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People v. Deere

808 P.2d 1181 (1991)

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People v. Deere

California Supreme Court

808 P.2d 1181 (1991)

Facts

Ronald Deere (defendant), upset by a deteriorating relationship with his girlfriend, shot and killed the husband and two children of his girlfriend’s sister. Deere was charged with first- and second-degree murder. After a psychiatric examination, Deere was found competent and pleaded guilty. Deere waived a jury trial and offered no mitigating evidence in the penalty phase other than to express remorse for his crimes. Deere’s counsel explained to the court that he argued with Deere about the guilty plea, jury waiver, and decision not to offer mitigating evidence, but Deere believed that to call mitigating witnesses would cheapen his relationship with his family and remove his last vestige of dignity. The decisions were based on Deere’s desires, and counsel did not believe he had a right to infringe on Deere’s decisions about his life. The court imposed the death penalty. On appeal, Deere claimed that his counsel’s failure to present mitigating evidence in the penalty phase deprived him of effective assistance of counsel. The penalty was reversed. At the penalty retrial, defense counsel again waived a jury and failed to present mitigating evidence. Counsel explained that Deere had never wavered in his desire that no mitigating evidence be presented and it would be a gross conflict of interest for counsel to comply with the court’s order that he either offer mitigating evidence or state there was none. The trial court held counsel in contempt for failing to obey the order to present mitigating evidence and sentenced Deere to death. The contempt order and sentence were stayed, and an independent attorney was appointed to present a case in mitigation. The new attorney presented six witnesses in mitigation and argued that Deere’s life should be spared because of his artistic talent and the psychological stress Deere was under when he committed his crimes. The court resentenced Deere to death. On appeal, Deere argued that counsel rendered ineffective assistance in failing to present evidence in mitigation.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Arabian, J.)

Concurrence (Mosk, J.)

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