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The People v. Eddie Alfonso Brown

February 22, 2011

THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
EDDIE ALFONSO BROWN, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Tulare County. Gary L. Paden, Judge. (Super. Ct. No. VCF0081158-01)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Poochigian, J.

(reposted 2/23/11 to correct file designation)

CERTIFIED FOR PARTIAL PUBLICATION*fn1

OPINION

INTRODUCTION

Appellant/defendant Eddie Brown (defendant) was charged and convicted of first degree murder (Pen. Code, § 187, subd. (a)) in the homicide of his former girlfriend, Bridget Colmore (Bridget).*fn2 Bridget disappeared on September 11, 2001. She was last seen entering defendant's apartment. Her body was found one month later, buried in a cornfield. Defendant admitted to his half sister that he strangled Bridget, but claimed he had to defend himself because she attacked him with a hammer. At trial, defendant again claimed Bridget attacked him with a hammer, but asserted that she died accidentally when he pushed her away and she flipped over a couch.

During trial, the superior court granted the prosecution's motion to introduce evidence about the prior acts of domestic violence that defendant committed against Bridget and against four other girlfriends in the years prior to his relationship with Bridget. In so ruling, the court relied on Evidence Code*fn3 section 1109, subdivision (a), which states that "in a criminal action in which the defendant is accused of an offense involving domestic violence, evidence of the defendant's commission of other domestic violence is not made inadmissible by Section 1101 if the evidence is not inadmissible pursuant to Section 352." (Italics added.) The court found that the instant murder prosecution was for an "offense involving domestic violence" within the meaning of section 1109. The court also made extensive findings that the evidence was more probative than prejudicial under section 352.

In the published portion of this opinion, we conclude the superior court properly admitted defendant's prior acts of domestic violence under section 1109, and we agree with the court's observation that "murder is the ultimate form of domestic violence" under the facts and circumstances of this case. In the nonpublished portion of this opinion, we reject defendant's other evidentiary and instructional contentions, and his arguments about alleged prosecutorial misconduct. We will affirm.

FACTUAL SUMMARY

As of 2001, Bridget had dated defendant for two years. She was a petite woman and weighed about 112 pounds. Defendant was five feet nine inches tall, and weighed 195 pounds. Defendant had two years of training in taekwondo, and his family and friends knew he was into martial arts. He had a felony conviction for selling drugs in 1998.

At some point between November 2000 and March 2001, Bridget told her coworker, Margarita Ibarra, about an argument she had the prior evening with her boyfriend, "Eddie." Bridget told Ibarra that "Eddie" choked her during the argument, and she demonstrated how "Eddie" put his hands around her neck. Bridget said her neck still hurt and Ibarra could see discoloration on her neck. Bridget said she could not believe that "Eddie" put his hands on her. Bridget said that as he choked her, she told him to leave her alone, and she either kicked or pushed him away.

Around July 2001, Bridget and defendant were in the mall together. George Ybarra, who previously dated Bridget, was walking nearby and saw the couple. Ybarra smiled at Bridget and tried to greet her, but Bridget shook her head and looked very uncomfortable. A few days later, Bridget told Ybarra that she could not say hello to him because " 'it would have been harmful for me and possibly for you.' "

During the summer of 2001, Bridget told Margaret Ibarra that she was no longer seeing "Eddie." Bridget's family believed they broke up a few months before she disappeared. However, defendant kept calling her home telephone and cell phone, and members of her family testified that she tried to screen her calls to avoid speaking with him.

In July or August 2001, Bridget met Patrick McKinnie and they started dating. Shortly before Bridget disappeared, McKinnie was spending the weekend at Bridget's house when defendant unexpectedly arrived. Bridget and McKinnie were outside, defendant walked up to Bridget, and she told McKinnie that defendant was " 'Eddie,' " her former boyfriend. Defendant told Bridget that he needed to talk to her. Defendant said, " 'What is this[?] What is this[?]' " McKinnie asked what the problem was. Defendant replied, " 'You know what the problem is.' " McKinnie said he didn't know. Bridget told defendant she was going to call the police, and defendant left. When McKinnie drove away from her house the next day, defendant drove very close behind and then alongside McKinnie's car, and motioned for McKinnie to pull over. McKinney ignored defendant and drove past him.

