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Cross to die, jurors order
SEATTLE - Two years after the slain bodies of a mother and her two daughters were found inside their Snoqualmie house, and following a lengthy legal case that at times seemed poised to unravel because of erratic and hostile behavior by the defendant, a panel of 12 jurors decided last week what punishment Dayva Cross should receive for killing Anouchka Baldwin, Amanda Baldwin and Salome Holly.
They chose death.
The jurors deliberated for more than two days on whether Cross should be sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison with no chance of parole, or receive the death penalty, which required a unanimous vote from jury members.
After closing arguments ended last Wednesday morning, the jury - made up of nine men and three women - spent Wednesday afternoon and all of Thursday and Friday deciding Cross' fate before reconvening in King County Superior Court Judge Joan DuBuque's courtroom at 10:30 a.m. Monday. Once the verdict had been rendered, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Tim Bradshaw thanked jurors for their diligence, saying it was not "a win-lose type of verdict."
"Their public service is honorable," he said of the jury members.
Because Cross, 41, was sentenced to death, he will receive an automatic appeal to the state Supreme Court. He can also choose to appeal the case at the federal level. If the appeals fail, or if he decides not to go forward with the appeal process, he will die from lethal injection.
At the heart of the case lay one specific issue: Did Cross commit the murders in a cold-blooded, premeditated fashion, as King County prosecutors contended? Or was he suffering from some kind of "mental defect" such as psychosis or severe depression, as defense attorneys argued, when he used a knife to repeatedly stab his wife and two stepdaughters on March 6, 1999?
Last October, Cross bypassed a jury trial and submitted Alford pleas to three counts of first-degree aggravated murder and one count of first-degree kidnapping with a deadly weapon. Under the terms of the Alford pleas, Cross took responsibility for the murders, saying there was likely enough evidence to convict him, but he did not admit guilt.
The move went against the advice of his attorneys, Mark Larranaga and Richard Warner, who had planned on presenting evidence that Cross suffered from a mental illness at the time of the murders. Sitting before DuBuque last year, Cross said he wanted to enter the Alford pleas so Mellissa Baldwin, who at age 13 was held captive by Cross in their house after the murders and managed to escape out a window when he fell asleep, would not have to appear at trial.
From there, the case proceeded to the sentencing phase, where a jury would decide Cross' sentence: death, or life in prison.
One slate of potential jurors was sent home by DuBuque last November when it was discovered that some members of the jury pool had read about the case and discussed it with other jurors. A new jury was selected this year, and the sentencing phase of the trial began in April.
During the sentencing portion of the trial, prosecutors and defense lawyers presented their own evidence and witnesses on whether Cross knew what he was doing at the time of the murders. In his closing arguments, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Don Raz said problems Cross was having with his wife pushed him to take a butcher knife and stab Anouchka Baldwin, 37, Holly, 18, and Amanda Baldwin, 15.
"The murders, I submit, came about from Mr. Cross' anger in interpersonal relationships and his need for control - not his mental disorders," Raz said, adding that Cross was fueled in his rage by a mixture of alcohol and marijuana.
Larranaga, in his closing arguments, said at the time of the murders Cross was suffering from depression and psychosis. He said Cross had visions, heard voices in his head and thought of himself sometimes as the son of God or the son of the devil.
The defense attorney said in the two years leading up to the murders, Cross had a severe bout of depression, similar to an earlier episode in 1988. He wouldn't come out of the family's house on Southeast Reinig Road, rooms in the house were unusually dark, he stopped going to work and he sometimes stared into space. Larranaga said after Cross was arrested, the depression was evident enough to have jail officials place him on suicide watch.
When Cross did attempt suicide, he placed cornbread and mattress stuffing in his nose and down his throat before jumping off a raised object and hitting his head on the floor. The injuries Cross sustained have left him in a wheelchair.
Larranaga said that Cross - in an interview with psychologist Dr. Robert Wheeler, who later served as a witness for prosecutors in the trial - couldn't understand why he would stab his wife and stepdaughters.
"He said to Dr. Wheeler, 'I had no reason to hurt those girls. Not in a million years,'" Larranaga said.
Because Cross suffered from a mental illness, Larranaga told jury members it should be a mitigating factor in deciding Cross' punishment. He said the death penalty should not be levied against a person with a mental disease at the time of a crime.
"These are not the kind of individuals that we execute," he said.
But in his rebuttal arguments, Raz said Cross knew what he was doing, and his grasp of reality was strong enough for him to use the telephone and turn on the television inside his house after the murders. He added that the interview with Wheeler came a year following Cross' arrest, and Cross' tone was much different in 1999, shortly after his arrival at the jail.
Raz said at the jail Cross spoke loudly enough for several people to hear him: "I don't give a [expletive]. The [expletive] are dead. I killed them."
"Who do you suppose those [expletive] are?" Raz asked the jury.
The case has been marked by a series of outbursts by Cross. At several times he verbally insulted prosecutors, and twice threw cups of water at them. Because of his behavior, he watched closing arguments on a television monitor in a small room at the King County Courthouse with Warner, who communicated to Larranaga through a wireless headset.
In an unusual act for a judge, once closing arguments were finished last week, DuBuque praised both prosecutors and defense attorneys for their work during the sometimes-chaotic case. She said in her 24 years as a lawyer and judge, "I can say that lawyers like you represent the very best the legal profession has to offer."