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Death Penalty Pursuit in Homeless Murder Charges in San Diego
David Guerrero has been charged with the murder of at least four people, attempted murder, assault, and arson. It is alleged that Guerrero is behind a string of attacks that have taken place on homeless people in the city. The alleged assaults have been described as taking place when the victims are asleep on the street. The alleged defendant would drive railroad spikes through the victim’s head or body, and in some cases set them on fire. There have been four people reported dead from the attack and much more injured. The search for Guerrero lasted for 12 days before he was caught and arrested last summer. Guerrero is being represented by a public defender who questioned his client’s mental capacity and delayed further hearings until he was looked at by medical professionals. The diagnosis came back that he was, in fact, competent and could properly defend himself. It has now been determined by a judge the case would resume. The question that has been speculated is whether the prosecution will seek the death penalty or not.
The death penalty raises a number of issues in California. For a long time, the death penalty has been a controversial issue in the state. It is known as the most extreme form of punishment we have. The reason it is seen in this light is because it is one form of punishment that once is enacted it cannot be taken back. There are a number of different states and countries that no longer have capital punishment as a possible for one who is found guilty. If a guilty verdict is found the court will be determining whether to seek the death penalty or not, we will discuss the basic factors that should be considered. In addition, we will also look at what the defense can possibly do to challenge the death penalty. Thus, there is a lot to consider when the death penalty is involved in a criminal case.
The death penalty comes into play after the defendant is found guilty and then brought up in the penalty phase of the trial. California Penal Code 190.4. There are some factors that the jury is supposed to decipher when making their final decision. There are aggregative factors, which way against the defendant. In contrast, there are mitigating factors that way in favor of the defendant. With each of these weigh the jury will decide which way the scales tip to determine the outcome of the case. Therefore, we will look at the factors that the jury may bring into question.
- California Penal Code 190.3. sets out a list of factors which should help determine if the death penalty should be used. The first being the nature and circumstances of the crime. The jury may consider the “circumstances of the crime” for which the defendant may be sentenced to death. In regard to the Guerrero case, this more than like would not be in his favor. This being said because if found guilty that means he engaged in some very violent murders. The fact that he would impale his victim as they were asleep is pretty callous. In addition, there were multiple victims. This would suggest that Mr. Guerrero had a joy out of his actions. Essentially because the numbers and violent behaviors this factor would work against the defendant if the reports are accurate. An example of where this would work in the defendant’s favor could possibly if a father found out his daughter had been sexually molested by a neighbor and in his rage went over to the neighbors home and shot him. The court, doing the reasonable thing, taking in all the facts and circumstances may understand the father was emotionally distraught and acted out of those reasons. Thus, the circumstances of the crime would be examined in making the death penalty decision.
The next factor would be the defendant’s other violent criminal activity. California Penal Code 190.3. If the defendant had never acted violently before and had a non-existent criminal history this factor would weigh in favor of them. However, if this was a more common behavior for the defendant it might suggest that the defendant would do this again and is naturally violent and the factor would weigh against him. Here, it is unbeknownst to us whether Mr. Guerrero has an extensive criminal history, so we cannot determine exactly how this would fall in regard to his case. However, with speculation to all of his alleged attacks on other people that may be enough to set this in favor against him. It is pure speculation on what will be brought to light in the trial but the basic facts are pretty strong in stating that he may have difficulty with this factor also. It is important to note that any charges that the defendant was acquitted of cannot be brought up in the course of determining the punishment. Therefore, the violent criminal history may possibly be against Mr. Guerrero.
Furthermore, the jury can also look at all previous felony convictions. What separates this from above is that this can be non-violent crimes, like white collar crime if emblazing. Here, once again we do not know whether Mr. Guerrero has any criminal history. But if there is no prior criminal history that would be in his favor. In contrast, if there is an extensive criminal history that would be against him. Thus, all of the defendant’s criminal history would be examined by the jury.
Lastly, the mitigating factors would be examined. The defendant can introduce evidence on almost any subject to show that they should not receive capital punishment. Some of the most important mitigating factors are the defendant was relatively young when s/he committed the crime. The defendant was extremely mentally or emotionally disturbed when s/he committed the crime. The defendant reasonably believed that they were justified in committing the crime. The defendant was pressured by someone else into committing the crime. The defendant was convicted only of aiding and abetting the crime and played a relatively minor role in it. California Penal Code 190.4. Here, it was said that Mr. Guerrero underwent medical attention he may have some kind of disorder that may be applicable to this section, however, there was nothing identified or stated as of yet. An example of this would be an ex-military service person who suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). That would be something a defense would shed light on in this stage of the factors which could fall in the defendant’s favor of not seeking the death penalty. However, it is essential that the mitigating factors be relevant to the case though. Thus, there are numerous mitigating factors that could possibly come to the aid of the defendant.
Therefore, there are a set of factors that have to be weighed when looking to see if the death penalty is appropriate.
- We will now look at the defenses possible ways to challenge the death penalty. Even though the defendant gets sentenced to death that is not quite the final order because the death penalty is such serious there are more steps that the defense can challenge this conviction. Thus, there are more steps that may be taken by the defense to overturn the verdict.
With the death penalty being charged to the defendant it is treated as an automatic application to overturn this verdict. The defense does not even have to formally appeal this verdict. California Penal Code 190.4(e). A judge will look at the evidence the jury’s findings and all the factors and decide whether everything looks appropriate or not and then make their decision. It can possibly be reduced to life in prison without parole. Or it can be upheld, and decide the finding for the death penalty is appropriate. Therefore, a Judge will go through all the facts and findings and make a determination regarding the death penalty.
All death penalty sentences in California are also automatically appealed to the California Supreme Court. This means that the appeal of the California criminal conviction will happen even if the defendant and their lawyer take no action. California Penal Code 1239. This is similar to up above, but now all the information goes to the states Supreme Court for a ruling. In addition, the court can then suggest the case to The United States Supreme Court, but it is not automatic that it will be seen. This acts as another caution to make sure the ruling was correct. Thus, the California Supreme Court will review the case.
A writ of habeas corpus can also be applicable in some cases. A habeas corpus petition is a way of challenging your sentence by arguing that something went very wrong with your trial. Issues that can be raised in a habeas corpus petition include arguments that the law under which you were convicted is unconstitutional, your lawyer at trial was incompetent, the prosecutor committed prosecutorial misconduct at your trial, and new evidence has been discovered that would completely undermine the case against you. California Penal Code 190.6. This is a more difficult way to get the verdict overturned because it is pointing out that there was a serious flaw that has not been discovered as of yet. However, they are successful sometimes when used in the appropriate situation. Thus, a writ of habeas corpus can also be applicable in some cases and change the result.
The last, and most uncommon step for reversal is executive clemency. This is where they write to the governor of the state to have the verdict overturned. Once again, it is uncommon, but it does not hurt to try as a last resort. Thus, executive clemency may be a good last resort try for the defenses to receive a different verdict.
Therefore, the defense has a number of ways to have the death penalty reviewed before the punishment is given.
In conclusion, there are some factors that the jury is supposed to decipher when making their final decision, and also the defense can possibly try to challenge the death penalty once it is given as a verdict.
If you have questions about the criminal procedure process in your criminal case in San Diego, feel free to contact San Diego Criminal Attorney Vik Monder at 619-405-0063 or visit San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer