Life or death, that is the question. A paperwork technicality is what made the difference when the California Supreme Court last week tossed out the death sentence of a man convicted of murdering rock guitarist Dave Navarro’s mother and her friend nearly 30 years ago. This ruling that could affect the cases of Scott Peterson and other death row inmates.
The unanimous court said the trial judge presiding over the trial of John Riccardi improperly dismissed a prospective juror because of her conflicting written responses in a questionnaire asking her views of the death penalty.
In 1984, a narrowly divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled that reversal of the death penalty is automatic when potential jurors are dismissed because of their written answers to questions about their views on capital punishment.
The state high court upheld Riccardi’s murder conviction. Once a noted body builder, he was convicted of killing former girlfriend Connie Navarro in a jealous rage. Her friend Sue Jory also was killed. Navarro’s son played guitar for the band “Jane’s Addiction.”
Riccardi was arrested in Houston eight years after the killings when “America’s Most Wanted” aired a segment on the 1983 crime. A tipster recognized him and alerted authorities.