Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Death Sentence Upheld in Killing of Court Clerk’s Daughter
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The California Supreme Court yesterday unanimously affirmed the death sentence for a woman who killed the daughter of an Orange Superior Court clerk while burglarizing the family’s home.
Chief Justice Ronald M. George, writing for the high court, said Orange Superior Court Judge Theodore Millard properly considered Maria Alfaro’s young age and other mitigating evidence before imposing the maximum penalty for the murder of Linda Wallace’s daughter Autumn.
Alfaro was a mother of four, including twins she was carrying at the time of the murder, who “became a drug addict at 13, a prostitute at 14 and a single mom at 15...a murderer at 18 and the first woman in Orange County to get the death penalty at 20,” the Orange County Register reported.
The evidence, the chief justice said, supported Millard’s conclusion that she was sufficiently mature to comprehend the magnitude of her crime.
The trial judge called the murder “senseless, brutal, vicious and callous.” Autumn Wallace was nine years old when she was murdered in 1990, shortly after coming home from school.
Alfaro, who had once been a friend of Autumn’s older sister, later said she killed the little girl in order to avoid being identified. She read a letter during the penalty phase of the case saying how sorry she was for taking Autumn’s “innocent life.”
Linda Wallace found her daughter’s body in a pool of blood in the bathroom. She had been stabbed more than 50 times.
The Wallace house had been ransacked, and property was missing – including a portable television, a VCR, a typewriter, a telephone and a Nintendo set. Alfaro later sold all of it for $300 in order to buy drugs.
Alfaro, whose fingerprint was found at the scene, confessed, but later changed her story and claimed that man she called “Beto” but refused to further identify, out of what she said was fear he would harm her family, forced her to start stabbing the girl, and then he finished the slaying. The defense argued at trial that Beto was involved in the killing and pressured Alfaro into participating, diminishing her responsibility.
Jurors at Alfaro’s first trial found her guilty of first degree murder with special circumstances of burglary and robbery, but deadlocked 10-2 in favor of the death penalty. A second jury found for the death penalty, and Millard denied the automatic motion to modify the verdict.
George rejected the defense contention that Alfaro should have been allowed to plead guilty to the murder charge, which counsel argued might have persuaded the first jury to return a life-without-parole verdict. Alfaro did not testify at the first trial.
The chief justice cited Penal Code Sec. 1018, which prohibits a capital defendant from pleading guilty without consent of counsel.
George rejected arguments that Sec. 1018 is unconstitutional, and that counsel’s refusal to allow her to plead guilty was unreasonable.
The chief justice noted that in the trial court, Alfaro sought to plead guilty not because she was remorseful or thought the plea might help her avoid the death penalty, but because she wanted to avoid implicating the man she called Beto. A tactical dispute between attorney and client was not a reason for the judge not to follow the statute, George wrote.
The case is People v. Alfaro, 07 S.O.S. 4889.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company