On this date in crime history – April 21, 1992, Robert Alton Harris was executed in California’s gas chamber. This was California's first execution since former Chief Justice Rose Bird and two other state Supreme Court justices, Joseph Grodin and Cruz Reynoso, had been recalled by California voters. From 1979 to 1986, the Bird court had reversed 64 out of the 68 death penalty cases on appeal. Supporters of capital punishment initiated a campaign against Bird, Grodin, and Reynoso, successfully ousting them from the court in 1986. Republican Governor George Deukmejian then appointed three justices in favor of the death penalty to take their places. On July 5, 1978, Harris abducted John Mayeski and Michael Baker, both 16, from a fast-food restaurant in Mira Mesa, California. Attorneys for Harris sought to avoid the death penalty by arguing that the killer suffered organic brain damage as a result of fetal alcohol syndrome. The case became a focal point for death penalty abolitionists, who held rallies across the state. Amnesty International even tried to lobby on Harris' behalf, but their efforts proved unsuccessful and Harris was executed.
Michael Thomas Barry is the author of numerous books that include the award winning, Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949 (2012, Schiffer Publishing). The WINNER of the 2012 International Book Awards and a FINALIST in the 2012 Indie Excellence Book Awards for True Crime. Visit the authors website for more information: www.michaelthomasbarry.com
His book can be purchased at Amazon through the following link: