Paul M. Anderson
LOS ANGELES -- A former California Highway Patrol dispatcher was
convicted Wednesday of first-degree murder in the brutal slaying of his
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
"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
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 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