Man Sentenced to Death for Murders in San Gabriel and Whittier

Following a jury's recommendation, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge has sentenced a man to death on two first-degree murder charges stemming from robberies in Whittier and San Gabriel, CA.

The 30-year-old defendant was convicted on May 7 in connection with the two homicides, both of which occurred about a decade ago. The first incident took place on August 4, 2004 in a parking lot in the 1800 block of South Del Mar Avenue in San Gabriel, in which a 50-year-old man was killed. The second homicide took place during the armed robbery of a Subway store on December 10, 2004. A 22-year-old Pasadena City College student was killed during the robbery.

In addition to finding the defendant guilty of two counts of first-degree murder, the jury in this case found the defendant guilty of 16 counts of robbery and 1 count of attempted robbery. The eight-man and four-woman jury panel recommended the death penalty on May 23.

An automatic appeal will be filed in this case, and according to the judge, "When all appeals have been exhausted…the warded is ordered to put the defendant to death."

Four others were also charged in connection with some of the crimes, three of whom pleaded guilty to various charges, including voluntary manslaughter and second-degree murder.

Capital Punishment in Question in California

A sentence involving capital punishment, which would involve carrying out the death penalty, is a rarity in itself. The actual carrying out of such a sentence is even rarer in California. California has 748 inmates on death row, more than any other state in the U.S., according to a September 8 article on No executions have been carried out in the state since 2006, when a moratorium was placed on the death penalty.

In July, a federal judge ruled California's death penalty unconstitutional. He vacated the sentence of an inmate who had been sentenced to death in 1995 for raping and killing his girlfriend's mother. The inmate had petitioned the court to determine whether his sentence was valid.

In his ruling, the federal judge wrote: "Allowing this system to continue to threaten…with the slight possibility of death, almost a generation after he was first sentenced, violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment."

Since 1978, more than 900 people have been sentenced to death in California. Only 13 of these inmates have had their sentences carried out, and about 40% have been on death row for nearly 2 decades. The last inmate to be executed was a 76-year-old man who had spent 23 years on death row before dying from lethal injection on January 17, 2006.

In light of the moratorium on executions in the state and the finding of California's death penalty as unconstitutional, it is unclear whether the defendant in the case discussed above will actually have his sentence carried out. The capital punishment system in California has been called faulty, ineffective and now unconstitutional.

If you are interested in learning more about capital punishment and violent crime charges in California, a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer at Lessem & Newstat may be able to help you. Our firm handles a wide range of criminal cases for clients across Southern California, ranging from DUI all the way to murder. We can offer insight regarding your rights and options in the face of formal or informal criminal allegations to help you make informed choices about your case. Call today.