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People v. Lowe

California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, First Division

November 15, 2013

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
JUSTIN SAMUEL LOWE, Defendant and Appellant.


Modified and certified for partial publication 12/4/13 (order attached)

APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Riverside County No. RIF132717, Harry A. Staley, Judge.

Mark Alan Hart, 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, Enid A. Camps and Lise S. Jacobson, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.



This case arises out of a series of burglaries, forcible sex crimes, and robberies that Justin Samuel Lowe committed in the City of Riverside between November 2003 and October 2006. Lowe's identity was established by fingerprint evidence; witness identification; and, of particular importance in this appeal, his unique DNA profile. That profile was derived from a buccal (inner cheek) swab sample taken from him without a warrant in October 2006, while he was under lawful arrest for one of the sex crimes charged in this case, as authorized by the provisions of Penal Code[1] sections 296, subdivision (a)(2)(C) (hereafter section 296(a)(2)(C)) and 296.1, subdivision (a)(1)(A) (hereafter section 296.1(a)(1)(A)), as amended effective November 3, 2004, by the passage of Proposition 69 (also known as the DNA Fingerprint, Unsolved Crime and Innocence Protection Act & hereafter referred to as the 2004 Amendment).

Denial of Lowe's Motion In Limine To Suppress DNA Evidence

Lowe brought an opposed motion in limine to exclude "all DNA evidence" the police obtained from him while he was under arrest, claiming the evidence was obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The court denied Lowe's suppression motion, finding that he was under lawful arrest when the DNA sample was taken and that the statutory provisions authorizing the buccal swab were constitutional.


In July 2010, following the trial in this matter, a Riverside County jury found Lowe guilty of all 13 offenses charged in the third amended information: three counts of forcible oral copulation (§ 288a, subd. (c)(2); counts 1, 5, 13) (victims: C.D., Jennifer & Amanda, respectively); one count of attempted rape (§§ 664, 261, subd. (a)(2); count 2) (victim: Victoria); two counts of first degree residential burglary "with intent to commit theft and a felony" (§ 459; counts 3, 7); three counts of robbery (§ 211; counts 4, 8, 12) (victims: Jennifer, Fran Whitton & Amanda, respectively); one count of rape (§ 261, subd. (a)(2); count 6) (victim: Jennifer); one count of attempted robbery (§§ 664, 211; count 9) (victim: Johanna Grosso); one count of misdemeanor child annoyance (§ 647.6, subd. (a); count 10) (victim: Whitton's granddaughter); and one count of kidnapping for rape or robbery (§ 209, subd. (b)(1); count 11) (victim: Amanda).

With respect to counts 1, 5, and 6, the jury found true allegations that Lowe entered an inhabited dwelling to commit a violent sex offense, committed the offenses during a burglary, and used a deadly or dangerous weapon (a handgun) within the meaning of section 667.61, subdivisions (d)(4), (e)(2), and (e)(4), respectively.

As to counts 8, 9, 11, and 12, the jury found true allegations that Lowe personally used a deadly or dangerous weapon (a knife) within the meaning of section 12022, subdivision (b).

With regard to count 13, the jury found true allegations that Lowe was armed with a deadly weapon (a knife) within the meaning of section 12022.3, subdivision (b); he kidnapped the victim and his movement of her increased the risk of harm within the meaning of section 667.61, subdivisions (d)(2), (e)(1); and he personally used a dangerous or deadly weapon (a knife) within the meaning of section 667.61, subdivision (e)(4).

Finally, the jury found true the special allegation that Lowe committed or attempted to commit rape or oral copulation against multiple victims within the meaning of section 667.61, subdivision (e)(5).


The court sentenced Lowe to a determinate term of 15 years eight months plus a consecutive indeterminate prison term of 107 years to life, calculated as follows: count 1: 25 years to life; count 2: one year; count 3: one year four months; count 4: one year four months; count 5: 25 years to life; count 6: 25 years to life; count 7: one year four months; count 8: six years plus one year for the use of the knife; count 9: eight months plus four months for the use of the knife; count 10: 180 days, concurrent; count 11: seven years to life plus one year for the use of the knife; count 12: one year four months plus four months for the use of the knife; and count 13: 25 years to life.


Challenging the court's denial of his motion to suppress the swab DNA evidence, Lowe contends that "section 296, as applied in this case to compel [him] to provide a DNA sample as an investigative tool, violates the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures."[2] He also contends the sentences imposed for his two first degree burglary convictions (counts 3 and 7) and for his conviction of kidnapping Amanda for rape or robbery (count 11) must be stayed under section 654 because the sentences "constitute improper multiple punishment."

