Jamelle Armstrong—black, age 18

Sentenced to death in Los Angeles County, California
By: A jury
Date of crime: 12/29/98
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Armstrong and two cohorts (who were earlier sentenced to death for their roles in this crime) had been drinking. On the street, they kidnapped Penny Keprta, dragging her into cover alongside a freeway. They raped her, and violated her with a fencepost. They beat her to death with over a hundred wounds, and also bit her. They also robbed her. They tried to conceal her body. Armstrong claimed he had been involved only in the abduction and robbery, but was a bystander to the sexual assaults and murder. There is no rendition in available news reports about the mitigation offered, if any.
Prosecutor(s): Unknown
Defense lawyer(s): Unknown
Sources: Los Angeles Times 1/8/99; http://home.earthlink.net/~squeebertj/id18.html (a site run by an individual, but which contains a report from the Long Beach Press Telegram)

Joseph Barrett – white, age 25

Sentenced to death in Imperial County, California
By: A jury
Date of crime: 4/9/1996
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Barrett killed his prison cellmate Thomas Richmond. The prosecution presented testimony from an inmate who said, Barrett wanted to kill Richmond because he turned in a manufactured knife to a prison guard. Barrett was already serving a 26-year to life sentence for beating a high school teacher to death, but the defense claimed Barrett murdered the teacher because he was trying to sexually abuse him. Barrett claimed he acted in self-defense. During the penalty phase, the prosecution presented evidence that Barrett was violent in prison towards guards and prisoners, and had accumulated many manufactured knives. The defense offered evidence of Barrett’s abusive childhood; Barrett was abandoned by his father and had an alcoholic mother.
Prosecutor(s): Wayne Robinson
Defense lawyer(s): Ed Sada, Eric Beaudikofer
Sources: Imperial Valley Press Online 2/3/04, 2/10/04, 2/18/04, 2/25/04, 3/11/04

James Lee Crummel – white, age 35

Sentenced to death in Riverside County, California
By: A jury
Date of crime: 4/1979
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Thirteen year old, Jamey Trotter, was kidnapped, sexually abused, and murdered. Crummel showed authorities to Trotter’s remains in 1990, claiming he just ran across the body while hiking. It took seven years for police to determine the remains were Trotter’s and to prove Crummel was the killer. Crummel sexually assaulted at least ten children in the past four decades, and was already sentenced to life in prison for his past molestation. The prosecution’s case presented circumstantial evidence and the testimony of a jailhouse informant. During the punishment phase, the defense argued Crummel should receive life imprisonment because he suffered from brain damages as a result from severe beatings as a child.
Prosecutor(s): Bill Mitchell
Defense lawyer(s): Mary Ann Galante
Sources: Los Angeles Times 6/8/04; The Press-Enterprise 6/14/04, Monterey County Herald 7/11/04

Jason Donaldson—black, age 29

Sentenced to death in Los Angeles County, California
By: A jury
Date of crime: 1998
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Donaldson kidnapped Khen Tran on her way to an adult class, raped her, put her in the trunk of his car, and then set the car on fire, burning her to death. He had been out on parole only two weeks at the time. The case was solved “cold” in 2000 through a “hit” in the state’s new DNA databank. At that time, Donaldson was serving sentences of more than 200 years in prison for another attempted murder and carjacking. No information is available concerning the defense approach to the case.
Prosecutor(s): Phil Stirling
Defense lawyer(s): Unknown
Sources: Los Angeles Times 10/6/04 (2004 WL 55941763); Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office press release 10/5/04 (www.lada.tv.mr.100504b.htm)

Scott Erskine – white, age 30

Sentenced to death in San Diego County, California
By: A jury
Date of crime: 3/27/1993
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Charlie Keever and Jonathan Sellers (ages 13 and 9) were molested, tortured and strangled to death by Erskine; Sellers’ body was discovered hanging from a tree. The case went unsolved for eleven years until new DNA analysis linked Erskine to the killings. When Erskine was charged with the boys’ murders he was already serving a 70-year sentence for rape. He had an additional long history of sex crimes. Erskine also pleaded guilty to murdering a woman in Florida in 1989. The defense did not contest the killing, but asked the jury to spare Erskine life because he suffered from a brain injury when he was hit by a car at age five. The defense argued the injury caused Erskine to lose the ability to stop sexual impulses.
Prosecutor(s): Valerie Summers
Defense lawyer(s): Larry Ainbinder, Juliana Humphrey
Sources: The San Diego Union-Tribune 8/29/04, 9/2/04, 9/5/04; Los Angeles Times 9/2/04

Michael Flinner—white, age 32

Sentenced to death in San Diego County, California
By: A jury
Date of crime: 6/11/00
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Flinner became the lover of the 18-year-old victim Tamra Keck. He then took out a $500,000 life insurance policy on her claiming she was a key employee of his failing landscaping business, when in fact she did little work. He hired one of his laborers, Haron Ontiveros, to kill the victim. Ontiveros did so by luring her to a remote location and shooting her in the back of the head. Ontiveros and Flinner were tried simultaneously to separate juries. The jury returned a life-without-parole sentence against Ontiveros, and a death sentence against Flinner. Flinner had a prior rape conviction. His defense claimed he had mental problems.
Prosecutor(s): Rick Clabby
Defense lawyer(s): Sandra Resnick, John Mitchell
Sources: San Diego Union-Tribune 3/27/04, 3/30/04, 4/3/04

