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People v. Jessee

California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, Third Division

November 25, 2013

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
SANDRA MARIE JESSEE, Defendant and Appellant.

Pub. and Mod. Order 12/19/13

Appeal from a judgment of the Superior Court of Orange County No. 07ZF0009, James A. Stotler, Judge. Affirmed in part and reversed in part.

Eric R. Larson, 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, Lilia E. Garcia and Raquel M. Gonzalez, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

OPINION

THOMPSON, J.

A jury convicted Sandra Marie Jessee of conspiracy to commit murder and special circumstance first degree murder for financial gain, all in connection with the slaying of her husband, Jack Jessee.[1] Sandra was sentenced to life in prison without parole and ordered to pay a total of $521, 414 in victim restitution.

Sandra does not contest her conviction or sentence. She merely challenges four of the five restitution orders and the related abstract of judgment. We reverse one of the challenged restitution orders, order the abstract of judgment corrected, and affirm the judgment in all other respects.

FACTS

After trial, the prosecution requested victim restitution (Pen. Code, § 1202.4 (section 1202.4)) as follows: (1) $311, 858 to Provident Life Insurance Company, as repayment of the life insurance proceeds which Sandra received as a result of Jack’s death; (2) $131, 291 to Jack’s estate, as repayment of one-half of the 401k plan Sandra received from Jack’s employer, Fujitsu Corporation; (3) $45, 335 to Jack’s estate as repayment of one-half of the proceeds Sandra received from the sale of the family home; (4) $29, 648 to the Allstate Insurance Company, for a related fraudulent automobile theft claim perpetrated by Sandra and others; and (5) $3, 282 to Jack’s daughter, Chere Conrad-Williams, for costs associated with attending the hearings and trials.

On May 4, 2012, a restitution hearing was held. The prosecution relied upon the documents and testimony presented at trial, as the basis for “proving up” the dollar amounts of the restitution requested in items 1 through 5 above. The defense stipulated Chere Conrad-Williams was entitled to restitution in the amount of $3, 282 as requested. The defense also agreed the other dollar amounts requested were accurate, but argued Jack’s estate and the insurance companies were not entitled any restitution at all.

The trial court did not issue a ruling that day, but instead continued the hearing and ordered the parties to file written briefs on the issues.

The prosecution filed a memorandum of points and authorities in support of the restitution requested. The prosecution argued Jack’s estate and both of the insurance companies were “victims” within the meaning of section 1202.4, subdivision (k). These arguments were based in large part on the now superseded Court of Appeal opinion (People v. Runyan (2010) 188 Cal.App.4th 1010, review granted Jan. 12, 2011, S187804) in the case later decided by the Supreme Court as People v. Runyan (2012) 54 Cal.4th 849 (Runyan).

The defense filed a memorandum of points and authorities in opposition to the restitution requested. Among other things, the defense argued (a) neither Jack’s estate nor the insurance companies were “victims” under section 1202.4, subdivision (k), Sandra was the sole beneficiary of all of Jack’s assets, including the life insurance policy, (c) there was no evidence Jack’s estate even existed, (d) Provident Life Insurance Company suffered no loss, and (e) Sandra was not convicted of any crime which resulted in a loss to Allstate Insurance Company.

On June 22, 2012, another restitution hearing was held. The prosecution argued “the purpose the restitution statute is to make sure the defendant isn’t unjustly enriched by her criminal conduct.” The prosecution analogized to a theft case, and noted “when you steal from somebody, you have to pay it back.” Finally, the prosecution contended: “So the only issue then becomes, since Jack Jessee was killed for financial gain, does his estate have the ability to recoup those losses? And I think that he does and the estate does.”

The defense argued, “The purpose of restitution is to compensate victims for direct economic loss.” The defense noted the life insurance was a policy Sandra and Jack had on each other, with the surviving spouse named as the direct beneficiary. “So had Mr. Jessee died of his colon cancer three months later, Mrs. Jessee would have gotten every dime of that insurance policy, and no one would have ever been entitled to it. Had she predeceased him, he would have been entitled to the value of her insurance policy.... So this is not a direct economic loss to any victim.... [¶] I would make the same exact argument with respect to the 401-K money, as well as the community property shares of the marital home.”

Similarly, the defense noted Jack’s daughters testified they were not economically dependent upon him, and there was no evidence as to what Jack might have provided for them if Sandra was written out of his will. “The reality is, not to be crass or disrespectful, but they – in other words, it would be unjust enrichment of the asserters now to get money that they never would have gotten in the first place.... They suffered no losses ...


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