Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Supreme Court Upholds Death Sentence in Murder of Woman Abducted From BART Station
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The California Supreme Court yesterday affirmed the death sentence for a man convicted of the murder of a 25-year-old woman kidnapped from a Bay Area Rapid Transit District station.
Attorneys for Keith Tyson Thomas did not dispute his involvement, which he confessed to, in the robbery and kidnapping of Francia Young. But they tried to pin most of the blame on codefendant Henry Glover Jr. , whom they claimed actually fired the shot that killed Young.
Because Glover was sentenced to life imprisonment without possibility of parole, the defense argued, it was unfair to impose the death penalty on Thomas. But the high court unanimously disagreed.
Alameda Superior Court Judge Alfred A. Delucchi sentenced Thomas to death after jurors found him guilty of first degree murder, kidnapping for robbery, forcible rape, and forcible sodomy in the Young case, with special circumstances of rape, robbery, kidnapping and sodomy, but found that he did not personally use a firearm in the commission of the crime.
They also found him guilty of robbery and other crimes stemming from an incident that occurred 12 days later.
It was the latter incident that led to his being arrested, and ultimately charged with the murder. Police investigating Glover for the second robbery searched the home of some relatives of his, and found an umbrella that appeared to be Young’s.
A photo of Thomas taken at an ATM where he and Glover tried to use Young’s card showed him carrying what may have been the same umbrella.
Thomas’ statements to police gradually shifted, and in the end he acknowledged that he had helped Glover rob the victim, and that he’s had sex with her. But he insisted that he was not with Glover when Young was shot, and that he didn’t know she had been killed until days later, and that he then turned himself in to police.
Justice Joyce L. Kennard, writing for the high court, said that the death sentence was not disproportionate to Thomas’ personal culpability, even assuming that he was telling the truth. The defendant, she said, was a willing and active participant not only in the “brutal and horrific crimes” against Young, but also “in what appeared to be an attempt to commit a similar attack on another woman several days later,” the justice said.
Kennard also rejected a claim that prosecutors committed misconduct by arguing at his trial that he was the shooter, while arguing the opposite at Glover’s trial, and that the judge should therefore have dismissed the personal-use-of-a-firearm enhancement allegation.
Delluchi agreed with the prosecutor that because the evidence was conflicting and Glover’s jury had found the personal use allegations not true as to Glover, Thomas’ jury could consider whether he was the actual killer.
Even if that ruling was erroneous, Kennard said, the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. “The jury’s determination that defendant did not use the firearm compels the conclusion beyond a reasonable doubt that the personal use allegations did not influence the jury’s decision adversely to defendant” either as to guilt or penalty, the justice said.
Kennard was joined by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and Justices Ming Chin, Marvin Baxter, Carol Corrigan and Goodwin Liu.
Justice Kathryn M. Werdegar authored a concurring opinion, which was also joined by Corrigan. Werdegar agreed that any error in allowing inconsistent arguments with regard to who fired the fatal shot was harmless, but added a caveat.
She said she was concurring, “with the understanding that nothing in the majority’s discussion of this issue suggests the prosecutor in this case committed misconduct, either in charging defendant with personal use of a firearm or arguing he was the shooter.”
She distinguished In re Sakarias (2005) 35 Cal.4th 140, in which the court held that a prosecutor had engaged in “deliberate manipulation of the evidence” in order to argue at two separate trials that each of the codefendants was the actual killer, even though there could only have been one.
“Because the evidence suggests there was only one shooter, when Glover’s jury in his trial failed to sustain the alleged firearm use enhancement the People could fairly conclude—and argue to defendant’s jury—that defendant was the shooter.”
The case is People v. Thomas, 12 S.O.S. 3615.
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company