Death penalty upheld in 1984 murder

July 20, 2009 1:19:39 PM PDT
The California Supreme Court today upheld the death penalty for a man convicted of killing an Oakland bartender during a $300 robbery 25 years ago.

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Jack Wayne Friend was sentenced to death in Alameda County Superior Court in 1992 for the 1984 stabbing murder of Herbert Pierucci, a bartender at the Golden West Bar in downtown Oakland.

Pierucci was found semiconscious with at least six stab wounds to his neck on the evening of Labor Day in 1984. He died four days later. About $300 was stolen from the bar's cash register.

Friend, who at the time was homeless and was living in an Oakland warehouse, denied stabbing Pierucci and testified at his trial that he had seen a knife in the hands of his accomplice in the robbery.

The seven justices of the state high court, in a ruling issued in San Francisco, unanimously upheld the conviction and sentence in a 117-page ruling.

The panel turned down a series of appeal arguments in which Friend claimed his trial was unfair because of errors in jury selection and instructions and derogatory comments made about him by the prosecutor.

Friend's attorney in the appeal was not immediately available for comment.

Friend's direct appeal to the state Supreme Court was the first step in the death penalty appeals process in California.

He also has a separate habeas corpus petition pending before the state high court and has the right to file a similar petition in the federal court system.

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