Defense, prosecution lay out their cases in Bracamontes sentencing
Convicted cop killer Luis Bracamontes lasted 3 minutes and 15 seconds Monday before being tossed out of his death penalty trial because of his latest profane outburst.
With his public defenders set to begin questioning Bracamontes family members from Mexico, the defendant made clear from the moment he entered Sacramento Superior Court on Monday morning that he had no intention of behaving.
“I said I don’t want to f------ be here,” Bracamontes told his public defenders, Norm Dawson and Jeffrey Barbour, before the hearing began.
As a bailiff went back to retrieve Judge Steve White, Bracamontes turned to the deputy and said, “Tell him I said f--- you.”
White took the bench and attempted to begin hearing motions outside the presence of the jury that will decide whether Bracamontes is sentenced to death.
But as prosecutor Rod Norgaard began to discuss legal issues he and co-prosecutor Dave Tellman planned to use, Bracamontes interrupted again, directing more profanity at them.
“Remove the defendant,” the judge ordered.
The public defenders objected, saying they wanted Bracamontes present for his family members’ testimony, and White agreed to give him “one more chance.”
But after yet another outburst, the judge ordered Bracamontes removed, and he was escorted to a cell where he can view his penalty phase trial on a video monitor.
White said he that because of “constitutional concerns” he will ask that Bracamontes be present at the start of each court session to see if he can control himself. But the judge indicated that the defendant may be acting out intentionally.
“The record will reflect that Mr. Bracamontes is aggressively trying to undermine his own trial,” White said.
There is little doubt of that.
Bracamontes was returned to court Monday after the lunch break and lasted 38 seconds before his cursing again led deputies to escort him out.
Last week, after Dawson spent an hour in opening statements trying to humanize Bracamontes, the defendant demolished his own attorney’s efforts with another profane outburst that got him tossed from court.
Jurors saw that outburst, and the judge told them they can consider that incident in their deliberations. They likely planned to anyway.
During the guilt phase of the trial, which ended with him convicted on all counts in the October 2014 slayings of two Sacramento-area deputies, he repeatedly blew up in front of them and at times threatened some of them.
Dawson and Barbour are fighting an uphill battle trying to convince jurors that Bracamontes deserves a sentence of life without parole.
They have attempted to convince the judge that Bracamontes is mentally ill; he has claimed he cannot be killed in San Quentin’s execution chamber, explaining that the lethal injection poisons will be turned to water.
White has ruled that he is mentally competent, and Bracamontes’ attorneys now are left to play to jurors’ emotions by portraying his difficult upbringing in Mexico by an alcoholic father and depressed mother.
Whether that will work remains to be seen.
Bracamontes has repeatedly volunteered that he shot Sacramento sheriff’s Deputy Danny Oliver and Placer County sheriff’s Detective Michael Davis Jr. during his daylong crime spree of Oct. 24, 2014.
He also has suggested he would like to kill more officers. Monday’s outburst occurred in a mostly empty courtroom, but Davis’ mother, Debbie McMahon, was present and simply shook her head at Bracamontes’ comments.
She has heard them before.