Death Sentence Tossed Out in 1978 Slaying of Hayward Girl
A federal appeals court Friday upheld the conviction, but set aside the death sentence of a man condemned for kidnapping and killing an 8-year-old Hayward girl in 1978.
The decision by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals means Richard Hovey’s sentence is changed to life without parole. If the decision withstands further appeal, Hovey, who tossed a bound Tina Salazar of Hayward from a car after beating her, will be removed from death row at San Quentin State Prison.
The San Francisco-based appeals court reversed the sentence after concluding that Hovey received ineffective assistance of counsel during the trial’s penalty phase.
Appeals for California death row inmates linger for years and bounce around the court system. Even if the appeals court had upheld his sentence, Hovey wouldn’t have been executed any time soon.
California’s executions were put on hold in February amid legal challenges that the state’s lethal injection method is unconstitutionally cruel. Federal court hearings are set to begin next month on the question of whether injected inmates experience levels of pain that violate the 8th Amendment.
The appeals court said Hovey’s lawyers did not adequately prepare a psychiatrist who testified that Hovey was schizophrenic and had not planned to kill the girl but did so out of panic brought on by mental disease. The psychiatrist’s testimony was central in an unsuccessful attempt to persuade the jury not to send Hovey, now 54, to death row.
Among other things, the jury was never told that a year before the slaying, Hovey was arrested after breaking into a car at San Francisco International Airport and was taken to a hospital in a catatonic state.