SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- The California Supreme Court has unanimously upheld the death sentence of a Santa Clara County motorcycle club member who killed three people in 1986 and 1987.
James Francis O'Malley was convicted of the three murders and sentenced to death after a five-month trial in Santa Clara County Superior Court in 1991.
O'Malley was a member of the Hayward-based Freedom Riders motorcycle club and president of its San Jose branch at the time of the murders, according to the court.
The first victim was Sharley Ann German, who was fatally shot in her San Jose home in 1986. She was the wife of club member Geary German, who paid O'Malley to kill her so that he could collect the proceeds of her insurance policy, according to trial evidence.
The other victims were Herbert Parr of San Jose, a would-be Freedom Rider whom O'Malley and another club member killed to obtain his motorcycle, and Michael Robertson of Mountain View, an associate whom O'Malley suspected of being a police informer. They were murdered in 1987.
The high court, in an opinion written by Justice Leondra Kruger, rejected appeal claims in which O'Malley argued that the three murder charges should have been tried in separate trials and that there were errors in jury selection and evidentiary rulings.
O'Malley's direct appeal to the state Supreme Court was the first step in the death penalty appeal process in California. He can now take his claims to the federal courts through a habeas corpus petition.
Executions in California have been on hold since 2006 because of federal and state court lawsuits challenging execution procedures.
The administration of Gov. Jerry Brown is currently developing a new procedure that would replace a three-drug protocol with a one-drug protocol for lethal injection executions.
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