Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A just decision

We always said that you give a jury the option to give life without the possibility of parole they will take it.

Whether the defendant truly was mentally retarded or not, they will take it. However they will use it justifiably where, as here, they believed the defendant was not the shooter.

Man gets life in retired Edison teacher's fatal shooting

By Elizabeth Allen: Express-News

A jury spared Jonathan Depue's life Tuesday, opting to send him to prison for life without parole for the shooting death of retired Edison High School teacher Aleta Rhodes.

Jurors found Depue, 24, guilty of capital murder last week in the Sept. 29, 2006, burglary that turned to murder when Rhodes walked into her house during a burglary and was shot in the head.

In the punishment phase, defense lawyers argued that Depue has mental retardation and by law can't be executed.

But prosecutor Melisa Skinner had noted that nobody said Depue had mental retardation until he was on trial for capital murder. She showed evidence that he'd spent his jail time researching in the law library and selling drawings to other inmates.
“Not only can he read, he reads law books,” Skinner said.

Jurors weren't convinced Depue had mental retardation. They also thought he was a continuing threat to society. But they weren't convinced Depue was the triggerman in the slaying, a crucial issue that ultimately saved his life.

“The jury found that he did not actually kill Aleta Rhodes, and that when she was killed, that he did not anticipate” her slaying, defense lawyer Joel Perez said after speaking with jurors.

Jurors did believe that Jonathan Depue was involved in the killing and burglary. He left physical evidence: a palm print on a TV in the house.

Depue, his older brother Eric Depue and their cousin Ruben Daniel Montoya all were charged with capital murder. Two other men are still under investigation in the crime.

Eric Depue cut a deal with the state not to seek the death penalty against him, and he has not been sentenced. He testified that he just was the driver that night and that after the burglary, his brother simply said: “I just shot.”

Eric Depue blamed the crime on his brother, testifying that Jonathan Depue emerged from Rhodes' home carrying a gun.

During the punishment phase, he said Montoya told him of another burglary that fall, in which Jonathan Depue had allegedly raped a woman with a gun. Depue was not charged with that crime. Montoya refused to testify and still faces trial.

“Again, the state prances out Eric Depue so he can save his own hide,” defense lawyer Ray Fuchs said.

Jonathan Depue's mother, Maria Gutierrez, testified that Eric Depue was the dishonest one. He always took advantage of his little brother, she said, from ripping off Jonathan in baseball card trades when they were small to bullying him along with their stepfather after Eric Depue got out of prison.

After 227th District Judge Philip Kazen had sentenced Jonathan Depue, Gutierrez and other family members sat silently in the courtroom, not wanting to discuss the case. But Gutierrez said she still knows Eric Depue lied.

“My son (Eric) sold his soul to the devil,” she said.

Unfortunately, she said, the jury believed him.

But they didn't, defense lawyer Perez said.
“The jury did not place a lot of credibility on Eric's testimony,” he said.