Todd Givens – white, age 31

Sentenced to death in Tulare County, California
By: A jury
Date of crime: 4/1/2001
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Husband and wife Todd and Lacey Givens, murdered siblings Barry and Patreace Holstone. Todd shot Barry several times and when he ran out of bullets he stabbed Barry with a sickle. Lacey shot Patreace in the head. The Givens then disposed of the bodies in an olive orchard and set the car on fire to keep others from identifying the bodies. The prosecution argued Todd was part of Nazi Low Rider prison gang, and the gang wanted Barry killed. Todd argued he acted alone and killed the Holstones in self-defense. Todd represented himself during the trial.
Prosecutor(s): Ed Gil
Defense lawyer(s):
Sources: The Fresno Bee 3/5/04, 7/7/04, 7/8/04

Virendra “Victor” Govin – Asian, age 35

Sentenced to death in Los Angeles County, California
By: A jury
Date of crime: 5/4/2002
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Govin and his brother owned a motel that bordered the victims’ motel. Both motel owners wanted to expand their businesses and use the common alley for different purposes. Govin killed four members of the Patel family by strangling them and then setting their home on fire. The prosecution case was based on the testimony of Govin’s co-defendant, Carlos Amador. Amador testified he and the Govin brothers robbed the home, and saw Govin strangle the victims. The jury gave Govin the death penalty because he committed multiple murders and killed for financial gain. The defense argued that Amador lied and in actuality he was the mastermind behind the killings. The defense also disputed that Govin had a business argument with the Patels.
Prosecutor(s): Eleanor Hunter
Defense lawyer(s): Richard Steingard
Sources: Los Angeles Times 5/19/04 (2004 WL 55913765), 6/5/04 (2004 WL 55917325)

Larry Hazlett – black, age 30

Sentenced to death in Kern County, California
By: A jury
Date of crime: 10/24/1978
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Hazlett raped and murdered former beauty queen, Tana Woolley. Hazlett lived in Woolley’s apartment building and was the prime suspect initially, but police lacked evidence to arrest him. The case went unsolved for 24 years until DNA evidence pointed to Hazlett. In aggravation, prosecution presented evidence of four other rapes Hazlett committed. The defense attacked the DNA evidence, arguing the semen was not initially found on the bedspread.
Prosecutor(s): Ed Jagels
Defense lawyer(s): James Coker
Sources: Los Angeles Daily News 6/19/04, 6/25/04, 7/15/05

Julian Mendez – Latino, age 22

Sentenced to death in Riverside County, California
By: A jury
Date of crime: 2/4/2000
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Mendez, a gang member, beat Michael Faria (age 15) and then shot him twice, including once in the head. Mendez then ordered another gang member to shoot Jessica Salazar (age 14) because she was able to identify Mendez as the shooter. The other gang member refused to shoot Salazar so Mendez ultimately shot her. In mitigation, the defense argued Mendez had spent most of his life in a gang, and his father spent half of his life in prison because of drug usage.
Prosecutor(s): John Ruiz
Defense lawyer(s): Michael Belter
Sources: The Press-Enterprise 9/1/04 (2004 WL 91973785), 9/9/04 (2004 WL 91974378), 9/22/04 (2004 WL 91975564), 9/23/04 (2004 WL 91975873), 9/25/04 (2004 WL 91975958)

Angelina Rodriguez—Latina, age 32

Sentenced to death in Los Angeles County, California
By: A jury
Date of crime: 9/9/00
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Rodriguez tried at least three times to kill her husband Frank, finally succeeding by spiking his Gatorade with antifreeze. Her motive was a $250,000 life insurance policy. She was also convicted of threatening a witness to whom she had revealed her plan to kill Frank. The prosecution also proved in aggravation that Rodriguez had killed her baby in 1993 by breaking a pacifier and ramming part of it down the baby’s throat, and then bringing a tort suit against the manufacturer. While the defense lawyer stated to the press after the case that he couldn’t find much of a defense on the guilt/innocence issue, Rodriguez insisted to the judge that she had not committed the crime, and that Frank must have drunk the antifreeze on his own. In mitigation, the defense presented evidence that she had been sexually abused as a child.
Prosecutor(s): Doug Sortino
Defense lawyer(s): David Houchin
Sources: Los Angeles Times 11/13/03, 1/13/04; Contra Costa Times 1/13/04

Maurice Steskal—white, age 40

Sentenced to death in Orange County, California
By: A jury
Date of crime: 6/12/99
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Steskal was in the parking lot of a convenience store when police officer Brad Riches stepped out of his car on routine patrol. Steskal opened fire on Riches with an AK-47 assault rifle. Several of the bullets penetrated Riches’ bulletproof vest, killing him. Steskal claimed his seemingly inexplicable conduct was a result of a mental defect that caused him to have a paranoid fear of authority figures. (Note: A prior jury in the case had hung on an 11-1 vote for a life sentence.)
Prosecutor(s): Bryan Brown
Defense lawyer(s): Mark Davis
Sources: Los Angeles Times 12/13/03, 2/7/04