High Court rejects appeal
of Grateful Dead killer
By Julia Cheever, Bay City News Service
March 6, 2006
The California Supreme Court today rejected a key appeal claim
of a man given the death penalty for murdering two followers of
the Grateful Dead band at a homeless encampment in Berkeley in
The high court, in a decision issued in San Francisco, by 6-1
vote turned down a claim by Ralph International Thomas that alleged
incompetence by his defense lawyer affected the outcome of his
Thomas was convicted in Alameda County Superior Court of murdering
Mary Gioia, 22, and Greg Kniffin, 18, by beating them and shooting
them at close range during the night of August 15 16, 1985.
The victims were so-called "Deadheads," or followers
of the Grateful Dead. They were killed in Rainbow Village, a former
homeless encampment set up by the city of Berkeley near the Berkeley
Thomas claimed in a habeas corpus petition that his defense attorney
was incompetent in failing to investigate several witnesses who
might have shown that someone else shot the victims.
The state Supreme Court concluded that the defense attorney was
deficient in failing to find one of the witnesses, but said it
wouldn't have made a difference in the trial.
Justice Kathryn Werdegar wrote that even if the additional witness
had testified, "listening to the prosecution case would have
established in a reasonable juror's mind the near certainty that
Thomas did kill them."
Thomas still has several additional avenues of appeal available,
including other claims in his state habeas corpus petition and
then a federal habeas corpus petition.
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