Wednesday 2 February 2011

Court upholds death sentence

The California Supreme Court has upheld a death sentence for a man convicted in the 1993 murders of an elderly couple in their home near Perris.
The death sentence had been automatically appealed to the state Supreme Court, which released its decision Monday.
Albert Jones, who was 29 at the time of the killings and a resident of the unincorporated community of Good Hope, stabbed the man and woman to death during a robbery he committed with a 15-year-old boy.
Jones was convicted in 1996 of two counts of first-degree murder, mostly based on the testimony of several Mead Valley teenagers. They said Jones had recruited them into a secret clique to commit crimes and threatened to harm them if they talked about the group's activities. Jones called the 15-year-old and another boy his disciples, according to the state Supreme Court majority opinion in the case.
The victims, James Florville, 82, and his wife, Madalynne, 72, were hog-tied with wire and stabbed repeatedly on Dec. 13, 1993, in their Mead Valley home, the court opinion says.
During the trial's penalty phase, the prosecutor presented evidence of Jones' criminal past and the impact of the murders on the victims' relatives. The defense emphasized Jones' good behavior in state prison and county jail.
Jones, who had been convicted of four previous felonies, had been on parole after serving time for robbery when the murders occurred.
Jones did not testify during his trial. His attorneys contended there was no physical evidence to connect him to the murders and that the teenagers lied in court to avoid getting in trouble themselves.
The appeal was argued before the state Supreme Court in November. Among the issues raised by defense attorneys was that the prosecution improperly challenged three out of five prospective black jurors for racial reasons during jury selection.
The defendant is black and the victims were white.
Justice Ming Chin, writing for the majority in the case, disagreed, saying the court record shows the jurors were excused for "race-neutral" reasons.
Two of seven justices dissented, saying there were unresolved questions over the prosecution's motives for challenging black jurors.


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