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People v. Jackson

Supreme Court of California

March 3, 2014

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
JONATHAN KEITH JACKSON, Defendant and Appellant

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Superior Court of Riverside County, No. CR-69388, Edward Webster and Russell Schooling, Judges.

Gilbert Gaynor, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant.

Edmund G. Brown, Jr., and Kamala D. Harris, Attorneys General, Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Gary W. Schons, Assistant Attorney General, Annie Featherman Fraser and Adrianne S. Denault, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

Opinion by Baxter, J., with Cantil-Sakauye, C. J., Kennard, Werdegar, Chin, Corrigan, JJ., concurring. Concurring and dissenting opinion by Liu, J.


[168 Cal.Rptr.3d 646] [319 P.3d 934] BAXTER, J.

A jury convicted defendant Jonathan Keith Jackson of the first degree murder of Monique Cleveland (Pen. Code, § 187), [1] the willful, deliberate, and premeditated attempted murder of Robert Cleveland (§ § 664, 187), and being a felon in possession of a firearm (former § 12021, subd. (a)(1), now § 29800, subd. (a)(1)). The jury found true the allegations that defendant inflicted great bodily injury upon the attempted murder victim (§ § 12022.7, subd. (a), 1192.7, subd. (c)(8)), that he personally used a handgun in the commission of the murder and attempted murder (§ § 12022.5, subd. (a), 1192.7, subd. (c)(8)), and that a principal was armed with a

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handgun in the commission of the murder (§ 12022, subd. (a)(1)). The jury also found true the special circumstance that the murder was committed while defendant was engaged in the commission or attempted commission of a robbery. (§ 211; former § 190.2, subd. (a)(17)(i), now § 190.2, subd. (a)(17)(A).) [2] The jury, [168 Cal.Rptr.3d 647] however, was unable [319 P.3d 935] to reach a penalty verdict as to the murder conviction, and the court declared a mistrial. At the penalty retrial, the jury returned a verdict of death on the murder conviction. Appeal to this court is automatic. (§ 1239, subd. (b).)

As we explain below, we find no prejudicial error at the guilt or penalty phase of defendant's trial. We therefore affirm the judgment in its entirety.

I. Facts

A. The Guilt Phase

Robert Cleveland (Robert) and his wife, Monique Cleveland (Monique), were shot during an attempted robbery at their residence. Monique was shot in the face and died. Robert survived gunshot wounds to his face, upper back, and abdomen. The evidence included Robert's account of the crimes and testimony from two witnesses who heard defendant, at separate times, confess to the crimes.

1. The Prosecution Case

In June 1996, Robert and Monique lived in a remote area of Mead Valley. Robert was a drug dealer who regularly sold to members of the Mead Valley Gangster Crips, including defendant, whom Robert knew by the name " Valley J." Robert conducted many drug transactions in his home and often hid drugs in a light fixture in a recessed part of the kitchen ceiling.

One night in June 1996, members of the Blanton family, who lived nearby, heard multiple gunshots. Shortly thereafter, they received a call from Robert asking for help. Robert had also called 911 to report the shootings.

Michael Blanton and his two daughters rushed to the Cleveland home, where they found Robert slumped on the back porch, bleeding from gunshot wounds. Robert could barely speak but said he had been shot by Valley J.

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Monique was found in the hallway; she had been shot in the face and was already dead. Michael Blanton noticed that the plastic cover from the light fixture in the kitchen ceiling was on the ground.

When police officers arrived at the scene, Robert was struggling to remain conscious. He told the responding officers that Valley J. and two or three other individuals had tried to rob him, and that Valley J. had shot him. Inside the house, the police found " Vally J" written in blood on the kitchen floor. In the bedroom, the police located a phone book listing a number for " Valley J." ; that number corresponded to the house where defendant's girlfriend lived. The police also discovered a package of rock cocaine in the light fixture in the kitchen. A total of $ 507 was found in two different pairs of pants belonging to Robert.

Robert underwent multiple surgeries to repair the gunshot injuries to his face, upper back, and abdomen. While recuperating in the hospital, Robert identified a photograph of defendant as Valley J.

During a search of defendant's grandparents' house, the police recovered a green folder with the written notation, " Mista Valley Jay, MVGC Crips." The folder contained paperwork bearing both defendant's real name and the moniker " Valley Jay." Defendant was later taken into custody in Los Angeles for drinking in [168 Cal.Rptr.3d 648] public; he gave the arresting officer a couple of false names.

Robert was one of the three main witnesses in the guilt phase, and he testified as follows. On the night of the shooting, defendant came to Robert's house in a minivan containing at least three other individuals. Defendant got out and knocked on the door. As Robert picked up his .45-caliber handgun and went to answer the door, he heard Monique go into the bathroom down the hall. Robert let defendant in and locked the door behind him. Defendant owed Robert $ 150 from a previous drug transaction and wanted to get additional drugs. Robert told defendant he did not have any drugs for him that night and said they could discuss the matter again the next morning. During the course [319 P.3d 936] of this conversation, Robert set his gun down on the kitchen counter.

