The California Supreme Court unanimously upheld two death penalties Thursday, one for a handyman who murdered six prostitutes in the Sacramento area and the other for the killer of a female U.S. Secret Service agent.
The panel issued the rulings at its San Francisco headquarters in the cases of Morris Solomon Jr. and Andre Alexander.
Both death penalties were for murders committed in the 1980s.
Solomon, 65, a carpenter and Vietnam veteran, was convicted in Sacramento County Superior Court of four first-degree murders and two second-degree murders carried out in 1986 and 1987.
The victims, most of whom were bound and gagged, were found at locations at which Solomon had lived or worked, some in shallow backyard graves and one in a closet.
The state high court rejected Solomon's appeal claim that he lacked the premeditation needed to support the first-degree murder convictions.
Justice Carol Corrigan wrote, “The record in this case contains substantial evidence from which a rational jury could find premeditation and deliberation beyond a reasonable doubt.”
In the second case, the panel upheld Alexander's conviction and death penalty for the fatal shooting of Secret Service agent Julie Cross near Los Angeles International Airport in 1980.
Cross and another agent were preparing to search a suspected counterfeiter's house when Alexander and another man approached their van and Alexander grabbed the agents' shotgun and shot Cross.
Alexander was not charged until 1992 when he was arrested on suspicion of three other murders committed in 1978. A police detective noticed that Alexander resembled a composite sketch of the suspect in Cross' murder.
Alexander was convicted of Cross' murder in Los Angeles County Superior Court in 1996 and was sentenced to death. He was also separately convicted of the other three murders and given life sentences.
The two men's direct appeals to the state high court are the first step in the death penalty appeals process in California. They can now continue appeals in the federal court system.