A federal judge on Tuesday threw out the death penalty of a transient who fatally stabbed a man 33 years ago on a bank of the American River in Sacramento and fled in the victim’s car.
U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton adopted the recommendation of a magistrate judge that a lesser sentence be imposed on Larry Junior Webster, unless the Sacramento County District Attorney’s office initiates a retrial of the penalty phase within 90 days.
“We’re glad the guilt phase was not overturned,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Grippi said. “We will take a hard look at the penalty phase and decide whether we want to retry it.”
U.S. Magistrate Judge Dale A. Drozd had found that Webster, the recipient of a Bronze Star for combat bravery in the Vietnam War, was denied a fair trial in the penalty phase because his counsel was incompetent. Karlton agreed with Drozd that Webster was deprived of his Sixth Amendment right to “effective assistance of counsel” due to his lawyer’s “failure to investigate and present a mitigation case ... to the jury.”