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People v. Winn

California Court of Appeals, Sixth District

October 9, 2019

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
ALEXANDER WINN, Defendant and Appellant.

          Monterey County Superior Court Superior Court No.: SS160299 The Honorable Julie R. Culver, Trial Judge.

          Attorney for Defendant and Appellant ALEXANDER WINN: Gene D. Vorobyov under appointment by the Court of Appeal for Appellant.

          Attorneys for Plaintiff and Respondent THE PEOPLE: Xavier Becerra, Attorney General of California Gerald A Engler, Chief Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey M. Laurence, Senior Assistant Attorney General Seth K. Schalit, Supervising Deputy Attorney General Berit G. Fitzsimmons Deputy Attorney General.

          Greenwood, P.J.

         A jury found defendant Alexander Winn guilty of first degree murder for the stabbing death of David Derrington after Derrington had Winn and his wife evicted from their home. The jury also found true a deadly weapon enhancement, and Winn admitted he had previously served five prior prison terms. The trial court imposed a total term of 31 years to life in prison.

         Winn raises two claims on appeal. First, he contends the trial court erred by admitting a photograph of the victim taken prior to the offense, while the victim was still alive. To the extent Winn's trial counsel failed to lodge certain objections to the photograph, Winn contends counsel provided ineffective assistance. Second, he contends the trial court erred during a post-verdict Marsden[1] hearing by failing to inquire into Winn's claim that his counsel deprived him of the opportunity to testify in his defense.

         For the reasons below, we find no prejudicial error. Accordingly, we will affirm the judgment.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         A. Procedural Background

         The prosecution charged Winn with willful, deliberate, premeditated murder. (Pen. Code, § 187, subd. (a).)[2] The information further alleged Winn personally used a deadly weapon in the commission of the offense, and that he had previously served five prior prison terms. (§§ 12022, subd. (b)(1), 667.5, subd. (b).)

         The case proceeded to jury trial in April 2017. Winn admitted the prior prison term allegations. The jury found Winn guilty of first degree murder and found the deadly weapon allegation true.

         The trial court imposed a total sentence of 31 years to life in prison, consisting of a term of 25 to life for count 1, with six consecutive one-year terms for each of the enhancements.

         B. Facts of the Offense

         1. Overview

         At the time of the offense, Winn was married to Traci Derrington, who lived with Winn at a house in Salinas.[3] Winn was charged with killing Traci's ex-husband, David Derrington, in February 2016 after Derrington had Winn and Traci evicted from their house. Traci's marital separation agreement with Derrington had required her either to sell the Salinas house and share the proceeds with Derrington, or to give Derrington possession of the house, whereupon he would compensate her. But Traci failed to comply with the agreement and continued to occupy the house, causing Derrington to obtain a writ of possession in January 2016. Soon thereafter, a deputy sheriff evicted Winn and Traci from the house. About two weeks after the eviction, Winn returned to the house and stabbed Derrington to death. At trial, Winn did not dispute that he killed Derrington; rather, Winn argued that he did so in self-defense.

         2. Events Preceding the Killing

         The prosecution presented several witnesses who testified about Winn's state of mind in the days preceding the eviction and stabbing. Terry Rockwood, the lawyer retained by Derrington to obtain the writ, spoke with Winn on the phone in early January 2016. Rockwood testified that Winn was angry, “not terribly polite, ” and “didn't have a good attitude about moving out of the house.” Alice Taylor, Derrington's girlfriend of 12 years, was at the house on the day of the eviction. Taylor testified that she was sitting on a retaining wall in front of the house when Winn told her, “I have a knife, and I know how to use it.” Taylor and Derrington felt threatened, and Taylor called the police that afternoon to report it.

         Suzanne Smith, Traci's friend, testified that “[t]ensions were rising” before the eviction because “Traci didn't want to leave her house. She basically wanted David dead.” Smith testified that Winn said, referring to Derrington, “That fucker needs to die.”

         Cameron Bush, a longtime friend of Derrington's, lived in the same neighborhood where the house was located. Traci would cut Bush's hair, and he had known Winn for about five or six years. About two months before the killing, Bush and a friend were driving home when they saw Winn standing at a bus stop, whereupon they stopped to pick him up. Winn got in the back seat of the car and asked them if they could get him a gun. Winn said he needed a gun due to the property dispute with Derrington, and Winn added that he was going to “handle business” and kill Derrington. Bush did not get a gun for Winn. Bush admitted he had multiple prior felony convictions, and he was in custody at Monterey County jail when he contacted the police with information about the killing. In exchange for his cooperation, the police offered to help get him out of jail and to make sure a warrant for his arrest was recalled.

         Teresa Davis was a friend of Traci's, and Traci was her hair stylist. Davis testified that she had a phone call with Winn in which he blurted out, “I'm going to kill the mother fucking kids' dad, ” referring to ...


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