A few weeks before her death, Bridget spoke to another former boyfriend, Jesse Gutierrez. Bridget was concerned and said defendant threatened her life because she broke off their relationship. Bridget said that defendant said he was going to kill her and whoever was with her.

About a week before she disappeared, Bridget drove her children to a restaurant for dinner, and her young son noticed that defendant was following them in his car.

On the afternoon of September 10, 2001, Bridget was at her mother's house when defendant called her cell phone about four times. Bridget's mother answered three of the calls, and each time she "cursed [defendant] out and said that Bridget is through or Bridget is done or she doesn't want you. Leave her alone." Bridget's mother testified defendant kept calling back, and Bridget finally answered the fourth call and spoke to defendant.

Around 5:00 p.m. on September 10, 2001, Bridget called George Ybarra. She said she had met a new man and she was excited about their relationship. Ybarra had recently seen Bridget with defendant, and he asked why she was still dating defendant because that relationship was not healthy. Bridget said she had to go to defendant's house that evening and pick up some things. Ybarra urged Bridget not to go, but advised her to take her sister if she did.

Bridget's disappearance

Around 5:00 p.m. on September 11, 2001, Bridget received a call while she was cooking dinner for her family at her Visalia home. Her 14-year-old niece heard Bridget refer to the caller as "Eddie," and say, " 'Eddie, what do you want[?]' " Bridget was upset but she stayed on the telephone, went into her bedroom, and closed the door.

When Bridget emerged from the bedroom, she was very upset. She told her niece to finish cooking dinner and said she would be right back. Bridget walked out of her house and her family never saw her again. It was daylight when she left.

Bridget was later seen walking into defendant's Visalia apartment, just before it was dark. Her car was parked in front of his apartment. Defendant's neighbors recognized Bridget and her car from her prior visits. Defendant's neighbors shared a common wall with defendant's apartment, and they never heard any sounds of a disturbance that night. Sometime after 10:00 p.m., one of defendant's neighbors realized that Bridget's car was no longer parked at the curb.

Bridget was never seen alive again, and her car could not be found. Bridget's niece, who lived with the family, testified defendant never again called the house after Bridget disappeared.

The investigation

On September 13, 2001, investigators from the Tulare County Sheriff's Department interviewed defendant and asked if he knew of Bridget's whereabouts. Defendant said she had briefly stopped by his apartment around 6:00 p.m. on September 11, 2001, but she left and he had no idea where she was. An officer asked defendant if he had called Bridget and asked her to come over. Defendant said he did not recall. The officer asked if he called Bridget at any time on September 11, 2001, and defendant said he might have done so.

Defendant had a fresh bruise above his right eye. Defendant said he received the bruise a few weeks earlier during a fight at a gas station. Defendant's head was shaved and he did not have any other injuries. At the officer's request, defendant removed his shirt, and the officer did not see any injuries on his upper body. Defendant did not say anything about Bridget inflicting any injuries on him.

At a later point in the investigation, defendant called the officers and complained that they were following him. He also told the officers that he was just as concerned about Bridget as they were.

Marilyn Davis's statement

Marilyn Brown Davis, defendant's half sister, initially told officers that she did not have any information about Bridget's disappearance. As the investigation continued, however, Davis contacted investigators and disclosed information about defendant's activities on the night of September 11, 2001. Davis said she was driving on Highway 99 when defendant called her, drove beside her car, and asked her to follow him. Davis followed defendant as he drove a car from Visalia to Fresno and left it in a parking lot. Davis then drove defendant back to his Visalia apartment.

Davis said that later that night, defendant asked Davis to get into his car and drop him off someplace. Defendant drove his car and Davis sat in the passenger seat. Defendant stopped the car at a remote cornfield in the Matheny Tract, an area south of Tulare. It was dark and no one was around. Defendant got out of the car, Davis moved over to the driver's seat, and defendant opened the car's rear hatchback. Davis did not see whether defendant took anything out of the car.

