STATE v. BERNSON No. 5761-5-III.
40 Wn. App. 729 (1985)
700 P.2d 758
THE STATE OF WASHINGTON, Respondent, v. STANLEY M. BERNSON, Appellant.
The Court of Appeals of Washington, Division Three.
As amended by order June 27, 1985.
Curtis Ludwig, Prosecuting Attorney, and Darcy Scholts, Deputy, for respondent.
[As amended by order of the Court of Appeals June 27, 1985.]
Stanley M. Bernson appeals his conviction of first degree murder. We affirm.
On December 29, 1979, a hunter discovered the skeletal remains of Diann Remington, who disappeared about a year earlier on January 4, 1979. Her death was attributed to multiple stab wounds. On September 22, 1982, Mr. Bernson was charged with Ms. Remington's murder. A jury returned a guilty verdict and Mr. Bernson was sentenced to prison for life.
Sometime during November or December 1978, Mr. Bernson offered Sherry Ann Wagoner a job selling women's apparel at a high salary plus a car. In December 1978, the victim, Ms. Remington, told a friend that she had been offered a job selling women's apparel at a salary in excess of $20,000 per year plus travel benefits. Ms. Remington told the friend the offer had come from a friend of her mother's. Ms. Remington, age 22, had met Mr. Bernson through her
On January 26, 1979, Mr. Bernson offered 22-year-old Dina G. a job selling women's apparel at $2,000 per month plus a car. Mr. Bernson met Ms. G. after work to talk further about the job. During the conversation which occurred in Mr. Bernson's car, Mr. Bernson pulled a knife, forced Ms. G. to remove her clothes, and drove to a remote area. During an ensuing struggle, Ms. G. escaped, drove Mr. Bernson's car back to town, and filed a complaint with the police. On February 15, 1979, Mr. Bernson contacted Ms. Wagoner and asked her to meet him that evening to discuss the earlier job offer. Ms. Wagoner refused.
On December 29, 1979, Ms. Remington's remains were discovered by a hunter six-tenths of a mile from the spot where Mr. Bernson had assaulted Ms. G. The grave site was the exact location Mr. Bernson described to Ms. G. as a drop site used for small packages by Ms. G.'s prospective employer. The skeletal remains were scattered and the only clothing recovered after an extensive search of a 5-square-mile area was the T-shirt and sweater. A broken knife tip was found among the remains. The victim died of multiple stab wounds. No conclusion could be drawn from a detailed examination of the knife tip other than the grinding marks were similar to those on a knife allegedly given to Mr. Bernson. Finally, Mr. Bernson's job allowed him to be at the victim's home at the time of her disappearance on January 4, 1979.
Circumstantial evidence has been held sufficient "to take the case to the jury as to who killed [the victim], when he was killed, and where he was killed". State v. Fasick, 149 Wn. 92, 95, 270 P. 123, 274 P. 712 (1928). See also State v. Erving, 19 Wn. 435, 440, 53 P. 717 (1898) (slayer's identity established beyond a reasonable doubt by evidence of defendant's familiarity with the locality where the crime was committed, and the fact that "the evidence tended very strongly to show that he had induced the deceased to accompany him ... on the pretext that he would give him employment"). We hold Mr. Bernson's use of job offers to initiate meetings with young women, his familiarity with the remote area where the victim's body was discovered, his assault on one of those women with a knife, the sexual implications surrounding that assault and the circumstances surrounding Ms. Remington's murder, taken together, present sufficient evidence to allow the jury to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Bernson was the slayer.
Next, Mr. Bernson contends he was prejudiced by prosecutorial delay. He claims the particular facts of this case warrant application of federal and state speedy trial provisions to precharging delay. We disagree.
Mr. Bernson claims he was prejudiced by: (a) the police detective waiting until August 11, 1980, to check Mr. Bernson's alibi; and then limiting the investigation to show Mr. Bernson could have been at the Remington home by 3:30; (b) the relocation in June or July 1982 of the books and records of Mr. Bernson's Richland employer to Yakima where they were stored in a haphazard manner; and (c) the passage of time which precluded Mr. Bernson from establishing an alibi due to fading memories of potential witnesses. We will consider each claim of prejudice seriatim.
The police waited 8 months after the remains were discovered to investigate Mr. Bernson's movements on the day of Ms. Remington's disappearance. The rule which requires the State to preserve all potentially material and favorable evidence and to disclose potentially favorable evidence to the defendant does not include a requirement that the police or other investigators search for exculpatory evidence, conduct tests or exhaustively pursue every angle in a case. State v. Judge,
Mr. Bernson claims prejudice in the removal of his employer's books and records from Richland approximately 2 months before he was charged with the crime. Mr. Bernson apparently claims prejudice because the materials were stored in a haphazard manner. However, we find no prejudice since these materials merely duplicate Mr. Bernson's order book which was introduced at trial by the State.
Mr. Bernson claims the passing of time has dimmed memories, thus causing prejudice. In United States v. Marion, the Supreme Court stated at pages 325-26:
The possibility that memories will fade is not in itself sufficient to demonstrate prejudice. State v. Ansell, supra; Haga II. We find Mr. Bernson's claims of prejudice are not supported by the record.
