Death Penalty Exhausted Appeals – Part 3

By Michele Hanisee

This is the third in a series of articles that focuses on the murderers on California’s death row who have exhausted all appeals. The last impediment to executions is a federal stay that is now being challenged by several elected District Attorneys and victims. Newsom’s blocking the execution of these vicious murderers is in direct violation of the will of California voters, who three times in the past seven years, have made it clear they support the death penalty.

Ronald Deere

Ronald Deere said “I committed a crime punishable by death. I should have been punished a long time ago.” He was found guilty of first-degree murder with special circumstances and two counts of second-degree murder for killing Don Davis and his two young daughters, 7-year old Michelle and 2-year old Melissa Davis. Deere was sentenced to death in 1982.

Deere was described by people close to him as having two personalities. One was a good guy called Ronnie, and the other was a scary and violent guy called “Running Deer.” The violent personality would come out when he was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. He would self-harm, cutting himself with sharp objects. He was arrested several times for public intoxication and disturbing the peace.

As detailed in the United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit Decision, In January 1982, Cindy ended her relationship with Deere, and took her baby to live with her mother. Deere threatened Cindy that he would hurt her family if she didn’t give him his baby back. On March 4, 1982, Don Davis, husband of Cindy’s sister Kathy, picked up his daughters and took them to his trailer for visitation. That same day, Deere called Cindy and said “I’m going to hurt you like you’re hurting me. Now you’ll know how much you’re hurting me. It’ll be on your conscience. I’m not responsible for what I’m going to do.” Shortly before the killings, Ms. Gleason received a telephone call from defendant telling her that “I’m not going to be responsible for what I do today.”

Soon after, Don Davis called Cindy suspecting that someone had been in his trailer. Don said he would look around and call back, but he never did. Later that day, Kathy and Cindy drove to the trailer and discovered that Don, Michelle and Melissa had been killed. Deere admitted the murders and a Riverside Superior Court accepted his plea of guilty.

As the California Supreme Court noted in their opinion, “Because defendant does not deny responsibility for the three killings, we need not dwell unduly on the evidence linking him to the crimes.”

There is no doubt about his guilt in the horrific murders of the Davis family. His crime and his conviction have been sustained by both state and federal courts and Governor Newsom is the only one standing in the way of his execution for murdering two young children and their father.

Albert Cunningham

Albert Cunningham was sentenced to death for first degree murder of Carmen Enrique Treto, and attempted murder of Juan Cebreros in 1985. As detailed in the  California Supreme Court decision, on December 1, 1985, the victim Carmen Treto had received over $1,400 in cash from a job. That night, Treto took this money when he joined his friends at a bar in Pasadena. Cunningham was in the bar when Treto displayed the cash in his possession. When Treto left the bar to go to his car, Cunningham was waiting for him. Cunningham pointed a gun at Treto and demanded the cash, then fatally shot Trejo. Cunningham stole Treto’s Buick. The stripped Buick was later found not far from Cunningham’s home.

On December 13, 1985, Treto’s friends who had been with him the night of the murder recognized Cunningham while they were in a nearby Pasadena bar and called the police. Another friend later identified Cunningham as the murderer from a photographic lineup. A jury found Cunningham guilty of first-degree murder and made a special finding that Cunningham had acted with the intent to kill. The jury also found true the alleged special circumstance that defendant committed the murder in the commission of a robbery and a special circumstance for prior conviction of murder. It was not Cunningham’s first murder conviction.

At the trial, the prosecution presented evidence of Cunningham’s prior murder of Ella Mae Fellows, committed on June 1, 1975. Cunningham was released from prison on February 6, 1980, less than five years after the murder. Cunningham then committed an assault with a deadly weapon a police officer for which he was convicted on January 20, 1981, and released from prison on parole on November 14, 1984.

Albert Cunningham was convicted of murder, robbery, and attempted murder and sentenced to death in 1989. 30 years later, the relatives of his victims are waiting for justice.

Read Death Penalty Exhausted Appeals Part 1. To read our other recent articles regarding the death penalty, click these hyperlinks: (1) Newsom Supports Killers, Rapists And Torturers Over Victims And Their Survivors, (2) Governor Newsom’s moratorium on the death penalty, (3) Another Demonstration Of Why The Majority Of Californians Distrust Government and (4) DA’s Association Statement on Death Penalty Moratorium.

Michele Hanisee is President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, the collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles.

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