Monday, December 17, 2007
Court of Appeal Upholds Conviction in Carjack Killing
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district Friday affirmed the conviction of a man serving a life sentence without possibility of parole for a Crenshaw-area carjacking that escalated into murder.
Presiding Justice Roger Boren, in an unpublished opinion for Div. Two, rejected Tramayne Wood’s claims of instructional and sentencing error in connection with the 2004 killing of Nathan Callis.
Testimony at trial indicated that Callis parked his white Cadillac Escalade on a traffic island on Crenshaw Blvd. after he and his passenger saw some people they knew, but that he tried to leave after he saw a man carrying a gun jogging up to the vehicle parked in back of them.
Before they could leave, however, the passenger, Olukoya Davis, said, the man with the gun ran up to the Escalade and pointed a gun at Davis’ face, ordering him out of the car. Before he could do anything, however, the man fired the gun.
Callis drove for a few seconds, then stopped and told Davis he had been shot. Davis grabbed the steering wheel, but swerved and crashed into the sidewalk.
An ambulance took Callis to the hospital, but he died four months later of a gunshot wound to the torso.
Davis identified Wood as the shooter. The driver of the vehicle parked behind Callis, Michael Gilmor, said he was driving alone on Crenshaw Blvd. in his 1998 Chevrolet Tahoe truck with more than $13,000 in television and music equipment in the vehicle when he pulled onto the island to talk to some friends.
Before he got out, however, two men, one of whom he identified as Wood, came up to the car carrying guns and ordered him out. After he got out, he said, the men attempted to drive off, but their path was blocked by the Escalade.
The men then got out of the truck and ran up to the Escalade. With the truck doors open, his view was partially blocked, he said, but he saw Wood walk up to the passenger side and heard a gunshot.
The men, he said, then drove off in his truck, which was recovered two hours later, stripped of the audio and video equipment.
Wood was arrested after Davis and Gilmore each picked him out of a photo array. A detective testified that he took Wood’s statement, following a Miranda waiver, and that Wood admitted the carjacking.
He also admitted approaching the Escalade, with he and his accomplice both carrying guns, but claimed that Davis pushed the gun, which accidentally discharged.
At trial, he testified that his accomplice, “Shaky,” told him he knew Gilmore and wanted to play a joke by pretending to take the truck. He claimed he got mad once he realized that Shaky actually intended to steal the truck, and again claimed the discharge was accidental.
He said he left with Shaky in the truck because he was scared, but got dropped off after 15 minutes. He admitted having committed several crimes as a juvenile, but said he had never before used a gun.
Jurors convicted him of first degree murder and carjacking with a carjacking special circumstance. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ann I. Jones sentenced him to life-without-parole on the murder count, with consecutive terms for using a firearm to commit both the murder and the carjacking.
On appeal, Boren said Jones correctly instructed the jury that a defendant may be convicted of carjacking even though he is away from the vehicle when it is taken, as long as he is nearby.
Jones did err, Boren said, in rejecting a proposed instruction on involuntary manslaughter as a lesser offense, based on the defendant’s testimony that the gun discharged accidentally. But the error was harmless under the “reasonably probable” standard, the presiding justice said, because the verdicts on the carjacking count and the special circumstance establish that jurors found the killing to have occurred during the commission of a carjacking, which is first-degree felony murder.
Boren went on to conclude that the use of Wood’s juvenile record to double the carjacking sentence under the second-strike feature of the Three Strikes Law did not violate his constitutional right to trial by jury. The argument that the use of juvenile adjudications, as to which the accused has no right to jury trial, to enhance later sentences violates the right to a jury trial on sentencing facts has been rejected by numerous California and federal courts, Boren noted.
The case is People v. Wood, B192533.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company