California Supreme Court building. Photo via Wikimedia Commons
California Supreme Court building. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

The California Supreme Court refused Wednesday to review the case against a man convicted of gunning down his estranged wife in a Los Angeles neighborhood just outside of Culver City more than 22 years ago.

Dale Ray Hurd was convicted in November 2012 of first-degree murder for the April 17, 1993 shooting death of his estranged wife, Beatrice. It was the third jury to hear the case against him.

Jurors in Hurd’s first trial deadlocked. The second jury to hear the case found him guilty, but the 1995 conviction was overturned in August 2010 by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that Hurd’s rights were affected by the prosecution’s multiple references to his silence when he was asked to demonstrate how the shooting occurred.

During his third trial, Hurd testified that he accidentally shot his wife while “trying to impress her, to show that I could protect her,” as a verdict loomed in the federal civil rights trial of four officers who had been acquitted in state court of charges stemming from the Rodney King beating.

“Right when the gun went off, it was devastating,” he told jurors. “It shattered my life.”

Prosecutors countered that the victim — who had served her husband with divorce papers 16 days earlier — “was going to cost him a lot of money,” referring to alimony that Hurd could have been ordered to pay his wife.

Both of the couple’s children, who were by then in their 20s, testified during Hurd’s third trial.

The couple’s daughter, Diana, told jurors that she was 7 when her mother was killed.

She said she was in her mom’s Jeep Grand Cherokee outside the house when she heard a gunshot. She said her father — whom she referred to in court as “Dale” — came out of the house carrying her 4-year-old brother and told them to remain in the SUV while he called 911.

When asked if her dad appeared to be upset or was crying, she said no.

Charles Hurd testified that he remembered seeing his mother “falling down the stairs and screaming and falling in front of the door.”

The two — who were raised by an uncle — said then they have not had any contact with their father since that time.

Along with murder, the most recent jury to hear the case against Hurd found true the special circumstance allegation of murder for financial gain, along with an allegation that Hurd had personally used a semi-automatic handgun during the crime.

He was sentenced in July 2013 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

In April, a three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense’s contention that there were errors in Hurd’s latest trial.

The appellate court panel found that circumstantial evidence about the woman’s fear of her estranged husband, based upon his “prior acts of abuse,” was relevant to rebutting his claim that the gun accidentally discharged after she voluntarily stood by when he first showed her the loaded gun and that he then tried to unjam the weapon.

“Defendant’s conduct after the shooting provides further proof of his guilt,” the appeals court justices wrote. “Immediately after Beatrice was shot, he took no steps to assist her. He did not call 911 from the master bedroom. He did nothing as she screamed and fell down the stairs.

“He waited until she had stopped screaming before he went downstairs. Even then, he did not stop to assist her or to contact 911 from the downstairs phone. Instead, he took his son out to the car.”

— City News Service 

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