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Former death row inmate is sentenced to life in prison in Newport Beach slaying

Former death row inmate is sentenced to life in prison in Newport Beach slaying
James Andrew Melton, shown in an undated booking photo, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole Friday in the murder of a Newport Beach man in 1981. (File Photo)

A former death row inmate whose conviction was overturned and then reinstated by a new jury received a sentence Friday of life in prison without parole.

An Orange County Superior Court jury deliberated for about two days in May 2017 before finding James Andrew Melton, 66, of Los Angeles guilty of first-degree murder, robbery and burglary.

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He had seduced and strangled Anthony DeSousa, 77, in a plot to steal from him.

The 2017 trial was Melton's third for the crime. He originally was convicted of killing DeSousa in in 1982 and sentenced to death.

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But a federal judge overturned that conviction in 2007 after determining that jail staff overmedicated Melton to the point that he was unable to participate in his defense or understand his trial.

The Orange County district attorney's office decided not to seek the death penalty in the trials that followed.

In the 2014 retrial, a jury deadlocked 10-2 in favor of convicting Melton. Jurors did not hear testimony from Melton's former lover, Johnny Boyd, to whom prosecutors claimed Melton confessed shortly after DeSousa's death.

Melton's defense attorney, Denise Gragg, failed in her motion for a fourth trial Friday, which she sought after a court clerk reported overhearing a juror discussing the case mid-trial in May while getting her nails done at a Fountain Valley salon.

Jurors are prohibited from discussing a case with anyone until a trial is over.

In his third trial, the prosecution alleged that Melton and Boyd, while serving prison sentences in San Luis Obispo in 1980, concocted a plan to make money by robbing older gay men.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Stephen McGreevy said Boyd, who was released from prison before Melton, met DeSousa through a personal ad.

DeSousa, who had come out as gay after his wife died, told Boyd that he liked black men, and Boyd offered to set him up with a man he said was his cousin, Melton.

Boyd was arrested in an unrelated case a few days before the three men were to rendezvous. According to the prosecution, Melton decided to meet DeSousa alone on Oct. 10, 1981, at the Disneyland Hotel.

That day, McGreevy contended, Melton strangled DeSousa and made off with his car and valuables.

Three days later, DeSousa's body was found in his bedroom. He had been badly beaten and strangled with the cord from an electric mirror.

Gragg contended there were no fingerprints or DNA evidence at DeSousa's home linking Melton to the crime. She said Boyd, a key prosecution witness who was given immunity to testify in Melton's first trial, had credibility issues.

Boyd died of complications of AIDS in 1992, so in the recent trial the jury heard a reading of transcripts from his prior testimony.

Twitter: @HannahFryTCN

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