Jamie Contreras, Assistant Attorney General.

BALDWIN, J.

This case is before us on automatic and direct review of defendant's judgment of conviction by guilty plea and sentence of death, following a penalty-phase trial before a jury, for one count of aggravated murder. See ORS 163.095 ; ORS 138.012(1) ; ORAP 12.10. For the reasons stated below, we affirm defendant's judgment of conviction and sentence.

I. BACKGROUND

We begin with an overview of the facts admitted into evidence during defendant's penalty-phase trial. See State v. Acremant, 338 Or. 302, 305, 108 P.3d 1139, cert. den., 546 U.S. 864, 126 S.Ct. 150, 163 L.Ed.2d 148 (2005) (reciting facts from penalty-phase evidence where defendant pleaded guilty to aggravated murder); ORS 163.150(1)(a) (regarding procedures for penalty-phase proceedings).

In 1994, defendant gave birth to her daughter, Jeanette, in California. Approximately one year later, defendant lost custody of Jeanette due to drug use, neglect, and physical abuse. Several years later, defendant gave birth to another daughter, P, and regained custody of Jeanette.

Defendant then met and married Richard, giving birth to their son, R, shortly thereafter. Richard became Jeanette's stepfather. In early 2006, the family moved to a house on Robin Avenue in Eugene, Oregon, and Jeanette enrolled in middle school. Jeanette's classmates and teachers soon noticed that Jeanette appeared skinny and was always hungry. While at school, Jeanette's friends shared food with her, and she obtained food from lunch aides.

Around that time, Jeanette wrote a letter to a school official explaining that she was denied food at home, forced to eat chili peppers, and forced to sit on her knees for long periods of time for punishment. School officials alerted the Department of Human Services (DHS), which opened an investigation into the allegations. A DHS caseworker interviewed and conducted a home visit at that time; however, after gathering conflicting statements from family members and observing the family home stocked with food, DHS ultimately closed the file as "unable to determine." After school officials and a parent of one of Jeanette's friends made additional reports to DHS about suspected abuse, defendant removed Jeanette from school and homeschooled her. Defendant did not homeschool her other two children.

In the home, defendant treated Jeanette differently from her other children. Jeanette was not allowed to speak with her siblings. Defendant put locks on the kitchen cupboards and controlled Jeanette's eating. She provided Jeanette with less food than she gave to the rest of the family and sometimes forced Jeanette to forgo meals. Defendant also controlled what Jeanette drank. Defendant removed hose spigots, turned off the water supply under the sinks, and installed locks on the bathroom. She forced Jeanette to obtain permission before drinking or using the restroom, and sometimes denied Jeanette water or use of the bathroom.

Defendant also subjected Jeanette to physical punishment for purported disobedience, but did not similarly target P or R. Defendant would force Jeanette to eat hot peppers, or stand or kneel in a corner for long periods of time, sometimes while holding heavy objects. Defendant punched, slapped, scratched, and kicked Jeanette all over her body, causing bruising and cuts and sometimes knocking out her teeth. Defendant also would repeatedly whip Jeanette's bare back, bottom, and legs with belts and sticks, causing lacerations that would bleed. Defendant often isolated Jeanette in a single bedroom to commit the violent acts, and turned on the vacuum or turned up the volume on the television to prevent others from overhearing. After the most violent attacks, defendant put iodine on Jeanette's wounds and attempted to bandage the injuries herself, declining to seek professional medical or dental care for Jeanette. Richard did not intervene or pursue treatment for Jeanette's injuries.

During the summer of 2009, after Richard suffered a heart attack, the family moved from their house on Robin Avenue to a home on Howard Avenue. Defendant's abuse, torture, and starvation of Jeanette intensified at that residence. Jeanette lost weight and sustained serious physical injuries, some of which became infected. In early December, Jeanette suffered a significant blow to her head, after which she appeared confused and had difficulty walking or standing. On December 9, 2009, Jeanette fell asleep on the floor and became unresponsive. Defendant and Richard placed Jeanette in the bathtub and called Richard's mother, who told them to call 9–1–1. Richard then called 9–1–1. Emergency responders arrived and rushed Jeanette to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Given the severity of Jeanette's prolonged starvation, dehydration, physical injuries and localized infections, authorities were unable to pinpoint a single cause of death. The cause of death instead was listed as "multifactoral abuse and neglect."

