Jurors say death penalty for Stayner was logical

By Brian Melley
Friday October 11, 2002


SAN JOSE — After 13 weeks of hearing about Yosemite killer Cary Stayner’s tormented mind and methodical killings, a death sentence was the logical conclusion, a juror said Thursday. 

The day after deciding that Stayner should die for his crimes, three jurors returned to the scene of the verdict and explained their decision. 

“The evidence to me was that he was a cold-blooded killer,” a 50-year-old social worker from San Jose told the Bay City News Service. “The crime to me was raping and killing innocent children along with two innocent, productive, healthy adults.” 

The three men spoke to reporters in front of Santa Clara County Superior Court on condition they not be named. 

Stayner, 41, was convicted by the same jury of murdering Carole Sund, 42, her daughter, Juli, 15, and their Argentine friend, Silvina Pelosso, 16, during a trip to Yosemite National Park in February 1999. The panel also ruled that he was legally sane. 

In the final stage of trial, prosecutors presented evidence about the murder and beheading of nature guide Joie Armstrong, 26, for which Stayner is already serving life in prison without parole. 

At each stage of the 13-week trial, it took jurors less than six hours to reject lengthy testimony of Stayner’s mental problems, evidence that defense lawyers presented to spare his life. 

The fact that Stayner was a predator outweighed evidence of his deformed head, mental illnesses and troubled childhood, jurors said. 

Despite the relatively short deliberation periods, one juror said the verdicts were not arrived at on a whim. 

“That six hours wasn’t fast in that room,” said a 47-year-old federal employee from Sunnyvale. 

Stayner, 41, who will be formally sentenced Sept. 12, was in his jail cell in the Santa Clara County Jail on Thursday. He refused an interview request by The Associated Press. 

While jurors gave high marks to the lawyers and the judge in the case, at least one felt that the defense was unfairly prevented from presenting some evidence to spare Stayner’s life. Judge Thomas Hastings curtailed some testimony because of prosecution objections and overruled numerous defense objections. 

“The man was on trial for his life,” the Sunnyvale man said. “I wanted to say, ’Let the people finish.”’ 

Defense lawyer Marcia Morrissey, who will appeal the verdicts, the sentence and ask for a new trial, said Stayner received an unfair trial because of rulings by Hastings. 

“There were limitations imposed on us that I was amazed at,” she said Thursday. “I’m gratified to know that somebody noticed that we were being stymied at every turn.” 

The cornerstone of the prosecution was Stayner’s lengthy tape-recorded confession to all four killings, in which he described how he plotted for months to bind young girls to sate his sexual fantasy. He matter-of-factly described the sexual assaults and killings, saying that strangling Carole Sund was like performing a task.