The Supreme Court today affirms two death sentences in People v. Silveria and Travis for the 1991 robbery and murder of a Santa Clara County crafts store manager.  The court’s unanimous 189-page opinion is by Justice Joshua Groban.  Because of the opinion’s length, it’s no surprise that the court rejects a lot of arguments by both defendants.

One unsuccessful claim made by both defendants was that the penalty phase of their trial was improperly tried to a single jury.  The superior court denied severance motions after finding unpersuasive expert testimony from a former Texas appellate justice that severance was necessary.

The joint penalty phase was a retrial after separate juries had failed to reach verdicts.  One defendant was precluded from calling as witnesses during the retrial a juror and an alternate juror at the first penalty trial who, since the first trial, had visited the defendant in prison and would have testified to the defendant’s positive changes since the murder.  The Supreme Court holds the superior court did not abuse its discretion in excluding the testimony.

Other arguments included one defendant’s claim that a warrantless search of his car was improper because there was no reasonable cause to detain him or probable cause to arrest him before the search, and because the search itself was illegal.  Another concerned the asserted improper excusing of some jurors for cause based on their feelings against the death penalty.

As it has before (including in two other cases this week (here and here)), the court summarily dismisses an argument that juries should be required to make unanimous findings on aggravating factors, an issue it might revisit because it has asked for supplemental briefing on the issue in another capital appeal.  (See here and here.)