Apr 29, 2013 9:32 PM by April Hansen, KSBY News

Seeking the death penalty: How prosecutors decide

The Santa Barbara County District Attorney's Office will soon decide whether to seek the death penalty for seven of the people suspected in the murder of Anthony Ibarra.

There are currently 733 inmates on death row in California. Thirteen of them are from the Central Coast.

One of them is Tommy Martinez, who was convicted in 1998 of raping and murdering a woman in Santa Barbara County.

In contrast, his brother, Isaac Martinez, was sentenced last month to 75 years to life in prison for killing his wife in Santa Maria in 2011.

"It's very important to take in the totality of the circumstances," said Santa Barbara District Attorney Joyce Dudley.

She says to be eligible for the death penalty in California, the crime has to involve murder and other crimes.

"Was this murder committed with special circumstances?" said Dudley.

Those circumstances include crimes such as rape, kidnapping and whether the murder was intentional.

All of these factors play a role in Dudley's final decision whether to seek the death penalty, but that's not all.

"How does this affect the survivors? How does this affect the victim's family? How does it affect the community," said Dudley.

Those questions all weighed in on her decision not to seek the death penalty in the Isaac Martinez case.

"It was a horrible, despicable, unimaginable murder. He told his 14-year-old son that he was going kill his mother and he followed through with it," said Dudley.

Dudley says Martinez deserved the death penalty, but since there's no guarantee he would be put to death, she was deeply concerned for the survivors.

"I think going through multiple appeals would have been harder on them. Now they can move on and that 14-year-old boy can move on," said Dudley.

Dudley says district attorneys have the ultimate decision when deciding whether to seek life in prison or death.

She says on average, it takes at least 17 years before an inmate is considered to be put to death.

The 13 people on death row from the Central Coast are all still living.

The last inmate executed in California was 76-year-old Clarence Allen.

He spent more than 23 years on death row before he was executed in January 2006.



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