California IN BRIEF : SAN FRANCISCO : Killer of 4 Granted Hearing of Appeal
An Orange County 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 to decide whether he got a competent defense on two of the murders. 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 Eckstrom’s 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 also was sentenced to life for the murders of the two officers. A separate appeal of those convictions is pending before the same panel.