Defendant told Davis that he needed to take care of something, and directed her to leave and then return in 15 or 20 minutes. Davis drove away and left defendant in the dark cornfield. Defendant kept calling Davis and said he needed more time. About an hour later, Davis picked up defendant by the cornfield.

Davis told investigators that as she drove away from the cornfield, defendant told her that Bridget came over to his apartment that night, he was "going to let her go," and Bridget hit him in the head with a hammer. Defendant told Davis that "he grabbed her and choked her and killed her." Defendant told Davis that he had buried Bridget's body in the cornfield.*fn4

Defendant's cousin told the investigators that defendant said he argued with Bridget, and strangled and killed her, but he did not mean to do it.*fn5

Discovery of Bridget's body and forensic evidence

Davis directed investigators to a cornfield in the Matheny Tract where she had left defendant on the night of September 11, 2001.

On October 2, 2001, Bridget's decomposed body was found buried in that cornfield.*fn6 Her car had been abandoned in a motel parking lot in Fresno.

There was a red stain on the bathroom floor in defendant's apartment, against the backboard and under a cabinet. A criminalist believed someone attempted to clean the stains by mopping the bathroom floor. The red stain was blood, and the blood contained a mixture of DNA from both Bridget and defendant.

Dr. Gary A. Walter, the pathologist, testified there was no evidence that Bridget died from stab or gunshot wounds. Bridget's body showed signs of moderate decomposition. Dr. Walter listed strangulation as the probable cause of death, based on the autopsy and the information he received from the investigating officers. There was some swelling and bruising around Bridget's neck, including the right thyroid gland which encircles the trachea below the larynx (voice box). This area was in the vicinity of the right cricoid cartilage, the first cartilage ring of the trachea just below the larynx. There was evidence of free blood within the thyroid gland and in the soft tissue of the trachea cricoid cartilage. Dr. Walter explained it was abnormal to find blood in the tissue and outside of the blood vessels. There was enough free blood in the thyroid gland and neck cartilage areas to support a conclusion of pressure and possible manual strangulation which could have resulted in suffocation. The trauma was only on the right side.

Steve Long's statements

At the time that Bridget disappeared, Steve Long, defendant's friend since high school, worked at a medical supply house. During the investigation, two of Long's coworkers contacted the police and reported that Long made statements to them that seemed to be about the case, and he talked to them before they read about Bridget's disappearance in the newspaper.

James Meeks, one of Long's coworkers, testified that on the afternoon of September 11, 2001, Long asked Meeks if he heard about anyone missing or something happening to a woman. Meeks thought Long meant someone who was missing in that morning's terrorist attacks in New York. In the following days, however, Long continued to discuss the topic with Meeks. Long told Meeks that he had a discussion with someone about hitting a person over the head and what he would do with that person. Long said that "all you would have to do is hit them over the head. Just take them to a field and get rid of the car" in Fresno. Long told Meeks he was checking the newspaper every day. Meeks was shocked by Long's statements because they were "just straight out of the blue."

Long told another coworker, Flora Lopez, that he was scared of his friend "Eddie," and he would never testify against him. Long said that if something like that happened to him, he would dump the car in Fresno. Long said the body would be somewhere in a cornfield near Tulare, where no one could find it, because "the corn would grow and the machines were so big ... that it would probably, they probably would never find it."*fn7

When Meeks read the newspaper stories about Bridget, he thought "it was really weird and shocking because [he] felt like [he] kind of already knew all of this and for it to be in the paper it was really weird."*fn8

The trial

Defendant was charged with first degree murder. During a lengthy jury trial, the prosecution moved to introduce evidence pursuant to section 1109, that defendant committed prior acts of domestic violence against Bridget and four other girlfriends. The court granted the prosecution's motion and held the evidence was admissible. The court found that murder was an offense "involving domestic violence" within the meaning of section 1109, and that murder was "the ultimate form of domestic violence." The court held an extensive evidentiary hearing to evaluate the proposed testimony pursuant to section 352, excluded some of the evidence, and held the vast majority of the evidence was probative and admissible.

