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U.S. Supreme Court Ruling : Death Sentence Upheld in Newport Beach Killing

From Times Wire Services

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected the appeal of convicted murderer James Melton, letting stand his death sentence for the 1981 strangling of a Newport Beach man.

Melton was convicted of killing Anthony DeSousa, 77, whose body was found on Oct. 13, 1981, in his Newport Beach condominium. DeSousa, who had been strangled with an electrical cord and beaten, was found naked with his hands bound in his home.

Justices William J. Brennan and Thurgood Marshall, who oppose capital punishment in all circumstances, voted to overturn the death penalty.

DeSousa was a former hairdresser who had advertised for a homosexual lover in a tabloid newspaper. According to the prosecution, Melton plotted with a former prison associate to rob affluent men who placed personal ads in homosexual newspapers. DeSousa’s homosexual lover testified that he suggested to Melton that Melton rob the victim.

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Police found Melton in possession of the victim’s car and other property after a tip from an associate, who was later granted immunity from prosecution.

Melton also was charged with burglary and robbery. Melton was convicted and sentenced to death in March, 1983.

Authorities said Melton had never spent more than 9 months out of jail in his adult life. Melton entered the California Youth Authority at age 13 and had been convicted of seven felonies before the DeSousa murder. The prior offenses included a string of rapes involving two brutal beatings.

The court also let stand the conviction and death sentence of Alfred Dyer, who killed two people and wounded two others following an evening of heavy drug and alcohol use in Oakland.

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