☛ PEOPLE v. HOVARTER (JACKIE RAY) 08 S.O.S. 4839.
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA...
A Humboldt County jury convicted Jackie Ray Hovarter in 1988 of the first degree murder of Danna Elizabeth Walsh. (Pen. Code, § 187; all further statutory references are to this code unless otherwise indicated.) It also convicted defendant of kidnapping and forcibly raping Walsh (§§ 207, subd. (a), 261, former subd. (2), now see id., subd. (a)(2)) and sustained special circumstance allegations that he murdered Walsh while engaged in the commission of a kidnapping and rape (§ 190.2, former subd. (a)(17)(ii) & (iii), now subd. (a)(17)(B) & (C)). The jury was unable to reach a verdict as to penalty, and the trial court declared a mistrial.
Defendant, with the agreement of counsel, waived his right to a jury for the penalty retrial, and in 1989, the trial court, sitting as the trier of fact, returned a verdict of death under the 1978 death penalty law. (§ 190.1 et seq.) This appeal is automatic. (§ 1239, subd. (b).)
As explained below, we conclude the guilt and penalty judgments should be affirmed in their entirety.
On Tuesday, August 12, 2008, Supreme Court Rules Defendant May Waive Jury for Death Penalty Retrial
The justices affirmed the death sentence of Jackie Ray Hovarter, convicted of killing a young woman, Danna Walsh, who was abducted, raped, and strangled. Her body was found under the Scotia Bridge, about 30 miles south of Eureka in Humboldt County, in August 1984.
Hovarter, a truck driver from the San Francisco Bay area who transported wood pulp from a mill near the crime scene, was charged with the murder after he was identified as the perpetrator of another crime—the abduction, rape, and shooting of a teenager in Mendocino County in December 1984.
While in jail, Hovarter allegedly confessed both crimes to his cellmate, Gary Marolla. Marolla, who was being held on drug and weapons charges, negotiated a deal in which he received 111 days’ credit for time served and probation in exchange for his testimony against Hovarter.
Besides Marolla, prosecutors called the victim of the Mendocino County crime, identified only as A.L. Humboldt Superior Court Judge William F. Ferroggiaro Jr. ruled that her testimony—in which she explained how Hovarter tied her to a tree, assaulted her, shot her twice and left her for dead—was more probative than prejudicial, citing the similarities between the crimes. Both of the attacks occurred along U.S. 101—which Hovarter traveled on his route between his home, the mill, and the Oakland yard to which he delivered the wood pulp—and the modus operandi were similar, the judge ruled.
Much of the case against Hovarter was circumstantial, including evidence that on the morning of the crime, he arrived at the mill more than two hours later than usual, and about an hour after the murder occurred.
Jurors found Hovarter guilty of first degree murder, kidnapping, and forcible rape, with special circumstances of rape and kidnapping. After jurors deadlocked in the penalty phase, Hovarter agreed to have the judge alone decide the sentence, and Ferroggiaro opted for the death penalty.