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Commonwealth v. Diamond

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

December 27, 2013

COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania, Appellee
v.
Robert DIAMOND, Appellant.

Argued Sept. 10, 2013.

Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence entered on 04/17/2009 in the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, of Bucks County at No. CP-09-CR-0006489-2008, Trial Court Judge: Rea Behney Boylan, Judge.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Christa S. Dunleavy, Esq., Ann P. Russavage-Faust, Esq., Doylestown, Bucks County Public Defender's Office, for Robert Diamond.

Maureen Flannery Spang, Esq., Bucks County District Attorney's Office, Amy Zapp, Esq., Harrisburg, PA Office of Attorney General, Stephen B. Harris, Esq., David Ward Heckler, Esq., Michelle Ann Henry, Esq., Doylestown, for Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

CASTILLE, C.J., SAYLOR, EAKIN, BAER, TODD, McCAFFERY, STEVENS, JJ.

OPINION

BAER, Justice.

This is a direct appeal from an order of the Bucks County Common Pleas Court, imposing two death sentences after Appellant Robert Diamond pled guilty to the first degree murders of Angel Guadalupe and Reginald Woodson. Appellant raises claims of trial court error relating only to the penalty phase of trial, including challenges to the finding of statutory aggravating circumstances and the failure to find mitigating circumstances, challenges to the weighing of aggravating and mitigating circumstances, and a claim that his sentence of death was based on arbitrary factors. As we conclude that Appellant's issues lack merit, we affirm his conviction and judgment of sentence.[1]

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Because Appellant pled guilty to the offenses at issue, the relevant facts were gleaned from the suppression hearing, the guilty plea proceeding, and the sentencing hearing. In 2002, Appellant began working as a forklift operator at the Simon & Schuster book warehouse in Bristol Borough, Bucks County. Appellant, who is Caucasian, had engaged in several arguments with fellow employee Kalif Crump, who is African American, and believed that management had unfairly sided with Crump. Appellant had also engaged in verbal confrontations with Crump's mother, Debra Vorters, who likewise worked at Simon & Schuster. Shop Steward Reginald Woodson, who was friendly with Crump and Vorters, would intervene in some of the altercations, and separate the parties.

In April of 2008, management terminated Appellant's employment after he failed to report to work for several days without explanation. Nearly four months later, on the afternoon of August 1, 2008, Appellant made an audio tape of what he referred to as his " last will and testament" as he drove to Simon & Schuster to seek revenge for the purported harassment he had suffered during his employment. In the recording, Appellant stated that he had no place in the world, that the last six years he spent at Simon & Schuster had been a " living hell," and that time was running out because he lacked money to pay his rent.

Appellant further stated that Crump was " the main perpetrator of all this shit but people gave him the intelligence and the will and the support to f_ _k with the good white man cause it'd be good for black power, that's Debra [Vorters] and Reggie [Woodson], and I don't think I can wait any longer than today." Commonwealth Exhibit 30. As he drove into the Simon & Schuster parking lot, Appellant stated " [t]hat little black boy's car is not there, so unless he's got a ride, I'll have to hope that there's higher justice for him." Id. Appellant ended his oral diatribe by facetiously thanking his mother and sisters for not helping him obtain his inheritance from his aunt. He stated, " if I had one little bit of that money, five, ten, I could get this little kick out of my system, you know, and provide for myself until I either die of natural causes or clean my act up." Id.

Appellant arrived at Simon & Schuster at nearly 3:30 p.m., the precise time that employees working his former shift would leave for the day. Appellant was well aware that when the shift ended, employees waited in a line at the door to " clock out" and exit the warehouse onto the loading dock platform, which was adjacent to the parking lot. Appellant parked his car in the lot next to the van of Sonia Santiago, who was seated in the vehicle with her three children, waiting to pick up her husband, Miguel Santiago, after his shift. At that time, employee Vanessa Gonzalez observed fellow employee Angel Guadalupe exit the building onto the loading dock, climb down the stairs to the parking lot, and walk towards Guadalupe's white sports utility vehicle (" SUV" ), a vehicle similar to that driven by Crump.[2]

While brandishing a Smith and Wesson .40 caliber handgun, Appellant walked in front of Sonia Santiago's van towards Angel Guadalupe's SUV, said " shh" to Santiago, and gestured for her to remain quiet. As Guadalupe backed his SUV out of the parking space, Appellant ran over and began firing shots into the vehicle. Guadalupe attempted to exit the SUV, but Appellant continued firing until at least six rounds had been discharged, and Guadalupe had fallen from the vehicle onto the

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road. It was eventually determined that two bullets resulted in fatal injuries.

Several individuals observed Appellant shoot Guadalupe, including: Gonzalez, who was standing on the loading dock; Santiago, who quickly drove her van away from the scene after she observed the shooting; the driver of a SEPTA bus carrying seven passengers, which was located fifteen to twenty yards away from Guadalupe's SUV; a resident in a retirement community located approximately twenty to twenty-five feet behind Guadalupe's vehicle who called 9-1-1 when the shots were fired; a security guard in a nearby guard shack; and individuals smoking cigarettes on the loading dock.

