The California Supreme Court today upheld the death sentence of an Oakland man for the kidnapping, robbery, rape and murder of an East Bay woman 20 years ago. Keith Thomas, 39, was convicted in Alameda County Superior Court in 1997 and sentenced to death in 1998 for the murder of Francia Young, 25, of Oakland. The penalty was unanimously upheld by the state high court in a decision issued in San Francisco.
Young, who worked as a market analyst for a computer company in San Francisco, was abducted and forced into the trunk of her car near the MacArthur BART station as she returned home from work early the evening of Dec. 8, 1992. Her bound and partially nude body was found in a park at Point Richmond the next day. She had been raped and shot in the head. A witness reported to police that he had seen Young being forced into the trunk of her car near the BART station by two men later identified as Thomas and Henry Glover Jr. Thomas and Glover were both charged with first-degree murder and other crimes and were tried separately. Both were convicted.
Glover’s trial came first, and he was sentenced in 1996 to life in prison without possibility of parole after a jury deadlocked twice on whether to recommend the death penalty. A different jury in the court of Superior Court Judge Alfred Delucchi agreed on a death penalty for Thomas. Neither Thomas nor Glover was convicted of a charge of using a firearm, however, meaning that no court judgment was made as to which one was the shooter. Biological evidence linked Thomas to the rape. Among other arguments in his appeal, Thomas argued that it was unfair for him to receive the death penalty since Glover was given a lesser punishment of life without parole.
But the court, in an opinion written by Justice Joyce Kennard, said the sentence given to a co-participant in a crime “is irrelevant to the jury’s consideration of the appropriate sentence for the defendant before it.” The court said Thomas’ sentence was proportionate to his crime given his “personal culpability in these brutal and horrific crimes,” whether or not he was the shooter. Thomas can pursue further appeals in the federal court system.
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