California Evidence Code Section 1250 Interpretation

In the capital murder trial of Ricardo Sanders, a witness was permitted to relate the question of one Carletha Stewart asking if her listeners "wanted to make some money by robbing Bob's Big Boy . . . ." ( People v. Sanders (1995) 11 Cal. 4th 475, 498 [46 Cal. Rptr. 2d 751, 905 P.2d 420].) The court's unanimous opinion, not cited in the briefing submitted to us, explains, "Stewart's statement was admissible for the nonhearsay purpose of establishing her state of mind in August 1980, i.e., her intention to form a conspiracy to rob Bob's Big Boy, which was clearly relevant to the issue whether she subsequently entered into a conspiracy with defendant to commit robbery." ( Id. at p. 518.) In People v. Morales (1989) 48 Cal. 3d 527 [257 Cal. Rptr. 64, 770 P.2d 244], the court reached the same result without a dissenting vote on the point. the defense seeks to distinguish Morales on the basis that when Ricky Ortega revealed his plan to kill the victim, he expected his cousin, defendant Michael Morales, would help him. After finding the statement inadmissible for purposes of Evidence Code section 1223, the court held it was admissible per Evidence Code section 1250: "Ortega's admitted plan to kill Blythe, his stated assumption or expectation that defendant would help or encourage him in doing so, and his remark that if Winchell were present she would 'get it too,' in the aggregate were probative of the question whether the two men later conspired to kill Winchell." (Morales, supra, at p. 552.) The phrase "in the aggregate" cannot be reasonably read to mean Ortega's statement was only admissible because it referred to Morales. It was more probative and prejudicial for that reason, but the proposed distinction is of no import in light of Sanders and the final decision we examine on the point, People v. Howard (1988) 44 Cal. 3d 375 [243 Cal. Rptr. 842, 749 P.2d 279]. In the Howard case, Richard Lemock desired to push the limits of capitalism by arranging the assassination of a business competitor, Walter Berkey. In the capital murder trial of Gary Howard, Lemock's preconspiracy statements were found sufficiently trustworthy to qualify for admission under Evidence Code section 1250 (again, without a dissent on the issue). the only distinguishing feature in Howard is this: "The court . . . admonished the jury that the evidence of Lemock's statements was being admitted only for the limited purpose of explaining Lemock's later actions." ( People v. Howard, supra, 44 Cal. 3d at p. 403.)