Convicted killer Rodney Alcala, still denying that he murdered 12-year-old Robin Samsoe, turned to jurors in Orange County Superior Court Wednesday and asked them to spare his life, saying: "Please don't kill me. I don't think I should die for something I didn't do."
The appeal came at the end of the penalty phase of Alcala's trial for the 1979 slaying of the Huntington Beach girl. Jurors, who last month found him guilty of first-degree murder, will begin deliberations today on whether to give him the death sentence or life in prison without parole.
Alcala was convicted of murder and sentenced to death by a jury in the Samsoe girl's death six years ago. But the conviction and death sentence were overturned by the state Supreme Court last year after justices ruled that the jurors should not have been told during the initial part of the trial about Alcala's previous sexual offenses against young girls.
Robin Samsoe was last seen on June 20, 1979, after she left a friend near the Huntington Beach Pier to head toward her dancing class. Her body was found 12 days later in the San Gabriel Mountain foothills near Sierra Madre in Los Angeles County.
Police began to focus their investigation on Alcala after learning he had been seen on the beach that day. Some witnesses later said they saw him taking pictures of the Samsoe girl.
Alcala did not testify in the initial phase of his second trial. In the penalty phase, he admitted a history of molesting young girls but continued to deny he ever met Robin Samsoe.
After Alcala was cross-examined by Deputy Dist. Atty. Thomas Goethals, one of his attorneys, John Patrick Dolan, asked him to speak directly to the jury about his feelings on what an appropriate sentence would be.
Alcala, speaking calmly and in a low voice, told the jurors that his record in prison--13 years altogether--proves that "I am absolutely harmless. I am not a threat to hurt anyone."
He insisted that he is not guilty and told jurors that they should impose the lesser sentence "if there is any doubt whatsoever in your minds about my guilt."
Dolan argued that there were too many unanswered questions about where Alcala was the day the Samsoe girl disappeared and that if jurors were left with any "lingering" doubt, it would be too late to do anything about it once Alcala were executed.
The attorney also told jurors that even if they believed Alcala had killed the girl, they could accomplish their objectives--to keep him away from society and impose a severe sentence that would be a deterrent--by imposing a sentence of life without parole.
However, prosecutor Goethals described Alcala as the worst kind of offender, someone "who preys on totally defenseless young girls."
Goethals said the death penalty should be reserved for a special type of crime and a special type of defendant. The Samsoe slaying and Alcala fit that category, he said.
"The defendant is the epitome of malevolence," Goethals said. "He is a sexual carnivore, and the meat he thrives on is our children."
Alcala had been sent to prison twice before in incidents in which he picked up young girls and molested them. Goethals argued that Alcala killed the Samsoe girl because he had learned that if he allowed his victims to live, they could testify against him.