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Tyberg Murder Verdict Ruling Draws Protest

Times Staff Writer

The state attorney general will ask an appellate court to reconsider its ruling last week overturning the conviction of Charles Tyberg, 20, the stepson of a sheriff’s deputy, who was found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of a San Diego police officer.

Harley Mayfield, an assistant attorney general, said prosecutors believe a three-judge panel of the court misapplied precedent in determining that the judge who presided in Tyberg’s October, 1983, trial should have barred use of the youth’s confession to the crime.

“We believe the confession was properly taken,” Mayfield said Tuesday.

The 4th District Court of Appeal ruled last week that San Diego homicide detectives used “deception to induce a confession” from Tyberg, who was 16 when he shot Officer Kirk Johnson on Feb. 20, 1983.

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Tyberg, the stepson of a now-retired San Diego County Sheriff’s Department sergeant, was wearing his stepfather’s uniform shirt and badge and carrying his .357-magnum service revolver when he and two friends jumped in the sergeant’s patrol car for an early morning joy ride.

The car was parked in Marian Bear Park in San Clemente Canyon when Johnson drove up beside it. Tyberg fired six shots, hitting Johnson five times. A month later, after one of his companions led police to him, Tyberg confessed to the killing in an interview with homicide detectives.

A jury in Orange County, where the trial was moved because of publicity in San Diego, found Tyberg guilty of first-degree murder. But the appellate judges threw out the verdict Thursday, saying detectives had “softened up” Tyberg to confess by minimizing the seriousness of the offense and saying they were concerned about his welfare.

“We’re here to help ya, and I mean we’re here to try to understand how this thing happened,” one detective told the youth.

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But the appellate judges viewed the intentions of the police differently. “We find it inconceivable the police were there to help the defendant in any way,” they said in a unanimous opinion.


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