Monday, August 7, 2006
Court of Appeal Upholds Whittier Man’s Sentence in Killing of Ex-Spouse
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district has affirmed a Whittier man’s conviction and 35-year-to-life sentence for the strangling murder of his ex-wife.
Div. Five Thursday rejected Samuel Feathers’ contention that Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Michael L. Schuur erred in admitting evidence of a prior incident of domestic violence at the trial.
Prosecutors presented evidence that Feathers and ex-wife Gina Interrante had been seeing each other again, and that he brought her to his apartment on the night she died, that of Sept. 12, 2003.
Feathers, who shared the apartment with his sister, Kathryn Richards, and her fiancé, Donald McCormick, told them at about 9 p..m. that “We got a problem” and that “It’s done. She’s dead,” according to testimony.
Richards and McCormick said they left the apartment and drove to a nearby restaurant. En route, Richards allegedly received a cell phone call in which Feathers said, “Sissy, I killed her” and “Sissy, I made a mess.”
Richards and McCormick notified the Whittier Police Department, which arrested Feathers. An autopsy showed that Interrante died of manual strangulation and had a fractured nose, bruises and abrasions on her face and head, and defensive wounds on her hands.
The defendant admitted killing her but claimed he did so in the heat of passion.
At trial, Schuur allowed a former boyfriend of Interrante to testify about a November 2002 incident in which the witness said he received a phone call from Interrante and went to her apartment, after calling police, to check on her because she sounded frightened. He said he saw heard loud voices arguing before the police arrived and arrested Feathers.
The witness said he saw several bruises on Interrante’s neck, and that the bruises later darkened into the shape of a hand.
The commissioner ruled that the evidence was admissible under Evidence Code Sec. 1101(b) to show intent or common plan.
Justice Richard Mosk, in an unpublished opinion for the Court of Appeal, agreed.
“In the instant case, there were sufficient similarities between the two offenses for the prior offense to be admissible to establish intent,” the jurist wrote. “The two incidents occurred relatively close in time, involved the same victim, and the same manner of injury. These similarities were sufficient to support an inference that defendant had the requisite criminal intent.”
In any event, the jurist wrote, there was no prejudice to the defendant, since the jury was instructed as to the limited purpose for which the evidence was to be admitted and the only contested issue in the case was whether the victim was killed in the heat of passion.
Attorneys on appeal were Mark D. Lenenberg, the court-appointed counsel for the defendant, and Deputy Attorney General Ryan McCarroll.
The case is People v. Feathers, B1814416.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company