Emotion fought the law in the Daniel David Cartwright jury deliberations and the law won in the panel’s decision Friday that you can’t shoot your dad in the back and expect to get off lightly.
Wrapping up nearly three full days of gut-wrenching discussions, the panel convicted Cartwright, 20, of second-degree murder in the Nov. 6, 2012, shooting death of his father, Richard Allen Cartwright, in their Rosemont apartment.
“Ideally, we would have loved to give the guy a hug,” juror Erin Ross said of Daniel Cartwright after the panel came back with its decision. “We feel for both parties. But we have this system in place we have to go by and put aside our emotions and beliefs and feelings and keep the system running smoothly.
“Unfortunately in Daniel’s case, he did an act that was this, so it’s a tough position to be in,” Ross said. “We did have feelings for the victim and the accused. It was hard.”
What made things tough on the jury was Daniel Cartwright’s past as a boy whose parents broke up when he was 7 years old and whose mother fell into drug addiction. When his father took custody of him at that age, he never saw his mother again, Cartwright testified.
He told the jury he was molested by an older son of one of his mother’s boyfriends.
He said that as he got older, his father was more than tough on him, that he physically and emotionally abused him, questioned his masculinity and once characterized him with an anti-gay slur.
He said his father, who was 40 when he was killed, disciplined him by making him stand naked and that when he pushed back his dad once grabbed him by the testicles in a fit of anger “and asked me if I thought I was a man now.”
In his testimony, Daniel Cartwright admitted he pushed the limits with his dad by breaking into his bedroom and stealing his stuff, by smoking weed and drinking alcohol and dropping out of high school.
Daniel admitted on the witness stand that, when his father slapped him around after another bedroom break-in, he took the .38 revolver he had just lifted from his dad and used it to shoot him dead center in the back. And when his father pleaded with him to call 911, he responded “No,” and he kicked the cellphone away when his dying father reached for it.
Just before the shooting, Daniel Cartwright took a picture of himself looking tough in sunglasses and a Raiders cap turned sideways, holding up the pistol.
“I guess you could say it’s a fashion statement,” he testified at trial.
Deputy District Attorney Valerie Brown hoped for a first-degree verdict, but she accepted the jury’s default position.
“I understand this was not an easy task for the jury, given the defendant’s young age and his claims of abuse,” Brown said. “I appreciate that they carefully considered all the evidence, and I’m satisfied with their verdict.”
Richard Cartwright worked two jobs, as the manager of an 11-acre estate in El Dorado County and as a UPS employee at the Mather airport.
His sister, Shawna Santos, said she lost her only nephew to Friday’s verdict as well as her only brother to the killing two years ago this month.
“It’s very hard,” she said. “It’s been very stressful. We just prayed very hard the jury would come to a swift and fair decision. We feel they did their best to do that.”
Defense attorney Paris Coleman told the jury in his opening statement he did not believe the killing amounted to murder. He asked the panel in his closing argument to consider returning a voluntary manslaughter verdict.
“Although I don’t agree with the jury’s verdict and its view of the facts, that’s our system,” Coleman said. “But no matter what the facts were in this case, I know my client, and he’s not an evil person, and I know he loved his father. Forget the fact he’s going to prison – he knows he has to live with the fact of what he did for the rest of his life, and I know he regrets it.”
Ross, the juror, said “it was a strong debate” on the panel as it looked at the various homicide options at its disposal. She said there was “a lot of doubt” about it being a first-degree murder, but enough evidence to keep it at second-degree over voluntary manslaughter.
“There was evidence to show there were things going through his mind” to demonstrate that malice was at play in there, Ross said.
“It was hard for all of us, given Daniel’s background and young age and his young mentality,” she said. “It was a hard decision to make, but we had to stick by the evidence and the laws in place. We had to set aside some emotions around compassion and stick to the truth.”
Judge Sharon A. Lueras scheduled Cartwright’s sentencing for Dec. 19. He is facing a term of 40 years to life.
Call The Bee’s Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141. Follow him on Twitter @andyfurillo.