The four women who previously dated defendant separately testified about a series of domestic violence acts that defendant committed against them. They testified that he followed them when they were out with other people. They testified about specific incidents when defendant beat, kicked, choked, and threatened to kill them. They testified the incidents occurred both during and after they were involved in relationships with defendant, and often as a result of arguments when he was jealous and accused them of seeing other men.*fn9

At trial, defendant testified he was still dating Bridget at the time of her death, and insisted he never touched Bridget except on the night that she died. Defendant claimed Bridget unexpectedly arrived at his apartment that night, attacked him with a hammer, he pushed her away, she flipped over his couch, and she died by accident. He admitted that he buried her body in the cornfield and disposed of her car. He obtained a shovel from his mother's house and Davis drove him to the cornfield. Defendant claimed he did these things because he had a panic attack and did not think the police would believe his story.

Defendant denied committing the domestic violence acts described by his previous girlfriends and claimed he was never jealous of their relationships with other men. Defendant admitted that he was involved in several altercations with some of the women and their boyfriends but claimed he only intervened when he was concerned about the safety of the children he had fathered with those women.

After a lengthy jury trial, defendant was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to 25 years to life.

ADDITIONAL FACTS*fn10

We now discuss additional facts which are relevant to the resolution of the other issues in this case.

1. Defendant's postarrest statements

At some point prior to trial, defendant was held in custody in a cell next to inmates Ivan Davis and Delbert Miller. In June 2008, Ivan Davis, who had six prior felony convictions, told an investigator that he heard a conversation between defendant and Miller when they were in adjoining cells. Defendant asked Miller to acquire a weapon to take care of a witness who was a female relative.*fn11

2. The autopsy

Dr. Gary A. Walter, the pathologist who conducted the autopsy, testified there was no evidence that Bridget died from stab or gunshot wounds. Bridget's body showed signs of moderate decomposition. There was desiccation, or drying of the skin on the hands and feet. There was also skin slippage on the superficial skin layers of the face, neck, and head. The underlying fat and muscle had dried out on the face and neck. The skin was no longer connected with the underlying tissue, so that the bone structure could be seen. There was no evidence of insect or maggot activity, which meant the body had been buried and protected from the air within a short time after death.

As a result of the decomposition, Dr. Walter was unable to determine if there was bleeding or injury to Bridget's face. There was discoloration on Bridget's face which appeared consistent with bruises. Dr. Walter conducted a microscopic inspection and could not confirm the existence of facial bruises. He could not rule out any facial injuries or bleeding because of the level of decomposition and skin drying.

Dr. Walter testified that he listed strangulation as the probable cause of death, based on the autopsy and the information he received from the investigating officers. In general, manual strangulation may be inflicted by hand pressure around the neck, which cuts off oxygen or compresses the carotid arteries. There was no evidence of soft tissue hemorrhages in the carotid area of Bridget's body. There was some swelling and bruising around Bridget's neck, including the right thyroid gland which encircles the trachea below the larynx (voice box). This area was in the vicinity of the right cricoid cartilage, the first cartilage ring of the trachea just below the larynx. There was no damage to the cartilage or trachea.

However, there was evidence of free blood within the thyroid gland and in the soft tissue of the trachea cricoid cartilage. Dr. Walter explained it was abnormal to find blood in the tissue and outside of the blood vessels. There was enough free blood in the thyroid gland and neck cartilage areas to support a conclusion of pressure and possible manual strangulation, which could have resulted in suffocation. The trauma was only on the right side rather than the left side.

Dr. Walter explained the amount of pressure required to kill someone by manual strangulation depended on the size of the victim. The assailant would need to apply a moderate amount of pressure for several minutes to cut off oxygen and render the victim unconscious. It was difficult to determine if there were external injuries or bruises on Bridget's neck skin consistent with strangulation because of the body decomposition.

Dr. Walter reviewed Bridget's medical records and learned she had a nodule on her right thyroid, but she had not complained about it since 1999. The autopsy did not reveal a diseased thyroid, and the nodule would not have contributed to her death.

3. Defendant's prior acts of domestic violence

As we will discuss extensively in sections II and III, post, the court permitted the prosecution to introduce the following evidence in its case-in-chief, pursuant to section 1109, about defendant's prior acts of domestic violence committed against other girlfriends.

