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People v. Shamblin

California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, Second Division

April 21, 2015

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
SHELBY GLENN SHAMBLIN, Defendant and Appellant.

[CERTIFIED FOR PARTIAL PUBLICATION[*]]

APPEAL from the Superior Court of Riverside County No. SWF1101032. Patrick F. Magers, Judge. (Retired judge of the Riverside Super. Ct. assigned by the Chief Justice pursuant to art. VI, § 6 of the Cal. Const.)

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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COUNSEL

Joanna McKim, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Julie L. Garland, Assistant Attorney General, Barry Carlton and Adrianne S. Denault, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

OPINION

RAMIREZ P. J.

A jury convicted defendant and appellant Shelby Glenn Shamblin of first degree murder (Pen. Code, [1] § 187, subd. (a), count 1), and he was sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison. On appeal, defendant argues that there was insufficient evidence to support the conviction under either of the prosecution’s theories-premeditated and deliberate murder or felony murder. He also argues that the trial court erred in admitting post-Miranda[2] statements he made during a police interview and during the booking process. Finally, he contends that the trial court erred in responding to the deliberating jury’s note seeking clarification on the difference between first and second degree murder. For the reasons discussed post, we affirm the judgment.

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FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

1. The 1980 murder and investigation

In January 1980, Elizabeth Crossman (the victim), a 67-year-old woman, lived with her husband, Frank Crossman, in a house on West Florida Avenue in Hemet. The couple’s business, an RV trailer sales company, was located about 200 yards down the street from their house.[3]

On January 17, 1980, Frank Crossman returned home from work around 5:30 p.m. and found his wife dead in their back bedroom. He called the police, who arrived at the house around 5:45 p.m. They found the victim lying on the floor in the bedroom under a blanket. She was lying on her back, completely nude, and her legs were spread wide open. She had bruises on her throat, both thighs, and on the backs of her hands. There was semen oozing from her vagina onto the floor beneath her. The police collected vaginal swabs and other potential evidence from the scene, but they were unable to solve the case and after some time it went “cold.”

In July 2002, Hemet Police Detective Jeff Dill looked into the case and sent vaginal swabs from the evidence file to the Department of Justice (DOJ) Crime Lab for DNA analysis.[4] A DOJ criminalist was able to extract a single male DNA profile from one of the vaginal swabs. Frank Crossman, who had passed away several years before, [5] was excluded as the donor of the male DNA on the swab. The unknown male DNA profile obtained from the swab was uploaded to DOJ’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), a DNA profile database of arrestees and forensic unknowns.[6]

In October 2010, a DNA sample was taken from defendant during his arrest on a drug charge. This sample was sent to DOJ to be entered into CODIS. Two months later, a DOJ criminalist notified Detective Dill that defendant’s DNA had produced a hit in CODIS. Detective Dill arrested defendant on February 2, 2011, and the police took another DNA sample from him. This second DNA sample matched defendant’s 2010 DNA sample as well as the DNA recovered from the victim’s vaginal swab.

2. Defendant’s statements to the police

During defendant's arrest on February 2, 2011, Detective Dill and another detective interviewed him at the Hemet police station. After this interview,

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defendant was taken to the Southwest Detention Center for booking. At trial, the prosecution played a portion of defendant’s interview and called as a witness the booking deputy to testify as to statements defendant made to him during the fingerprinting process. The substance of defendant’s interview and his conversation with the deputy is discussed in relevant detail in part 2.a on the admissibility of his statements to the police, post.

3. The evidence regarding first degree murder

a. The prosecution’s case

Elizabeth Crossman was 67 years old. On the day of the incident, January 17, 1980, Frank Crossman and his son-in-law had lunch with her at the couple’s house on West Florida Avenue. Around 1:00 p.m., the men left the house and went back to work.

When the police arrived at the house around 5:45 p.m. that evening in response to Frank Crossman’s call, they found the victim lying on her back, completely nude, in the back bedroom of the house. Her legs were spread wide open, and seminal fluid, which was later determined to contain defendant’s DNA, [7] was oozing from her vagina and was also on the carpet directly below her body. She had bruising on the inner part of both thighs; the bruising on her left thigh was located on the upper part of her leg near her “inguinal” or “genital” area.[8] Next to the victim’s body lay her blouse, pants, bra, underpants, and shoes. Her pants, though off of her body, “were still fastened in the front, ” and one of her shoes was lying underneath her right leg and was still tied.