Defendant and Richard accompanied investigators to the sheriff's office for questioning. Before leaving the hospital, defendant and Richard privately discussed assigning blame to Richard and the possibility that authorities might impose a lighter sentence on him as a result of his heart condition. At the sheriff's office, detectives separated the couple, read them their Miranda rights, and interviewed them. Richard initially told authorities that he had "spanked" Jeanette, but later admitted that he had not been truthful and had agreed to take the blame. Defendant also initially assigned blame to Richard, but then later made self-incriminating statements.

Detectives executed search warrants for both the Howard Avenue and Robin Avenue homes, where police discovered blood and other DNA evidence and observed an apparent attempt to sanitize some of that evidence. Also recovered from a garbage bin at the Howard Avenue home were several blood-stained items, including sticks, belts, clothing, bedding, and a piece of cardboard on which defendant forced Jeanette to sleep.

The state charged defendant by indictment with one count of aggravated murder, ORS 163.095, and one count of tampering with physical evidence, ORS 162.295. Before trial, defendant moved to suppress the statements that she had made to detectives. The trial court denied the motion. On the first day of trial, defendant pleaded guilty to the offenses charged. The case proceeded to a penalty-phase trial before a jury to determine defendant's sentence on the aggravated murder conviction. At the conclusion of trial, the jury unanimously returned affirmative findings to each of the following questions under ORS 163.150(1)(b) :

"(A) Whether the conduct of the defendant that caused the death of the deceased was committed deliberately and with the reasonable expectation that death of the deceased or another would result;
"(B) Whether there is a probability that the defendant would commit criminal acts of violence that would constitute a continuing threat to society;
"(C) If raised by the evidence, whether the conduct of the defendant in killing the deceased was unreasonable in response to the provocation, if any, by the deceased; and
"(D) Whether the defendant should receive a death sentence."

The trial court sentenced defendant accordingly, and this court's automatic and direct review of defendant's conviction and sentence followed.

II. ANALYSIS

On review, defendant raises 18 assignments of error. We have reviewed all assignments of error, and we conclude that defendant's first assignment of error relating to the trial court's ruling on her motion to suppress is well taken. However, we further conclude that the error was harmless. We begin with that assignment of error, followed by defendant's remaining assignments that merit discussion.1

A. Denial of Pretrial Motion to Suppress

Before trial, defendant moved to suppress statements that she had made to detectives in four interrogations that occurred during the day following Jeanette's death. Defendant argued that the statements had been obtained in violation of her right to remain silent under Article I, section 12, of the Oregon Constitution2 and the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.3 The trial court denied the motion, and defendant entered an unconditional guilty plea to the charges against her. Defendant's case then proceeded to the penalty phase, and defendant's statements to detectives were admitted without objection.

Defendant first assigns error to the trial court's denial of her motion to suppress. As a threshold matter, however, the state argues that this court cannot review defendant's challenge. The state notes that defendant failed, when entering her guilty plea, to make it conditional by reserving "in writing, the right, on appeal from the judgment, to a review of an adverse determination of any specified pretrial motion." ORS 135.335(3). As a result, the state contends that defendant's claim that the trial court erred by denying her pretrial motion to suppress is not reviewable under ORS 138.050(3) (limiting issues reviewable on appeal from sentence on plea of guilty or no contest).

Whether this court, on automatic and direct review of a sentence of death, may review a defendant's challenge to a pretrial ruling when the defendant has failed to comply with ORS 135.335(3) is an issue of first impression.4 We examine that issue first, because its resolution controls whether this court may review defendant's first...

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