Monday, March 01, 2010

People v. Mills (Cal. Supreme Ct. - March 1, 2010)

Here's an opinion today from the California Supreme Court. It's 73 pages long. See if you can figure out what happens even before you're told.

"Eric Thomas and victim Sherri Farrar were a young couple living in the Sacramento area. They had a young son, who was born in 1992. On February 10, 1994, they wished to go out and arranged to have their friend, Nancy Warner, babysit their son. After dropping him off at Warner's house, they went to the Sierra Inn, where they played pool and shared a pitcher of beer. . . . Thomas was ready to leave around 11:00 p.m., as he had to be at work at 7:00 the next morning. Farrar apparently was not ready to leave and they argued, but they eventually left Warner's house around 11:30 p.m. with Farrar driving. During the drive home, Farrar admired the starry sky and accidentally allowed the car to swerve onto the shoulder. Thomas yelled at her and an argument ensued. Past hurtful incidents were recalled, escalating the argument. Farrar eventually stopped the car, grabbed her jacket and purse, and got out. Thomas tried to convince her to return, but she refused and walked away. . . .

By this time it was past midnight. Thomas walked around and tried to find Farrar but was unsuccessful. She was apparently not going to return that evening; Thomas described her as a very stubborn person. He could recall at least six other times an argument had caused her to abandon the car in this fashion, but she always came home after she had cooled off. He also recalled four incidents in which she had hitchhiked. He assumed Farrar would walk to International Billing Services (IBS), a warehouse business where she had previously worked. IBS was open 24 hours a day and was approximately five miles away from where Farrar had gotten out of the car. IBS was open 24 hours a day and was approximately five miles away from where Farrar had gotten out of the car. Four members of her family worked at IBS, and she also had family members who lived in the area. In the meantime, Thomas was in a quandary. Their young son was in the car, and Thomas had to get him home. Thomas also knew he had had a lot to drink and was worried about driving himself, as he had past arrests for drunk driving. He eventually decided to drive home and wait for Farrar. He arrived home without mishap, put his son to bed, and waited for Farrar on the couch in the living room. He eventually fell asleep."

Needless to say, Farrar never comes home.

Once they catch the murderer, I'd have thought that his defense would be: "Thomas did it." After all, there was opportunity, motive, etc. Pretty good defense.

Except for this stuff:

"Defendant worked at IBS as a warehouseman. On the night of the crimes, he was out with fellow IBS employee George Solorzano and his girlfriend, drinking and shooting pool. Defendant liked to drink bottles of Miller Genuine Draft beer. They agreed that defendant would spend the night at Solorzano's house in the Placerville area so they could carpool to work the next morning. Sometime between 11:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m., they left for Solorzano's home in separate cars. Defendant, driving a red car with gray primer paint on it, followed Solorzano for a bit but turned off the highway and never arrived at Solorzano's house. He did not show up for work the next day, and calls to his home were not answered.

Between 5:45 and 6:45 the next morning, several people driving to work along White Rock Road reported seeing a red car on the side of the road. Some drivers noticed the car also bore gray primer paint. Two reported seeing a man who looked like defendant. Others reported seeing a White man in a blue shirt with a logo on it. Two reported seeing the body of someone lying on the ground near the man.

Police investigated and discovered the lifeless body of Sherri Farrar along White Rock Road about 3.7 miles from the IBS warehouse. She was naked and her throat had been cut. Police found a Miller Genuine Draft beer bottle between her buttocks. The bottle bore defendant‟s thumbprint and had feces around the rim. His fingerprints were also found on other items at the crime scene. A pathologist later estimated Farrar had been killed between 3:00 and 7:00 a.m. A massive wound to her throat caused her death from loss of blood and was probably caused by six to 12 slashes from a blade. Detective Bell testified that police later found box cutters and knives in defendant's car and bedroom . . . . Mary Hansen, a criminalist, found evidence of semen on vaginal and rectal swabs. A DNA analysis found the semen was consistent with defendant's blood, and the chance the semen would match another Caucasian was only one in 12 billion. . . . Police impounded defendant's car, and a police investigation revealed that fibers found on the victim matched the carpet in the car. Tiny spots of blood in the car were consistent with the victim's blood and inconsistent with defendant's."

Oops. That pretty much eliminates the "It wasn't me" defense. (Unless, perhaps, you're a former NFL running back. But let's call that a special case.)

You can also figure out what happens next. Defendant is sentenced to . . . death. Of course. The placement of the beer bottle pretty much sealed that fate.

And then to the California Supreme Court. Where your fate's also sealed. Can you spell: "Unanimously affirmed." Of course you can.