The People’s forensic expert, Dr. Fajardo, the chief forensic pathologist for Riverside County, testified that the victim suffered a blunt-impact injury to the back of her head that was caused by a significant amount of force, as well as at least three other blows to her head.[9] The victim had a large hemorrhage on the middle of her neck (near her voice box), as well as various other bruises, scratches, and abrasions around her throat. The autopsy report

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concluded that she suffered a broken hyoid bone, [10] and the deputy coroner who was present during the autopsy testified that he personally observed that her hyoid bone had been broken.[11] The victim also had bruising on her fingers and the backs of her hands, indicating that she tried to defend herself from defendant’s attack.

Dr. Fajardo concluded that the cause of death was manual strangulation. In his opinion, defendant had to have applied continual pressure to the victim’s neck for approximately one minute until she lost consciousness and continued to apply pressure for another approximately 30 seconds to cause death by strangulation. He testified that, while strangulation can be achieved with about seven to nine pounds of pressure, it takes “much more pressure to break a bone.” He estimated that in this case, where the victim is elderly, defendant must have applied “fifteen to thirty” pounds of pressure to the victim’s throat when strangling her. In most strangulation cases that Dr. Fajardo sees, the hemorrhage on the throat area is penny- or dime-sized. Here, the hemorrhage was the size of a fifty-cent piece, which he characterized as a “significant hemorrhage” that reasonably could have been caused when defendant broke the victim’s hyoid bone.

Dr. Fajardo testified that, while he did not see any signs of vaginal tearing or bruising from the autopsy photographs, it is “not an unusual finding to find minimal trauma associated with a rape. Sometimes there is [sic] devastating tears, lacerations, contusions; sometimes there’s not.”

The police found no sign of forced entry into the West Florida Avenue home. The jury heard evidence that defendant knew the victim and was familiar with her trailer company and her house. Defendant’s ex-stepfather testified that he had brought defendant to the victim’s property many times and had introduced him to the victim. The prosecutor played the recording of defendant’s police interview, in which he initially claimed not to know the victim or recall anything about her death However, defendant eventually acknowledged during the interview that he knew the victim’s husband and that he had been to the trailer company with his stepfather. He admitted that he mowed the lawn at the victim’s husband’s house a few miles from the trailer business, but claimed to know nothing of the West Florida Avenue house. Despite this statement, he recognized a photograph the detectives showed him of the pool in the backyard of the West Florida Avenue house. This pool was only visible from the backyard; it could not be seen from the street or the front yard.

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During closing argument, the prosecutor argued that the evidence showed beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant committed both premeditated and deliberate murder and felony murder (with the underlying felony being rape or attempted rape). Regarding premeditation and deliberation, he argued the evidence showed that, at the very least, defendant made the cold and calculated decision to take the victim’s life as he was strangling her. Regarding felony murder, he argued the evidence showed, at the very least, that defendant committed attempted rape, i.e., that he had sex on his mind when he came to the victim’s home, and entering her house was the first in a series of acts done with the intent to have intercourse with her.[12]

b. The defense

Defendant called a single witness, Dr. Haddix, a forensic pathology expert, to criticize conclusions in the autopsy report and opine on the state of evidence of sexual assault.[13] Dr. Haddix concluded that the victim died of manual strangulation and opined that it requires about three to five minutes of continual pressure to kill a person by this method, perhaps slightly less if the victim is elderly. She also concluded that the autopsy evidence was inconclusive as to whether the sexual assault happened while the victim was still alive.

Dr. Haddix testified that, although the presence of semen inside the victim’s vagina showed “that there was some sort of intercourse that happened, ” because there was no evidence of bruising in or near the vagina, anus, or breasts, it was impossible to determine whether that intercourse had taken place before or after the victim’s death.[14] She admitted, however, that in some cases of sexual assault on a living person, there are no observable physical injuries. When asked ...


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