Retired attorney, 92, pleads guilty to killing son, will get probation
A 92-year-old former San Diego deputy city attorney who shot his allegedly abusive son in the head as he slept pleaded guilty Wednesday to voluntary manslaughter and will be placed on probation.
Richard Peck sat in a wheelchair, flanked by two defense lawyers, as he told San Diego Superior Court Judge Kathleen Lewis that he understood what his change of plea meant.
“I went to law school,” he reminded the judge.
Lewis noted that voluntary manslaughter is defined legally as taking the life of a human in the heat of passion, without malice. She said the maximum punishment for that crime is 11 years in state prison.
Following terms of the plea agreement, the judge dismissed a murder charge.
She said Peck would be placed on probation for three years, with home detention and a GPS ankle bracelet, when he is sentenced on March 28.
Defense attorney Douglas Gilliland told the judge the case “is one of extreme psychological abuse” by the son, an alcoholic who tried to frighten his father into a fatal heart attack.
The attorney said Robert “Robbie” Peck, 51, was in the middle of a divorce and had moved into his father’s Old Town home early last year.
On Nov. 14, the son smashed his father’s phone — his only connection to the outside world — made a threatening comment and went to bed.
Soon after, the elder Peck shot him with a shotgun. Then he went into the street and yelled for help, saying he’d shot his son.
Peck was arrested and jailed on a murder charge. A judge cut his $1 million bail in half and allowed Peck’s release from jail over the objection of Deputy District Attorney Daniel Shim, who called the shooting “an execution” while the victim slept.
On Wednesday, Shim agreed to the plea bargain.
“It’s quite an unusual case,” Shim said out of court. “Definitely tragic. There was probably a better way for Mr. Peck to handle things.”
He said his office has prosecuted few homicide cases with a defendant as old or as well-educated as Peck.
Peck worked for a time at the San Diego City Attorney’s Office, then as a civil litigator for the law firm then known as Procopio Price. It is now called Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch.
Gilliland, at a previous court hearing, outlined some of the abuse Peck had suffered from his son, who once hurled a vase at him and on other occasions would suddenly scream in his father’s ear, hoping the older man would die of a heart attack.
Police were called to the Peck home 14 times last summer, and the son was once committed for a mental health evaluation. The younger Peck also tried to get his father to amend his will to leave his son more money than his daughter, Gilliland said.
Peck’s daughter and son-in-law flew in from Georgia after his arrest and were trying to arrange for him to move into assisted living, Gilliland said.
The stories shaping California
Get up to speed with our Essential California newsletter, sent six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.