As captured by the Simon & Schuster surveillance camera, at 3:34 p.m., after killing Guadalupe, Appellant walked behind his SUV, released the gun's magazine catch, checked to see how many rounds were left, and inserted the magazine back into the gun. Appellant thereafter encountered others in the parking lot, but did not fire his weapon. Moments later, Woodson left the warehouse to investigate, walked toward Appellant, and asked him what he was doing. Woodson then abruptly turned away from Appellant, and ran up the stairs to the loading dock in an effort to get back inside the warehouse. When Woodson reached the top step, Appellant, who was then approximately twenty-nine yards away, fatally shot Woodson in the back. Gonzalez, along with other employees, was standing behind Woodson in the doorway of the loading dock when Woodson was shot, and Gonzalez observed Appellant fire his weapon. Maria Brown, a motorist driving by the warehouse at the time, also witnessed Appellant fire shots at Woodson.

Police officers arrived promptly and observed Guadalupe's body lying on the road. Upon seeing the officers, Appellant, who was still holding his weapon, raised the gun to his own head. The officers drew their weapons, and Appellant responded by stating, " I'm not shooting anymore." Notes of Testimony (" N.T." ), Mar. 6, 2009, at 33. When the officers instructed Appellant to lay down his weapon and get on the ground, he complied, acting in a calm manner.

At approximately 3:45 p.m., additional police officers responded to the scene. Appellant told the officers that he had intended to kill himself, but that the officers arrived too quickly. The officers read Appellant his Miranda [3] warnings and transported him from the scene. After again being advised of his Miranda rights, Appellant admitted to police that he shot Guadalupe. He indicated that he did not personally know Guadalupe, who was of Hispanic descent, " but chose to shoot him anyway" ... because Appellant " just lumped them all together." N.T., Apr. 14, 2009, at 30, 32-33; N.T., Mar. 6, 2009, at 78. Appellant explained to the officers that he continued to shoot Guadalupe until he stopped moving.

Appellant also admitted to shooting Woodson, who was African American. Appellant stated, " Reggie [Woodson] came towards me ... Reggie thought that he was going to talk me down, but saw that wasn't going to happen and began trucking and ducking away ... and then I shot him too." N.T., Apr. 14, 2009, at 31-32; N.T., Mar. 6, 2009, at 79. Appellant told the officers that prior to the shooting he pondered whether he should " let them get away with what they did," and decided to just " go there and do it." N.T., Apr. 14, 2009, at 29-30; N.T., Mar. 6, 2009, at 80. Appellant further expressed disappointment

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that he was not able to confront Crump, and hoped Crump would face a " higher justice." N.T., Apr. 14, 2009, at 134. Appellant remained calm and attentive during questioning, did not appear agitated, spoke in a normal tone of voice, showed appropriate emotion, made eye contact with the officers, and was articulate.

Autopsies performed on the victims established that Guadalupe's cause of death was gunshot wounds to the head and mouth, and that Woodson's cause of death was a gunshot wound to the back. Further, police officers seized several items, including the book Black Power the Politics of Liberation from the passenger side of Appellant's vehicle. Officers also seized a three-page hand-written document from Appellant's home that Appellant had drafted on the day of the murder, which purported to explain the behavior that he planned to execute later that day. The document stated in part, as follows:

I worked at Simon and Schuster and was endlessly harassed and browbeaten, oppressed in every conceivable fashion by one Kalif Crump, who enjoyed lavish and deceptively effective support from Reginald Woodson and Debra Vorters while management gleefully watched from their impregnable seat of rule. How messy would things get for people in power to take action. I AM NO RACIST. May this action save hundreds of innocent whites from tyranny and adversary. (Webster's) GOD HELP US.

N.T., Apr. 14, 2009, at 106-11; Commonwealth Exhibit 33 (emphasis in original).

On October 16, 2008, the Commonwealth charged Appellant with, inter alia, two counts of first degree murder. Appellant thereafter filed a pretrial motion to suppress his statements to police, which the trial court denied, following a hearing on March 6, 2009. On April 13, 2009, Appellant entered an open guilty plea to two counts of first degree murder, possession of an instrument of crime, recklessly endangering another person, and firearms not to be carried without a license.[4] As a factual basis for the plea, the Commonwealth presented the testimony of Detective Randy Morris, Detective David Michael Kemmerer, and Corporal Kurt Tempinski, an expert in ballistics and firearms. The officers relayed in detail what occurred at the crime scene, as described supra, and reiterated the statements Appellant gave to police immediately after the murders in which he confessed to shooting both victims. The Commonwealth further admitted into evidence, inter alia, the murder weapon and ammunition, the victims' autopsy reports, the audio recording and written note made by Appellant explaining his conduct on the day of the murders, and the Simon & Schuster surveillance video. Because the Commonwealth was seeking the death penalty, the matter proceeded to a penalty hearing. Appellant waived his right to a jury trial in the penalty phase, and a three-day bench trial was conducted before the trial court judge.

Following the penalty hearing, and relating to the murder of Angel Guadalupe (Count One), the court found one aggravating circumstance, that the defendant " has been convicted of another murder committed in any jurisdiction and committed either before or at the time of the offense at issue." 42 Pa.C.S. § 9711(d)(11) (" multiple murder aggravating circumstance" ). The court additionally found three mitigating circumstances: that the defendant " has no

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significant history of prior criminal convictions," id., § 9711(e)(1); that the defendant " was under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance," id., § 9711(e)(2); and the mitigating circumstance relating to " [a]ny other evidence of mitigation concerning the character and record of the defendant and the circumstances of his offense." Id., § 9711(e)(8) (" catchall mitigating circumstance" ). As evidence of the catchall mitigating circumstance, the trial court cited Appellant's guilty plea to all charges and his waiver of the defenses of diminished capacity and insanity. N.T., Apr. 17, 2009, at 5. ...


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