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People v. Marsh

California Court of Appeals, Third District, Yolo

February 22, 2018

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
DANIEL WILLIAM MARSH, Defendant and Appellant.


         APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Yolo County No. CRF13-2418 David W. Reed, Judge. Conditionally reversed and remanded with directions.

          Mark D. Greenberg, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

          Xavier Becerra, Attorney General, Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Michael P. Farrell, Assistant Attorney General, Stephen G. Herndon and Rachelle A. Newcomb, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

          BUTZ, J.

         In September 2014, a jury found defendant Daniel William Marsh (born in May 1997) guilty of two counts of first degree murder committed in April 2013 (finding that he personally used a deadly weapon in each instance) and sustained allegations of three special circumstances. It subsequently found defendant was sane at the time of the offenses. After making an individualized assessment of the appropriateness of the sentence for defendant, the trial court imposed an indeterminate life sentence with a minimum term of 52 years. The case was not fully briefed until July 2017.

         On appeal, defendant argues that Miller v. Alabama (2012) 567 U.S. 460');">567 U.S. 460 [183 L.Ed.2d 407] (Miller) and Roper v. Simmons (2005) 543 U.S. 551');">543 U.S. 551 [161 L.Ed.2d 1] (Roper)-which respectively prohibit the mandatory punishment of life without parole for minors for any offense, or the death penalty under any circumstances even for minors who commit homicide-both apply in the context of a sanity determination, with the result that the holdings require the resurrection of the doctrine abrogated under California law in which an “irresistible impulse” test is applied to determine a defendant's sanity (measuring the ability to conform one's behavior to the requirements of the law).[1] Therefore, defendant asserts that the sanity phase must be reversed and retried with instructions on this rejected standard. We reject this argument in the published portion of the opinion. Given the length of time it took to complete briefing in this matter, defendant also filed a supplemental brief seeking the application of a 2016 initiative amendment to his case because it is still not final, under which prosecutors are stripped of their power to file charges against minors directly in criminal court without judicial intervention. The People concede that this initiative applies retroactively to defendant's pending appeal, and that we must conditionally reverse for proceeding in juvenile court.

         Given the nature of defendant's appellate claims, we are not concerned with the evidence underlying his “extraordinarily heinous” offenses (to quote the trial court at sentencing). It is also clear defendant has deeply disturbed mental functioning, although that does not of itself align with the criteria absolving a defendant on the ground of insanity; for example, see the facts in our opinion in People v. Bobo (1990) 229 Cal.App.3d 1417, in which a jury found the defendant sane (though our analysis of the sufficiency of the evidence to support that determination was not part of the published section of the opinion). However, as we are not called upon to review the sufficiency of the evidence to support the jury's sanity finding in the present case, we do not need to also relate the entirety of this evidence. We thus omit the underlying facts from the published portion of the opinion, other than to note the teenaged defendant (one month shy of his 16th birthday) stalked a Davis neighborhood at night and randomly selected the home of the two victims to satisfy a long-standing (and oft-expressed) desire to kill, after which he mutilated their bodies.


         In 2008, defendant's parents underwent a contentious divorce when his mother began an affair with another woman, who had been defendant's kindergarten teacher. Defendant shuffled back and forth between the parents' households until his father threw him out of his house at age 14 for coming home constantly drunk and under the influence of marijuana (after which point defendant rarely saw his father); his mother was oblivious to his substance abuse in her house. Defendant, being of small stature, was the subject of bullying at school (as was his close friend, though the friend did not think the degree was that significant).

         The parties both detail defendant's extensive interaction with the mental health system from age 11 onward, the particulars of which we do not need to relate. We thus accept their mutually agreed statements of facts (Meddock v. County of Yolo (2013) 220 Cal.App.4th 170, 175, fn. 3) that defendant received “virtually continuous... counseling and treatment” for depression, anger issues, and anorexia (along with various medications), including two rounds of in-patient hospital care (the second in 2012-2013 occasioned by defendant's suicidal and homicidal thoughts). This course of treatment was ongoing at the time of the murders; none of the professionals who treated defendant over the years apparently discerned the presence of any threat to the community.

         Defendant's private interactions are more telling. From seventh grade on, he shared his preoccupation with violence with his intimates, starting with a desire to kill his mother's girlfriend for ruining his parents' marriage. Beginning in 2012, he became preoccupied with a deviant Web site that promoted amateur videos of actual gory events, “really fucked up stuff.” He and his intimates shared an interest in serial killers such as Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer, and his physical relationship with his girlfriend included consensual violent elements, such as choking. Defendant began to talk more persistently with friends about torture and killing random people, seeming to become more vicious and drawing graphically violent pictures of killings with morbid details of the methods. Defendant additionally had the hallmark sociopathic trait of animal cruelty, which his medications helped suppress.

         The victims were an octogenarian husband and his septuagenarian wife, who lived in south Davis; the husband was still practicing law and performing in an amateur singing group, and the wife was a retiree active in her church. Neither the husband nor his wife appeared for performances scheduled on the weekend of April 13 and 14, 2013, which was uncharacteristic for them. The manager contacted the wife's daughter on Sunday evening, who was unable to reach either her mother or stepfather. She was unable to gain entry or see clearly into the darkened residence, so she called the police. The police were able to discern the bodies of the victims through a window with a flashlight, and forced entry.

         Once again, we are not compelled to relate the grisly details of the condition of the victims' bodies, so we accept the mutually agreed summaries in the statements of facts of the parties. Each victim had more than 60 stab wounds (including exit wounds). These were inflicted all over their heads and bodies, with a multitude of stabbings to their abdomens becoming interconnected complex ...

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