Friday, March 28, 2008
S.C. Upholds Death Sentence in Murder of Long Beach Market Clerk
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
The California Supreme Court yesterday unanimously upheld the death sentence for the convicted killer of a Cambodian immigrant shot to death on her first day of work at a Long Beach market.
Justice Ming Chin, writing for the court, rejected Andre Wilson’s various claims of instructional, jury selection, and other error and said there was no basis to overturn the decision of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Bradford Andrews—who has since retired—to impose the death sentence.
Wilson’s one-time codefendant, Shanta Sadewater, testified that she drove defendant to Seng Heng market on July 25, 1996; that she had given him back a gun that he had previously given her to clean; and that she knew he intended to use it to rob the market.
Sadewater, who had been convicted in an earlier trial of being an accessory to murder after the fact and of attempted robbery, but acquitted of murder, said it was Wilson who ran to her car after a shootout with a security guard and that she drove him to her apartment, from which he left a few hours later.
The security guard testified as to what transpired at the market, although he could not identify the gunman. The shooter ordered the victim, Sary San, to open the cash register, then shot her in the head when she was unable to do so, David Repp testified.
Repp said he pursued the gunman, who fired at him twice before he fired 12 times, hitting the side of the getaway car several times and its windshield once before the gunman got away.
Police learned from Casana Walker, a friend of Sadewater, that Walker had loaned her car to Sadewater, who had told her that a “group of Mexicans” shot up the car. Sadewater said she wiped the car clean to eliminate fingerprints, on the defendant’s instructions, before she learned that Walker had called the police.
At the time of her arrest, Sadewater told police she did not know that Wilson had shot at anyone other than the security guard. After learning that San had been killed, she implicated Wilson and helped police retrieve the murder weapon and other physical evidence, including a bullet holder with the defendant’s thumbprint on it and a shirt that several witnesses identified as being the one worn by the shooter.
Wilson testified that he did not participate in the robbery and that he thought Sadewater had lied to protect her boyfriend, whom Wilson suggested had actually committed the robbery and murder, and who had subsequently died. Sadewater, he claimed, had borrowed his shirt before the attempted robbery and returned it afterward.
Wilson, who had been found by a multijurisdictional task force hiding in an Oakland attic, said he left town two days after the murder because he “didn’t want to be mixed up in any type of gang violence” and because he knew Sadewater was going to implicate him. He hid from police, he said, because he believed they had a warrant authorizing them to “shoot to kill.”
Jurors found Wilson guilty of first degree murder and attempted robbery, with a robbery-murder special circumstance, and returned a verdict of death. Andrews denied motions for new trial, both as to the guilt and penalty phases, was well as the automatic motion for modification of the death penalty verdict.
Chin, writing for the high court, rejected the contention that the trial judge deprived the defendant of a fair trial by forcing his counsel to use peremptory challenges to excuse two venire members with a bias in favor of the death penalty.
The justice noted that the defense did not object to the final composition of the jury, which Chin characterized as a forfeiture of the claim. Even if the issue had been preserved, he said, the defense would lose on the merits because both panelists said that, although they were in favor of the death penalty for murder, they had indicated a willingness to consider aggravating and mitigating factors and otherwise follow the instructions of the judge.
Justice Kathryn M. Wedegar, while joining the court’s unanimous opinion, expressed concern in a concurring opinion regarding the forfeiture issue. Opinions on the subject seem inconsistent, she wrote.
“As the majority implicitly recognizes, we need not resolve the point in this case, because defendant neither stated he was dissatisfied with the jury nor attempted to justify that failure. Counsel in future cases who wish to raise this issue on appeal, however, should be aware of this potential inconsistency in the law and ensure that they (1) remove the prospective juror using a peremptory challenge, (2) exhaust their allotted challenges, and (3) express on the record their dissatisfaction with the jury as constituted. Only then can they be confident the issue will be properly preserved for appellate review.”
The case was argued on appeal by Deputy State Public Defender Evan Young and Deputy Attorney General Xiomara Costello.
The case is People v. Wilson, 08 S.O.S. 1799.
Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company