The California Supreme Court upheld the death sentence in the killing of a police officer, reports the Los Angeles Times.
The unanimous decision came down on Monday, where the court rejected the appeal of Enrique Parra Duenas. Duenas was behind the fatal shooting of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Hoenig in 1997, according to Patch.
Duenas' appeal hinged on the dismissal of three prospective jurors and evidentiary issues involving the animated recreation of the crime scene.
Hoenig was shot while trying to stop Duenas, who was riding his bicycle without lights at 1 a.m. in Lynwood. The stop was part of a larger investigation into a series of recent burglaries.
Duenas rode off and swore at the officer. Hoenig followed Duenas in a patrol car and when he caught up with him, he was shot seven times. The murder weapon with his fingerprints helped police identify him as the killer.
On appeal, Duenas' attorneys argued that the trial court erred in excusing three jurors for their stance on capital punishment.
While we've addressed the issue of removal of jurors for their stance on the death penalty in prior posts, the court here focused not on the viewpoints of the jurors but rather, on their conflicting answers, which could substantially impair their performance as jurors.
Another interesting argument advanced by Duenas' attorneys was that the animated recreation of the crime scene portrayed speculation and as such, should not have been admitted as evidence.
While computer simulation faces a higher bar for admission as evidence, computer animation doesn't always face the same uphill challenge, the court noted. The computer animation used in this case was demonstrative evidence, analogous to a chart or diagram.
Furthermore, the court found that the computer animation was relevant to show deliberation and premeditation.
Duenas remains on death row.
- The People v. Duenas (California Supreme Court)
- California Supreme Court and Appellate Cases (FindLaw CaseLaw)
- Reversible Errors? Scott Peterson Files Death Penalty Appeal (California Case Law Blog)