A. Mary Anaya

Mary Anaya testified she started dating defendant in 1989 or 1990. In July 1992, Anaya found out defendant was seeing other women, so she decided to date other men. Around that time, defendant arrived at her apartment at 2:00 a.m. and said she looked like a prostitute. They argued, and defendant grabbed her hair from behind and threw her on the floor. Defendant kicked her and threw her in his car. Defendant beat her in his car as he drove down the freeway. Defendant also threatened to kill her. Defendant drove Anaya to his mother's house in Tulare. Anaya suffered a black eye and bruises all over her body. Defendant would not let Anaya leave the house for several days, until the bruising on her eye went down. Defendant told Anaya she was responsible for her own injuries and she made him do it to her.

Rita Dominquez, Anaya's friend, testified she saw Anaya shortly after this incident. Dominquez testified that Anaya had been badly abused, and she was bleeding all over her clothes. Anaya had a bloody lip and nose, and black eyes.

In July 1993, Anaya gave birth to defendant's child. In September 1993, defendant arrived at Anaya's apartment in the daytime and asked who she was messing around with. Anaya refused to answer, they argued, and defendant left. Defendant returned around 4:00 a.m. and argued about who she was seeing. Defendant punched her in the stomach and slapped her in the face. Anaya's older son tried to intervene, and defendant told Anaya that she "better get him or something else worse would happen...."

In April 1994, defendant again appeared at Anaya's house and demanded to know who she was dating. Anaya said she was not dating anyone. Defendant pulled a gun and held it at Anaya's head until she answered his questions.

Anaya testified that she still dated defendant during this time. She never reported his threats to the police because she was afraid of him. Anaya also testified that she still loved him, and "[h]e was a person that didn't let me go."

Anaya testified that in July and August 1996, defendant repeatedly threatened to kill her. Defendant said he would " '[b]low my face off and stick a gun in my mom's mouth.' " Anaya finally called the police because defendant threatened her mother. She obtained a restraining order and tried to stop defendant from having visitation with their child.

B. Ramisse Rhodes

Ramisse Rhodes testified that she started dating defendant in 1993 or 1994, and their child was born in 1995. Rhodes knew defendant was also seeing Arlene James and Mary Anaya at the same time. Rhodes testified about an incident that occurred when she was at a nightclub with other friends. Defendant arrived while Rhodes was dancing. Defendant took her outside and tried to force her into his car. They argued and started pushing each other. Defendant shoved her against the wall.

In June 1999, Rhodes drove to a parking lot to meet defendant and exchange their child for a visit. Defendant and Rhodes argued about the visitation. Defendant pushed Rhodes against the car, put his hands around her neck, and started to choke her. After the police arrived, defendant told Rhodes in "a mute mouth" that he would kill her, and Rhodes could read his lips.

In July 1999, Rhodes and defendant were again exchanging the child. Defendant said he was going to kill her. Rhodes called the police and asked them to enforce her restraining order against defendant.

Rhodes broke up with defendant later in 1999. After they broke up, defendant told Rhodes that he would kill her if he found her with another man. Rhodes conceded that some of their disputes were based on defendant's belief that his child was being molested by Rhodes's new boyfriend, Theon Mims. Rhodes testified defendant's allegations against Mims were not true.

4. Defense evidence

The defense theory of the case was that Bridget went to defendant's apartment, attacked him with a hammer, he shoved her away from him, and she accidentally died during the confrontation.

Jesse Gutierrez testified for the defense that he used to date Bridget and they had a child together. Gutierrez testified Bridget usually was not a violent person except for two incidents. In July 1998, Bridget and Gutierrez argued about their child's haircut. A few weeks later, Gutierrez dropped off something at Bridget's house, and she started to argue about the haircut again. Gutierrez tried to leave but Bridget stood in his way. Gutierrez testified he physically lifted Bridget out of his way and placed her on top of the washing machine. Bridget grabbed a small crescent wrench, swung it at Gutierrez, and threw it at him. Gutierrez thought she was just trying to scare him because it missed. As Gutierrez left Bridget's house, she said she was going to call the police. Gutierrez decided to turn himself in to the police department and explain the situation. Gutierrez testified that on another occasion, he argued with Bridget about something and Bridget bit his arm.

