Supremacist’s death sentence overturned
SAN FRANCISCO — The California Supreme Court unanimously overturned the death sentence of a San Diego man Thursday, ruling that the prosecution improperly focused on the defendant’s racist beliefs.
In a decision written by Justice Leondra R. Kruger, the state high court said the prosecutor made inflammatory arguments about the defendant’s racist tattoos and white supremacist beliefs “for the very sake of highlighting their offensiveness” rather than for a legitimate purpose connected to the crime.
The First Amendment does not permit the prosecution to ask a jury to return a particular verdict because the defendant holds offensive beliefs, the court said. Instead, there must be a nexus to the crime or the defendant’s propensity for violence.
The ruling means that Jeffrey Scott Young, convicted of the two first-degree murders, an attempted murder and a carjacking, must be given a new trial on whether he should be condemned to death or his sentence will be reduced to life without possibility of parole.
The killings occurred during a 1999 robbery of a Five Star Park, Shuttle & Fly parking lot near the San Diego International Airport.
An employee of the parking lot planned the robbery, and Young and two accomplices committed it.