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People v. Mora & Rangel

Filed 7/2/18 IN THE SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA THE PEOPLE, ) ) Plaintiff and Respondent, ) ) S079925 v. ) ) JOSEPH ADAM MORA and RUBEN ) RANGEL, ) ) Los Angeles County Defendants and Appellants. ) Super. Ct. No. TA037999 ___________________________________ ) This automatic appeal arises from defendants Joseph Adam Mora and Ruben Rangel’s 1999 convictions and death sentences for the attempted robberies and murders of Andres Encinas and Antonio Urrutia. Mora and Rangel contend that several errors occurred during the guilt and penalty phases of their trial. With one exception, we disagree. The exception consists of a guilt phase instructional error permitting the jury to find the multiple murder special circumstance true without finding that Mora or Rangel intended to kill or actually killed either victim. We nonetheless find the error harmless because of the overwhelming evidence supporting the jury’s conclusion that each defendant actually killed the victim he shot, and both defendants were found guilty of two first-degree murders. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment. I. BACKGROUND Defendants Joseph Adam Mora and Ruben Rangel were charged by information with two counts of murder (Pen. Code,1 § 187), two counts of attempted robbery (§§ 211, 1 All subsequent statutory cites are to the Penal Code unless otherwise noted. SEE CONCURRING AND DISSENTING OPINION 664), the special circumstances of multiple murder (§ 190.2, subd. (a)(3)) and felony murder while in the commission of robbery (§190.2, subd. (a)(17)), and various enhancements. On February 5, 1999, the jury found Rangel and Mora guilty of the first degree murders and the attempted second degree robberies of both Encinas and Urrutia, and determined that both Rangel and Mora used a firearm in the commission of each offense. The jury also found true the multiple murder and felony murder special circumstances with regard to both Mora and Rangel. On February 18, 1999, the jury imposed the death penalty on both defendants. The court denied Rangel’s and Mora’s motions for a new trial and modification of the verdicts of death on May 27, 1999, and on that date sentenced Rangel and Mora to death. A. Guilt Phase 1. The Murders In the early morning hours on August 24, 1997, Andy Encinas, Anthony Urrutia, and Fidel Gregorio drove to meet Encinas’s girlfriend, Paula Beltran, at a gas station in Wilmington, where she and two friends were awaiting assistance to repair a flat tire on Beltran’s car. Encinas and his friends had attended a party in Wilmington that night, where Beltran had been headed before she got a flat tire. Beltran, along with friends Mayra Fonseca and Yesenia Jimenez, had spent time at a nightclub earlier that evening. Beltran paged Encinas to tell him she would be delayed meeting him; Encinas insisted on driving the one block from the party to meet her where she was awaiting roadside assistance. Once Beltran’s tire was repaired, the two cars planned to caravan to Beltran’s home in Norwalk. On the way there, Jimenez asked to be taken to her home on …
Original document
Source: California Supreme Court