Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, October 25, 2012


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Court Overturns Order for Release of San Diego Murderess

Panel Accepts Parole Board Finding That Death Row Inmate’s Accomplice Lacked Insight Into Killings




A San Diego Superior Court judge’s order that a woman serving 25 years to life in prison—for her role in a murder that sent her ex-boyfriend to Death Row—be released on parole has been overturned by the Fourth District Court of Appeal.

Justice Patricia Benke said Judge Charles G. Rogers failed to apply the extremely deferential “some evidence” standard when he overruled the Board of Parole Hearings, which concluded that Denise Shigemura was potentially dangerous and should not be released.

Benke’s opinion was filed Sept. 27 and certified Tuesday for publication.

Shigemura was sentenced 20 years ago after pleading guilty to the first degree murder of Teresa Holloway, 26. Shigemura was convicted along with Robert Jurado Jr. and Anna Humiston of killing the pregnant woman, who may have planned to reveal a plot to kill a drug dealer.

Jurado was convicted and sentenced to death. Humiston, a minor at the time of the crime, was convicted and sentenced to 25 years to life.

Strangled and Beaten

Holloway’s body was found in a culvert beneath Highway 163 in San Diego County in May 1991, two days after she was strangled and beaten to death. Prosecutors said Jurado, Humiston, and Shigemura—who lived with Jurado, even after their romance ended and his relationship with Humiston, 16 at the time, began—killed Holloway after she learned of their plan to kill Doug Mynett. Witnesses testified that Mynett sold methamphetamine and that his customers included Jurado and Brian Johnsen, who had been living with Holloway up until about a month before she was killed.

Humiston became a suspect after she bragged to her friends at school that she held the victim while Jurado strangled her.

The plan to kill Mynett, to whom Jurado allegedly owed money, allegedly came about after the drug dealer supposedly accused Shigemura of stealing from him, and stole her purse as she slept. Jurado allegedly shared details of the plot with Johnsen, who was in custody on drug charges at the time.

Johnsen testified that he and Jurado had discussed a plan to kill Mynett and that Jurado later admitted killing Holloway because “it had to be done.” 

Shigemura initially denied her role in the murder, but later confessed. She said she and the others believed they needed to kill Holloway in order to protect themselves from Mynett, who had once kidnapped Jurado and held him for ransom because he hadn’t repaid a debt.

Before her 2010 parole hearing, Shigemura told a psychologist that she blamed herself “for being there and not stopping” the murder.

The psychologist reported that Shigemura “expressed guilt and remorse” for having been a “passive participant” in the murder, but District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, opposing the request for parole, said the inmate was significantly understating her role.

‘Wheel Person’

The murder, the district attorney argued, could not have been committed without a “wheel person” to drive the victim to the place she was killed after being lured into the vehicle. Shigemura, she said, “was the person who willingly drove that vehicle for that particular purpose.”

Dumanis told the board:

“Never once has she admitted that, never once has she faced up to that, or never once has she accepted that.  And we feel that’s an extremely important point that’s been just completely overlooked in terms of her explosive nature or what she could be capable of doing it things just don’t go quite her way or somebody stronger than her is involved with her once again in a relationship she says that she just froze and wanted to stop the crime, but that’s not what she did.”

The parole board denied Shigemura a release date, the panel chair finding she was “still a risk” because she was not willing to discuss the crime in detail and thus had not “come to grips” with the fact that she was involved in a horrific crime.

 But Rogers, in granting her habeas corpus petition, said there was no evidence to support the finding she was likely to endanger society if released.

Benke, writing for the Court of Appeal, disagreed.

“In light of the murderers’ paranoid and delusional belief system and its obvious power over the murderers, the board could reasonably conclude that, in making statements to the effect she simply should have said ‘no’ to her former boyfriend while the murder was taking place, the inmate had no realistic appreciation of her own active role in the murder and the powerful psychological forces acting upon her and the other participants at the time of the life crime,” the justice wrote. “That lack of insight in turn supports the board’s ultimate conclusion that the inmate remains a risk to public safety.”

In a footnote, the justice acknowledged that the state had requested dismissal of its appeal shortly before oral argument. But dismissal at that stage is discretionary, Benke explained, and the panel chose to deny it based on “the seriousness of the life crime, the importance of the board’s role in protecting public safety and the extreme deference courts must accord board decisions.”

The case is In re Shigemura, 12 S.O.S. 5384.


Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company