Friday, July 25, 2003
High Court Upholds Death Sentence in Oakland Murders
By a MetNews Staff Writer
An Oakland man convicted of killing a taxi driver and the owner of a convenience store was properly sentenced to death for the crimes, the state Supreme Court held yesterday in a unanimous decision.
Justice Janice Rogers Brown rejected Delaney Geral Marks’ claim that he was mentally incompetent at the time of his 1994 trial for the killings. While Marks presented expert testimony that he was still unable to assist in his own defense, Brown said, jurors were entitled to disregard that evidence in light of Marks’ own statements suggesting he understood what he was charged with and what the potential consequences were.
Marks demanded trial by jury on the issue of whether his competency had been restored following a stay at Atascadero State Hospital. Jurors found him competent, and he was then tried before a new judge and jury on the murder charges.
Witnesses at that trial identified Marks as the perpetrator of an October 1990 killing spree that left the two men dead and two others—the victim of another shooting, at a Taco Bell in downtown Oakland, and a worker at the convenience store, severely injured. A gun, identified by experts as having been used in the shootings, was in his possession at the time of his arrest at a bus stop.
Marks claimed he was not involved in any of the three shootings. He said he was given the gun by a man who paid him $150 to transport it to a location where a drug deal was to take place, and that he was waiting for a bus to that drop-off point when the police arrested him.
On rebuttal, a police detective who interviewed the defendant following his arrest said Marks claimed to have found the gun in some bushes. A bailiff testified that he had overheard Marks admit the shootings to another murder suspect in the courtroom, while that defendant testified on surrebuttal that Marks said the victims had been shot, but did not say he had shot them.
Jurors found Marks guilty of two counts of first degree murder and two counts of attempted murder, and found true the special circumstances of multiple-murder and of robbery-murder in the death of the cab driver. He was also found to have murdered a transportation worker under a law that treats such killings as a special circumstance requiring a sentence of life imprisonment without possibility of parole.
In the penalty phase, prosecutors presented evidence that Marks had committed numerous acts of violence over the years, including three attacks on jailers and punching another inmate while serving a prison term four years before the shootings.
In mitigation, several family members testified that Marks had “lost himself” after becoming involved with drugs following a hitch in the Navy. Marks testified that had not committed any of the four felonies of which he had been previously convicted, and that his problems in jail were all precipitated by the deputies.
He did, however, admit kicking his original trial attorney. He said he wanted another lawyer because his counsel wanted to negotiate a plea to save his life and he expected his counsel to prove his innocence, and he thought by attacking the attorney he could secure a change in representation that would “grant me justice.”
In addition to rejecting Marks’ attack on the competency finding, the court held there was no abuse of discretion in placing a deputy sheriff next to Marks while he testified.
Brown distinguished the strategic placement of court personnel for the purpose of “monitoring” a defendant from the use of shackles, which requires a showing of “manifest need,” according to a prior state Supreme Court decision.
Deploying peace officers inside the courtroom is an accepted part of courtroom procedure, the justice said. Any prejudice to the defendant, she added, was cured when the judge gave an instruction—requested by defense counsel—that the procedure was “perfectly normal” and that jurors were not to speculate about it or consider it in deliberations.
The case is People v. Marks, 03 S.O.S. 3884.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company