Crossan committed murder at direction of man who saw himself as King Arthur
SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court Tuesday reinstated the murder conviction of a man who was caught up in a cult conspiracy known as Pendragon that aimed at a paramilitary takeover of Marin County in 1982.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco reversed a decision in which a federal judge in 2007 overturned the 1984 Marin County Superior Court conviction of Crossan Hoover, 43, for the murder of antique car restorer Richard Baldwin of San Rafael.
Hoover was 17 when he killed Baldwin, 39, by hitting him with a baseball bat and stabbing him with a screwdriver and chisel on July 6, 1982, allegedly at the direction of his employer, contractor and Pendragon leader Mark Richards.
Prosecutors said the purpose of the crime was to obtain several thousand dollars in cash carried by Baldwin.
Hoover was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. Richards was separately convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.
The Pendragon cult sought a paramilitary takeover of Marin County and creation of a modern-day Camelot with Richards as King Arthur and his teenage workers as knights, according to court rulings.
Richards allegedly promoted plans in meetings with his workers to take over Marin County by destroying the Golden Gate and Richmond-San Rafael bridges and placing a laser gun on top of Mount Tamalpais.
U.S. Magistrate Judge James Larson overturned the conviction in 2007 because of a faulty jury instruction on insanity and alleged prosecution manipulation of evidence given to a court-appointed psychiatrist.
But in Tuesday’s ruling, a three-judge appeals court said those two factors didn’t make a difference to the outcome of the case and reinstated the conviction.
Meanwhile, Hoover is due for a parole hearing on Jan. 15, according to Marin County District Attorney Ed Berberian.
Murder verdict reinstated for killer in weird plot to take over Marin
Hoover was 17 when he killed Richard Baldwin, 36, owner of a car restoration shop in San Rafael, by beating him in the head with a baseball bat and stabbing him in the chest with a chisel. He acted at the orders of his employer, Mark Richards, a 29-year-old contractor, who was also convicted of murder.
Richards had told Hoover and another youth of his scheme, which he called Pendragon, to take control of Marin County, blow up the Golden Gate and Richmond-San Rafael bridges and install laser guns on Angel Island and Mount Tamalpais to guard his kingdom. He ran into financial troubles in 1982 and enlisted the youths to kill Baldwin to get money, promising Hoover $5,000, according to court records.
Hoover’s insanity plea was supported by defense psychiatric testimony that he was prone to psychotic and violent outbursts and hallucinations that made him vulnerable to Richards. But a court-appointed psychiatrist, John Buehler, testified that Hoover showed no sign of delusions and had killed Baldwin for money. The jury found Hoover sane before convicting him.
U.S. Magistrate James Larson ruled in 2007 that the verdict was tainted by a jury instruction – later discarded by the state Supreme Court in another case – defining insanity as the inability to understand either the nature or the wrongfulness of one’s acts.
Larson also said the prosecutor, Edward Berberian, now Marin’s district attorney, had withheld key information from Buehler.
But the three-judge federal panel said a state appeals court had reasonably concluded that the jury instruction had no effect because Hoover told another psychologist that he had known it was wrong to kill but wanted the money.
The court did not decide whether Berberian had withheld any evidence from Buehler. But the judges said the psychiatrist had extensive background material about Hoover and there was no indication that he had sought more information or would have testified differently if he had received it.