Thursday, February 20, 2014

People v. Rodriguez (Cal. Supreme Ct. - Feb. 20, 2014)

It generally takes a fair amount of violence to convince a jury to sentence a woman to death.  Torture.  Mass murder.  Stuff like that.  Things you don't see very often.

So when I read this opinion, and saw that Angelina Rodriguez was sentenced to death for poisoning her husband, I was initially somewhat surprised.  Sure, that's a special circumstance, so made her eligible for the death penalty.  But that was enough to push the jury over the edge?

No.  Not just that.  There was also the fact that defendant had forced her husband to buy a $250,000 life insurance policy just before she killed him.  That's another special circumstance.  But still.  That's enough to sentence a woman to death?

Probably not.  But then there was the fact that she had previously tried to kill him by disconnecting the gas lines in her house, which she hoped would either poison him or cause the house to explode.  That's not nice either.

Oh, yeah.  And then she tried to dissuade a witness from testifying against her at her murder trial.  Including evidence that suggested that she tried to have the witness killed.  That's not good.  You can see why the jury didn't really like her.

But the kicker, I think, was what transpired seven years previously.  Defendant had a 13-month old daughter named Alicia.  Defendant took out a $50,000 life insurance policy on the infant.  Without telling her husband. The kid then choked to death on a Gerber pacifier.  Defendant sued Gerber, and got a settlement of almost three quarters of a million dollars.

You know where this is going, right?  Defendant was the only one in the house.  There's substantial evidence that defendant purposefully ripped the pacifier apart and shoved one of its pieces into her baby's throat in order to kill her.  Deliberate.  Malicious.  Viciously premeditated.

Which makes me more than understand why the jury sentenced her to death.  A decision that the California Supreme Court -- not surprisingly -- sees no need to disturb.