By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
At sunrise the following morning, a Tustin High School groundskeeper driving a golf cart found Ly’s corpse. Police were both disgusted and perplexed. Lindberg, back in the safety of obscurity, felt rejuvenated. To celebrate, he wrote a song, a portion of which goes like this:
Spill the blood of the meek.
The meek shall inharet shit.
I reak Havok. Melt minds Drifting
Threw the sandz of time time time time (echo to fade)
To the insane the sound is
Real. You inshure them a quick kill
From your so called reality pill.
In the ruffle beneath your skin
You fill my vibes, oh your so Alive.
I hear, I smell, is that pain or
Fear I hear. Can’t you hear or see
I just killed thee, see your shattered
Body beyond the brushhhhhhh.
Your soul is mine
For the beginning and
All Time. At the end of this
There are 669 killers—including “Night Stalker” Richard Ramirez and Scott Peterson—awaiting execution in California. Every person facing the ultimate punishment is afforded an automatic appeal at taxpayer expense. The goal is to ensure that the arrest, trial and conviction were righteous. Ronald F. Turner, the deputy state public defender for Lindberg, is arguing that Lindberg was denied a fair trial. His claims include:
• Evidence of two uncharged robberies Lindberg committed as a juvenile prejudiced the jury against him on the murder charges.
• Ronald Miller, a Huntington Beach cop, should not have been allowed to testify as an expert on the relationship between Lindberg and white-supremacist groups, in part because he’d never interviewed the defendant.
• Judge Robert Fitzgerald repeatedly shifted the burden of proof to the defense and gave defective jury instructions that allowed the panel majority to pressure several jurors who’d proclaimed “sympathy” for Lindberg and a desire to keep him off death row.
But at the June 3 supreme court session in Los Angeles, Turner spent the bulk of his time arguing against the two special circumstances—the commission of an attempted robbery and the commission of a hate crime—that transformed the case from a simple killing to a death-row matter. Both were defective findings, he says.
“The evidence presented at trial was insufficient to prove that Lindberg attempted to rob Mr. Ly,” he said. “Nothing was taken from the victim, even though Lindberg had the opportunity to take Mr. Ly’s [baseball] cap, his [house] key or his Rollerblades,” said Turner.
Supervising Deputy Attorney General Rhonda L. Cartwright-Ladendorf reminded the justices that Lindberg had asked Ly at knifepoint, “Do you have a car?”
But to Turner, Lindberg had been “merely posing the question.”
“If Lindberg had any real intent to take a car, he would have stopped and questioned Mr. Ly further,” he said. “Instead, Lindberg repeatedly kicked Mr. Ly in the head, and then stabbed him in the side, back and chest.”
The public defender saved his most strenuous attack on the case for the hate-crime enhancement. He told the justices that the evidence presented at trial “did not establish that Lindberg possessed a racial bias,” did not prove that he hated Asians or “murdered Ly because of his race.”
Turner also said “it tainted the jury to equate Lindberg with Hitler” because his client was not educated and there is no way to know if he understood the meaning of the Nazi SS lightning bolts he drew on letters and displayed in his bedroom.
“When we see murder on a high-school campus, we get angry and we try to make sense of it,” Turner told the court. “The killer was white and the victim was Vietnamese, therefore [people conclude] it must be a hate crime.”
Turner provided an alternative rationale for the crime. It wasn’t white supremacy that dominated Lindberg’s mind but “his fascination with death and with the occult.” His client’s post-murder writings proved, he said, that the killing was the “very first level” in Lindberg’s “dark journey to godhood.”
Associate Justice Carol A. Corrigan interrupted Turner’s presentation to ask, “Are we to ignore all of his [racist] literature?
Yes, he replied. “We don’t know if he believed it. . . . Lindberg was an extremely angry individual who was caught up in ideas of death and destruction, but neither indicated his anger was directed to non-whites or Asians specifically.”
To bolster his point, the public defender claimed that poor lighting conditions at the high-school tennis courts would have prevented Lindberg from determining the race of the person Rollerblading on the night of the murder. During the trial, the jury considered and dismissed this point. And it didn’t seem to impress Corrigan, either.
She interrupted Turner’s presentation again. This time, her words may have been more of a statement than a question:
“How about this,” Corrigan said. “Was he close enough to tell [Ly was Asian] while he was stabbing him?”
Turner had no good answer.
The supreme court is expected to issue its ruling this summer.
Click here to read R. Scott Moxley's personal observations about Thien Minh Ly's murder.
Click here to read Gunner Jay Lindberg's post-article declaration: "I am not a monster."