FRESNO, Calif. – Marcus Wesson‘s defense attorney addressed the men and women who found his client guilty of slaughtering his children and pleaded for his life, saying Wesson was a flawed man and his crimes were inexcusable, but his death would not bring back any of those he killed.
If sentencing Wesson to die by lethal injection could “undo the harm done,” Wesson attorney Pete Jones told the jurors on Monday, “your job would be simple.”
But nothing can relieve the suffering this family and the community has endured, Jones said, asking the jurors in Fresno County Superior Court to consider all the good they’ve learned about Wesson during the four-month trial, in addition to all the bad. Deliberations began midday Monday.
The same jurors found Wesson guilty earlier this month of killing nine of his own children – seven boys and girls ages one to nine, one 17-year-old teenage girl, and one 25-year-old woman. They also found him guilty of 14 counts of sexually abusing his daughters and nieces. Several of the victims were children he fathered with his young daughters.
Jones reminded his audience of the picture painted by Wesson’s sister Cheryl Penton – of the defendant’s four siblings, the one closest to him in age.
She described a harsh childhood with an unstable, alcoholic father who held odd jobs and was seldom a part of his children’s lives. She described Wesson as a child who stuttered, and who brought home and nursed to health stray animals he found in the streets.
As a boy, Wesson liked to play church with his siblings, and often took the role of preacher, Penton said. She told jurors last week she prized her relationship with her brother, her voice breaking as she asked them to spare his life.
Jones also asked jurors to carefully consider whether they did not have some lingering doubt about Wesson’s direct involvement in the March 2004 murders, returning to a key point made during the defense.
A forensic pathologist testified he believed the seven youngest victims could have died one to two hours before the two oldest ones. This could mean they died before Wesson entered the back bedroom where their bodies were found, Jones said.
“The trial process is a process of discovering and eliminating doubt,” said Jones. “If you look at the evidence presented in this trial over and over, I submit, you will always return to doubt.”
To qualify Wesson for the death penalty, the jurors had to find him guilty of at least two first-degree murders. During the guilt phase, they found Wesson guilty of all nine murder counts.
The confrontation that preceded the murders started when two of Wesson’s nieces – young women the defendant had raised – returned to the Wesson home to claim the children they had as a result of the sexual abuse they suffered at the defendant’s hands.
When Wesson did not turn the children over, even though the mothers had their birth certificates in hand, the police were called. Officers then unsuccessfully tried to talk Wesson into surrendering the children. The 1 1/2-hour standoff ended when Wesson emerged with the blood of some of his children splattered on his clothes.