Next, Mr. Bernson challenges a number of the trial court's evidentiary rulings.
Comment to ER 403 notes that in determining whether to exclude evidence under this rule, consideration should be given to the probable effectiveness or lack of effectiveness of a limiting instruction, and the availability of other means of proof. An expert's use of "could have" or "possibility" has been allowed in other cases where a less than exact scientific process is involved. See State v. Bradfield,
Here, Mr. Morig likened the comparison of knives to that of hair samples, and stated that grind marks cannot be used like a ballistics examination because of the variability caused by movement of the grinder. It was not error to deny the motion to strike the testimony. The jury heard all of Mr. Morig's testimony, including the uncertainties of the identification, and could give his testimony what weight it saw fit. In applying ER 403 to potentially prejudicial evidence, the linchpin word is "unfair". In almost any instance, a defendant can complain that the admission of potentially incriminating evidence is prejudicial in that it may contribute to proving beyond a reasonable doubt he committed the crime with which he is charged. Addition of the word "unfair" to prejudice obligates the court to weigh the evidence in the context of the trial itself, bearing in mind fairness to both the State and defendant.
The purpose of opinion evidence is to assist the trier of fact in correctly understanding matters not within common experience. In addition to determining relevancy and weighing possible unfair prejudice, the court has a duty to see the jury is not likely to be misled. Once having decided Mr. Morig's testimony was admissible, the trial court properly
At trial, Ms. G. was allowed to give detailed testimony regarding the assault committed by Mr. Bernson. Although Mr. Bernson concedes this testimony was relevant, he claims it was extremely inflammatory and thus improperly admitted.
Comment to ER 404(b) states that this evidence should be admitted with extreme caution to avoid prejudice against the defendant. In State v. Saltarelli,
At trial, Kirk Neuschwander, a co-worker of Mr. Bernson, was allowed to testify that Mr. Bernson had said of Ms. Remington, "I'd really like to get her." Mr. Bernson contends this testimony was highly prejudicial and improperly interjected a sexual contention into the case.
At trial, Dale Anderson was permitted to testify that shortly before Ms. Remington's disappearance she told him that she had received a job offer to sell women's apparel. Mr. Bernson contends the victim's statements are inadmissible hearsay, and further, that admission of this evidence violated his Sixth Amendment right to confront an adverse witness.
A victim's out-of-court statements which tend to prove a plan, design, or intention of the declarant are admissible under ER 803(a)(3). See E. Cleary, McCormick on Evidence § 295 (3d ed. 1984). Here, Mr. Anderson's testimony was admissible to show the victim's state of mind and her plan. "The only limitations as to the use of such statements ... are that the statements must be of a present existing state of mind and must appear to have been made in a natural manner and not under circumstances of suspicion". Ford v. United Bhd. of Carpenters,
"Reliability can be inferred without more in a case where the evidence falls within a firmly rooted hearsay exception." State v. Parris, supra at 145 (quoting Ohio v. Roberts,
At trial, Mr. Bernson offered out-of-court statements made to him by Louis Kahala. It was Mr. Bernson's contention that Mr. Kahala was the source of the job offer, and
Mr. Bernson contends his ability to present a defense was prejudiced because he was not permitted to give a more detailed description of Mr. Kahala's statements. Although limitations on Mr. Bernson's testimony may have been more restrictive than necessary, he was able to present the out-of-court statement for his intended purpose. We find no error.
State v. Parnell,
Here, the court after extensive voir dire determined Mr. Moe had no actual bias. Mr. Bernson concedes there was no showing of actual bias, but argues Mr. Moe's employment in a state correctional facility for juveniles shows implied bias. "Implied bias ... arises when a juror has some relationship with either party; with the case itself; or has served as a juror in the same or a related action." State v. Latham,
In Latham, the court held it was not error to deny the defendant's challenge since the challenged jurors agreed to lay aside opinions, had no specific knowledge about the crime charged or defendant's case, and promised to base the verdict solely on the evidence presented at trial. The voir dire of Mr. Moe shows he met each of these requirements. Finally, the use of a peremptory challenge to remove a juror who should have been removed for cause "cures" the error unless defendant can show the use of the peremptory challenge actually prejudiced his case. State v. Latham, supra at 64. Mr. Bernson has failed to show such prejudice. We find no error.
Mr. Bernson claims this rule was violated when a person other than the judge, or one authorized by him, talked to the jury during the view. However, the record reveals this incident consisted merely of a juror talking to himself.
Mr. Bernson also contends the court erred by permitting the jury to view the crime scene because the prejudicial effect outweighed the probative value. State v. Stoudamire, supra at 46. "A jury view of a crime scene is a means of helping the jury to understand the evidence, and is not itself evidence." State v. Stoudamire, supra at 46. Here, the court deemed the view permissible to aid the jury in understanding the logistics of the crime scene, and the court properly instructed the jury that the view did not constitute evidence. Accordingly, we find no error.
GREEN, C.J., and MUNSON, J., concur.
After modification, further reconsideration denied June 27, 1985.
Review denied by Supreme Court September 20, 1985.
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