Dana Point's Michael Lamb ditched his menacing shaved head look and entered Judge William Froeberg's 10th floor Santa Ana courtroom this morning with a full, messy head of hair that still couldn't cover the white supremacist tattoos doting his scalp, face, throat and neck.
It wasn't like Lamb, a vicious Public Enemy Number One (PEN1) Death Squad killer/drug addict/petty thief/bully, cared what anyone present–including Froeberg or homicide prosecutor Ebrahim Baytieh–thought. Well, in fairness, the exception would be for his somber mother, who sat quietly about 15 feet behind her offspring.
The hearing was a formality because in June an Orange County jury had voted for Lamb–who executed a fellow PEN1ster in Anaheim and attempted to kill a police officer–to receive the death penalty. (His bumbling sidekick, Jacob Rump, received life in prison last year.) Even 34-year-old Lamb knew the probability was nil that Froeberg, a permanently scowling judge with zero tolerance for violence, would overturn that recommendation.
And sure enough, Froeberg methodically read his judgment ordering the California Department of Corrections to carry out the sentence of death “within the walls of San Quentin State Prison,” the hellhole where all male condemned killers in the state land. While that was happening, Lamb–outwardly one of the most casual defendants I've ever seen–chatted with his two, taxpayer-provided defense lawyers, Kristen Erickson and Marlin Stapleton.
Perhaps, chatting isn't the right word. He may still have been arguing points in his defense. After Froeberg darted from the bench into his office, Lamb continued to talk, but all I could hear was Stapleton twice telling him, “No, we raised that issue.”
Guys, it's a bit late.
Death penalty winners get a public funded automatic appeal. Every tidbit of the case will be reviewed and some time in the distance future–2020? 2025?–the California Supreme Court will rule on the righteousness of Lamb's trial and punishment. Meanwhile, he'll get to hang in cages with the likes of Scott Peterson, Charles Ng, the so-called “Night Stalker: Richard Ramirez, and OC folks like Gunner Lindberg and Eddie Morgan.
For Baytieh, who sent two other killers (Ronald Tran and Noel Plata) to San Quentin's death row last Friday, one aspect of Lamb's case sticks out.
“Outside the brutality of this case,” he told me, “these guys [in PEN1] set up their own rules and they expect society to abide by them. Then they get indignant when we don't. It's just balony.”
— R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly