FRESNO, Calif. — Marcus Wesson, the domineering patriarch of a large clan he bred through incest, should die for the murders of nine of his children, a jury decided Wednesday.
Wesson, 58, was convicted earlier this month on nine counts of first-degree murder, more than a year after the bodies of the victims — ages 1 to 25 — were discovered at the end of a police standoff March 12, 2004, twisted in a bloody pile in a back bedroom of his Fresno home.
Each victim had been shot once in the eye. Among the dead were also children Wesson fathered with his own daughters and nieces.
Deliberations in the penalty phase of the trial began Monday after Wesson’s defense attorney pleaded for a life sentence, saying killing Wesson won’t “undo the harm done.”
Attorney Pete Jones also suggested that doubts remain about Wesson’s culpability despite his conviction, since jurors decided the government failed to prove Wesson pulled the trigger on the gun used to shoot each victim.
But prosecutor Lisa Gamoian called Wesson a “master manipulator” whose sexual, financial and emotional exploitation of his children culminated in their execution. It didn’t matter whether Wesson fired the gun — he orchestrated the killings, she said.
His defense conceded the sex charges, since DNA testing showed Wesson fathered the victims, but they had argued that his eldest daughter killed the others, then turned the gun on herself. In addition to the murder counts, Wesson was convicted on 14 counts of sexual abuse.
Formal sentencing is set for July 27. Fresno County Judge R. L. Putnam said he would also sentence Wesson on the sexual assault convictions that day.
Outside court, Jones said he was “extremely disappointed” with the verdict.
“I’ve gotten to know Marcus Wesson over the last year. I’ve spent a lot of time with him in isolation,” Jones said. “In spite of what the perception might be, we’ve developed a good relationship.”