The California Supreme Court has unanimously upheld a death sentence for one of three men convicted of murdering a Lafayette woman during their invasion of her Rose Court home in 1998.
A Contra Costa County jury found Joseph Perez Jr. guilty of robbing and murdering Janet Daher, 46, after he and two other men selected the residence for robbery. In Thursday’s ruling, the court rejected defense arguments that Perez’s trial lawyer, William Egan, had a conflict of interest because Spinetta had ruled that Egan had presented an incompetent defense in another case.
Investigators said Perez and the others boarded a BART train in San Francisco planning to rob a drug dealer they knew, but changed their minds. They got off in Lafayette and looked for a large home to break into, aware of their “thuggish” appearance but not triggering any calls to police.
Wandering through the neighborhood adjacent to Lafayette BART, they entered Daher’s home through an open garage door and found the mother of two children painting a watercolor in her kitchen. One of the three men, Maury O’Brien, who testified for the prosecution, said Perez knocked Daher down with a stunning blow to the head and made the decision to kill her when O’Brien inadvertently mentioned the name of the third member of the trio, Lee Snyder.
O’Brien testified that Perez and Snyder took Daher to an upstairs bedroom, strangled her with a phone cord and then then stabbed her repeatedly before ransacking the home for jewelry and driving off in the family’s Mercedes.
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.
At the time of his sentencing in 2002, Perez, then 30, told Superior Court Judge Peter Spinetta, “It’s your system’s fault for who I am. You taught me to be violent. You put us in subhuman conditions.”