The California Supreme Court unanimously upheld the death sentence Monday of an Orange County man convicted of murdering his parents and brother.
In a decision written by Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar, the court rejected an appeal by Edward Charles III, convicted of killing his father, Edward Charles II, his mother, Dolores Charles, and his 19-year-old younger brother, Daniel Charles, a USC student, in 1994 at the family's Sunny Hills home in Fullerton.
The defendant, a 22-year-old college dropout working as a mechanic at the time of the killings, maintained at his trial that he had no motive for the murders and lacked the poor character required to have committed them.
In his appeal, Charles argued that a letter prosecutors said he had written to another inmate about the crime should not have been admitted at trial. The court disagreed, concluding that the defendant had essentially conceded he wrote the letter during a jailhouse interview with a reporter from the Orange County Register.
Charles also argued that he was deprived of cross-examining the reporter thoroughly at the trial because the reporter invoked his rights under a state newspaper shield law, which protects journalists who refuse to disclose unpublished information or confidential sources.
The court disagreed, saying the evidence did not show the shield law thwarted an effective cross-examination by the defense.
The prosecution showed that Charles III went to his parents' home while the family was having dinner. He later kidnapped his brother, stabbed him and forced him into the trunk of a car and killed him by striking his head repeatedly with a 16-inch crescent wrench, according to evidence presented at trial.
The prosecution said that Charles later returned to his parents' home, strangled his mother and beat his father to death with a blunt object.
He confessed his crime to his martial arts instructor and attempted to persuade his 73-year-old grandfather to take the blame for the murders, according to the court.
Although the motive was never made clear, the prosecutor suggested in his closing argument that Charles killed to inherit his parents' his parents' estate.