Court upholds death penalty
in 1989 Oakland freeway murders
By Julia Cheever
June 5, 2007
The California Supreme Court yesterday unanimously upheld a death
penalty for an Oakland man who randomly killed four people and
shot at six others in drive-by shootings on or near Interstate
580 in 1989.
Charles Stevens, 38, was sentenced to death after being convicted
in Alameda County Superior Court in 1993 of four murders and six
The shootings took place during a four-month period between April
and July 1989. Three of those murdered were shot in their cars
on the freeway and the fourth was a pedestrian on an Oakland street.
Stevens was captured after the fourth murder, of mechanical engineer
Raymond August, 28, of Oakland, as August was droving home on
580 early in the morning of July 27, 1989.
Another motorist who was shot at by Stevens but escaped injury
minutes earlier called 911 and police found Stevens parked on
the shoulder of a freeway ramp.
Evidence at the trial included testimony that most of the shootings
were carried out with an unusual gun, a Desert Eagle semiautomatic
pistol, found in Stevens's car.
A defense psychiatrist told the jury that Stevens suffered from
schizoid and borderline personality traits but said he was not
able "to come up with a clear diagnosis as to why" Stevens
committed the crimes.
The high court, in a ruling issued in San Francisco, rejected
a series of arguments raised by Stevens on appeal, including a
claim that prosecutors improperly dismissed most African-Americans
from the jury.
Justice Carol Corrigan wrote that Stevens "has failed to
demonstrate purposeful racial discrimination against prospective
Richard Targow, Stevens's attorney in the appeal, said he had
not yet read the ruling, but said he will consider a further appeal
to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In addition, Stevens can pursue additional appeals through state
and federal court habeas corpus petitions alleging constitutional
Targow said Stevens has a habeas corpus petition prepared by
a different lawyer pending before the state Supreme Court.
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