After 25 years of appeals, death penalty stands

SAN DIEGO - He was a serial killer that sent shock waves throughout San Diego County back in the late 70s and early 80s.
            
Now, after 25 years of appeals, the state supreme court has ruled that David Allen Lucas is not entitled to a reversal of his death sentence.

The state hasn't carried out an execution in more than eight years and experts 10News talked with don't think Lucas, who was sentenced to death in 1989, will be executed either, even though the State Supreme Court found his death sentence to be entirely appropriate.

Lucas was sentenced to death in September of 1989 for killing two San Diego women and a three-year-old child. He walked for three other horrific killings he was suspected of carrying out.
            
10News was in court on the days the serial killer, who was known for slashing the throats of his unsuspecting victims, was convicted and sentenced.
            
“The families were devastated and it is so difficult putting yourself in their shoes,” said 10News reporter Steve Fiorina, who sat through the entire trial and had extensive contact with the victims’ families.

He even interviewed Lucas before he was ever a suspect, just hours after he had committed one of the heinous acts.

“His attitude -- he just was so calm. Was a day at the park for him and it was 10 or 12 hours after he cut the throat of a woman and left her to die,” said Fiorina.

Now, 25 years after Lucas' death sentence was handed down, an appeals process to get it reversed has failed.

Thursday, the State Supreme Court finalized a lengthy 231-page ruling, stating in part, "...defendant is not entitled to reversal of his judgment."

"The judgment is affirmed."

“I don't think it means very much. I think it means the defendant is in limbo like everyone else on death row,” said Thomas Jefferson School Law Professor, David Steinberg.

Lucas' attorneys, Steven Feldman and Alex Landon, declined an on-camera interview Thursday night, but issued 10News a statement that read:

"It took the Supreme Court 25 years to make its decision today. The Supreme Court did not even address numerous issues that are yet pending and will be addressed in further ongoing litigation.  Once again, the death penalty will cause more suffering as the press brings forth the terrible memories of the families involved. As Judge Carney in Orange County indicated, the California death penalty is unconstitutional in its application, and this outcome further underscores and supports his position."

Reporter's Log

10News Reporter Steve Fiorina was a budding journalist when the case went to trial. Here, he recalls the story that he and another 10News veteran, Senior Investigative Producer J.W. August, covered decades ago:

"That summer, J.W. was on the assignment desk and I was the Sunday reporter. He sent me to interview a paramedic/firefighter about rescuing a woman with her throat cut on an East County hillside. I went to an address and could hear a guitar strumming inside the house.  A shirtless dude came to the door.  This obviously wasn’t a firehouse but I told him who I was and for whom I was looking. He said he didn’t know anything and we left."

"About six months later, David Allen Lucas was arrested and charged with several murders and the attempted murder on the woman left on the hillside . I saw that he was from Casa de Oro and drove past the house where I’d gone months before.  Same one... and yes, it was Lucas who’d opened the door."

"J.W. couldn’t remember why he’d put Lucas’ address on the paper. So we had him hypnotized. Videotaped it and did a news story on the sequence of events."

"Under hypnosis, J.W. recounted that he had received a call that morning from a woman who whispered, “There’s a killer at this address.” He jotted it down, called the police or the sheriff and asked if they had anything working at that address. They replied no and he forgot about it. But the address was on the top of the piece of paper he’d given me."

"Two later victims were Rhonda Strang and Amber Fisher, a woman and little girl she was babysitting. Lucas knew Strang - our supposition was that she was the one who called the assignment desk. Lucas figured it out and the little girl was collateral damage."

"So my door knock put me face-to-face with the killer six months before his arrest. After the trial, his attorney told me that Lucas was “flabbergasted” that a reporter was at his door, asking about the Jodie Santiago throat-slashing. That sealed the deal for me… guilty as sin."

"Regarding the defense attorneys... we both were called to testify and both invoked the California shield law but were found in contempt, anyway, and ordered to return to court the next day and surrender for incarceration in the downtown jail. The judge called us in individually and decided that we were honorable men and that nothing would be gained by jailing us. Thank you, Judge Orfield!"

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