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Supreme Court upholds Lindhurst shooter's death sentence
The California Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the death penalty for Lindhurst High School killer Eric Houston.
Houston was convicted in September 1993 of killing teacher Robert Brens and students Beamon Hill, Jason White and Judy Davis on May 1, 1992, when he stormed the campus in a deadly siege.
Houston also wounded 10 others and held more than 80 students hostage for 81⁄2 hours before surrendering.
The court, in a 58-page opinion, unanimously ruled that Houston received a fair trial in 1993. The court also said there was overwhelming evidence the disgruntled former student planned the killings, which supported his first-degree murder convictions.
"That's the best news I've gotten all month," said former Lindhurst teacher Frank Crawford. "I would have been extremely upset if they would have found some way to even consider letting out such an evil person."
During oral arguments in May, appellate attorney David Schwartz said Houston's conviction and death sentence should be overturned because of evidence discrepancies and unclear proof of intentions.
Schwartz's arguments also pointed to poor sound quality in audio testimony, contradictory statements and incomplete and erroneous tape transcripts.
Victims' family members who attended the hearing in San Francisco said at the time they were optimistic the court would rule in their favor, as evidence against Houston was indisputably clear.
Upon learning the good news Thursday, Mary Stickle, mother of slain student Jason White, was nearly moved to tears.
"I'm stoked," she said. "I'm so incredibly happy and I'm emotional."
For the court to uphold the death penalty is a victory for the community, Stickle said. She only wished those who worked so hard to pursue the original conviction who have since passed away were still here to see it.
"I'm just ready for whatever happens next," she said. "You get so angry and you carry that anger around with you no matter what. I think as time goes on and pieces of the puzzle get put together, I think some of that anger starts to subside and we start feeling we can take another step without having to breathe so hard."
For Yuba County Sheriff Steve Durfor, who was among the first law enforcement officers to arrive at the scene of the rampage, said to still be disputing Houston's culpability two decades later was a tragedy of its own. The court's ruling thankfully means no one has to relive the pain of another trial.
"Certainly it serves as an affirmation that there is zero question of the fact Eric Houston is responsible for these murders and heinous actions and the terror he caused over Lindhurst High and the whole community," Durfor said. "Hopefully this moves him closer to the just sentence he was served 20 years and seeing it through."
Crawford, who taught Houston for two periods, coached White in sports and carried another victim who had been shot in the stomach out of C Building, said this ruling should help give closure to some. His only hope now is the death sentence will come to fruition.
"If there was an ounce of thought in my mind that someone on death row was innocent, I would do everything in my power to free that person," said Crawford. "But there is not a shadow in my mind that what he did was calculated and unconscionable, and he deserves what the Supreme Court reaffirmed ... If anyone deserves it, he's the one right there."
Houston, 41, sits on death row at San Quentin State Prison. A former student at the Olivehurst school, his explanation for the murderous rampage was revenge against Brens for a failing grade.
CONTACT Ashley Gebb at email@example.com or 749-4783. Find her on Facebook at /ADagebb or on Twitter at @ADagebb.