Friday, April 25, 2003
High Court Upholds Death Sentence in Shasta County Killings
Justices Unanimously Affirm in Case of Redding Man Who Called Tip Line, Was Rewarded for Leading Police to Body
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer/Appellate Courts
The state Supreme Court yesterday upheld the death sentence for a Redding man who sought to collect rewards from the sponsors of a tipster hotline for calling in the locations of three bodies over a two-year period and was later charged with killing the victims himself.
Justice Ming Chin, writing for a unanimous court, said there was plenty of circumstantial evidence to prove that Robert Edward Maury of Happy Valley committed the murders, in addition to having robbed one victim, attempted to rape another, and forcibly raped another woman.
A Shasta Superior Court jury convicted him of all of the crimes in a 1989 trial.
Maury claimed he was innocent. But he read a statement at the penalty phase telling jurors that since they felt he was guilty, they should return a death verdict.
Jurors obliged. Judge William R. Lund denied the automatic motion to modify the sentence and condemned Maury to death.
Suspected in First Murder
Police said they first focused on Maury after the disappearance of his roommate, Averill Weeden, in 1985. But they were unable to prove at the time that Maury killed her, or that it was Maury who called in the location of the body to Secret Witness of Shasta County about a month later.
Secret Witness was established by a local civic association and gives rewards for information about local crimes on the recommendation of an advisory board made up of law enforcement officials.
The caller who inquired about a possible reward for information about the Weeden murder never claimed it. But the Secret Witness employee who took the call testified that the same person called about one of the murders, and about several other crimes.
Maury, who identified himself by name in some of the calls, was observed by police when he picked up $500 at a designated pickup point as a reward for calling in the location of the body of the third murder victim. The prosecution case included fingerprint evidence, testimony that Maury had bragged about strangling a woman, and a bartender’s identification of Maury as having been in the bar with the third victim, a woman Maury claimed to have never met in his life.
Prosecutors also presented evidence that Maury made numerous inconsistent statements about Weeden’s whereabouts following her disappearance.
Maury’s defense argued that Weeden was killed by a man whom she was involved with in buying drugs, and that the killer forced Maury to strike her head with a rock after she was already dead. The defense also disputed that it was Maury who called Secret Witness about Weeden.
Maury did call Secret Witness about the later crimes, the defense acknowledged, but argued that he had found the bodies and was not the killer. His secret witness calls, the defense said, were consistent with his history as a paid police informant.
In affirming the convictions and death sentences, the high court yesterday rejected Maury’s claim that the police violated his Fourth Amendment rights by taping some of his calls to Secret Witness without obtaining a warrant.
Secret Witness is maintained by a private association not subject to the Fourth Amendment, and Maury could not have reasonably expected the police to respect his privacy once they were told that a caller to the tip line might be reporting crimes he himself had committed, Chin said.
Citing testimony from board members, Chin wrote:
“To guarantee anonymity to such a criminal would be contrary to the purpose of the Secret Witness program, i.e., to solve crimes.”
The case is People v. Maury, 03 S.O.S. 2072.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company