In our unpublished opinion in this matter, we held the 2004 Amendment does not violate the Fourth Amendment, and, thus, the court properly denied Lowe's suppression motion. We also concluded the judgment must be modified to stay under section 654 the execution of the prison sentence of one year four months the court imposed for Lowe's count 3 conviction of first degree burglary. We affirmed the judgment as modified.

The California Supreme Court granted review (S207634) and subsequently transferred the matter back with directions that we vacate our decision and reconsider the matter in light of the United States Supreme Court's decision in Maryland v. King (2013) ___ U.S. ___ [133 S.Ct. 1958, 186 L.Ed.2d 1] (King).

In this opinion, we conclude our prior decision is consistent with King. Accordingly, we restate our analysis and conclusions that (1) the 2004 Amendment authorizing the mandatory and warrantless collection and analysis of buccal swab DNA samples from felony arrestees does not violate the Fourth Amendment, and, thus, the court properly denied Lowe's suppression motion; and (2) the judgment must be modified to stay under section 654 the execution of the prison sentence of one year four months the court imposed for Lowe's count 3 conviction of first degree burglary. As modified, the judgment is affirmed.


A. The People's Case

1. Count 1 (Forcible Oral Copulation of C.D.)

In the morning on November 11, 2003, shortly after she went to sleep. C.D. awoke to a loud noise followed by the sound of breaking glass. A tall Black man dressed in black clothing and wearing a black mask, later identified as Lowe through DNA and fingerprint evidence (discussed, post), entered her room and pointed a gun in her face. Lowe asked for money and laughed when she showed him a jar containing some change. Lowe told C.D. he was not "leaving without getting anything, " cursed at her, put the gun to her head, threatened to "blow [her] brains out, " and told her to take off her shirt. When C.D. refused and said she was a virgin and a Christian, Lowe told her she was going to give him a "blow job." Lowe pulled his pants down and exposed his penis. When C.D. said she had never done this before, Lowe told her, "Oh, then this is the biggest dick you've ever seen" and warned he would shoot her if he felt her teeth.

C.D. orally copulated Lowe for 15 to 20 minutes, which she testified "seemed like forever." After Lowe ejaculated into her mouth, C.D. spat his semen into the waste basket. Before he left, Lowe threatened to return if he saw any police in the area.

C.D. called the police, who recovered the waste basket. Liquid from the waste basket tested positive for saliva and semen. DNA analysis in 2004 did not match the semen to any source.

In 2006 when the police collected the buccal swab from Lowe, they found his DNA matched the DNA from the waste basket. Lowe's finger and palm prints matched prints taken from both the sliding glass door that was broken during the incident and from C.D.'s table.

2. Count 2 (Attempted Rape of Victoria)

On November 21, 2003, sometime between 10 p.m. and midnight and 10 days after he forced C.D. to orally copulate him, Lowe entered a house rented by Victoria, who at that time was a student at the University of California at Riverside (UCR). He was again dressed in black, wearing a black ski mask and holding a gun. Lowe grabbed Victoria, who was screaming, by the arms as they struggled, and then told her to "[s]hut the fuck up and sit down on the bed." Lowe sat next to her on the bed and touched her right breast over her clothing. Victoria stood up, screaming, and when Lowe started pulling her drawstring shorts down, she held on to her shorts and crouched down. Victoria told Lowe, "I'll give you money. Just take whatever you want and leave."

As Victoria continued to scream, Lowe said, "Okay. Give me your fucking money." Victoria gave him $13, which was all the money she had in her wallet. Lowe, who became very angry, responded, "What the fuck am I going to do with $13?" Lowe took the money and left.

3. Counts 3 Through 6 (Burglary, Robbery, Forcible Oral Copulation and Rape of Jennifer)

In the evening on March 24, 2004─about four months after he attempted to rape Victoria─Lowe, wearing dark jeans, a dark sweater, and a dark mask, returned to Victoria's house and found a student named Jennifer alone in the kitchen. Lowe popped up from behind the kitchen counter and pointed a gun at Jennifer and told her he would kill her if she screamed. Jennifer and Lowe went to her bedroom and she gave him $12. When he asked whether that was all the money she had, Jennifer told him she was a college student and did not have any money.

Lowe ordered Jennifer to take off her clothes, and she began to cry. Lowe told her he would shoot her if she did not undress right away. When Jennifer complied, Lowe fondled and put his mouth on her breasts, pulled down his pants, and told her to give him oral sex. Jennifer testified that she complied because she "just wanted to survive."

About five minutes later, Lowe directed Jennifer to get on the bed on her hands and knees so he could enter her from behind and told her, "You know you want it." Jennifer complied because she was afraid Lowe would hurt or kill her. Lowe set down his gun, put his penis in Jennifer's vagina from behind and asked her, "Have you ever been with a gangster before?" Lowe later told her to roll over on her back, she complied, and he continued to have intercourse with her.