As defendant walked toward the door to leave, he suddenly pulled out a gun and shot Robert in the face from one or two feet away. Robert fell to the floor and looked up to see defendant struggling with his gun, which apparently had jammed. As Robert started to pull himself up from the floor, defendant opened the door. One of defendant's companions then entered and shot Robert in the side while saying, " Where's the money? Where's the drugs?" and, " Let's get the bitch too." At least one other person also entered the house. When the men asked where the drugs were hidden, Robert pointed

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to the light in the recessed kitchen ceiling and then heard the light cover hit the ground. Robert began losing consciousness and was only vaguely aware of hearing additional gunshots. He did not recall being shot a third time. After the men left, Robert regained consciousness. Thinking he was dying, Robert wrote defendant's name in blood on the kitchen floor and then somehow managed to call for help. Although drugs and large sums of cash had been in the house, it appeared nothing was taken.

The second main witness was Kevin Jackson (Jackson), who was unrelated to defendant. Jackson testified that a day or two after the shooting, he was smoking marijuana with defendant and " Alex" and asked whether they had heard that Robert and Monique had been shot and killed. Defendant replied, " Yeah. So what?" A short time later, defendant told Jackson, " Don't trip, but I did that."

Defendant then described to Jackson a version of the events that largely tracked Robert's testimony. Defendant said he had gone to purchase drugs from Robert, but there had been a dispute about the money defendant owed Robert. Defendant felt that Robert had " disrespect[ed]" him, and defendant decided " to take what he came for instead of paying for it." Defendant left the house and went to the car where his friends were waiting. He told them he was going to " jack" Robert and " take everything [he] had." Defendant returned to the house, and Robert answered the door holding a gun. When Robert put the gun on the counter, defendant pulled out his own gun. Robert was substantially bigger than defendant, and he jumped at defendant and tried to take defendant's gun. Defendant had recently been hospitalized following a motorcycle accident and " couldn't take a chance on [Robert] grabbing him," so defendant stepped back and shot Robert. Defendant then let in his " homies," and one of them told him to finish what he started. Defendant found Monique in another part of the house. While she was down on the floor, he grabbed her by the hair and asked her where the money was. Monique replied, " What money?" Defendant then " blew her brains out," using a gun he had borrowed from one of his cohorts. During [168 Cal.Rptr.3d 649] their conversation, defendant opened a nightstand drawer and showed Jackson the gun he used to shoot Robert.

The third main witness was Kevin Jackson's younger brother, Donald Profit, who was 14 years old at the time of the crimes. Like defendant, Profit was a member of the Mead Valley Gangster Crips. Profit testified he was smoking marijuana with defendant one or two days after the crimes, when defendant told Profit he " messed up" and confessed to shooting Robert and Monique. Defendant said he shot Robert in the head because he " had to get paid" and shot Monique because he " didn't want no witnesses." Defendant and his cohorts then searched the house for drugs. Profit claimed defendant

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told him he had taken eight ounces of " dope" from Robert. Profit later stated he had seen defendant with this quantity of drugs some two weeks before the shooting.

Two expert witnesses testified regarding the likely manner in which Monique had been killed. Dr. Joseph Choi, a forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy, testified the gun had likely been between two and four inches from her face when she was shot. In his opinion, Monique's injuries indicated she had been lying facedown on the floor while the shooter stood over her, lifted her head by the hair, and shot her in the left cheek. Elissa Mayo, a senior criminalist with the California Department of Justice, analyzed the blood spatter at the crime scene. Based on that analysis, Mayo estimated that Monique's [319 P.3d 937] head was no higher than two feet above the floor when she was shot.

2. The Defense Case

The defense rested without introducing any evidence.

B. The Penalty Phase

After convicting defendant of the charged crimes, the jury was unable to reach a penalty verdict. The following evidence was presented at the penalty retrial.

1. The Prosecution Case

The prosecution introduced evidence of the circumstances of the crime. As he did in the guilt phase, Kevin Jackson recounted the story defendant had told him shortly after the shooting. Testimonial evidence and an autopsy photograph established that Monique was one month pregnant when she was murdered.

Evidence concerning the circumstances of defendant's prior convictions also was presented. Joseph Canada testified that in July 1991, he had pulled his car off to the side of the road to eat his lunch and then dozed off. When Canada awoke, he saw defendant, who appeared to be 16 years old, pointing a shotgun directly at Canada's face from two to three feet away. Three other teenage males were pointing shotguns at Canada from a Jeep Cherokee parked approximately 10 to 15 feet away. Defendant demanded Canada's wallet and keys and told him to lie facedown in the dirt. Canada thought he was going to die, but the teens drove off, taking Canada's car along with the Jeep. Once they had gone, Canada rushed to a nearby house and called 911. Defendant and his accomplices were soon spotted and led the police on a

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chase. They eventually surrendered after a two-hour standoff. The incident continued to affect Canada years afterward.

