Jurors in Redwood City on Tuesday recommended the death penalty for Alberto Alvarez, who was convicted last month of murder for fatally shooting East Palo Alto police Officer Richard May in 2006.
“Justice has been served,” May's wife Diana May said after the penalty verdict was read in San Mateo County Superior Court Tuesday afternoon. “I am extremely relieved.”
Alvarez, 26, was found guilty of first-degree murder with the special circumstance of killing a peace officer for May's Jan. 7, 2006,
Had the jury not recommended death, Alvarez would have been sentenced to the lesser punishment of life in prison without the possibility
Sobs erupted in the packed courtroom from Alvarez's family, May's family and the jurors when the court clerk read the verdict, but Alvarez appeared unemotional. Defense attorney Eric Liberman said even though Alvarez appeared stoic, he's sure his client was distraught over the sentence.
One juror, who declined to give her name, said Alvarez's stoic appearance throughout the entire trial was a significant factor in the jury's
decision to convict him of murder and recommend death.
“We didn't see any emotion from him,” the juror said of Alvarez.
“It takes a pretty cold, callous person to shoot someone on the ground.”
Alvarez fired two additional shots into May, including a fatal shot to the head, after the two exchanged gunfire on Weeks Street in East
Palo Alto the afternoon of Jan. 7, 2006. May died at the scene.
Alvarez had claimed throughout the trial that May shot him first and Alvarez was firing in self-defense.
“Those two extra shots were a deciding factor,” the juror, who has lived in East Palo Alto for 49 years, said. “(Alvarez) is pretty
“Most of us felt he wasn't remorseful,” another juror, who became a U.S. citizen two years ago after moving from New Zealand, said. “Had he shown remorse, it would have been different.”
The jurors who chose to speak to reporters after the verdict said the decision to recommend the death penalty was mostly unanimous from the beginning.
“There was some wavering,” said one juror. “I think everyone was open to hearing other sides.”
Marco Marquez, the police explorer who was riding with May the day he was killed and who testified during the trial as the person who saw
Alvarez at the murder scene, said outside the courtroom Tuesday afternoon that he feels Alvarez received the appropriate sentence.
“It feels like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders,” Marquez said. “It's been very difficult.”
Prosecutor Steve Wagstaffe said the jury deliberated for almost 20 hours over the course of three and a half days before returning the death penalty verdict. The same jury had reached the guilty verdict in just under six hours.
“I am honored the jury returned the justice they did,” Wagstaffe said. “I'm exceedingly happy for the family, the Police Department and the community.”
Diana May and other members of May's family, including his sisters and daughters, tearfully embraced the jurors after the verdict and thanked them.
“Nothing will ever bring him back,” Diana May said of her husband, “but this will help along our healing process.”
East Palo Alto police Chief Ron Davis said he is grateful for the closure as well.
“As we close this tragic chapter, we can use this as a catalyst to do better things in the community,” Davis said.
An automatic hearing to decide whether the court will reduce the death sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole will take
place next year.
Convicted killer Scott Peterson was the last person to be sentenced to death in San Mateo County Superior Court after he was found
guilty in 2004 of murdering his wife and unborn child.