SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The California Supreme Court has unanimously upheld a death sentence for the murder of a Lafayette woman during a robbery
of her home in 1998.

Joseph Perez, now 46, was convicted in Contra Costa County Superior Court in 2001 of the murder of Janet Daher on the afternoon of March 24, 1998, as well as burglary, robbery of her jewelry and theft of her Mercedes Benz car.

Perez was sentenced to death by Judge Peter Spinetta in January 2002. He was one of three men charged and convicted of the murder.

According to defendant Maury O’Brien, who became a prosecution witness, the trio originally planned to rob a drug dealer in Fairfield but instead, after snorting cocaine, got off BART in Lafayette and decided to rob one of the upscale houses in the neighborhood.

They entered the house Daher shared with her husband and teenage daughters through an open garage door and found her painting watercolors in the kitchen, where Perez knocked her to the floor.

O’Brien testified that after he mentioned the name of the third assailant, Lee Snyder, Perez said they had to kill Daher.

Snyder and Perez took Daher to her bedroom, strangled her with a telephone cord and Perez additionally stabbed her multiple times, according to the trial testimony.

The high court rejected a series of appeal claims by Perez, including arguments of errors in jury selection, an alleged conflict of interest by his defense lawyer, and flaws in California’s death penalty law.

Perez can appeal further through a habeas corpus petition in the federal court system. His lawyer on appeal, Richard Ellis, was away from his office Thursday and not available for comment.

Snyder, who was 17 at the time of the murder, was convicted and sentenced in 2001 to life in prison without parole. O’Brien pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced in 2007 to 25 years to life in prison.


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