Just as a judge was about to dismiss a juror for not deliberating in the penalty trial of a sex offender convicted of murdering four Orange County prostitutes, the panel Wednesday announced the recommendation of the death penalty.
After questioning the juror about whether she had declared that she could not recommend the death penalty for any defendant, unless perhaps the victims were babies, Judge Patrick Donahue indicated he was about to release the woman.
But another several minutes in deliberations with the rest of the jury while Donahue discussed what to do with the prosecutor and defendant Steven Dean Gordon, the jury announced it had reached a verdict that will be announced Wednesday afternoon.
Jurors began deliberations Tuesday afternoon on whether to recommend the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Gordon, 47, who is representing himself without an attorney, wanted the woman booted from the jury.
“I think if she stayed and with the other 11 voted death, the case is going to be overturned and I don’t want that. I think you need to remove her,” Gordon said.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin said, “I agree (with Donahue) that she’s not deliberating and following the law.”
The prosecutor said the panelist’s comment that she thought at one point that she could only support the death penalty for killers of children was “disingenuous” and showed that she was not considering the evidence in this case.
Donahue brought the juror back out alone and asked her if she felt “intimidated” by him or “bullied” by the judge or other jurors. She said no.
Then, after sending the jury to lunch, Donahue said, “I had pretty much made up my mind” to boot the woman from the jury.”But in the last five or 10 minutes, she must’ve decided she would fulfill her obligations as a juror.”
On Tuesday, Gordon argued that he fought for the right to defend himself so he could get the trial done more quickly.
“Not once did I say to Mr. Yellin or (Anaheim police Detective Julissa) Trapp that I’m going to ask the jury to spare my life, and I’m still not going to,” Gordon said. “That’s your decision… (But) if you kill four people like this in cold blood you deserve to die. I believe that.”
Gordon also offered apologies to the family members of the victims.
“Nobody knows how I feel inside,” Gordon said. “Truthfully, it is very hard knowing I caused all this pain to four families. It won’t change anything, and it won’t bring them back. My actions were evil and horrible and you’re going to get your justice very shortly.”
Gordon said he “complained numerous times about the delays” in going to trial.
“It has nothing to do with my attorney,” Gordon said of his previously court-appointed legal representative. “It was my decision to get this over with and get out of here.”
Gordon said he called parole and probation officials to testify in the trial because he wanted them to shoulder blame for the killings.
“I have no defense,” Gordon said of his crimes. “I put people up there who are as responsible as me and my co-defendant… I was attacking them because they didn’t do their job.”
Parole and probation officials came under fire when Gordon and his co- defendant Franc Cano, another registered sex offender, were arrested because it appeared they were socializing together, which would be against the rules.
“I never said it was OK,” Gordon said of his spending time with Cano. “They gave us permission.”
The other 11 jurors told Donahue that the holdout declared within 15 to 30 minutes of the start of deliberations that she could not vote for death under any circumstances. Then, this morning, she said she might be able to if the victims were infants or babies.
Finally, she told Donahue she wasn’t sure of her position on the issue, and then after rejoining the panel several minutes later, the jury announced it had reached a verdict.
Gordon, who was convicted Thursday, admitted his involvement in most of the abduction murders, although he insisted Cano, 30, was the main culprit in hunting down and killing the four victims.
Yellin argued last week that Gordon was the “manipulator” and the “big brother” in the relationship between the convicted sex offenders.
Gordon was convicted of murdering 21-year-old Jarrae Nykkole Estepp, 20- year-old Kianna Jackson, 34-year-old Josephine Vargas and 28-year-old Martha Anaya.
Only Estepp’s body was found. That discovery led to multiple clues tying Gordon and Cano to the other killings, with Yellin making his case on evidence from DNA, GPS-tracked movements of both defendants and their own statements to police.
–City News Service