Elouise Brooks (Elouise), defendant's mother, testified defendant suffered panic attacks which required trips to the emergency room because he would have breathing problems and his heart would race.

Elouise testified she was present when defendant and Ramisse Rhodes met in the parking lot in June 1999 to exchange their child. Elouise testified they argued because Rhodes was going to take the child on a trip with her current boyfriend. Defendant was upset and said the boyfriend had inappropriately kissed the child. Rhodes and Elouise exchanged words, and Elouise walked back to her car. Rhodes tried to jump Elouise, defendant grabbed Rhodes to protect Elouise, and he never tried to choke Rhodes.

John Havenhill, defendant's ex-brother-in-law, testified about a dispute between Bridget and defendant's half sister, Davis. In July 2001, Davis threw a surprise party for defendant's mother, Elouise. Bridget had to leave early and ran into Elouise. Bridget greeted Elouise and told her to have a pleasant surprise party. Davis was upset because Bridget ruined the surprise. Davis yelled at Bridget, they ran at each other, and they started fighting like it was "a hockey fight."

A. Defense expert

Dr. Marvin Pietruszka, a board certified clinical pathologist, testified to his opinion that manual strangulation was not Bridget's cause of death. He explained there should have been more hemorrhaging through her head, neck, and chest cavity from the compression pressure required to strangle her. He disputed Dr. Walter's belief that there was trauma on the side of her neck, and believed Dr. Walter only saw the effects of decomposition rather than trauma.

Dr. Pietruszka testified the primary cause of Bridget's death was from an accidental fall which resulted in a pontomedullary tear at the base of the brain. Such a tear could occur from a rapid movement of the head, and the person would go into a coma and die right away. It was impossible to identify the tear because the brain was liquefied at the time of the autopsy. He believed the injury was consistent with defendant's description of flipping her over the couch. He conceded there was no visible evidence to support his opinion. He also conceded such brain injuries were more common from the force of a person's head snapping back during a motor vehicle accident.

Dr. Pietruszka conceded that Dr. Walter found hemorrhaging around her thyroid. However, he believed the bleeding was from Bridget's pre-existing thyroid goiter, and it was consistent with defendant's account that he held her neck over the thyroid gland, and she flipped over the couch.

5. Defendant's trial testimony

Defendant testified at trial that he was still dating Bridget as of September 2001, and they had not broken up. Defendant also testified they had an open relationship and were free to see other people.

Defendant disputed Margaret Ibarra's testimony, that Bridget claimed he choked her. Defendant testified he never had any physical altercations with Bridget, he never tried to choke her, and he never touched her prior to her death.

Defendant admitted that he knew about Patrick McKinnie, Bridget's new boyfriend, and he showed up at her house when McKinnie was there. Defendant had "a few words" with McKinnie and left. Defendant denied that he followed McKinnie on the freeway.

Defendant conceded his cell phone records showed that he repeatedly called Bridget multiple times on September 8, 9, and 10, 2001. Defendant kept calling Bridget because she was not home and he was getting the answering machine. Defendant admitted Bridget's mother kept telling him that they were through. He denied that Bridget did not want to talk to him, and claimed she was always coming around to his apartment.

A. Defendant's testimony about Bridget's death

Defendant testified that he spoke to Bridget around noon on September 11, 2001. He did not call Bridget or speak to her again in the evening.

Around 6:00 p.m., Bridget unexpectedly showed up at his apartment. Defendant let her in and they had a casual conversation. Defendant testified Bridget was upset because he sided with his sister, Davis, when she argued with Bridget at his mother's birthday party.

Defendant testified Bridget was sitting on the living room couch. Defendant had left a hammer on that couch. He had just obtained the hammer at a swap meet, and he used it to hang mirrors in his apartment.

Defendant testified that after about five minutes, he asked Bridget to leave his apartment. He got up to open the door. Bridget walked behind him, and hit him in the back of the head with the hammer. He turned around and she hit him under his eye. Defendant testified he grabbed Bridget around the neck, shoved her "real hard" off him, and she flipped over the couch.

