Nearly a month after a Redwood City jury convicted 26-year-old Alberto Alvarez of murder for fatally shooting East Palo Alto police Officer Richard May, the same six men and six women must now decide whether Alvarez will be sentenced to death.
Alvarez hung his head throughout the closing arguments presented in the penalty phase of his trial in San Mateo County Superior Court today, but never uttered a word.
He has not spoken in court since testifying in his own defense before he was convicted Nov. 25 of first-degree murder with the special circumstance of killing a peace officer for the Jan. 7, 2006, slaying of May.
The jury began deliberating this afternoon whether to recommend the death penalty, or opt for the lesser sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Prosecutor Steve Wagstaffe told the jurors this morning that Alvarez, who testified that May fired at him first and he shot May in self-defense, doesn't feel any remorse.
"This is a person who doesn't care," Wagstaffe said. "We are dealing with a sociopathic killer. Alberto Alvarez called himself a victim. (But) he's a gun-packing, drug-dealing parolee. The only remorse he's got is that he's in this mess."
Wagstaffe continued by describing the seconds before May's death, which included his "execution-style" shooting.
"Once (Alvarez) made the decision that he's going to fire, he could have turned and kept walking," Wagstaffe said.
The execution, he said, came with the two extra shots that Alvarez fired into May, including a fatal shot to the head.
Alvarez suffered a bullet wound to the leg during the exchange of gunfire, and his defense attorneys argued during the first part of the trial that May had shot him first.
May had responded to a report of a fight at a taqueria in East Palo Alto the afternoon of Jan. 7, 2006. He followed Alvarez from the scene of the fight and the gunfire erupted several blocks from the taqueria, on Weeks Street.
Wagstaffe told jurors today that Alvarez "was not the victim" of the shooting; he was "the cause of it."
He said Alvarez has blamed everyone but himself for what happened, including his parents, his schools and even May.
He called death the "appropriate" punishment and said to choose life in prison without parole is to give Alvarez a gift.
"When you execute an officer, do you get the lesser punishment, or do you get the greater punishment?" Wagstaffe asked the jurors.
Defense attorneys Charles Robinson and Eric Liberman, who both delivered closing arguments today, asked the jury to spare Alvarez's life, saying the guilty verdict with the special circumstance is enough to ensure Alvarez will never be released from prison.
"Alberto Alvarez will die in prison, cut off from the rest of the world," Robinson said. "The only question is, will he be executed, or will he die of natural causes?"
He said there are no happy endings in this case, that Alvarez will never be released and nothing will bring May back.
"There is no need for another execution," he told the jury. "We as a society don't kill unless it's necessary, (such as) war or in defense of your family."
He added that unlike Alvarez, "we don't fire those last two shots, shots that show no mercy."
The closing arguments followed nearly two weeks of emotional testimony from both May's family and Alvarez's family.
Alvarez has been in custody without bail since his arrest the day after he killed May.
Bay City News