Unpublished Disposition, 863 F.2d 887 (9th Cir. 1985)Annotate this Case
UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff/Appellee,v.Octavia Jean MONROE, Defendant/Appellant.
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
Submitted Oct. 31, 1988.* Decided Dec. 2, 1988.
Before SKOPIL, NELSON and BRUNETTI, Circuit Judges.
Octavia Jean Monroe, a Native American, was convicted in federal court for the murder of her husband. On appeal, she contends the government presented insufficient evidence to support the conviction. We review the evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution to determine whether any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. United States v. Calabrese, 825 F.2d 1342, 1348 (9th Cir. 1987). We conclude there is sufficient evidence to support the conviction, and we affirm.
The relevant elements of first degree murder are (1) the act or acts of killing a human being; (2) with malice aforethought; and (3) with premeditation. See United States v. Free, 841 F.2d 321, 325 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 108 S. Ct. 2042 (1988). These elements can be established by circumstantial evidence and the inferences drawn from that evidence. Id.
The record discloses that on November 2, 1985 defendant went drinking with her husband Burt, her daughter, her son-in-law, and a family friend. When the group returned to defendant's home, Burt immediately fell asleep on a couch. The defendant prepared for bed and the three younger people left and went to a party a few blocks away. Approximately 20 minutes later, the defendant went to the party and told her daughter that "something was wrong with [your] dad." All four immediately returned to the Monroe house and found Burt on the couch, bleeding, apparently from gunshot wounds.
The family called the police. The police searched the house and found several guns, but not the murder weapon. They found three bullets embedded in furniture. Seven shell casings were removed from the home. Several days later, officers searched the house and grounds but again failed to locate the murder weapon. Four bullets were eventually recovered from Burt's body.
The following spring, family members discovered a gun under a shed on the Monroe property. The gun was engraved with Burt's name. Subsequent tests matched the gun with the casings.
We conclude the government presented ample evidence to enable the jury to infer that defendant had both motive and opportunity to commit the crime. That evidence included:
Several family members testified that the defendant fought often with her husband. During their earlier divorce proceeding, a tribal court concluded that the defendant acted with "extreme cruelty" toward her husband and "engage [d] in conduct that was of such a nature and character as to justly and reasonably destroy [Burt's] peace of mind and happiness." Burt was said to have complained that he should not have remarried the defendant because she had not changed her ways. He was also unhappy with the defendant's late night dates with a boyfriend.
Several family members testified that defendant complained of her husband's control of the family money and had said that "I wish he was dead." After the murder, defendant reportedly claimed that Burt had enemies, that he was very depressed, and that their marriage was fine. These assertions were contradicted at trial by other family members. The jury also heard that soon after Burt's death, defendant inquired about Burt's life insurance and became "visibly upset" when she learned that Burt had allowed his policy to lapse.
During the family's search for the weapon, defendant was observed praying "please don't let them find it." Furthermore, when defendant saw her daughters looking near the shed where the gun was ultimately discovered, she chased them away, "hollering and cussing" and "telling them kids to come back in the house." Until the murder weapon was found, she had denied knowledge of its existence. She later contended that she withheld information about the gun because she "wanted to find out for herself who did it."
The defendant initially denied that she knew how to fire the gun. Her son testified, however, that on the day before the murder he showed her how to load and fire the gun. The defendant also admitted during the investigation that Burt taught her to fire the gun.
The jury was aware that defendant was alone with Burt. Family members testified the front door was locked and the back door was boarded shut. The police noted there were no signs of forced entry. The murder weapon was reportedly kept in the bedroom where defendant slept.
Finally, the record shows that defendant either failed to understand or refused to answer the questions posed to her at trial. She could not explain, for example, how she awoke after twenty minutes but did not hear the gunshots. She claimed to have attempted her own investigation but admitted that she never spoke with anyone about the crime. She could not explain her statements or her behavior during the search for and discovery of the gun.
The defendant attacks the circumstantial nature of this evidence. She questions the alleged motive for the crime, and why her daughters, including one who was initially suspected of the crime, located the murder weapon when officers failed twice to find it. Even if these questions produce doubt in our minds, however, it is the jury's responsibility to weigh the evidence and to resolve conflicts. See United States v. Goode, 814 F.2d 1353, 1355 (9th Cir. 1987). "The credibility of witnesses and the weight accorded the evidence are questions for the jury that are not reviewable." United States v. Vaccaro, 816 F.2d 443, 454 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 108 S. Ct. 262 (1987).
We conclude that the evidence, viewed most favorably to the government, is sufficient to allow the jury in this case to find all the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Accordingly, we affirm the conviction.
The panel unanimously finds this case suitable for submission on the record and briefs and without oral argument. Fed. R. App. P. 34(a), Ninth Circuit Rule 34-4
This disposition is not appropriate for publication and may not be cited to or by the courts of this circuit except as provided by Ninth Circuit Rule 36-3