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People v. Willover

California Court of Appeals, Sixth District

June 21, 2016

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
NORMAN WILLOVER, Defendant and Appellant.

         Monterey County Superior Court No. SM980198, Hon. Carrie M. Panetta, Judge.

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         COUNSEL

         Michael Evan Beckman for Defendant and Appellant.

         Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey M. Laurence, Assistant Attorney General Laurence K. Sullivan and Rene A. Chacon, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

         OPINION

         BAMATTRE-MANOUKIAN, J.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         In 1999, defendant Norman Willover was sentenced to two consecutive terms of life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) for crimes he committed as a juvenile. In 2014, defendant filed a petition for recall and resentencing pursuant to Penal Code section 1170, subdivision (d)(2).[1] After a hearing, the trial court denied his resentencing petition. On appeal, defendant claims the trial court erroneously denied his petition based solely on the circumstances of his crimes and that the relevant factors weighed in favor of recall and resentencing. For reasons that we will explain, we will affirm the trial court’s order.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. The Underlying Offenses

         1. Facts

         The following summary of defendant’s underlying offenses is taken from this court’s nonpublished opinion (People v. Willover (Oct. 19, 2000, H019899)), issued after he appealed from his convictions.[2]

         In December of 1997, defendant, age 17, was living in a residential treatment center in Provo, Utah. One day, he left the treatment center without authorization. He bought a Ruger.22-caliber pistol from a teenager in Pleasant Grove, Utah. He then left for the Monterey area, with the gun in his

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black backpack. He stated that he planned to use the gun to rob and kill people and to settle scores with rival gangs.

         When defendant arrived in Monterey on January 31, 1998, he obtained ammunition for his gun and loaded it. Later that day, defendant got together with Joseph Manibusan, Adam Tegerdal, and Melissa Contreras. The four young people drove around the Monterey area in Tegerdal’s Mercury Cougar. Defendant had the gun, bullets, and clips in his backpack.

         Defendant and Manibusan discussed robbing someone. Manibusan directed Contreras, who was driving, where to go. He told her to pull over near the Monterey Sports Center. Defendant and Manibusan left the vehicle with the gun, saying they had seen someone with a purse. They returned shortly, saying they could not find the person they had been looking for.

         Manibusan then took over driving. He drove onto the Monterey Wharf, where Priya Mathews and Jennifer Aninger were drinking coffee and talking. Defendant and Manibusan discussed whether the women had a purse. Defendant yelled out to the women, “Give me your money.” The women could not hear him, however. Defendant said something vulgar and then fired nine shots at the two women. Four bullets hit Mathews and two bullets hit Aninger.

         Mathews was hit in her upper arm, thigh, and the middle of her back. The bullet that entered the middle of her back punctured her lungs, aorta, and heart. She died at the scene.

         Bullets entered Aninger’s brain and left arm but she survived. She had three operations on her brain, and as a result of the shooting she lost her senses of smell and taste. She had no use of her left arm until after surgery several months later, which enabled her to regain only some use of the arm.

         After defendant shot Mathews and Aninger, Manibusan drove the car to Tegerdal’s house, where the group got into Tegerdal’s Chevrolet Monte Carlo in order to escape police detection. Along the way, Manibusan told defendant that he “wanted his turn.”

         Manibusan again drove. He handled defendant’s pistol and asserted that he wanted to find someone to rob. He drove to Salinas and then to Seaside, where he noticed Frances Olivo walking on the sidewalk.

         Defendant asked if Manibusan was going to rob Olivo. Manibusan said yes, drove the car up to Olivo, and motioned her over. Manibusan shot at

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Olivo about six times, hitting her with three bullets. The bullets entered Olivo’s breast, chest, and shoulder. She died at the scene.

         On February 4, 1998, a few days after the shootings, defendant gave his backpack to a friend. The gun, clips, and bullets were inside the backpack. Defendant told his friend that the gun was “heated, ” meaning it was stolen or had been used in a crime. Defendant was arrested that same day.

