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The People v. Richard Potts

October 24, 2011

THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
RICHARD POTTS, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



(Super. Ct. No. SF104529A)

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

P. v. Potts CA3

NOT TO BE PUBLISHED

California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

Two jet skiers discovered the body of Jessyca Arro on the shoreline of the San Joaquin Delta. An amended information charged defendant Richard Potts with murder, escape, attempted carjacking, false imprisonment, and battery. A jury found defendant guilty on all counts. The court sentenced defendant to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Defendant acknowledges, consistent with DNA evidence, that he had sex with the victim, that the sexual encounter occurred in the vicinity of where her body was found, and that the victim used his phone to call her mother and her boyfriend on the morning in question. He denies that he had anything to do with her murder. His only contentions on appeal relate to a fracas that broke out in an adjacent courtroom where a defendant on trial for murder attacked and stabbed a judge before being shot and killed by an investigating officer in that case. Defendant argues the trial court erred in not granting his motion for a new trial based on the prejudicial impact of the violence in the adjacent courtroom. We shall affirm the judgment.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On June 17, 2006, at about 4:00 p.m., two jet skiers discovered a body, later identified as 18-year-old Jessyca Arro. They flagged down two sheriff's deputies on a boat. Arro, clad only in a blood soaked T-shirt and denim skirt, died due to drowning and blunt force trauma to the head and face.

An amended information charged defendant with murder, escape, attempted carjacking, false imprisonment, and battery. (Pen. Code, §§ 187, 4532, subd. (b), 664/215, subd. (a), 236 & 242.) The information also alleged special circumstances for murder committed during a rape and kidnapping, and prior convictions for voluntary manslaughter and evading police that constituted two prior prison terms within five years of the present offense. (Pen. Code, §§ 190.2, subds. (a)(17)(B), (C), 192, 667, 667.5 & 1170.12; Veh. Code, § 2800.2.)

A jury trial followed.

The Murder

The afternoon and evening before the discovery of her body, Arro drank with family and friends at a park and then at a vacant lot near her house. Later that evening Arro and a friend, Samantha Altieri, accompanied by Jeff Powers and Steve Lindsey, went to a house the Altieri family was remodeling, stopping first to buy beer and condoms. Arro and Powers had sex that night. They both left the house in the early morning hours; Arro said she wanted a ride to her boyfriend John Berdot's house. Lindsey, who had driven, refused to give Arro and Powers rides until the morning because he had been drinking.

Powers walked home. Arro went into the backyard to smoke a cigarette. Arro had Altieri's cell phone. No one saw Arro alive again.

When Arro's body was found, it appeared to have been tethered to some rocks by a shoelace, and a large rock had been stuffed into her shirt. The shoelace had been tightly affixed to her wrist while Arro was still alive. Arro had last been seen wearing a denim skirt, black tank top, and black tennis shoes. When her body was discovered, it was clad in a denim skirt and inside out red T-shirt. A red baseball cap was found near the body.

A shoelace was found close to a nearby irrigation ditch. Arro's shoes, without laces, were also found near the ditch. The shoes appeared to have come off as someone was "climbing out of a freshly dug irrigation canal." Nearby were marks consistent with someone sliding down the sides of the canal, two socks, and a piece of electrical tape with hair on it. The hair had characteristics consistent with Arro's hair.

Incriminating Evidence

Defendant was initially linked to the murder by a major genetic profile from DNA obtained on a vaginal swab taken from Arro's body. Defendant denied knowing Arro or having any involvement with the murder. Both Powers and Berdot testified they used condoms when having sex with Arro.

The DNA evidence was not the only evidence implicating defendant. Arro often walked to her boyfriend Berdot's house, a route which passed the apartment where defendant lived. Arro's mother testified her ...


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