Monday, March 21, 2005

People v. Stitely

The Court unanimously upheld the death sentence imposed on Richard Stitely for the 1990 rape and murder of a San Fernando Valley woman. Stitely was sentenced to death for 1st degree murder with the special circumstance of murder during the commission of unlawful sodomy.

Stitely's automatic appeal seemed to raise no novel issues of law. Some interesting factual points:

Stitely, who was 41 at the time of the murder, could neither read nor write. Although he had no prior convictions, the evidence at trial showed that Stitely had physically and sexually abused his 2 daughters for a period of years while the family lived in Texas. A Texas grand jury considered the matter in 1981 and had declined to proceed against Stitely. However, Cal. Pen. Code section 190.3 expressly permits, at the penalty phase, proof of any violent criminal activity except as to any offense resulting in an aquittal. Under CA S. Ct. precedent, a grand jury's declining to proceed does not constitute an "acquittal."

An autopsy revealed that the victim, whom Stitely had picked up at a bar, had a blood alcohol level of .26%. The defense tried to introduce this evidence both at the guilt and penalty phases, but the trial court largely excluded it.

The Court's opinion can be found here.


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