Fresno police were busy Wednesday preparing official reports in the wake of a deadly crime rampage that ended in four homicides – killings that could result in a death sentence for accused mass murderer Kori Ali Muhammad.
Once the police reports are turned over to the District Attorney’s Office, prosecutors plan to file charges Thursday. Muhammad likely will be arraigned Friday in Superior Court.
Muhammad, 39, is accused of killing Zackary David Randalls, 34, of Clovis, Mark James Gassett, 37, of Fresno, and David Martin Jackson, 58, of Fresno in a shooting rampage on Tuesday near downtown Fresno. He also is suspected in the April 13 shooting death of security guard Carl Allen Williams III at a Motel 6.
Muhammad, 39, is black. All of his victims were white. Police Chief Jerry Dyer has said the killings were fueled by Muhammad’s hatred of white people.
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There’s no doubt in my mind they will go all the way.
Fresno defense lawyer Ralph Torres said of prosecutors seeking a death sentence
Because Muhammad is suspected of committing multiple murders, the law allows prosecutors to seek the death penalty or life in prison without parole. Assistant District Attorney Steve Wright said Wednesday he could not comment because prosecutors have a policy against talking about pending cases.
But Fresno defense lawyer Ralph Torres, who defended mass murderer Marcus Wesson in 2005, said prosecutors will likely seek a death sentence for Muhammad. “There’s no doubt in my mind they will go all the way,” Torres said.
Seeking the death penalty is rare. Wesson was sentenced to death in Fresno County Superior Court in 2005 after being convicted of orchestrating the 2004 killings of nine of his children. The last Fresno County defendant to receive the death penalty was Eddie Ricky Nealy, who was convicted in September 2013 of the 1985 rape and killing of Fresno teen Jody Lynn Wolf.
Wesson, 70, and Nealy, 60, remain on death row at San Quentin Prison.
From reading news reports about the Muhammad case, Torres said there are similarities between it and Wesson. “Both are sensational killings,” Torres said. “And the way in which they occurred. There’s a kind of horror associated with it.”
The last Fresno County defendant to receive the death penalty was Eddie Ricky Nealy, who was convicted in September 2013 of the 1985 rape and killing of Fresno teen Jody Lynn Wolf.
He said prosecutors will likely charge the special-circumstance allegation of committing multiple murders. Prosecutors also could consider the special-circumstance allegation of lying in wait, he said.
“But you only need one special-circumstance allegation to go for the death penalty,” Torres said.
Typically, prosecutors don’t make the decision to seek a death sentence until after the defendant has a preliminary hearing, which will determine whether the defendant should stand trial.
Torres said the decision to seek a death sentence also comes after defense attorneys are given the opportunity to speak with District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp and her administrative staff and provide them with evidence on why the death penalty might not be appropriate, Torres said.
“It’s still too early to tell, but on first impression, this case has all the elements for prosecutors to seek a death sentence,” Torres said.