Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Death penalty tossed in killing of rocker's mom

This is very good news for Scott -- as this is a critical issue in his appeal, as noted in the article.

The California Supreme Court on Monday tossed out the death sentence of a man convicted of murdering rock guitarist Dave Navarro's mother and her friend nearly 30 years ago — a ruling that could affect the cases of Scott Peterson and other death row inmates.
The unanimous court said the trial judge presiding over the trial of John Riccardi improperly dismissed a prospective juror because of her conflicting written responses in a questionnaire asking her views of the death penalty.
The court said the judge was required to delve deeper into the juror's death penalty views and determine if she could impose the death sentence is she believed prosecutors proved their case.
Peterson and a few other California death row inmates are appealing on similar grounds.
Peterson was convicted of killing his wife Laci, who was 8 months pregnant with their son, and dumping her body in San Francisco Bay on Christmas Eve 2002. Investigators believe Peterson either strangled or suffocated his wife.
Peterson has always maintained his innocence and claims in his appeal filed earlier this month that the trial judge presiding over his 2004 trial wrongly dismissed 13 jurors who said they opposed the death penalty but could follow the law and impose it if warranted.
In 1984, a narrowly divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled that reversal of the death penalty is automatic when potential jurors are dismissed because of their written answers to questions about their views on capital punishment.
Peterson's attorney Cliff Gardner argued in his appeal that the mistake occurred in the Peterson trial and may be the basis of appeals of a few other death row inmates.
The last California execution occurred in 2006. Lawsuits in federal and state courts have forced a temporary halt to executions.
In its ruling Monday, the state high court upheld Riccardi's murder conviction. Once a noted body builder, he was convicted of killing former girlfriend Connie Navarro in a jealous rage. Her friend Sue Jory also was killed. Navarro's son played guitar for the band "Jane's Addiction."
It's now up the California attorney general to determine if another penalty phase will be held or if Riccardi is taken off death row and sentenced to life in prison.
Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said that ruling "compels the reversal of the penalty phase without any inquiry as to whether the error actually" led to an unfair trial. The chief justice wrote separately to urge the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider the automatic reversal in such cases.
The juror in question, identified only by the initials "N.K." in the ruling, wrote on the questionnaire that she supported California's reinstatement of the death penalty and stated that it is not used enough.
But later in the questionnaire, the juror gave answers that suggest she opposes capital punishment.
"I'm afraid I could not feel right in imposing the death penalty on someone even though I feel it is nessasary (sic) under some circumstances," N.K. wrote.
Cantil-Sakauye wrote that the trial court judge should have questioned her more instead of dismissing her as he did.
The chief justice said the juror's conflicting answers meant either she "feared that actually being on a death jury would be difficult or uncomfortable, or she was advising the court that she could not impose a decision of death, even if the evidence warranted its application. From the questionnaire alone, we cannot possibly determine which scenario prompted her answers."
Riccardi was arrested in Houston eight years after the killings when "America's Most Wanted" aired a segment on the 1983 crime. A tipster recognized him and alerted authorities.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/07/16/death-penalty-tossed-in-killing-rocker-mom/#ixzz20rPDxMqG


LA Curry said...

VERY good news indeed. I especially appreciate this part of the article....The chief justice wrote separately to urge the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider the automatic reversal in such cases.

A death sentence carried out when it is ruled (again) that an unfair trial took place in such instances is the LAST thing that should happen. However, I do hope for a complete reversal of the conviction in Scott's case, as explained in his brief.

mlc2005 said...

I agree that, after reading Peterson's brief, the strongest argument is that 13 jurors were dismissed for being against the death penalty, without an inquiry by the judge. However, I believe Scott will not get a new trial, but merely a new sentencing hearing.

Marlene Newell said...

mlc2005, why just a new sentencing hearing? The dismissal of those 13 jurors affected the conviction just as much as the death verdict. It's well established that death penalty juries are much more prone to convict than non-death juries.

Burkey said...

mlc2005, What's your opinion on the witnesses Dalton interviewed, like Laci's neighbor Martha Aguilar, who went to the same doctor, and who called police to tell them she saw Laci walking the morning of December 24th, 2002?
What's your opinion on the cassette tape that Norco Correctional Facility Investigations chief Lt. Xavier Aponte told the defense he gave to the Modesto P.D.?
What of those wiretaps on Peterson's phone? Were those legal? Have the warrants ever been unsealed?
What about CNN reporting that Amber Frey had a motive to convict Peterson that she did not disclose to jurors: a secret book deal?

Can someone explain to me why the fact of this secret book alone doesn't completely invalidate this verdict?

Joanna Spilbor writes: "While Frey may have a right to ultimately cash in on her role in the Peterson trial, Peterson had a paramount right to have the 12 men and women who condemned him to death know about it. They didn't."


Spilbor also states:

"The California Penal Code prohibits non-experts in criminal cases from receiving compensation by virtue of their bearing witness. To this effect, it states, in part:

"A person who is a witness to an event or occurrence that he or she knows, or reasonably should know, is a crime or who has personal knowledge of facts that he or she knows, or reasonably should know, may require that person to be called as a witness in a criminal prosecution shall not accept or receive, directly or indirectly, any payment or benefit in consideration for providing information obtained as a result of witnessing the event or occurrence or having personal knowledge of the facts."