The California Supreme Court reversed the death sentence of John Riccardi, convicted in 1994 for the 1983 murder of his then-girlfriend, Connie Hopkins Navarro. Riccardi was also convicted in the murder of Susan Marshall Jory, Connie Navarro's best friend.
According to an item reported in Los Angeles daily news blog LAist, the state's high court ruled that Riccardi, now age 76, was denied a fair trial because the trial judge erroneously excused a prospective juror during jury selection.
Riccardi is among the oldest inmates on death row in California. His is the third case from Los Angeles County in which the Supreme Court has thrown out death sentences so far this year.
Riccardi was captured in 1991 after years on the run, thanks to an episode of now defunct TV crime show America's Most Wanted which detailed the crime and included an interview with Navarro. As was so often the case with that show, a viewer tip led to Riccardi’s arrest.
"FBI agents said that when they caught up with Riccardi he was living in a stylish Houston condominium filled with cash, jewels and other evidence of a lucrative burglary trade," the L.A. Times reported following Riccardi's conviction, according to LAist.
When Navarro appeared on AMW, he recalled the night of the murders, when he was age 19. (He just turned 45). Navarro said on the night of March 3, 1983, he was supposed to stay with Connie, but at the last minute stayed with his father. That night Riccardi broke into Connie's apartment, and waited for her to come home. When Connie returned with her best friend, Susan Jory, he shot them both to death.
Navarro believes he would have been Riccardi's third victim if he had been there that night. "So I really do believe that that's some sort of divine intervention that I can't explain."
Dang that’s heavy. One wonders if Navarro feels relief or disappointment at the prospect of his mother’s killer dodging the death penalty; it’s such a freighted subject with no easy answers. Here’s hoping everyone involved can find some peace.
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