Justices Uphold Second Death Penalty for ‘Trailside Killer’

From Associated Press

The state Supreme Court on Monday upheld the second death sentence of David Joseph Carpenter, the so-called “Trailside Killer” who was convicted of seven murders after terrorizing hikers two decades ago.

The 6-1 ruling affirmed Carpenter’s convictions and death sentence for five fatal shootings in Marin County in October and November 1980. He also was convicted of raping two victims and trying to rape a third.

Carpenter’s separate death sentence for two killings in the Santa Cruz Mountains in the spring of 1981 was upheld by the state’s high court in 1997. He can appeal both rulings in federal court.

Before the murders, Carpenter, now 69, of San Francisco, had spent most of the previous two decades in prison for assaults in 1960 and rapes and other attacks in 1970. Described by defense witnesses as a victim of child abuse who had a severe stutter, he was hospitalized for mental problems as a teenager.


He denied committing the Marin County murders, but the court said the prosecution’s evidence was overwhelming.

The dissenting justice, Stanley Mosk, said Carpenter’s death sentence should have been overturned because of jury misconduct, a claim considered and rejected in a 1995 ruling.

Witnesses said the jury forewoman admitted during the trial that she knew that Carpenter already had been convicted and sentenced to die for the Santa Cruz County murders, a fact the Marin County judge had tried to keep from the jury. The disclosure prompted the trial judge to order a new trial for Carpenter, but the state Supreme Court overturned that order in a 4-3 ruling, saying that there was no proof the juror was biased.