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

The state’s highest court upheld the death penalty for a 43-year-old man convicted of killing his father, mother and brother in Fullerton two decades ago.

Edward Charles III was sentenced to death in 1999 for killing his 47- year-old mother, Dolores, 55-year-old father, Edward Charles II, and 19-year- old brother, Danny, in November 1994.

Charles was convicted in January 1996, but it took four juries to decide his punishment. Two of the juries in the penalty phase hung 11-1 in favor of capital punishment, and a death verdict from one panel was thrown out due to juror misconduct.

He was convicted of one count of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder, with jurors also finding true special circumstance allegations of multiple murders.

After having dinner at his parents’ Fullerton home on Nov. 6, 1994, Charles abducted and killed his brother and stuffed him in the trunk of his own car, according to the ruling written by state Supreme Court Associate Justice Kathryn Werdegar.

“He either choked or hit Danny in the neck with sufficient force to break his hyoid bone before killing him by striking him repeatedly in the head with a 16-inch crescent wrench,” Werdegar wrote.

Charles returned to his parents’ home early on Nov. 7, 1994, and strangled his mother before beating his father to death with some sort of blunt object, Werdegar wrote.

Charles put the bodies in the same car in which he put his brother and then went to his job at a service station, Werdegar wrote. After work, he drove the car to El Camino High School’s parking lot in La Mirada and set it ablaze.

The death row inmate confessed to his martial arts instructor and also tried to talk his 73-year-old grandfather into taking the fall for the murders, according to trial evidence.

Other evidence included a letter he wrote to another inmate in which he acknowledged cleaning up the murder scene and putting the bodies in the car before burning them.

The martial arts instructor testified that the defendant “conveyed the impression he hated his brother Danny, who he thought might become a homosexual because of Danny’s interest in opera and theater,” according to the ruling.

Charles also told the instructor that he felt his mother’s smoking “showed a lack of regard for his health,” and that his father “was distant and did not listen to him.”

A key piece of evidence in the trial was the letter he wrote to a fellow inmate. The defendant argued at trial that he did not write the letter.

But during a jailhouse interview with Orange County Register Tony Saavedra, who obtained the letter from the prosecutor in the case, the defendant did not deny writing the letter when the reporter prefaced his questions with, “You wrote here …”

The justices rejected Charles’ arguments that the trial court judge improperly allowed the letter into evidence and limited the defendant’s ability to question the reporter based on a shield law for journalists.

The justices also denied allegations of prosecutorial misconduct, labeling one as “meritless.”

— City News Service

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