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People v. Her

California Court of Appeals, Third District, Sacramento

May 14, 2013

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
ZANG HER, Defendant and Appellant.


Ordered Date Filed 6/12/13



It is ordered that the opinion filed herein on May 14, 2013, and subsequently ordered filed for partial publication on May 29, 2013, be modified as follows:

On page 2, after the words “we affirm” in the last sentence of the first full paragraph, insert the following footnote, which will require renumbering of all subsequent footnotes:

Defendant died in December 2012. Defendant’s death during the pendency of the appeal abates all further proceedings in the case. (People v. Dail (1943) 22 Cal.2d 642, 659.) However, we exercise our inherent authority to retain the appeal for issuance of this opinion since it raises important issues of public interest that are likely to recur in other cases. (See, e.g., People v. Nottoli (2011) 199 Cal.App.4th 531, 535, fn. 3.) On page 15, delete the Disposition and insert the following Disposition in its place:

As noted at the beginning of our opinion, defendant has died, and his death abates all further proceedings in the case. (People v. Dail, supra, 22 Cal.2d at p. 659.) We therefore remand the case to the trial court with directions to enter an order that all proceedings in the case have permanently abated. (See In re Jackson (1985) 39 Cal.3d 464, 480.)

APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Sacramento County, Super. Ct. No. 09F00826 Steve White, Judge. Affirmed.

Cliff Gardner, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Michael P. Farrell, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Catherine Chatman and Daniel B. Bernstein, Deputies Attorney General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

ROBIE, Acting P. J., MAURO, J., DUARTE, J.

ROBIE, Acting P. J.

John Lone Eagle was found strangled to death with a telephone cord in his Carmichael bedroom. About $4, 000 was missing from his bedroom. DNA consistent with the genetic profile of defendant Zang Her was found in three places in the house -- on a latex glove that was tangled in the telephone cord around John Lone Eagle’s neck, on a pillow in the same bedroom, and in a blood spot on the entryway floor to the house. Defendant was also linked to John Lone Eagle through defendant’s wife and an acquaintance. A jury found defendant guilty of first degree burglary and first degree murder with the special circumstance that the murder was committed during a burglary. The jury did not reach a verdict on whether defendant personally used a weapon (the telephone cord).

Defendant appeals from the resulting prison sentence of life without the possibility of parole, raising three issues relating to the evidence and the jury’s composition. Finding no merit in these contentions, we affirm.



The Prosecution’s Case

John Lone Eagle operated a business out of his home in which he bought and sold foreclosed homes. He employed four or five women to help him, and he transacted a lot of business in cash, which he kept in the house, oftentimes in plain view.

In the summer of 2004 when he was murdered, John Lone Eagle was in poor health and was not very mobile. One August morning, an employee arrived at his house to start work. The door was unlocked and the house had been ransacked. She went into his bedroom and saw him on the bed with a pillow over his head. When she shook him and he was unresponsive, she noticed there was blood all over his pillow and shirt. She called 911.

Police arrived and pronounced John Lone Eagle dead. He had been strangled with a telephone cord that was still around his neck.

Forensics testing by criminalists Kristie Abbott and Jeffrey Herbert was conducted on the pillow, the glove, and blood stains found on the ground in the entryway to the house, on the wall behind the front door, and on the wall of the stairwell.

As to three blood stains on the pillowcase, they contained a mixture of DNA from two contributors. In one of those samples (DNA 5), the major contributor had a DNA profile that “was the same” (meaning the profile matched defendant’s at all 15 designated loci on the genome) as the reference profile of defendant’s, and the minor contributor had a DNA profile that matched John Lone Eagle’s. In the Asian population, the chance of a random person having a DNA profile matching defendant’s was 1 in 150 quintillion. The two mixed-source samples (DNA 7 and DNA 9) on the pillowcase contained John Lone Eagle’s DNA profile and alleles from a minor contributor at “two and four” of the 15 loci. “The partial profile for the minor contributor to each mixture is consistent with the profile of the major contributor to DNA 5.”

As to the glove, it contained defendant’s DNA on the inside of three fingers that also contained John Lone Eagle’s DNA. Defendant’s and John Lone Eagle’s DNA were also detected in a mixture on two other spots on the glove, which also contained an “additional allele” that indicated there was a third contributor.

As to the blood stain found in the entryway on the ground, it contained about an even mixture of defendant’s and John Lone Eagle’s DNA profiles, as measured by a formula known as the combined probability of inclusion. The chances that a random person in the Hispanic population could have been a contributor to the sample were 1 in 140 million. In the African American and Caucasian populations, it would have been even rarer. When using this formula, criminalist Herbert assumed the entryway blood sample contained DNA from only two ...

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