In re STEVEN M. BELL on Habeas Corpus. S151362
Superior County San Diego Richard Murphy and Joan P. Weber
Corpus Resource Center, Miro F. Cizin, Kevin Bringuel, Eileen
Connor, Anne D. Gordon and Paula Fog for Petitioner Steven M.
G. Brown, Jr., Kamala D. Harris and Xavier Becerra, Attorneys
General, Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant Attorney General,
Gary W. Schons and Julie L. Garland, Assistant Attorneys
General, Holly D. Wilkens, Michael T. Murphy and Lynne G.
McGinnis, Deputy Attorneys General, for Respondent State of
M. Bell, who is under sentence of death for the first degree
robbery murder of Joey Anderson, petitioned this court for
writ of habeas corpus claiming, among other things, that a
holdout juror in the penalty deliberations solicited her
husband's advice regarding her vote and, based on that
advice, switched her vote to a death sentence. We issued an
order to show cause on this claim of juror misconduct and
ordered an evidentiary hearing before a referee in the
superior court. After hearing testimony, the referee found
the alleged misconduct did not occur.
conclude the referee's findings are supported by
substantial evidence and entitled to this court's
deference. Because no misconduct has been proven, we will
discharge the order to show cause and, by separate order,
deny Bell's petition for writ of habeas corpus.
and Procedural Background
Bell's trial for the killing of Joey Anderson was
conducted in October through December of 1993 in San Diego
County Superior Court. Petitioner was convicted of first
degree murder with a robbery-murder special circumstance
(Pen. Code, §§ 187, 189, 190.2, subd. (a)(17)) and,
in March 1994, was sentenced to death for the crime.
affirmed Bell's conviction and sentence in People v.
Bell (2007) 40 Cal.4th 582. Our appellate opinion
recites the facts of the crime, which are not pertinent to
the jury misconduct claim at issue here. In very brief
summary, petitioner fatally stabbed Joey, the 11-year-old son
of petitioner's girlfriend, while stealing a television
and boom box belonging to Joey and his mother; petitioner
then sold the appliances to get money for crack cocaine.
habeas corpus petition filed in this court in 2009,
petitioner claimed Juror M.H. committed misconduct during the
deliberations on penalty by consulting with her husband over
how she should vote. Support for the allegation came from the
declaration of another juror, P.R. According to P.R.'s
2009 declaration, she and M.H. initially voted for a life
sentence and eventually were the only holdouts against the
majority, which voted for death. The declaration continues:
“On the last day of deliberations, [M.H.] approached me
in the hallway before we entered the jury room and confessed
that she had broken down and spoken to her husband about her
dilemma the night before, to see if he could help her out of
her dilemma, and he advised her to change her vote.”
M.H. and P.R. both changed their votes to death.
petition also included a declaration by M.H., who remembered
little of the penalty phase deliberations. As to the
allegation of misconduct, M.H. declared, “I do not
recall if I voted for death at the beginning of
deliberations, or not until the end of deliberations, and I
do not recall telling [P.R.] on the day we reached our
penalty verdict that I had spoken to my husband the night
before and then decided to change my vote from life to death.
Susan Lake [the investigator for petitioner's counsel]
asked me about this specifically, and I told her that I do
not recall speaking to my husband and [P.R.].”
issued an order to show cause on this claim of jury
misconduct and, after receiving the People's return and
petitioner's traverse, ordered the San Diego County
Superior Court to appoint a referee and conduct an
evidentiary hearing on specified factual questions:
Juror M.H. discuss the jury's deliberations, or any other
aspect of the case, with her husband during her service as a
so, when did the conversation(s) occur?
What information or advice, if any, did M.H.'s husband
M.H. tell Juror P.R. about a conversation between ...