A Pasadena Superior Court jury Tuesday recommended the death penalty for Mitchell Carleton Sims, a 27-year-old South Carolina native convicted in the 1985 torture-slaying of a Glendale pizza deliveryman.
"The manner in which John Harrigan died--it was horrible. . . . We felt that there was no other just punishment for this crime," said jury foreman Kevin Kelley, referring to the 21-year-old victim, a Glendale resident employed by Domino's Pizza.
Sims, 27, stared at jurors but showed no emotion as the clerk for Judge Jack B. Tso read the verdict to the packed courtroom. However, moments before being led away, Sims quietly spoke to defense attorney Morton P. Borenstein.
"He wanted me to call his wife and tell her to break the news to his family before they read it in the newspaper," Borenstein said.
Sims, a former Domino's Pizza employee, was convicted May 20 by the same jury for the murder in which he and his girlfriend lured Harrigan to a Glendale motel room by phoning in a pizza order. Harrigan's body was hogtied, gagged and submerged in a bathtub.
Sims was also found guilty of robbing Harrigan and lying in wait--special circumstances that mandate either death in the gas chamber or life in prison without possibility of parole.
Jurors heard evidence linking Sims to the gangland-style murders of two Domino's employees in a South Carolina outlet where Sims worked.
"There is absolutely no possibility that he would ever get out of prison for his crimes. . . . Therefore killing him is not necessary," Borenstein said in denouncing the penalty.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Terry A. Green, countered: "What other verdict could there be when we have crimes that are really vicious, callous and cruel? If the death penalty wasn't written for Mr. Sims, then for whom was it written?."
Sims' girlfriend Ruby Carolyn Padgett, 21, convicted in February will be sentenced Friday to life in prison without parole. Sims will be sentenced July 28.