For a man who shot his friend twice in the face, and then a third time in the chest, the wheel of justice spun oddly but favorably for Daniel Valine.
A Sacramento Superior Court jury convicted Valine on Oct. 30 of second-degree murder, even though he drove to Kelly McClurg’s house with a shotgun in his car and went back to the vehicle to retrieve the weapon after first enjoying a smoke and a beer with the victim in his kitchen. Prosecutors thought it was a case of first-degree murder.
On Friday, Judge Eugene L. Balonon sentenced Valine, 45, a carnival worker, to 40 years to life in prison. He could have been sent to prison for life, with no chance of parole.
Instead, Balonon next month will likely bestow the life-without-parole term on Valine’s co-defendant, Kailan Joshua James, 23. On Nov. 1 in the same trial, a separate jury convicted James, also a carnival worker, of aiding and abetting a robbery that resulted in McClurg’s death – good enough for a first-degree conviction under the felony murder rule.
The disparity in verdicts drew some sharp words from the prosecutor Friday.
The difference came about because James’ jury heard evidence that he told police and his pals that he and Valine went to McClurg’s house with the intent to rob him. The rules of evidence preventing co-defendants from implicating each other kept Valine’s jury from hearing James’ statements, which were about the only indication authorities had to suggest there had been a robbery plan.
“It’s the people’s position that Daniel Valine was the leader in this murder,” Deputy District Attorney Leland Washington said in court during Valine’s sentencing.
Valine targeted McClurg, according to the prosecution, even though the victim was his friend. Valine was upset, Washington said, because McClurg had accused Valine’s daughter and her boyfriend – Kailan James – of stealing some marijuana from him. So shortly after midnight on Oct. 27, 2012, Valine hustled up his son Justin Valine and James to pay McClurg a visit.
The encounter culminated in the shooting death of McClurg in the kitchen of his Wilton area home.
Justin Valine pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter and testified against his dad and his sister’s boyfriend. He will be sentenced Jan. 13 by Balonon.
Daniel Valine did not make a statement at his sentencing Friday. His lawyer, Keith Staten, said his client “would like to express his remorse, his sorrow, for the effects he has caused on Mr. McClurg and his family, as well as his own family.”
McClurg’s daughter Stephanie Golden described her father to the court as “a quirky guy,” but one who deeply loved his two children, as well as his grandchildren.
“Daniel Valine took my father’s life for what appears to be no reason,” Golden said. “We will never truly know what happened and why you, Daniel Valine, chose to kill my father in such a brutal way. The sentence you’ve been given is not nearly good enough for the crime you have committed against my father, against me and against our family.”
Balonon sentenced Valine to 15-years-to-life for the second-degree murder conviction and another 25-years-to-life term under California’s “10-20-Life” sentencing law for his personal discharge of the firearm.
“It can be said that every murder is senseless and brutal, but this particular crime and what happened here has an extreme level of brutality,” Balonon said. “Mr. McClurg was shot twice in the face and then shot a third time, and for that Mr. Valine is deserving of the maximum sentence this court can impose.”
Washington said in court that 40 years to life “is not a slap on the wrist. It is a serious sentence. But at the end of the day, it is still the people’s position that Daniel Valine deserved more.”