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Court Upholds Matthew Souza's Conviction, Death Sentence

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By Robyn Hagan Cain on June 01, 2012 4:03 PM

Thursday, the California Supreme Court upheld the death penalty for an Oakland man convicted on multiple first degree murder counts, reports the Bay City News Service.

Matthew Souza was 18-years-old in 1993 when he began shooting revelers at an apartment party with a semi-automatic assault rifle. Matthew opened fire on the crowd in retaliation for an earlier incident in which his mother had been forcibly removed from a house party. Matthew, his brother Michael, and a third, unidentified man armed themselves with guns and drove to Regina Watchman's apartment, where five people were shot, and three of the victims, including Watchman, died.

Numerous witnesses testified regarding the shootings.

Matthew and Michael Souza each claimed that the other brother fired the fatal shots. They were tried in a joint trial, over Matthew's objection.

Matthew Souza was convicted of three first-degree murders, with a multiple murder special circumstance, and two attempted murders. He was sentenced to death. Michael Souza was convicted of felony murder for aiding and abetting, and was sentenced to 29 years to life in prison.

Matthew appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in denying his pretrial motion for severance, violating his rights under the Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the federal Constitution and parallel provisions of the California Constitution.

Matthew claimed the error required reversal of the guilt and penalty judgments.

Thursday, the California Supreme Court rejected his appeal. In a unanimous decision, the court noted that the law prefers joint trials, that the physical evidence implicated Matthew Souza, and that there was no reason to believe the outcome would have been different in a separate trial, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

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