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Orange County's Condemned

April 19, 1992|Compile by Jerry Hicks and Mark I. Pinsky

Twenty-Two men who have been sentenced in Orange County Superior Court are on San Quentin's Death Row awaiting execution. Half of them have had their sentences upheld by the State Supreme Court and are in the federal system. State prosecutors say that it could take four or five years to exhaust all their appeals, although the U.S. Supreme Court may streamline the federal appellate process for death sentences.

William Charles Payton, 38, Garden Grove. Sentenced: March 5, 1982, by Judge Donald A. McCartin. Convicted in the May 26, 1980, stabbing death of Pamela Martin, the 21-year-old wife of a military man overseas. She was living at a Garden Grove boarding house where Payton had once lived. The attack came when Payton returned to visit his former landlady, who let him spend the night. Prosecutors showed that Payton had attacked another woman before Martin.

Status of Appeal: Payton's appeal has run longer than any other from Orange County, because the court has been studying for four years whether Peyton's attorney should have offered a Vietnam syndrome or "post-traumatic stress disorder" defense. His case is now pending before the state Supreme Court.

John George Brown, 44 Santa Ana. Sentenced: June 11, 1982, by the late Judge Kenneth E. Lae. Convicted in the June 8, 1980, shooting death of 27-year-old Garden Grove Police Officer Donald Cross. Brown, part of an outlaw motorcycle gang, had a long history of drug-related crimes, including attempted murder of a police officer in Florida.

Status of Appeal: Brown's appeal was denied by state Supreme Court and he already has lost one round before the U.S. Supreme Court. Orange County prosecutors will now ask that an execution date be set, the first step before a new series of arguments in the federal courts. State Deputy Atty. Gen. Robert Flowers, representing the people on the appeal, predicted that Brown is "several years" away from being executed.

Jaturun Siripongs, 40, Hawthorne. Sentenced April 22, 1983, by Judge Robert R. Fitzgerald. Convicted on Dec. 15, 1981, for the murders of Packaway Wattanaporn, 36, and Nguyen Quach, 52, during the robbery of a Garden Grove market. Wattanaporn, the owner, was choked to death and Quach was fatally stabbed. Siripongs, a native of Thailand who sometimes described himself a Buddhist monk.

Status of Appeal: Siripongs' appeal has completed the state court process and is in the early stages of federal court review.

James A. Melton, 40, Oakland. Sentenced: March 18, 1983, by Judge Robert R. Fitzgerald. Convicted on Oct. 10, 1981, for the death of 77-year-old Anthony DeSousa, a former hairdresser, at the victim's Newport Beach condominium. Melton, who had a long history of violent rape and assault convictions, had met DeSousa after the victim advertised through a tabloid for a homosexual lover.

Status of Appeal: Melton's appeal has completed the state court system and is in the early stages of federal court review.

William G. Bonin Jr., 45, Downey. Sentenced: Aug. 26, 1983, in Orange County by the late Judge Kenneth E. Lae. Convicted and sentenced to death in Los Angeles County a year earlier for 10 sex-related murders of young men and boys. His Orange County conviction was for four more murders. Bonin, known in the media as the "Freeway Killer," was an ex-convict who was on parole after serving a prison term for another sex-related assault. He confessed to authorities most of his murders on condition that the information not be used against him in court.

Status of Appeal: His appeals from both counties completed the state court system. His appeal is pending in the federal system.

Robert Jackson Thompson, 45, of Anaheim. Sentenced: Dec. 6, 1983, by Judge Francisco P. Briseno. Convicted on Aug. 25, 1981, in the strangulation death of 12-year-old Benjamin Brenneman, a newspaper carrier for the Orange County Register. The youngster had stopped at Thompson's apartment to sell a subscription. Just weeks before, Thompson had been released from state prison, where he had served a five-year term for sexual assault on a young man.

Status of Appeal: Thompson's appeal has been denied by the state Supreme Court. His case is pending in Federal District Court.

John Louis Visciotti, 35, of Fullerton. Sentenced: Oct. 21, 1983, by Judge Robert R. Fitzgerald. Convicted in the shooting death of Tim Dykstra, 22, of Westminster during a robbery. His co-defendant, Brian Lyle Hefner, 30, was spared a death penalty trial by prosecutors because he was not the gunman. Visciotti had a history of burglaries and drug-related offenses and had spent the majority of his life behind bars.

Status of Appeal: Visciotti's appeal has been denied by the state Supreme Court and is now pending in the federal system.

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