S.C. Upholds Death Sentences for Two in Murders
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Death sentences for two murderers were unanimously affirmed yesterday by the California Supreme Court.
The justices rejected a number of contentions by Glen Cornwell, sentenced in Sacramento County, and Richard Moon, sentenced in Los Angeles County, including challenges to the constitutionality of California’s death penalty law.
The court acknowledged that the U.S. Supreme Court has been paying close attention, in recent cases, to the views of other nations on the death penalty, citing the Western European experience as it banned executions of juveniles and the mentally retarded.
But there is no indication that the high court intends to follow Europe’s lead in abolishing capital punishment for competent, adult defendants, the California justices said.
Cornwell, a parolee released in September 1992 after serving eight years for eight armed robberies committed during a four-moonth period in 1983, was arrested for the June 1993 murder of William Reagan of Sacramento. Reagan was shot, according to witnesses, after he resisted turning over a briefcase full of cash in front of a check-cashing store owned by his girlfriend.
Reagan often carried cash between the store and the bank, and witnesses said he was doing so the day he was shot.
Cornwell’s defenses were mistaken identity and alibi. After his first trial ended in a hung jury, he was retried and convicted of robbery and first degree murder with a robbery special circumstance.
Five witnesses identified Cornwell as the shooter, but four defense witnesses disputed the identification. Cornwell’s alibi witness said the two of them had been together at another location at the time of the shootings, but prosecutors pointed out that the witness was a thrice-convicted felon and had not come forward until two weeks before the second trial.
The high court rejected Cornwell’s contention that he had been deprived of conflict-free counsel because his lawyer had represented the wife of one of the prosecution’s witnesses—a man who said he supplied Cornwell with what turned out to be the murder weapon—in an unrelated case nine years earlier.
There was no showing that the attorney received any confidential information in the earlier case that had a bearing on Cornwell’s defense, nor did Cornwell or his trial lawyer object to the attorney’s continued representation following disclosure, Chief Justice Ronald M. George pointed out.
Moon was convicted in 1991 of the first degree murders of Rose and Melitta Greig at their Walnut home. Moon, who was Melitta Greig’s former boyfriend, admitted killing her and her mother, and also admitted taking money and checks, as well as one of the family’s automobiles.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Judge William McVittie, since retired, said the evidence supported the jury’s death penalty verdict. Moon, who said that Melitta Greig had broken up with him, killed her for a trivial reason, killed her mother to cover up the first murder, and showed no remorse after the killings, the judge found.
The high court rejected Moon’s claim that there was insufficient evidence to prove the lying-in-wait special circumstance that made Moon eligible for the death sentence.
Justice Kathryn M. Werdegar wrote:
“Defendant’s own testimony at trial establishes the three elements of the lying-in-wait special circumstance. He testified he was in the Greigs’ home when Rose Greig arrived and entered through the side door. Though he was well known to Rose Greig, defendant made no effort to reveal his presence. He remained out of her view in another part of the house as she went upstairs to look for Melitta, checking both bedrooms and calling Melitta’s name. He thereby concealed both his presence and his purpose as he waited and watched for an opportune moment to attack her. When Rose came downstairs to the kitchen, defendant apparently came up to the living room on the same level, again concealing his presence and waiting. When Rose saw him and asked him what had happened, he remained silent, further concealing his purpose. The victim could not have anticipated defendant’s deadly intentions. He suddenly pushed her down the stairs and then strangled her, satisfying the element of a sudden or surprise attack on an unsuspecting victim.”
The cases are People v. Cornwell, 05 S.O.S. 3973, and People v. Moon, 05 S.O.S. 3993.
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company