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Name: People v. Coddington
Case #: S008840
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 07/03/2000
Subsequent History: Modification of opinion at 24 Cal.4th 316a; rehearing denied 9/27/00; cert. denied 2/26/01
Summary

There was no error in the jury instructions given regarding sanity which would have precluded consideration of evidence of irresistible impulse to the extent that appellant did not know his acts were wrong. Furthermore, appellant did not request a clarifying instruction below, so any claim on appeal was waived. Penalty phase issues are not discussed here. Appellant could not challenge the jury instruction which told the jurors to presume sanity at the time of the crime because appellant did not raise the issue or request clarification below. Further, there was no possibility of confusion caused by the instruction. It was a correct statement of the law. Penalty phase issues are not discussed here. In the sanity phase, the admission, of passages from appellant’s journal, in which he discussed killing and death, was not improper. Failure to object to the introduction of those passages was not ineffective assistance of counsel. Penalty phase issues are not discussed here. Admission of “win/walk” records from a casino, which showed appellant’s history of winning money gambling, was not error. The records were admissible and reliable, and were relevant to the basis of the psychiatrists’ testimony that appellant had lost money gambling based on messages and signs from God. Penalty phase issues are not discussed here. It was not error to admit the testimony of two witnesses who had previous conversations with appellant about styles of killing which were utilized in the instant offense. Furthermore, it was not misconduct for the prosecutor to have referred, in his opening statement, to appellant’s “obsessive” interest in killing by means of that particular style. Neither the prosecutor’s statement, nor the actual testimony, was prejudicial because there was overwhelming evidence that appellant had long planned to kidnap, sexually abuse, and kidnap young girls. Penalty phase issues are not discussed here. It was not misconduct for the prosecutor to have argued to the jury that it could not find appellant not guilty by reason of insanity because his concept of God was different from the Judaeo-Christian concept. The jury was properly instructed on insanity, and the prosecutor’s comments did not preclude the jury from finding that appellant was insane because he had a delusion that God had commanded him to kidnap and kill. Penalty phase issues are not discussed here. The characterization by the prosecutor in his opening statement of entries in appellant’s diary as “embracing evil” was not prosecutorial misconduct. The statements accurately reflected the journal entries, which supported the prosecution theory of the case. Similarly, it was not misconduct for the prosecution to refer in his closing argument to appellant’s possession of notations on cards which suggested preplanning of the murders. It was reasonable to infer that the notations had been made prior to the murders. Appellant was not prejudiced by the prosecutor’s erroneous statement during argument that the wounds on the victims’ necks were caused by fingernails, not scissors used in removing ligatures. There was no prosecutorial misconduct where the prosecutor referred to trauma to the victims’ bodies which was caused by sexual abuse. The argument was based on properly admitted evidence. Penalty phase issues are not discussed here. The court committed no act of judicial misconduct in commenting on of the testimony of the prosecution psychiatrists. Although a juror might have inferred from the court’s comments that the witnesses were credible, any error was not prejudicial. The jurors were given proper instructions concerning judicial comment and credibility of witnesses. Further, all of the experts agreed that appellant was mentally ill, and varied only as to their assessments of the impact of the illness on his conduct. Penalty phase issues are not discussed here. There was no error where the prosecutor did not disclose to the defense a potential witness who might have impeached the testimony concerning prior statements about appellant’s “obsession” with strangling young girls. The prosecutor did not acknowledge the truth of the impeaching statements, which were double hearsay assertions. Furthermore, when defense counsel became aware of the witness, he did not introduce the evidence as impeachment. As a result, appellant made no showing that the evidence could have been used to his advantage. Penalty phase issues are not discussed here. [The transfer of a capital trial from South Lake Tahoe to Placerville did not deny appellant the right to trial in the vicinage in which the crime was committed, nor did it deny him the right to a jury drawn from a representative cross-section of the area. The Legislature may determine the size of the area from which a jury may be drawn by establishing judicial districts. The fact that the offense took place in South Lake Tahoe did not entitle appellant to a jury which was drawn from the entire district, because El Dorado County has only one judicial district. Because the jury was drawn from a panel selected randomly from the entire county, there was no systematic or intentional exclusion of jurors from the South Lake Tahoe area. It need not be decided whether the court erred in moving the trial to Placerville over appellant’s objections, because he was tried in the district specified by the Legislature. Due process considerations on which a change of venue may be founded have no applicability to assignments within judicial districts made for administrative purposes or other good cause. Penalty phase issues are not discussed here. A warrantless entry into appellant’s trailer was justified where the officers had probable cause to believe that the two kidnap victims were in danger inside, and the officers were not purposefully delaying obtaining a warrant. Appellant’s discussion with the officers, subsequent to their warrantless entry, was consensual. Penalty phase issues are not discussed here. The transfer of a capital trial from South Lake Tahoe to Placerville did not deny appellant the right to trial in the vicinage in which the crime was committed, nor did it deny