James Heard, a 58 year old man, was sentenced to death for the second time, for the murder of Katrina Brown, on Friday in the Los Angeles Supreme Court. He had been sentenced to death in 2003. The California Supreme Court upheld the conviction of James Heard but overturned his first death sentence, finding the trial judge improperly excused a man during jury selection.
The crime was unprovoked and left an "unrelenting image of horror" on those who saw the victim, Judge William R. Pounders said while heeding the death recommendation from the jury.
Heard was reportedly alone with the girl, living in Compton, CA, while the girl's mother was at work when he made his move on her. The 11 year-old girl says that he tried to kiss her, repetitiously, and that she didn't know what was happening.
Prosecutors say the girl had bit off part of Heard's tongue, then he had poured a bottle of rubbing alcohol down her throat to make her vomit before he strangled and beat her.
In a letter read to the court by a prosecutor, Lt. Rod Kusch had written that it was the most brutal case he had seen in 28 years with the department.
"I often wonder what Katrina's life would have been like today as a 31-year-old woman," Kusch wrote. "The most distressing fact in the whole case is my knowledge that Katrina was alive for nearly all of his torturous behavior."
Heard testified that he had been drinking and smoking crack cocaine for more than a day and remembered nothing of the attack. He had said that he "had a lot of love in his heart" for his girlfriend and her daughter.
The girl's mother, on the other hand, could not bring herself to address the court, Kusch says.
Heard initially was sentenced to death in after being convicted of first-degree murder, assault with a deadly weapon, sexual penetration by a foreign object and committing a forcible lewd act on a child.