Friday, January 27, 2017
S.C. Upholds Death Sentence for Parolee in Oakland Robbery-Murder
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The California Supreme Court yesterday unanimously affirmed the death sentence imposed on a parolee who murdered an Oakland woman while robbing her residence
Justice Carol Corrigan rejected challenges to the conviction of Grayland Winbush, and to the death penalty, including the defendant’s claim that prosecutors challenged potential jurors who were black on account of their race.
Winbush was a 19-year-old Berkeley resident when 20-year-old Erika Beeson was killed in the apartment she shared with Mario Botello, who was out Christmas shopping at the time. Winbush, who had been released from the Youth Authority 10 days earlier, reportedly committed the murder just hours after the ankle bracelet he was required to wear as a condition of his parole stopped transmitting.
Winbush knew Botello as a childhood friend of co-defendant Norman Patterson, whose sister was married to Winbush’s brother, according to testimony. Patterson was convicted in a joint trial with Winbush and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.
Prosecutors presented evidence that the pair stole a shotgun, $300 and some stereo equipment, and strangled and stabbed Beeson. Patterson, after being arrested in connection with another crime, confessed to the killing and implicated Winbush.
Winbush’s appeal emphasized a claim that prosecutors improperly exercised three peremptory challenges against African Americans because of race, resulting in a jury that did not include a single black juror or alternate. Alameda Superior Court Judge Jeffrey W. Horner denied the defense challenges, concluding that prosecutors had given non-pretextual, race-neutral reasons for the strikes.
One panelist, they said, was stricken because he had expressed ambivalent feelings about the death penalty, and seemed unfriendly toward law enforcement. The others expressed views that the criminal justice system treats indigent defendants and minorities less favorably than others, and one of them had served as foreperson of a hung jury.
Corrigan said Horner’s evaluation of the strikes was reasonable, rejecting the claim that the views of the stricken jurors were similar to those of jurors whom the prosecutors accepted. While the stricken panelists were not the only ones who expressed concerns about the treatment of minorities, their responses to other questions would have led a reasonable prosecutor to believe they were more likely to convict, for reasons having nothing to do with race, the justice concluded.
The case is People v. Winbush, 17 S.O.S. 369.
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