         2. Convictions and Jury Findings

         Defendant was convicted of first degree murder of Mathews and first degree murder of Olivo (§ 187, subd. (a)), attempted premeditated murder of Aninger (§§ 664, 187, subd. (a)), aggravated mayhem (§ 205), and giving false information to a peace officer (§ 148.9, subd. (a)). The charges of first degree murder were brought on the theory that they were “perpetrated by means of discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle, intentionally at another person outside of the vehicle with the intent to inflict death.” (§ 189.)

         The jury found true three special circumstance allegations: multiple murders (§ 190.2, subd. (a)(3)); murder during the commission of attempted robbery (id., subd. (a)(17)); and drive-by shooting (id., subd. (a)(21)). The jury also found that defendant personally discharged a firearm causing great bodily injury or death (§ 12022.53, subd. (d)) and intentionally inflicted great bodily injury or death as a result of discharging a firearm from a vehicle during the commission of a felony or attempted felony (§ 12022.55).

         3. Sentencing

         At defendant’s sentencing hearing, held on April 2, 1999, the prosecutor argued that LWOP was the presumptive sentence for a special circumstance murder committed by a 16- or 17-year-old juvenile, pursuant to section 190.5, subdivision (b). The prosecutor advocated for an LWOP sentence, noting that two psychiatric evaluators had concluded defendant was faking symptoms of a mental illness and that a third evaluator had referred to defendant as “the most cold blooded, callous killer.” The prosecutor argued that if defendant was given a sentence other than LWOP, “he will come back again looking for someone to kill.”

         Defendant’s trial counsel argued that defendant suffered “from a mental condition that reduced culpability” and that defendant was a “grossly immature” young man who had “little or no ability to control his own aggression.” Defendant’s trial counsel argued that the crimes “were committed in so close a period of time as to indicate a single period of aberrant behavior” and that defendant had “played a minor or passive role” in the second murder.

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Defendant’s trial counsel noted that defendant had been diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder and that antisocial behavior was commonly seen in young males but that “most people by the time they’re in their forties or they’re in their fifties do not generally tend to exhibit these tendencies.” Defendant’s trial counsel requested the trial court impose a sentence that would give defendant “the opportunity to be released from custody at some time during his life if he can demonstrate to the authorities... that he is law abiding, that he is able to control himself, and that he does not present a danger to public safety.”

         In announcing its sentencing decisions, the trial court first rejected defendant’s claim that he was suffering from a mental illness that significantly reduced his culpability for the crimes. The trial court noted it had read the letters submitted in support of defendant, which all suggested “[t]hat it would be a miscarriage of justice somehow” if petitioner received an LWOP sentence. The trial court noted that “all of the doctors and the counselors involved in this case over the years” had characterized defendant as argumentative, explosive, controlling, defiant, resistant to feedback, and a danger to society, with poor impulse control. The court described defendant as “a textbook example and the product of poor, indifferent and inadequate parenting, ” noting that defendant’s mother would often “blow up, call him a loser, give him a knife and ask him to kill her.” The court believed that “[c]ommon sense dictates that [defendant] must never be allowed the possibility of drawing another breath in freedom.”

         The trial court ultimately sentenced defendant to two consecutive LWOP terms for the two first-degree murders, a consecutive term of 15 years to life for the attempted premeditated murder, and two consecutive terms of 25 years to life for the allegations that he personally discharged a firearm causing great bodily injury or death. The trial court stayed the terms for the remaining counts and enhancements.

         4. Appeal and Habeas Corpus Petitions

         Defendant appealed following his convictions, and this court modified the judgment to reflect that defendant’s sentence for the attempted premeditated murder was life with the possibility of parole instead of 15 years to life.

         On February 28, 2013, defendant filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the trial court, alleging that his LWOP sentence violated the Eighth Amendment. That petition was denied on January 13, 2014.

         On March 10, 2014, defendant filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in this court, again arguing that his LWOP sentence violated the Eighth Amendment. This court ...


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