A couple of minutes later, Lowe asked Jennifer whether she wanted him to ejaculate inside of her or on her. Out of self-preservation, and wanting to preserve evidence so that Lowe would be caught, Jennifer told him to ejaculate inside her and he did. Lowe got off of Jennifer and wiped himself with her sweater. He then left after telling her he would return in a couple of months.

DNA extracted from a sample of sperm taken from Jennifer at the hospital matched Lowe's DNA profile. Fingerprints and a palm print obtained at the scene of the crime matched Lowe's left thumb and palm prints.

4. Counts 7 Through 10 (Burglary, Robbery, Attempted Robbery, and Annoying a Child)

In the afternoon on October 3, 2006, a Black man later identified as Lowe knocked on the front door and rang the doorbell for several minutes at Johanna Grosso's home. Grosso's then-12- or 13-year-old granddaughter, who was inside the home, did not answer the door. Instead, she called her mother (Grosso's daughter) on her cell phone and said she was scared because a Black man she did not know was at the door and was not leaving.

Lowe was still near the front door when Grosso came home with her friend, Fran Whitton, and Whitton's granddaughter, who was about 15 years of age at the time of this incident. Lowe told Grosso he was selling alarm systems. When Grosso told him she already owned a security system, Lowe asked if he could use the bathroom inside the house. Grosso allowed him to do so, and Grosso's daughter arrived while Lowe was using the bathroom. Grosso's daughter testified she saw a "bluish" PT Cruiser parked in an odd spot on a hill, on a neighbor's property, above the street. When she went inside the house, Grosso told her she was uncomfortable because a man (Lowe) was in the bathroom. Grosso's daughter grabbed a knife, but Lowe left without incident.

Lowe returned, however, at around 7:30 p.m. that evening, and entered the house with a knife, which he held to Whitton's granddaughter's neck as she led him to the room where the other women were. Lowe told Whitton's granddaughter, "Don't be scared. I'm not going to hurt anybody. I just need money." Whitton's granddaughter repeated that warning to the other women. Whitton gave Lowe maybe $30 or $50 from her wallet because she was afraid. Grosso dumped the contents of her purse on the table and Lowe took the change.

At some point Whitton's granddaughter fell to the floor. Lowe pulled her up and said she was faking.

Lowe told Grosso and Whitton to get into the bathroom and close the door, and send the girl to him. Lowe, holding the knife, told Grosso's granddaughter to get into the closet and she complied. Lowe then told Whitton's granddaughter, "[L]et's make out, " and put his hand on her shoulder and waist. She rebuffed Lowe and he eventually left.

About a week later, on October 11, 2006, police showed two photographic lineups─one with black and white photographs and the other with color photographs, each of which contained a photograph of Lowe─to four of the women (Grosso, Grosso's daughter, Grosso's granddaughter, and Whitton's granddaughter) who were present during the October 3 incident. When the lineup of black and white photographs─in which Lowe's photograph was photograph No. 1─ was shown to Grosso, Grosso's daughter, and Grosso's granddaughter, Grosso identified the man in photograph No. 1 (Lowe) as the suspect with a 99 percent degree of certainty; but Grosso's daughter was unable to make an identification, and Grosso's granddaughter said the men in photographs Nos. 1 and 2 looked like the suspect but she was less than 50 percent sure about the man in photograph No. 1. When the color lineup─in which Lowe's photograph was photograph No. 5─ was shown to Whitton's granddaughter, she identified the man in that photograph (Lowe) with 100 percent certainty.

5. Counts 11 Through 13 (Kidnapping for Rape or Robbery, Robbery, and Forcible Oral Copulation of Amanda)

At around noon on October 3, 2006─on the same day as the incident at Grosso's house─Amanda, who was then 18 years of age, was on her way to her class at UCR when a tall Black man in his 20's, whom she later identified in person at the police station as Lowe, approached her and tried to talk to her. Amanda testified she did not talk to him. Lowe followed her to the elevator, again tried to talk to her, followed her off the elevator, and walked next to her down a hallway.

As they walked, Lowe, who had a knife in his hand, suddenly grabbed Amanda by the neck, covering her mouth, and pulled her about 20 feet into a handicapped stall in the women's bathroom. Holding the knife to Amanda's neck, Lowe told her he would not hurt her if she did what he told her to do. He told her that he had a "thing" for Asians and that his name was "Justin." Lowe later told her that was not his real name; he had changed it to "Marcus." Amanda testified that Lowe had a black and white tattoo on his arm that looked something like a cross and that he was wearing tan Nike shoes.

Amanda also testified that Lowe, who was standing in the stall with her, put her on the toilet and told her he wanted to have sex with her. When she said, "No, " Lowe told her he was in charge and to do as he said. When another person entered the bathroom, Lowe pressed the knife against ...

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