People v. Portillo

107 Cal. App. 4th 834, 132 Cal. Rptr. 2d 435 (2003)



Because flight following a felony has been considered as part of the same transaction, it has generally been held that a felony continues for purposes of the felony-murder rule until the criminal has reached a place of temporary safety.


A seaman phoned a licensed escort, raped her, killed her and then put her body in a seabag, Her body was discovered by his wife at their home. A jury of the San Diego County Superior Court, California, convicted the seaman of the murder of a escort he raped and sodomized. The jury found true allegations that the seaman had used a deadly weapon, a hammer, in committing the murder and that he had committed the murder during the commission or attempted commission of rape and sodomy, both special circumstances. The seaman argued that the trial court prejudicially erred in essentially expanding the scope of felony-murder sex offenses to include a homicide that occurred after the sex offenses were complete, but before defendant reached a place of temporary safety. The case was appealed by the Court of Appeal of California.


Was the conviction of murder proper?




The Court held that case authority and the felony-murder law supported the trial court's answer given the jury which essentially encompassed the "one continuous transaction" test for the felony sex offenses as the basis for the felony-murder theory as well as the language of the escape rule. As given, the instruction left open for the jury the question as to whether defendant had reached a place of temporary safety cutting off felony-murder liability after raping and sodomizing the victim before killing her. The inclusion of language of the escape rule in the trial court's answer to the jury inquiry clarifying its instructions reasonably defined the outer limits of the "continuous-transaction" theory consistent with case authority.

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