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Former Santa Monica Resident Seeks to Be Spared the Death Penalty
By Jorge Casuso
February 8, 2021 -- Michael Gargiulo, who was convicted based largely on testimony from a Santa Monica neighbor who survived one of his brutal attacks, appeared in court Friday in an effort to be spared the death penalty.
His attorney, Dale Michael, argued that new Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón opposed the death penalty and Governor Gavin Newsom has placed a moratorium on executions.
Gascón, however, made an exception to his order barring capital punishment in the case of Gargiulo, according to court documents filed this week.
Gascón said he would not order "the trial lawyers to adopt his policy regarding the death penalty and does not order them to ask for dismissal of the death penalty jury verdict."
Gargiulo was convicted in August 2019 of killing and mutilating two Los Angeles area women and attacking a third while she slept in her Santa Monica apartment ("Jury Finds Former Santa Monica Resident Guilty of Double Murder," August 16, 2019).
It took jurors less than five hours to decide Gargiulo should be put to death ("Jury Finds Former Santa Monica Resident Guilty of Double Murder," August 16, 2019)October 21, 2019).
A judge will issue Gargiulo's final sentence at his next hearing in July.
Gascón was elected in November after vowing not to seek the death penalty, to end the prosecution of juveniles as adults and to stop using enhancements that trigger stiffer sentences for certain elements of crimes.
On Monday, a Superior Court sided with the Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) and blocked some of Gascón's reforms that would reduce sentences.
The Los Angeles County prosecutors brought the civil lawsuit "to seek a court ruling to clarify Deputy District Attorneys’ legal obligations in light of the District Attorney’s directives," the organization wrote in a statement Monday.
"It is not about the District Attorney’s beliefs on what criminal laws should be applied or not applied in cases," the ADDA wrote.
"This ruling protects the communities which are disproportionately affected by higher crime rates and those who are victimized," the prosecutors wrote.
Gargiulo was convicted on August 15, 2019 of the murders of 22-year-old Hollywood resident Ashley Ellerin in 2001 and the 2005 slaying of 32-year-old Maria Bruno in her El Monte apartment.
Prosecutors said Gargiulo stabbed Ellerin 47 times, nearly decapitating her, and “quite literally butchered" Bruno, "stabbing her multiple times, slitting her throat, slicing off her breasts, and staging them for family members and police to find."
Gargiulo was also convicted of the attempted murder in 2008 of Michelle Murphy, who lived across the alley from Gargiulo on the 1200 block of 12th Street in Santa Monica.
During the penalty phase, prosecutors argued that Gargiulo -- who lived a ``normal life by day'' and was a ``completely different individual'' at night -- should be put to death for the ``violent victimization of countless women throughout his life."
"In this case, justice demands that Michael Gargiulo be put to death for the lives he has taken and the destruction and pain he has caused," Deputy District Attorney Garrett Dameron said.
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