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People v. Ford

California Court of Appeals, First District, Fifth Division

April 7, 2015

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
LANCE FORD, Defendant and Appellant.


Superior Court of the City and County of San Francisco, No. SC196780, Hon. Anne-Christine Massullo, Judge.

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Danalynn Pritz, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Gerald A. Engler, Assistant Attorney General, Gregg E Zywicke and Allen R. Crown, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.


SIMONS, Acting P.J.

Lance Ford appeals after a jury convicted him of first degree murder. He argues the trial court erred in admitting certain prosecution evidence, excluding certain defense evidence, and calculating

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sentencing credits. In the published portion of this opinion we reject appellant’s challenge to certain evidence under the confrontation clause. In the unpublished portion, we modify the judgment to correct an error in sentencing credits, and otherwise affirm.


In November 1981, Annie Barcelon was found dead in the basement of her San Francisco apartment building. Her underwear or nylons were around her ankles and a pair of jeans was two or three feet away from her body. Her body was taken to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for the City and County of San Francisco (Medical Examiner’s office) where an autopsy was performed, photographs were taken, and specimens from Barcelon’s body were collected. The Medical Examiner’s office assigned case number 81-1612 to the autopsy. Dr. Amy Hart, the Chief Medical Examiner at the time of the 2012 trial, testified it was her opinion, based on the physical observations in the autopsy report and the autopsy photographs, that Barcelon’s death was a homicide caused by manual strangulation. She also opined, based on physical observations recorded in the autopsy report, that there were injuries consistent with sexual assault.[1]

In 2003, DNA testing was performed on two of the specimens collected at the Barcelon autopsy, a vaginal swab and a rectal swab. Both samples contained sperm and DNA analysis showed the sperm in both samples came from the same person. A suspect was identified based on this DNA analysis; as a result, an oral swab of appellant was taken for DNA testing. The DNA testing revealed appellant’s DNA profile matched the DNA profile in the sperm on the Barcelon swabs.

In 2011, appellant’s cousin told law enforcement officers that at the time of Barcelon’s murder, appellant was staying less than a quarter mile from Barcelon’s apartment building.

The People also submitted evidence of prior sexual offenses committed by appellant.

Appellant presented evidence relating to the reliability of the autopsy specimens and DNA analysis, which we set forth below in Part I. Appellant also presented evidence that certain physical property evidence, including Barcelon’s panties and jeans, were misfiled with another case at the police department. The error was only discovered in 2005 when the attorney representing the defendant in the other case reviewed the contents of the property file.

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An eyewitness on the night of Barcelon’s murder saw a car that she “didn’t feel right about” outside of Barcelon’s apartment. The eyewitness could see the driver’s silhouette and stated his hair was wavy and down to his shoulders. Appellant presented evidence that his hair at the relevant time did not match this description. Appellant also presented testimony that in 1981 the police interviewed a suspect with long hair who admitted trying to mislead investigators; in rebuttal, the People submitted evidence that DNA analysis showed this suspect could not have contributed to the DNA present in the Barcelon autopsy swabs.

The jury found appellant guilty of first degree murder (Pen. Code, § 187)[2] and found true a special circumstance allegation that he committed the murder while engaged in the crime of rape (§ 190.2, subd. (a)(17)(C)).


I. Autopsy Report and Specimens

Appellant challenges the admission of evidence arising from the 1981 autopsy. Specifically, appellant argues (1) the autopsy specimens should not have been admitted because the People failed to lay a proper foundation and to sufficiently establish chain of custody; and (2) the admission of the autopsy report and the labels and writings on the autopsy specimens (and related testimony ...

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