A Santa Clara County man who has been sitting on San Quentin’s death row since he was convicted of killing his wife nearly 30 years ago, has exhausted yet another of his appeals to avoid lethal injection.
The California Supreme Court on Monday unanimously denied Mark Christopher Crew’s request to be released from death row because he had a lousy childhood. According to the San Jose Mercury News, the high court agreed with prosecutors that additional evidence regarding Crew’s dysfunctional upbringing would not have changed the jury’s opinion when he was convicted in 1989.
Crew, now 56, killed his wife of two months, Nancy Jo Crew, in an attempt to bilk her out of her money. Testimony given at trial showed that Crew shot his wife in the head and left her to die in the mountains back in August 1982. Witnesses alleged that Crew returned to the scene the following day only to find that Nancy Jo was still alive. He and an accomplice then decapitated her, put her body in a 55-gallon drum filled with cement and dumped her off the Dumbarton Bridge into the San Francisco Bay.
Her remains were never found.
Crew’s guilt or innocence was not a factor in the state Supreme Court’s decision, the Mercury News reports. Instead, the justices examined whether or not his attorney provided adequate representation. Crew’s appellate lawyers claimed there was evidence of childhood abuse that was never presented in trial – evidence they claimed could have changed the outcome of the trial. They also alleged that the evidence wasn’t presented because Crew’s former defense attorney was a heavy drinker at the time of the trial.
Three years ago, a Santa Clara County judge agreed that Crew’s attorney did fail to present important evidence to the jury, which has led to the string of appeals. But the Supreme Court disagreed.
“The mitigating evidence (Crew) presented … of his dysfunctional family might have elicited some jury sympathy for him at the penalty phase of his capital trial,” Justice Joyce Kennard wrote to explain the court’s decision. “But (Crew) showed no casual connection between his family environment and his cold-blooded and calculated decision to brutally murder his wife.”
The Supreme Court rarely overturns death sentences, but their decision is not Crew’s last hope for life. His appellate attorneys are now planning to argue their case before the federal courts, a process that could take up to a decade to reach resolution.
Assistant State Public Defender Andrew Love, one of the attorneys representing Crew through the appeals process, expressed disappointment in the decision.
“I think any reasonable court would grant relief on this issue,” he told the Mercury News. “The federal courts will treat this issue much more reasonably.”