him the right to a jury drawn from a representative cross-section of the area. The Legislature may determine the size of the area from which a jury may be drawn by establishing judicial districts. The fact that the offense took place in South Lake Tahoe did not entitle appellant to a jury which was drawn from the entire district, because El Dorado County has only one judicial district. Because the jury was drawn from a panel selected randomly from the entire county, there was no systematic or intentional exclusion of jurors from the South Lake Tahoe area. It need not be decided whether the court erred in moving the trial to Placerville over appellant’s objections, because he was tried in the district specified by the Legislature. Due process considerations on which a change of venue may be founded have no applicability to assignments within judicial districts made for administrative purposes or other good cause. Penalty phase issues are not discussed here. There was no prejudice to the defense where the prosecutor asked the defense examining psychiatrists whether they knew if the prosecution had the right to have appellant examined by psychiatrists. There was no likelihood that the jury would have assumed that different information would have been elicited by prosecution psychiatrists. Penalty phase issues are not discussed here. There was no error where the prosecutor asked questions of the examining psychiatrists concerning appellant’s deceitfulness, because the questions were neither improper nor objected to below. It was not misconduct for the prosecutor to have questioned the defense psychiatrists concerning whether they knew that a book on torture had been found during a search of appellant’s trailer. The question was a proper inquiry and elicited no prejudicial information. Penalty phase issues are not discussed here. It was not error to admit the testimony of two witnesses who had previous conversations with appellant about styles of killing which were utilized in the instant offense. Furthermore, it was not misconduct for the prosecutor to have referred, in his opening statement, to appellant’s “obsessive” interest in killing by means of that particular style. Neither the prosecutor’s statement, nor the actual testimony, was prejudicial because there was overwhelming evidence that appellant had long planned to kidnap, sexually abuse, and kidnap young girls. Penalty phase issues are not discussed here. It was not error for the trial court to have admitted evidence of a previous phone call made by appellant asking a witness to appear in a commercial. There was sufficient foundation to show that appellant was the caller, and the evidence was probative to the issue of preplanning activity concerning luring girls to his trailer. Penalty phase issues are not discussed here. The admission of testimony by psychiatrists concerning appellant’s prior violent acts was not erroneous. The probative value of the testimony clearly outweighed its potential for prejudice, and appropriate instructions were given. Penalty phase issues are not discussed here. Admission of “win/walk” records from a casino, which showed appellant’s history of winning money gambling, was not error. The records were admissible and reliable, and were relevant to the basis of the psychiatrists’ testimony that appellant had lost money gambling based on messages and signs from God. Penalty phase issues are not discussed here. It was not error to have failed to repeat the instruction concerning no adverse inferences to be drawn from appellant’s failure to testify (CALJIC 2.60) as it applied to the sanity phase of the trial. It is reasonable to infer that the jury continues to apply instructions given at the guilt phase that are not inconsistent with sanity phase instructions. Penalty phase issues are not discussed here. The trial court erred when it ruled that appellant’s mental health experts could not testify unless they believed that appellant did not premeditate and deliberate the murders. However, reversal was not required because the record did not confirm that appellant’s failure to offer expert testimony was attributable to the court’s restriction. Appellant was free to offer evidence that he suffered from a mental disease or defect during the guilt phase, and did not do so. Further, the evidence showed extensive premeditation and deliberation, so the exclusion caused no prejudice. Penalty phase issues are not discussed here. There was no reasonable probability that the cumulative effect of errors during the sanity phase affected the sanity verdict. Penalty phase issues are not discussed here. Because appellant’s claims were either waived, did not establish error, or could not have caused prejudice, there was no cumulative error which would mandate reversal. Penalty phase issues are not discussed here. Appellant was examined by seven defense psychiatrists in preparation for the sanity portion of his trial, only two of whom were called to testify. It was error for the prosecution to have been allowed to cross examine the two psychiatrists regarding their awareness of other tests and studies, and then argue their lack of awareness to the jury. However, the error was harmless because no confidential communications were disclosed, appellant failed to object, and appellant’s mental state was throughly explored by the experts who did testify. Penalty phase issues are not discussed here. The giving of CALJIC 4.01, which explained to the jury the consequences of a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity, was not improper. The instruction is given to aid the defendant, and is not unconstitutional. Penalty phase issues are not discussed here. It was not error to have failed to repeat the instruction concerning no adverse inferences to be drawn from appellant’s failure to testify (CALJIC 2.60) as it applied to the sanity phase of the trial. It is reasonable to infer that the jury continues to apply instructions given at the guilt phase that are not inconsistent with sanity phase instructions. Penalty phase issues are not discussed here. The trial court erred by failing to sua sponte instruct on the lesser included offense of second degree murder. The error, however, was harmless, as the evidence of premeditation was overwhelming, and the jury was properly instructed concerning premeditation and deliberation. Penalty phase issues are not discussed here.