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People v. Yanikian



Crim. No. 24571

1974.CA.40553 ; 114 Cal. Rptr. 188; 39 Cal. App. 3d 366

May 22, 1974


Superior Court of Santa Barbara County, No. 98612, John A. Westwick, Judge.

Lindsey & Newman, James T. Lindsey and Vasken Minasian for Defendant and Appellant.

David D. Minier, District Attorney, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

Opinion by Potter, J., with Cobey, Acting P. J., and Allport, J., concurring.


Defendant, Gourgen Mkrtich Yanikian, an Armenian by birth, was found guilty by a jury of the first degree murders (Pen. Code, ยงยง 187, 189) of two Turkish consular officials, which occurred on January 27, 1973, at the Santa Barbara Biltmore Hotel.

He appeals from the judgment of conviction on each of two counts of first degree murder committed while "armed with and using a deadly weapon -- namely, a firearm."

Defendant was tried on a plea of not guilty entered by the court when he remained mute at arraignment. Defendant was represented by at least two retained counsel throughout the proceedings. Such counsel were, on more than one occasion, urged by the Presiding Judge of the Superior Court of the County of Santa Barbara to enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. They had been provided with a copy of three reports of Dr. Patterson, a psychiatrist who had examined the defendant in behalf of the prosecution, in which he had stated his impression that defendant had a mental disorder "of such a degree that it forms the motivation for the offense of homicide, and impairs his responsibility under M'Naughton." Despite such urging and the receipt of such information, the plea was not made.

At the trial defendant made no attempt to dispute the fact that he had committed the two homicides. His defense was based entirely on his claim of diminished capacity.

In support of this defense, defendant testified at great length in his own behalf. His testimony, which consumes over 600 pages of the trial transcript, detailed his entire personal history practically from his birth in 1895 of Armenian parents in Armenia. In such testimony defendant detailed the harrowing circumstances under which Armenians lived during his early years in light of the alleged official Turkish government policy of genocide against all Armenians. Defendant described numerous traumatic experiences involving alleged atrocities against various close members of his family, including the death of an older brother who was revered by him. Defendant recounted his participation in Armenian counter-activity as a

member of a student volunteer group and described seeing gruesome evidence of wholesale massacres of Armenians in the course of those activities.

Defendant's narrative also included the history of his education in Russia, his becoming an engineer, and his later immigration to Persia where he became successful as proprietor of a large construction company engaged in government contracting. His contribution to the Allied war effort during World War II, in the form of the construction of a vital railroad link, and his donation of his land and water supply for use by the Allied military was related. According to defendant, his later immigration to the United Stat

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