Convicted Murderer of 4 Granted Another Hearing on 2 Slayings
A Midway City man who killed two people at a shopping center in 1973 and also killed two officers who came to arrest him was granted a new hearing on two of the murders Tuesday to decide whether he got a competent defense.
The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said a federal judge must re-evaluate the decision of Carl Eckstrom’s lawyer not to present a defense of diminished mental capacity at his trial for the shopping center killings.
The court said a federal magistrate who reviewed the case was under the mistaken impression that Eckstrom could have been sentenced to death. California’s death penalty law had been ruled unconstitutional in 1972, and no new death penalty law was in effect at the time of the killings.
The hearing could result in a new trial and possibly a reduction in the life term Eckstrom was given for the two killings. He was also sentenced to life for the murders of the two officers. A separate appeal of those convictions is pending before the same court panel.
Eckstrom shot two people to death at the Los Cerritos shopping mall in Los Angeles County in January, 1973. He then killed two officers in a shootout at his Midway City home.
In the Los Angeles County case, Eckstrom’s trial lawyer argued that he was insane but did not offer a defense of diminished mental capacity, which was recognized by state courts at the time. It allowed a defendant to be convicted of a lesser charge, such as second-degree murder or manslaughter, if it was determined that the defendant was unable to premeditate or plan a killing because of a mental disorder.