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People v. Sears

Supreme Court of California
401 P.2d 938 (1965)


Earl Sears (defendant) was estranged from his wife Clara Sears and had moved out of the family home. After drinking in a bar, Sears returned to the home late at night, armed with a concealed steel pipe. Sears entered the home through an unlocked door and woke Clara up. After Clara entered the kitchen to speak with Sears, he grabbed her and began hitting her in the face and head with the pipe. Clara’s young daughter Elizabeth Olives came into the kitchen and screamed at Sears to leave Clara alone. When Clara attempted to protect Elizabeth from Sears, Sears knocked Clara unconscious and grabbed Elizabeth. Clara’s mother, Frances Montijo, lived next door and ran over to investigate when she heard the screaming. Frances found Sears struggling with Elizabeth on the floor. Sears attacked Frances with a knife and the pipe, and Frances escaped out of the house, running to find her son-in-law Patrick, who lived nearby. When Patrick ran into the kitchen, he found Sears with a barbeque fork raised in his hand over Elizabeth, who was lying in a pool of blood. Elizabeth died from a knife wound to her throat and suffered other lacerations to her face, Clara had a broken arm and broken jaw, and Frances had numerous wounds to her hands and arms. Sears was charged with two counts of attempted murder and the first-degree felony murder of Elizabeth based on the underlying felony of mayhem, which in California was defined as maiming another person. Sears was convicted on all counts, sentenced to death, and received an automatic appeal arising from the death-penalty sentence.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Tobriner, J.)

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