Mike Cruz, San Bernadino Sun, September 1, 2006
Standing before two rows of jurors, attorney Alan Spears railed against the death penalty for convicted killer Louis Mitchell Jr., calling it “whitey’s justice” and a political decision from elected district attorneys.
Spears pushed for life without parole for Mitchell, a black man. During closing arguments Thursday in San Bernardino Superior Court, the lawyer described death as the ultimate punishment best reserved for the worst of the worst, such as Osama bin Ladin.
There is not one law that says the death penalty is required, Spears argued. He ripped pages from the California Penal Code and threw it on the ground.
Some in the all-Caucasian jury sat fixated on Spears, while others leaned back with arms crossed. The wife of one of the victims left the courtroom momentarily.
Spears spoke of a lack of black prosecutors statewide and read aloud an excerpt from Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, who wrote that race continues to play a role in who should live and who should die.
“This is whitey’s justice,” Spears said of the death penalty. “We control other races with this punishment. It’s racially skewed.”
Mitchell was convicted Aug. 9 of three counts each of murder and attempted murder stemming from a shooting binge at a Colton auto dealership and a San Bernardino apartment complex on Aug. 8, 2005. He faces the death penalty or life in prison without parole.
Patrick Mawikere, Mario Lopez and Susano Torres died in the shootings, while Juan Bizzotto, Jerry Payan and Armando Torres survived.
After the court proceedings, victims’ family members said the defendant’s race had nothing to do with their desire to see him punished.
“I don’t care what color he is. I don’t care what race he is. He killed my friends,” said Doris Payan, wife of victim Jerry Payan. “His race doesn’t change what he did.”