A majority of the Washington State Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence given to one of Tacomas most ruthless killers.
In a 6-3 decision issued Thursday, the states high court allowed to stand the death sentence against Cecil Davis, who was convicted of raping, robbing and murdering 65-year-old Yoshiko Couch in 1997 while her invalid husband was in the house unable to help her.
The Supreme Court in 2004 overturned a previous death sentence against Davis, saying a juror who helped impose that sentence might have been predisposed to consider Davis dangerous because he saw the defendant shackled during trial.
The high court upheld Davis' conviction but sent his case back to Pierce County so another jury could decide whether he should be executed.
The second jury heard weeks of testimony and then deliberated for less than an hour before deciding Davis should die, and Superior Court Judge Frederick Fleming imposed that sentence in 2007.
Appeals lawyers working for Davis, now 53, argued Davis second sentencing trial was flawed and asked that their client received life in prison without parole.
The majority rejected all of Davis arguments in upholding his death sentence.
"Here, few errors occurred, and those that did were not so egregious or unduly prejudicial that they denied Davis a fair trial, Justice pro-tem Gerry Alexander wrote for the majority.
Justices Mary Fairhurst and Charles Wiggins wrote separate dissents, with Justice Debra Stephens signing on with Fairhurst.
Fairhurst argued Davis death sentence was unfair, given that many similarly situated killers received life in prison instead of death. The Supreme Court is supposed to take such "proportionality" arguments into account when reviewing death sentences, she said.
"Our system of imposing the death penalty defies rationality, Fairhurst wrote, "and our proportionality review has become an empty ritual. "
Wiggins argued the court should demand a statistical analysis of how the death penalty is imposed by race to see whether more African Americans are sentenced to death in proportion to Caucasians.
The majority rejected both arguments, noting in response to Wiggins that both black and white defendants eligible for execution received a death sentence at a rate of about 14 percent.
"In our view, it shows the system is working as intended and that the different actors in the system are performing their assigned roles conscientiously prosecutors in the exercise of discretion, jurors in considering mitigating evidence and defense attorneys endeavoring to humanize defendants guilty of the most inhuman acts, Alexander wrote.
It was unclear Thursday whether Davis, who in a separate case also was convicted of killing another Tacoma woman, Jane Hungerford-Trapp, would appeal the decision to the federal courts.
In the Couch case, evidence at his trials showed Davis raped her with an object of some kind before throwing her into a partially filled bathtub and smothering her with towels soaked in a toxic solvent. He then tried to clean up the crime scene and Couch's body with a household cleanser before stealing the wedding ring from her finger, the cash from her purse and meat and beer from her kitchen,
He is one of seven men on Washingtons death row, including serial killer Robert Yates, who was sentenced to die in Pierce County for the deaths of two women in late 1990s.