Thursday, April 15, 2010

People v. Taylor (Cal. Supreme Ct. - April 15, 2010)

On this very special Tax Day, the California Supreme Court wants to remind you that you get a lot of value for your tax dollars. So it issues a 113-page opinion that unanimously affirms a sentence of death.

It's a somewhat unusual case, in that you rarely see such a pathologically calm perpetrator or such an incredible laydown on the fact that the defendant was pretty much clearly guilty. Here are the surprisingly pedestrian -- and yet simultaneously grisly -- facts:

"Around 9:30 p.m. on June 23, 1995, 80-year-old Rosa Mae Dixon sat in the living room of her San Diego home conversing with her sister Betty Hayes, who was visiting from Kansas. The women were startled and 'scared to death' when they looked up and saw defendant calmly standing in the room staring at them. Defendant, who was 22 years old at the time and lived nearby, apparently had entered the house from the back after tearing a hole through a mesh screen.

After mumbling something that might have been his name, defendant closed the front door over the security screen and sat down on the couch between the two women. When Dixon rose and asked defendant what he wanted, he grabbed the front of her nightgown. At Dixon's direction, Hayes went into the front bedroom to call 911, but when she picked up the telephone, defendant chased after her, jerked the receiver out of her hand, and pulled the cord from the wall. Defendant then grabbed Hayes by her clothing, took hold of Dixon in the same manner, and pushed the two women down the hall to a bedroom in the back of the house.

At some point before defendant forced Dixon and Hayes to the back bedroom, one of the women came outside onto the front porch, yelled for help, and then ran back into the house. Dixon's next-door neighbor, Erik Kirkpatrick, heard the cry and came to investigate. Receiving no response to his knock on the front door, Kirkpatrick went to the side of the house, looked through a window, and saw defendant on his knees hunched over Dixon. After hearing a male voice mumble something like, 'I don't want to have to hurt you,' and a female voice respond, 'Okay, just don't hurt me,' Kirkpatrick quickly returned to his own house to call 911 and waited for police to arrive.

Kirkpatrick's momentary look through the side window occurred just as events in the back bedroom had started to unfold. Defendant first pushed Dixon to the floor at the foot of the bed, removed her panties and pulled down his shorts. His first attempt to penetrate her was unsuccessful. He then picked up Dixon and slammed her onto the floor near the side of the bed, banging her head and knocking Hayes to her knees in the process. With more room to maneuver in the new location, defendant managed repeatedly to penetrate Dixon's vagina with his penis. Meanwhile, Dixon started breathing hard and gasping for air. At one point, defendant withdrew his penis, raised Dixon's head and attempted to place his penis inside her mouth. She resisted, turning her head to the side and saying, 'No,' while still struggling to breathe. When defendant released Dixon's head and let it drop to the floor a short time later, she was ashen and no longer breathing or moving.

Defendant then turned his attention to Hayes, swinging around to face her with his penis in his hand and asking if she 'wanted it.' When he did so, Hayes noticed there was semen on the tip of his penis. Defendant pulled up his shorts and started out of the room, passing Hayes's purse, which was sitting open on a table. He dug through it, complaining about finding only a few dollar bills until he discovered and pocketed about $65. Defendant continued on through the kitchen and out the back door.

Defendant got only as far as the back fence before being apprehended by Officers Gassmann and Caropreso, who, along with several other officers, had responded within minutes to Kirkpatrick's 911 call reporting a burglary in progress. When the officers asked defendant why he was in the yard, he first replied he thought the house was vacant. Defendant then offered that a White male named John Hall, who had left before the officers' arrival, 'just raped an old woman inside the house.' [Yeah, good alibi. That's definitely going to throw 'em off your scent.] A third officer retraced defendant's route back to the Dixon residence but found no evidence of a second assailant. Less than one hour later, the officers conducted a curbside lineup in the alley behind Dixon's house, and both Hayes and Kirkpatrick identified defendant.

Meanwhile, other officers had discovered Dixon lying on the floor of the back bedroom with her nightgown bunched up around her waist. There was blood on her leg and underneath her pelvic area, and she was unresponsive and not breathing. Rescue efforts, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and emergency heart medications, restored Dixon's pulse, and she was taken to the intensive care unit of a nearby hospital. But she soon suffered seizures and kidney failure and never regained consciousness. The following evening, after being declared brain dead, she was removed from life support."

Needless to say, in addition to being conclusively identified by eyewitnesses and basically caught in the act, there was also totally persuasive DNA evidence. Since Taylor killed an 80-year old woman for no reason -- admittedly, almost assuredly not intentionally -- and since it was a San Diego jury, the outcome wasn't much in doubt. Death penalty.

Nor was the result of the appeal. But the California Supreme Court nonetheless makes it official.