The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has refused to throw out the death
sentence of a suburban Philadelphia man sentenced to die by lethal injection for gunning down two fellow warehouse workers more than five years ago.
In a Dec. 27 decision, the high court affirmed the conviction and sentence of Robert Diamond, who was sentenced to death following his guilty plea in the shooting deaths of Angel Guadalupe and Reginald Woodson in the spring of 2008.
Diamond, who worked as a forklift operator at the Simon & Schuster book warehouse in Bristol Borough, Bucks County, shot and killed Guadalupe and Woodson with a .40 caliber Smith and Wesson purportedly as an act of revenge for the harassment he says he suffered during his six-year employment.
In an audio recording he made subsequent to his firing, the court record shows, Diamond said he had “no place in the world, that the last six years he spent at Simon & Schuster had been a ‘living hell,’ and that time was running out because he lacked money to pay his rent.”
The murders were captured by surveillance video at the book warehouse.
Diamond peacefully surrendered when cornered by officers. He later stated, however, that he planned to kill himself after committing the murders, but that his plan was thwarted when police arrived too quickly.
Diamond, 38, who had waived his right to a jury trial, was found guilty of the two killings following a three-day bench trial in Bucks County Common Pleas Court, the record shows.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Diamond’s case marked the first time a Bucks County Common Pleas Court judge, and not a jury, imposed a death sentence since Pennsylvania reinstated the death penalty in 1978.
While nearly 200 condemned inmates remain on Pennsylvania’s death row, the commonwealth hasn’t executed a prisoner since 1999, the year it put to death infamous torture-murderer Gary Heidnik.
During the penalty phase, the record shows, the trial judge determined that the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating circumstances, which warranted a death sentence.
On appeal, Diamond’s public defender challenged the trial court’s finding of aggravating circumstances, its failure to find the mitigating circumstances, the trial judge’s weighing process of the two, and challenged the trial court’s death sentence on the ground that it was based on arbitrary factors.
The high court first determined that the evidence was sufficient to support Diamond’s two first-degree murder convictions, since the defendant accepted responsibility for the killings and “repeatedly acknowledged that he fatally shot Guadalupe and Woodson,” the ruling states.
On appeal, Diamond also argued that the multiple murder and grave risk aggravated circumstances are unconstitutional as applied to him because the trial court, as fact finder, did not execute its function to determine whether the aggravators were supported by the facts, but rather automatically found the aggravators based on his guilty pleas, the ruling states.
Prosecutors counter-argued that the record refutes Diamond’s contentions because the trial court acknowledged that Diamond’s guilty pleas did not require the finding of any aggravating circumstance.
The justices wrote that they “agree with the Commonwealth that the record belies Appellant’s claims.
“The trial court did not abrogate its duty, as fact finder, to examine the evidence presented by the Commonwealth during the penalty phase of trial and determine which aggravating circumstances were proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” the high court wrote.
Diamond also argued the trial court failed to find as a mitigating circumstance the defendant’s “capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of law was substantially impaired.”
Diamond maintained that he proved this mitigating factor through the testimony of forensic psychiatrists, who stated that Diamond’s capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct and his ability to conform his conduct to the requirements of law were substantially impaired.
One doctor testified that Diamond suffered from schizophrenia, saying that Diamond’s mental impairment prevented him from having any cogent plan to kill a particular person, while another doctor explained Diamond’s drug usage in early adulthood aggravated his tendency for mental illness and described Diamond as delusional and psychotic.
Diamond essentially argued that the trial court erroneously concluded that the aggravating factors outweighed the mitigating factors, harkening back to his prior argument that the court failed to consider his mental health and life history mitigating evidence.
The justices determined that the conviction and sentence were proper.
“We conclude that Appellant’s two sentences of death were not the product of passion, prejudice or any other arbitrary factor, but rather were based on the overwhelming evidence establishing that Appellant fatally shot Angel Guadalupe and Reginald Woodson,” the ruling states.
The majority included Chief Justice Ronald Castille and Justices Thomas Saylor, J. Michael Eakin, Debra Todd, Seamus McCaffery and Correale Stevens.