Defendant testified he was dazed and bleeding from the head injuries. He went into the bathroom and cleaned the blood from his head.*fn12 He closed the door so Bridget wouldn't bother him, and talked to Bridget from behind the closed door. She did not respond. After a few minutes, he walked out of the bathroom and found that she was still lying on the floor. Bridget was not bleeding. He had a panic attack, but tried to stay calm and performed CPR. She was still unresponsive and he realized she was dead.

Defendant considered calling the police, but he decided against it because he did not trust the police and thought they would treat him as the aggressor. Defendant believed Tulare police officers were racist based on the experiences of his family members and other African-Americans in the community.*fn13

Defendant testified that instead of calling the police, he called Marilyn Davis, his half sister, and told her to meet him at Plaza Park because he needed to talk to her. Defendant initially testified that he drove his white Ford to Plaza Park to meet Davis. As his testimony continued, however, he changed his story and said he drove Bridget's car to the park.

Defendant met Davis at the park and told her what happened. They decided to drive Bridget's car to Fresno. Defendant drove Bridget's car and followed Davis on Highway 99, and he left Bridget's car at a Fresno motel.

Defendant testified they drove back to Tulare in Davis's car, they discussed what to do with Bridget's body, and they decided to bury her. Davis dropped off defendant at his apartment and drove away in her own car. Defendant backed up his white Ford to his door. His neighbors were outside and defendant waited until they left. He carried Bridget's body out of the apartment and placed it in the hatchback trunk of his car.

Defendant drove to his mother's house in Tulare and picked up Davis. Davis went into her mother's backyard, handed a shovel over the fence to defendant, and defendant put the shovel into his white car. Defendant told Davis to drive his car into the country. Davis drove around for about 30 minutes and pulled to the side of the road. Defendant carried Bridget, the shovel, and a flashlight into the field, and Davis drove away. He cleared away some cornstalks with the shovel, dug a hole, and buried the body. He called Davis and said he needed more time. Davis eventually picked him up and they drove back to Tulare. Defendant returned the shovel to Davis over their mother's back fence because they did not want their mother to know what happened.

Defendant testified that two days later, when the officers asked him about Bridget's whereabouts, he lied because he did not trust the police. Defendant admitted he later called the police and complained they were following him, and he told the police that he was just as concerned about Bridget as they were.

Defendant testified he dumped Bridget's car and buried her body because he was afraid of the police, he was concerned about what was going to happen to him, and he needed time to get an attorney.

Defendant admitted that after he was arrested, he called Davis from jail and asked what she told the police. Defendant learned that Davis told the police that she drove him into the country and left him there for 40 minutes. Defendant asked Davis if she told the police that he admitted that he choked Bridget, and Davis said no.

Defendant admitted he knew Ivan Davis while they were jail inmates, but insisted he never spoke to Ivan Davis or Delbert Miller about trying to get a weapon to take care of a witness.

Defendant admitted that he knew Steve Long in high school. Defendant testified he talked to Long after September 11, 2001, but he never told Long what happened to Bridget.

B. Defendant's testimony about prior acts of domestic violence*fn14

Defendant admitted he dated Mary Anaya, Ramisse Rhodes, and Arlene James at the same time. Defendant insisted he never argued with them about whether they were dating other men. Defendant testified he only confronted them when he believed his children were at risk because of their other boyfriends. Defendant did not trust the police department, but he was willing to talk to the police to protect his children.

Defendant admitted he was in a physical altercation with Mary Anaya when he arrived at her apartment and found other friends were there. Defendant admitted he slapped her. He denied throwing her to the ground or pulling a gun. Defendant might have made "a terrorist threat" to Anaya on another occasion, and he might have punched her during a mutual fight after a traffic accident. He denied hitting Anaya in the back of the head during an argument about a rental car.

Defendant denied choking Rhodes during the child custody exchange in the parking lot. However, he grabbed the back of Rhodes's shirt because she was going after his mother, and that left a "red ring around her neck." He never confronted Rhodes at a club about dancing with ...


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