State Appellate Court Reverses Whittier Murder Conviction of Signal Hill Man, Affirms Long Beach Murder Sentence

One of two murder convictions of a Signal Hill man, who was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for a 1996 killing in Whittier and a 2007 Long Beach slaying, was reversed yesterday by a state appeals court panel.

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A three-justice panel from the state’s 2nd District Court of Appeal reversed Jeffrey Keith Means’ 2014 second-degree murder conviction for the bludgeoning death of Hal Dean Shaw, 48, in June 1996.

They based the reversal on a supervisor’s testimony about blood found on Means’ shoes. The testimony amounted to hearsay because the supervisor did not prepare the relevant reports, the panel found.

“The extent to which witnesses may testify in criminal trials about the results of scientific testing that they did not personally perform is an issue that has vexed federal and state courts since the United States Supreme Court decided Crawford v. 2004,” Justice Victoria Gerrard Channey wrote in the opinion.

The panel found that the now 51-year-old Means had the right to confront witnesses against him and that the lower court erred in allowing the reports and data about the shoes into evidence over the objection of the defense.

According to court documents, the supervising criminalist did not do his own analysis, but only testified to the contents of his subordinates' reports.

Citing People v. Leon, Chaney noted that issues regarding the right to confrontation may arise when an expert “simply recites portions of a report prepared by someone else, or when such a report is itself admitted into evidence.”

Means also appealed his first-degree murder conviction for the fatal stabbing of Ronald Henry, 67, in his Long Beach apartment, arguing that there was insufficient evidence of premediation.

The panel found “sufficient substantial evidence” to support the jury’s verdict, affirming that conviction, for which Means is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

City News Service contributed to this report. 


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