[UPDATED with Penalty Phase Mistrial:] Jason Balcom Guilty of Newlywed Woman's Rape and Murder
UPDATE, MARCH 28, 12:56 P.M.: Though a jury earlier this month convicted Jason Balcom for the rape and murder of a newly arrived bride in Costa Mesa in 1988, the panel deadlocked 10-2 on whether the 42-year-old Michigan rape convict deserves the death penalty.
Superior Court Judge Francisco Briseno thus declared a mistrial and ordered the attorneys back April 9 for a preliminary hearing on restarting the penalty phase.
UPDATE, MARCH 13, 10:51 A.M.: Already serving a 50-year sentence for a 1988 Michigan rape, Jason Balcom was convicted Monday of raping and murdering a newly arrived bride in Costa Mesa the same year--crimes that could bring the 42-year-old the death penalty.
But, in the opening statements of his trial's penalty stage, Balcom's defense lawyer blamed her client's bad behavior on his being raised by a mentally ill mother.
Those mitigating circumstances should lead the same jury that quickly found Balcom guilty to spare his life, reasoned Deputy Public Defender Deloris Yost.
However, the prosecution countered that he deserves the ultimate penalty for raping and murdering a 22-year-old stranger, Malinda Gibbons, as well as for the devastation it wrought for her family.
ORIGINAL POST, MARCH 6, 4:01 P.M.: Is this any way for your defense attorney to begin your death penalty murder trial, by admitting during opening statements that you raped and stabbed a woman to death?
"This is a horrible case," Thomas J. Lo, a deputy public defender representing Jason Balcom, told jurors in a Santa Ana courtroom Monday. "You don't have to make it worse than it already is. Hold him accountable for what he did, and only what he did."
Lo conceded that what then-18-year-old Balcom did was bind Malinda Gibbons with her husband's ties and belts and choked, raped and fatally stabbed her in the heart while she lay on the carpet of her Costa Mesa apartment in 1988. The six-weeks pregnant 22-year-old's husband, Kent, was at work. The couple had just moved to Orange County from Utah.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for now-42-year-old Balcom, who allegedly left the apartment with the dead woman's purse and wedding rings. He is charged with murder during the commission of sodomy, rape, robbery and burglary.
He'd been serving a 50-year sentence for a 1988 rape in Michigan when DNA evidence in 2004 matched Balcom to the Gibbons rape-murder-robbery, prosecutors say.