Earl Ellis Green looks over his shoulder after the jury ordered the death… (Stan Lim / Associated Press )
Riverside jurors ordered the death penalty Tuesday for Earl Ellis Green, who was convicted of fatally shooting Riverside Police Officer Ryan Bonaminio at point-blank range as the officer pleaded for his life.
After 3 1/2 hours of deliberations, the panel returned the decision, agreeing with prosecutors who argued that the penalty should fit the crime. The 46-year-old convicted felon, who was on parole at the time of the November 2010 killing, smiled as the jury announced the verdict, witnesses said.
"We are pleased with this verdict and the hard work done by this jury," Dist. Atty. Paul Zellerbach said. "This case is a perfect example — the murder of a peace officer in the line of duty — why we need the death penalty and why it needs to be carried out."
He said the death penalty was supported by the facts: "The officer was already rendered pretty much helpless, unconscious and defenseless when he was executed with his own gun."
Despite the guilty verdict and death penalty decision by the jury, Bonaminio's family said that nothing will bring back the officer, who was killed in a church parking lot after Green led Bonaminio on a foot chase through Riverside's Fairmount Park.
Green, who remains in custody with no bail, is scheduled to return to the Hall of Justice in Riverside on June 25 to be sentenced by Judge Jean Leonard. He was found guilty last month of first-degree murder with special circumstances that made him subject to the death penalty.
During the trial, defense attorneys acknowledged that Green fired the shots that killed Bonaminio, but sought a conviction on a lesser charge that would not carry the death penalty.
Stephen J. McQueen, a homeless man who volunteered at the church, told the jury he saw the shooting unfold as he smoked a cigarette in the parking lot. Bonaminio, hands up, told the killer, "Don't do it. Don't do it," McQueen testified.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael Hestrin said during the trial that Green's first two shots missed the officer. Green then walked up to Bonaminio, who was on his knees, and fired at the back of the officer's head from a foot or so away, Hestrin said.
"His life and blood poured out of him," Hestrin told the jury. "He died there, on the cold and dirty asphalt."