Friday, June 1, 2007
S.C. Upholds Death Sentence in Killing of Harbor City Woman
Kennard, for Unanimous Court, Says ‘Unpleasant’ Autopsy Photos Were Properly Admitted
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The California Supreme Court yesterday unanimously affirmed the conviction and death sentence for the man who killed his Harbor City next-door neighbor in 1995.
Justice Joyce L. Kennard said none of Dewayne M. Carey’s challenges to Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John Cheroske’s rulings were valid, and that most of the arguments he raised on appeal had been rejected in earlier cases.
Carey, now 45, confessed to stabbing Ernestine Campbell to death when she surprised him as he was burglarizing her home on West 244th St. Police focused on Carey, who lived next door with his aunt and uncle, after a witness said he saw him leaving the Campbell residence.
The victim, who came home in the morning after attending a class at Los Angeles Harbor College, was found by her husband, who reported that a number of items of property had been stolen. A friend of Carey’s, Robert Leach, admitted to police that he had stored a shotgun and some money for the defendant, and other friends and family members testified that he had money in the days following the killing, which was unusual for him.
At the time of his arrest, he was with a female friend. Officers contacted the woman’s fiancée, asking him to bring her purse, which turned out to contain property belonging to the Campbells.
Carey initially claimed that he was only a lookout and blamed the murder on Leach. He later recanted that claim and admitted that he entered through the kitchen window and placed several items in a pillow case before Campbell confronted him; fearing that she would identify him, he said he tied her up with an electrical cord before stabbing her and completing the burglary.
The defense presented no evidence, and jurors found Carey guilty of first degree murder with robbery and burglary special circumstances, first degree residential robbery, and first degree burglary. In the penalty phase, prosecutors presented evidence the defendant had been previously convicted of voluntary manslaughter—he was originally charged with murder but negotiated a plea to the lesser charge and a 13-year sentence—and possession of a weapon while in custody.
They also presented witnesses to testify to three incidents of criminal violence in which the defendant was not charged. One involved possession of a knife and threatening to stab an acquaintance after the person asked Carey to leave his house; the others were prison stabbings.
The defense case in mitigation was based largely on Carey’s emotional and physical suffering as a child, at the hands of his father and stepmother.
On appeal, the defense argued that Cheroske erred in admitting autopsy photos, which appellate counsel said were irrelevant—since the cause of death was undisputed—and inflammatory.
Kennard, however, noted that the defense did not object to the photos on relevance grounds at trial and said they would have been admissible “to prove how the crime occurred, by showing the location of the wounds and to illustrate the paramedic’s testimony” even if an objection had been made.
While “unpleasant,” she added, the pictures were “not overly graphic” and were probative of the manner of the victim’s death, which the jury was entitled to consider in determining whether to impose the death penalty, the justice said.
The case, People v. Carey, 07 S.O.S. 2874, was argued in the Supreme Court by Deputy State Public Defender Gary D. Garcia and Deputy Attorney General John Yang.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company