In July 1992, defendant and his cousin, Derrick Palmer, committed an armed robbery of a drugstore. While Palmer disarmed the store's owner and took cash out of the register, defendant approached two store employees. One of these employees, [168 Cal.Rptr.3d 650] Kenny Johnson, testified that defendant pointed a loaded gun at his face. Defendant then put his knee in Johnson's back and jammed the gun into his neck so hard that it caused a blood clot. Defendant asked where the store cameras were, and Johnson replied there were no cameras. Defendant told Johnson: " When I count to three, if you don't tell me, you're dead." Defendant counted to two, then ran away. Both Palmer and defendant were arrested after their mothers turned them in to the police.

In September 1994, two police officers stopped a car in which defendant was riding in the front passenger seat. When defendant exited the car, the officers discovered a loaded handgun on his seat. Defendant was arrested for being a felon in possession of a loaded firearm.

The prosecution also introduced evidence of the following altercations involving defendant while he was in jail or prison. In June 1995, James Ghan was a correctional officer at Mule Creek State Prison (Mule Creek), where there was tension between inmates in the Crips gang and inmates in the 415 gang. Ghan witnessed a group of six to eight 415 inmates rush across the prison yard to attack two or three Crips inmates. Other Crips ran to join the fray. Eventually as many as 18 people were involved in the brawl, which ended shortly after Ghan shot a 415 inmate who was kicking a Crips inmate in the head. Defendant was later identified as one of the Crips who participated in the brawl, although his role in the fight was unclear.

Correctional Sergeant Vern Nichols testified that in August 1995, defendant and two other Mule Creek inmates refused an officer's order to " get down" after a fight had broken out between two inmates elsewhere in the prison. One of the three inmates told the officer, " Fuck you. We don't have to get down," but Nichols was not sure whether it had been defendant.

In November 1995, Correctional Officer Floyd Haynes saw defendant and another Mule Creek inmate fighting in the basketball court area of the prison yard. Haynes yelled at them to stop fighting and get down on the ground, which they did. Haynes was not sure what had prompted the fight.

[319 P.3d 938] William Rose, a correctional deputy with the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, testified about an incident that occurred when defendant was being held in the Southwest Detention Center. On one occasion in September

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1996, defendant refused an order to respond to the guards who were conducting a head count. When defendant subsequently stepped out of his cell and was handcuffed, he used profanity and challenged the guards to a fight.

In June 1997, Correctional Officer Jerry Baker broke up an altercation between defendant and inmate Robert Mayo in defendant's cell at the Robert Presley Detention Center. Mayo claimed that he had gone into defendant's cell after the two argued while playing basketball, and that defendant had " sucker-punched" him in the back of the head.

With respect to victim impact testimony, Monique's cousin, Jeannette Burns, described Monique's life and the impact of her death on their family.

2. The Defense Case

Four family members appeared on defendant's behalf. Defendant's maternal grandparents each testified that defendant's father had little or no role in raising his son. Defendant's grandfather also claimed that defendant, after getting out of prison, injured his head in a motorcycle accident and did not seem to be the same person afterward.

[168 Cal.Rptr.3d 651] Defendant's older brother, Antione Jackson (Antione), described in detail the circumstances of defendant's upbringing. When Antione was five and defendant was four, their mother had moved in with a man named Alonzo. Antione described the year during which they lived with Alonzo as " torture." Antione and defendant saw Alonzo beat their mother many times. Defendant tried to defend his mother, but Alonzo would throw him across the room. Antione also recalled numerous times when he, defendant, and their mother were forced to accompany Alonzo on trips to steal cars. A short time after their mother moved them out of Alonzo's house, Alonzo came to their grandmother's home with his " flesh burning," like he was " melting." Alonzo eventually died from his burns.

After Alonzo was out of the picture, Antione and defendant were exposed to a great deal of violence. Their mother became abusive. She also moved them back and forth between neighborhoods affiliated with either the Crips or the Bloods, and children associated with the gangs often attacked them or challenged them to fights. Antione recounted his own early involvement in gangs and crimes, his extrication from his gang affiliations, and his later service in the army.

Defendant's mother, Paula Rice, confirmed and expanded on much of the testimony by her parents and Antione. Defendant's biological father had

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become a drug addict soon after defendant's birth and had never been a part of his life. Rice spoke of the daily physical abuse she endured from Alonzo, which was regularly witnessed by, and sometimes involved, defendant. She also described the incredible lengths to which Alonzo would go to keep her under his control, and said he raped her in front of defendant on multiple occasions. Rice was able to move her family out of Alonzo's house only after she responded to one of his regular ...

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