The Supreme Court today affirms the death sentences imposed on the two defendants in People v. Beck and Cruz for four May 1990 murders in Stanislaus County.  The court’s 184-page unanimous opinion by Justice Goodwin Liu does, however, vacate a multiple-murder special circumstance finding, and the accompanying death penalty, for a conspiracy to commit murder count.  As the Attorney General conceded, “conspiracy to ‘commit murder alone cannot make a defendant death eligible.’ ”

The court rejects many arguments, including the challenge to a search warrant, the claim that the defendants should have been tried separately (there were two additional defendants at trial, but the jury did not reach verdicts as to them), and the assertedly improper excusing for cause of 10 prospective jurors because of their death penalty views.  The court finds, and the Attorney General conceded, there were two instructional errors, but concludes the errors were harmless.  Also harmless, the court says, was the prosecutor’s biblical argument during the trial’s penalty phase.