State court upholds death penalty in 1980 LAX Secret Service killing


Credit: The Associated Press
Andre Alexander during his October 1992 arraignment on murder charges in the Julie Cross killing at LAX. His appeal of his death penalty sentence in the case has been denied by the California State Supreme Court.
By: Denise Nix Staff Writer
dailybreeze.com
Friday, July 16, 2010

The state's highest court has upheld the death penalty for a man who gunned down a Secret Service agent near Los Angeles International Airport in 1980.

In a 124-page opinion issued Thursday, a unanimous California Supreme Court rejected all of Andre Stephen Alexander's arguments that the sentence and convictions were unjust.

Alexander was 43 years old when he was sentenced on April 23, 1996, for the murder of Julie Cross.

Cross, 26, was gunned down on June 4, 1980, after she and a partner, who were sitting in an unmarked car in civilian clothes, were supporting a search warrant operation in Westchester.

Alexander and an unknown man surprised them in an apparent robbery attempt. Cross tried to confront the men with her shotgun, but Alexander grabbed it from her and shot her at point-blank range.

The case, which was featured on the television show "Unsolved Mysteries," went cold until Alexander was arrested 12 years later for a 1978 unrelated triple murder in Los Angeles. He is serving threelife terms for those convictions.

But a detective working on the triple murder recognized Alexander from a composite sketch drawing of the suspect in the Cross murder.

In his automatic appeal, Alexander raised several issues, including that his attorney at trial was ineffective and that the judge allowed jurors to hear prejudicial evidence against him.

For example, Alexander argued that the jury should not have heard about his refusal to stand in a police lineup.

He also claimed the case should have been dismissed before trial because of the long time between the crime and prosecution, during which at least three pieces of evidence went missing.

Alexander says it hurt his defense to not have audio recordings of witnesses' being hypnotized, medical records from an optometrist related to a possible eyeglass prescription for Alexander since a pair of smashed glasses were found at the scene, and swabs used in a test to look for blood on a jacket seized from his home.

Alexander also said that it was unfair that prospective jurors on the case were questioned about their feelings regarding the murder of a peace officer.

Since the special circumstances allegation of murder of a peace officer was dismissed before deliberations, Alexander said the idea was unfairly "implanted" in jurors' minds.

Alexander also alleged juror misconduct, including an incident toward the end of deliberations in the penalty phase regarding a note about an apparent holdout.

The jurors asked Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles Horan what to do since they were voting 11-1, with the lone juror considering Alexander's four children in the decision.

Horan reread jury instructions to the panel about not basing their decision on sympathy for other parties, and the jury continued deliberating.

Shortly thereafter, the panelists returned their unanimous verdict supporting death.

Alexander argued that addressing the issue invaded the secrecy of the jury deliberation process and improperly influenced the outcome, but the Supreme Court disagreed.

The now 20-year-old case will make it's way to the federal court level while Alexander remains imprisoned on San Quentin's death row.