Friday, March 12, 2010
Man Who Set Woman Afire Loses Death Penalty Appeal
By STEVEN M. ELLIS, Staff Writer
The California Supreme Court yesterday unanimously affirmed the conviction and death sentence of a man who set a Tustin bookkeeper on fire.
Jonathan D’Arcy was convicted in 1993 of dousing Karen Laborde with gasoline in her office and setting her on fire with a cigarette lighter as revenge over a paycheck he thought was being withheld.
Laborde was a bookkeeper for a company that provided janitorial services to various businesses via independent contractors, such as D’Arcy.
According to a co-worker, D’Arcy purchased a dollar’s worth of gasoline on the day of the attack, filling it into a plastic sport bottle. The coworker said D’Arcy repeatedly told him that “[n]o one screws me like that,” and that he was going to light Laborde on fire.
Later that day, D’Arcy burst into Laborde’s office, and splashed her face, arms and dress with gasoline from the sport bottle. When Laborde stood up and asked, “Oh God. Why are you doing this to me?” D’Arcy answered, “This is what you get when you don’t give me my money.”
He then took the sport bottle, poured the remaining gasoline on Laborde’s head and lit her on fire. When she began screaming and struggled to put out the flames engulfing her, D’Arcy shoved her.
Police arrested D’Arcy as he sat on a curb outside Laborde’s office smoking a cigarette.
A jury convicted D’Arcy of first degree murder and found that the murder was intentional and involved the infliction of torture. It also found the murder was committed while D’Arcy was committing mayhem, which generally encompasses mutilation, disfigurement or a crippling act.
Another jury voted to impose the death sentence after a mistrial when the first jury deadlocked in the penalty phase. The second jury made its decision in the face of questions about keeping a man alive against his will while a jury decides whether he should die, as D’Arcy was on a hunger strike and being kept alive by a court-ordered feeding tube.
On appeal, D’Arcy argued that he should have been allowed to present a defense that a space heater in Laborde’s office spontaneously ignited the fire. He noted that the trial judge, Orange Superior Court Judge Robert R. Fitzgerald, approved a form of hybrid representation in which D’Arcy was both represented by counsel and permitted to act as co-counsel.
Defense attorney George A. Peters, however, argued that his client suffered from severe mental problems brought on by an abusive upbringing, and D’Arcy boycotted much of the trial to protest the handling of his defense.
Writing for the Supreme Court, Justice Carlos R. Moreno rejected D’Arcy’s contentions, as well as D’Arcy’s challenges to how a competency hearing was handled.
Moreno also rejected D’Arcy’s arguments that a tape recording of Laborde’s dying declaration to police identifying D’Arcy as her assailant and pictures of her charred corpse should have been excluded, and D’Arcy’s argument that standard jury instructions related to murders involving torture or mayhem were unconstitutional.
The case is People v. D’Arcy, 10 S.O.S. 1290.
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company