A prosecutor’s inflammatory references to the Bible require reversal of a 1992 death sentence, a federal judge in San Diego has ruled. The ruling last week by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller requires prosecutors to give defendant Rudolph Roybal a new sentencing hearing or to reduce his sentence to life without parole, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
Roybal was convicted of the murder of an Oceanside woman for whom he had briefly worked as a gardener before his firing. During closing arguments, Deputy District Attorney James Koerber said:
“There is another book, written long ago, that mentions the crime of murder, and mentions what is the appropriate penalty for the crime of murder, and that book says a couple of different things. It says, ‘Thou shalt not steal.’ It says, ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ … It says, ‘And if he smite with an instrument of iron so that he die, he is a murderer. The murderer shall surely be put to death.’ ”
Miller said the argument “presented an intolerable danger than the jury minimized its role as fact finder and encouraged jurors to vote for death because it was God’s will.” Defense lawyers’ failure to object, Miller said, deprived Roybal of a death penalty hearing “free from foul prosecutorial blows.”
Xlnt lawyering for this defendant in San Diego. Bravo.