The California Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of a man who testified at his own trial telling jurors that he was rather be executed in the murder of an 11-year-old girl than spend life in prison.
Steven Allen Brown made an informed decision not to fight the death sentence and knew his options for seeking a mitigated sentence of life in prison, wrote Justice Carol Corrigan on Tuesday.
Brown was convicted, along with Charles K. Richardson, in separate trials of child molestation and murder in the killing of April Holley in the family home on the outskirts of Tulare in 1988. Holley, 11, had been sexually assaulted and drowned in the bathtub of her home.
Richardson was convicted and sentenced to death. His sentence was upheld in 2008.
Brown denied his involvement during the trial, but was convicted on the testimony of his girlfriend who said he made statements implicating himself.
At the penalty phase, Brown said he did not want to fight the death penalty and testified telling the jury he wanted death rather than life-without-parole, the only other option.
Brown understood he could seek mitigation evidence about the abuse and neglect he suffered as a child, but he said he did not want his family to suffer the ordeal of testifying.
The Supreme Court rejected the appellate argument that Brown’s trial lawyer was ineffective because he followed the dictates of the defendant in allowing him to seek a death sentence.
Corrigan said a defendant may give up mitigation evidence at a penalty trial as long has his lawyer has explained and investigated other options.
Case: People v. Brown, No. S052374