Murder verdict brings gruesome trial to end

Paul M. Anderson

LOS ANGELES -- A former California Highway Patrol dispatcher was

convicted Wednesday of first-degree murder in the brutal slaying of his

ex-girlfriend.

Jurors took just more than a day to reach the verdict against Anthony

Roy Shivers. His guilt was never in question since Deputy Public Defender

Alan Gelfand conceded his client killed Glendale resident Jeanette Cohen

on Aug. 10, 1997. What was at issue was whether Shivers was guilty of

first- or second-degree murder.

Shivers faces 25 years to life in prison with the possibility of

parole when he returns to Superior Court Judge James M. Ideman's

courtroom March 22 for sentencing. A second-degree murder verdict would

have carried a penalty of 15 years to life in prison. Prosecutor Ernie

Norris said Shivers will likely spend the rest of his life in prison

since the state's parole review board has for decades rejected parole for

those with life sentences.

"I know nothing will ever bring my daughter back, but we're hopeful

now he'll get the maximum sentence," said Jeanette Cohen's mother Yolanda

Roeber.

"We know that someday he'll face a higher authority and the punishment

will be a lot worse," said Jeanette's brother Ron Cohen. "The Lord says,

'Vengeance is Mine' and He will repay. That's what keeps us going."

Ron Cohen's wife, Angie, recently found out she is pregnant and plans

to name the child Jeanette if it's a girl.

Half the members of the jury thought Shivers was guilty of

second-degree murder at first, but changed their minds the more they

studied the legal definitions of first- and second-degree murder, said

jury foreman Barry Berman.

The convincer was a line from a 4-page letter Shivers wrote

illustrating in grisly detail how he choked Jeanette Cohen several times

into unconsciousness before fracturing her skull with a 10-pound weight

and stuffing her almost lifeless body into a computer box.

"Kept procrastinating the rope deal," Shivers wrote, referring to his

attempts to strangle Cohen. That was the line that convinced Juror Donna

Sanders to switch her vote from second- to first-degree murder because it

indicated Shivers spent time thinking about murdering Cohen instead of

killing her in a moment of passion as Gelfand argued.

Cohen's friends and family, who attended the weeklong trial, were

disappointed Ideman dismissed a torture allegation against Shivers on

Monday because that left the murderer ineligible for the death penalty or

life in prison without a chance for parole. But they were relieved

Shivers was convicted of first-degree murder.

Several jurors said they would have convicted Shivers on the torture

allegation but they doubted a unanimous decision could be reached.

"Some of the things he said in the letter made me think he enjoyed

it," said Juror Sandra Hoffman. "I probably would have gone for (the

torture allegation) but it would have been a hard sell."

Norris said he will appeal Ideman's decision to dismiss the torture

allegation for lack of evidence. Normally, that sort of decision cannot

be appealed but Norris said he will argue that Ideman did not have the

authority to dismiss a special circumstance allegation days before it

went to a jury.

Gelfand lashed out at prosecutors for pursuing the torture allegation.

Although Cohen suffered great pain the evidence did not show that Shivers

deliberately tortured her, only that he was an inept killer, Gelfand

argued.

But Norris said the 4-page letter, which describes in chilling detail

what Shivers did, including a plea from Cohen that she couldn't breathe

in the computer box, stands as enough proof that he tortured her.

Also, Norris pointed out that he has 161 pages of letters Shivers has

written in prison to a friend about the murder.

"In all those pages there's not one stitch of guilt or remorse,"

Norris said.

Norris wanted to put two jail house informants on the stand in the

trial, one to say Shivers confessed the crime to him and concocted a

phony psychological defense and another to testify that Shivers hatched a

plan to escape to France. But his superiors in the district attorney's

office would not give Norris permission to use the informants because

they believed the informants were not believable.

Norris criticized the district attorney's office saying it may have

cost him the death penalty in the case.

"The trial lawyers should be allowed to make that decision," Norris

said.

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