LOS ANGELES — Prosecutors will try again to secure the death penalty for an Iranian immigrant who set his apartment on fire, killing his wife and six children, despite the first jury's 6-6 split on the question.
"The prosecutor feels very strongly about it and she talked to her superiors and they agreed that this is one we need to retry," said Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles district attorney's office.
Although Jorjik Avanesian's guilt in seven murders has already been decided and the only issue at retrial would be what penalty he deserves, prosecutors will present nearly all the evidence again because they are arguing for death principally on the facts of the case.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Eleanor Hunter told jurors that Avanesian killed his family because his wife would not give him a divorce. He set his Glendale apartment on fire, trapping his family inside, where they died of smoke inhalation before the flames reached their bodies.
Deputy Public Defender Stanley Perlo, who represents Avanesian, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
After Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Janice Croft declared a mistrial on the penalty phase last month, Perlo said his client is clearly insane and should be imprisoned forever, but not executed.
During his confession to police, Avanesian said he was convinced his wife and oldest daughters were involved in drugs and pornographic movies. They were not. Perlo said Avanesian also suffered from the delusions that the Iranian Mafia, the Glendale police, his lawyer and court translators were conspiring against him.
Perlo said he tried to convince Avanesian to enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, but the defendant refused because he said he was not crazy.