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People v. Davis

California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, Second Division

June 28, 2013

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
BRYAN LEE DAVIS, Defendant and Appellant.

Pub. Order 7/19/13 (See End of Opn.)

APPEAL from the Superior Court of Riverside County No. RIF10006127. Thomas E. Kelly, Judge. (Retired judge of the Santa Cruz Super. Ct. assigned by the Chief Justice pursuant to art. VI, § 6 of the Cal. Const.).

Anthony J. Dain, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Julie L. Garland, Assistant Attorney General, Melissa Mandel and Warren Williams, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

OPINION

McKINSTER, Acting P.J.

A jury found defendant and appellant Bryan Lee Davis (defendant) guilty as charged of first degree murder in connection with the death of his mother (Pen. Code, § 187, subd. (a)), [1] and also found true the special allegation that in the commission of that crime defendant discharged a firearm causing great bodily injury or death (§ 12022.53, subd. (d)). The trial court sentenced defendant to serve a term of 25 years to life in state prison on the first degree murder conviction and a consecutive term of 25 years to life on the firearm enhancement.

Defendant raises one issue in this appeal. He contends the trial court committed reversible error by failing to instruct the jury sua sponte that the testimony of a so-called jailhouse informant must be corroborated. We agree the trial court erred, but conclude the error was harmless in this case. Therefore, we will affirm the judgment.

FACTS

Resolution of the issue defendant raises in this appeal does not depend on the facts of the underlying crime. Moreover, the facts are undisputed and are set out at length in the parties’ respective briefs. For our purpose it is sufficient to note that on December 10, 2010, defendant reported his mother’s death to the funeral director of the mortuary with which she had a burial contract. The funeral director realized from his conversation with defendant that defendant’s mother had not been under the care of a physician at the time of her death, so he contacted the police to report the death as unattended. The fire department responded to that report by going to defendant’s home. Defendant directed them down a hall where they found defendant’s mother on the floor of a bedroom.

An autopsy revealed defendant’s mother had been shot three times in the torso, and stabbed.[2] The gunshot wounds indicated the shooter had fired at a downward angle, which suggested the mother had been sitting in a chair when the gunman fired. The autopsy also revealed, based on the condition of the corpse, that defendant’s mother had been dead for at least 24 hours and as long as several days before defendant reported her death. Three.38-caliber bullets were removed from the body of defendant’s mother during the autopsy.

While in jail after his arrest, defendant told Jeffrey Cristillo, a fellow inmate, he had killed his mother. Defendant explained that he had endured years of verbal abuse from his mother. He finally lost control and shot her three times in the chest while she was sitting in her easy chair. Defendant then dragged her body into the bedroom where he left it for five days before calling anyone to report her death.[3] Defendant also told Cristillo that he had shot his mother with her own gun, a.38 special, and that he had disposed of the gun. A month after defendant talked to him, Cristillo was released from jail after serving 45 days in custody for his third DUI. He contacted an investigator at the district attorney’s office. Cristillo testified at trial. He confirmed in his testimony that he had not received any promises or benefits in exchange for testifying at trial.

Defendant’s next door neighbor, Ginger, [4] began a friendship with him after he went to jail. The two communicated regularly; defendant asked Ginger, among other things, to help him get an attorney, and to cash out his life insurance policy. Their friendship evolved into a romantic relationship, despite defendant’s incarceration. In the course of their conversations defendant repeatedly told Ginger that he hated his mother because she had been abusive to him when he was a child. At trial Ginger testified that defendant never admitted to her that he killed his mother, and if she told the district attorney’s investigator that defendant had, she misspoke.

Sean Murphy, the district attorney’s investigator who interviewed Ginger about defendant, testified at trial that he asked her, “Has he ever talked to you about why the incident with his mom occurred?” Ginger responded, “Um, yeah he hated her. I mean that’s all he ever told me and I thought well that’s sure not in your best interest to tell me that.” The prosecutor played for the jury the above quoted snippet from Investigator Murphy’s tape-recorded interview of Ginger.

Defendant testified at trial, in pertinent part, that he lived with his mother and found her lying on the floor of her bedroom on the evening of December 10, 2010. She had been in her room with the door closed all day because she had not been feeling well, and defendant had been in and out of the house during the day. Defendant also denied that he was friends with Cristillo. Additional ...


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