Jurors Hear 2 Earlier Stansbury Victims
The 36-year-old woman cried as she told the Pomona Superior Court jury of being raped 15 years earlier; a 32-year-old man quietly explained how as a 10-year-old boy he had been forced under threat of death to perform sexual acts.
Both former victims of Robert Stansbury, they had been subpoenaed to testify at Stansbury’s penalty trial by Deputy Dist. Atty. Richard Burns, who hoped to convince the jury that Stansbury should die for the sex murder of 10-year-old Robyn Jackson of Baldwin Park.
During Stansbury’s long murder trial, in which the jury found the ice-cream vendor guilty of raping and killing the child, testimony had not been permitted about his previous convictions for sex-related crimes, involving five victims over a 13-year period.
The jurors had listened to pathologists, policemen and others reconstruct the Robyn Jackson murder in explicit detail. Now, a week later, they were being asked to weigh the aggravating circumstances of the killing against any mitigating factors that might work in Stansbury’s favor. Juror Gayle Derdenger said, “It was all aggravating.”
The jury on Friday recommended death for Stansbury after discussing the matter for little more than an hour. If Judge James Piatt follows that recommendation when he sentences Stansbury July 21, the defendant will have an automatic avenue of appeal to the state Supreme Court.
Stansbury, acting as his own chief attorney, had ordered his court-appointed co-counsel, David Daugherty, to argue in favor of the death penalty at the conclusion of the trial’s penalty phase last week, but Daugherty refused, citing ethical reasons, and Stansbury said he was too intimidated by the television cameras in the courtroom to make the death plea himself.
Hoped Might Reconsider
Earlier, Stansbury had said he hoped jurors might reconsider their “erroneous” conviction if they were forced to stand behind it with a death sentence, and had even asked the jury during the first phase of the trial to give him death if they found him guilty.
The argument was never made during the penalty phase and the defense rested its case without offering any mitigating factors for the jury’s consideration. Without a presentation by the defense, the jurors were left with only the prosecution’s arguments to consider.
Jurors interviewed after their decision was announced said they took one vote on Stansbury’s punishment, and that it was unanimous. Since California law required them to recommend death if aggravating factors were predominant, the jurors said the choice, in view of the previous victims’ testimony, was obvious.
Flashed a Badge
The man who testified was 10 years old when he and a friend were forced into sex acts by Stansbury near an irrigation channel in Oklahoma. He told the jury Stansbury had flashed a badge, told them they were trespassing and threatened to kill them if they did not do what he asked.
The other victim, a woman who now lives in Boston, told the court she was raped by Stansbury on a cross-country trip in 1970. She said she met him in Needles on the first leg of her journey, and agreed to let him drive and help maintain her car in exchange for a ride east.
When they reached Oklahoma, Stansbury drove to a secluded area, raped her and threatened to kill her, she said.
“The rage never dies,” the woman testified through her tears. “And neither will the hate or contempt. Never.”
Stansbury asked the woman only one question--if she had ever applied for a job as an actress. She said she had not.
Stansbury was convicted of both crimes and served time for them in state prisons. In 1974, a year after he was paroled for the later offense, he was arrested for raping two more women, this time in the East San Gabriel Valley. He was again sentenced to state prison after a Pomona Superior Court trial, and was on parole once more when he was charged with killing Robyn Jackson.
“During the 15 or so years of Mr. Stansbury’s adulthood, Mr. Stansbury has been without any redeeming social values,” Burns told the jury. “He has shown no remorse.”
“I kind of thought Stansbury was using some reverse psychology (in asking for the death penalty),” said juror Derdenger, who lives in West Covina. “But I don’t think we had a choice under the law. I didn’t realize it was going to be that clear cut.”
Far more difficult, the jurors said, were the three days of deliberation during the guilt phase of the trial.
Jury foreman Arthur H. Childers, a Diamond Bar resident, said jurors spent most of the time examining in minute detail all the evidence that had been presented to them.
“I think those three days of deliberation were very traumatic,” Childers said. “But each pertinent bit of information showed there was just no question about it.”
Although the jurors said the evidence that Stansbury kidnaped the girl, raped her and locked her in his ice-cream cooler before dropping her body in a concrete flood channel was largely circumstantial and depended heavily upon testimony from a pathologist, they agreed it was convincing.
Some said Stansbury hurt himself by acting as his own lawyer.
“His defense was lacking terribly,” juror Tom Pague of Glendora said. “He did not have any facts to substantiate his (claim of) innocence.”
Daugherty also said it was a mistake for Stansbury to handle the case himself.
“It was the most frustrating experience of my life,” the West Covina attorney said. “I’ve been trained to be a trial lawyer, and this is the first time I’ve ever had a situation where I wasn’t allowed to use my skills. I was never given an opportunity to represent Mr. Stansbury.”
Instead, Daugherty said, he was relegated to an advisory role, and his client frequently ignored his advice.
Daugherty said his help was especially needed during the penalty phase of the trial. He said he believed the outcome would have been different if Stansbury had permitted him to make a case against capital punishment.
But Childers, juror Billie Holman of Walnut and others said that while they were moved by the testimony of the two victims, they had decided on death for Stansbury beforehand solely on the basis of Robyn’s suffering.
“I just felt sorry for them,” Childers said. “But it only sustained in my own mind that we were right all along in what we did.”