The California Supreme Court today affirmed the death sentence for a robber who gunned down a 62-year-old man in front of his wife, daughter and two grandchildren.
The murder of Raymond Shield occurred during the third leg of a robbery spree that began in the early morning hours of July 16, 1990.
Paul Sodoa Watkins, 21 at the time of the crime, and his cousin, Lucien Martin, then 18, stole a truck at gunpoint in Home Gardens in Riverside County and robbed the passenger. They then drove to a Greyhound bus station in Claremont, where they forcibly took $12 from a man, then Watkins shot Shield outside a Holiday Inn in West Covina.
The crime spree ended with a robbery about four hours later at a Gardena market, where the cousins abandoned the stolen truck and took off on foot after the store owner fired his own weapon at them. They were found hiding in a nearby residential area.
Shield had brought his family to the hotel to catch a shuttle bus for a vacation flight to Hawaii and approached Watkins and Martin after they pulled up in the stolen pickup truck and opened the hood. Shield walked over, stood looking at the engine and then was shot after he walked away, in the direction of his family. His last words to his wife were, "I'm dead."
Watkins admitted to three of the robberies, but testified that he didn't try to rob Shield and shot him accidentally. He said the area was too well- lit and the cousins were waiting for a solitary victim.
He said he told Shield that they didn't need help and tried "to be rude to him ... so we could find somebody ... by themselves."
But Shield knew something was wrong, Watkins testified, so he and his cousin got into the truck to drive off. Watkins said he pulled the gun out of the front of his pants so that he could sit comfortably and it went off accidentally.
A jury convicted him of first-degree murder and recommended that he be sentenced to death. Martin was convicted of six counts and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
In their appeal, Watkins' attorneys contended that the evidence that their client had attempted to rob Shield was too thin to sustain their client's capital murder conviction. They asked that his conviction and death sentence be reversed.
But in a unanimous opinion written by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, the court found the evidence "sufficient," saying that the defendant had raised the hood of the truck in "a ruse to lure the victim to them so that they could rob him."