Accused 'Golden State Killer' Offers To Plead Guilty To Avoid Death Penalty

The man accused of being the Golden State Killer would plead guilty to the charges to avoid a death penalty trial, according to court documents and a letter from his lawyers sent to victims’ families.

Joseph James DeAngelo is charged with 13 murders spanning more than a decade in six US counties in California plus an additional 13 counts involving kidnapping and robbery.

Dozens of other crimes attributed to the Golden State Killer during the 1970s and 80s can’t be prosecuted because the statute of limitations has expired.

Joseph James DeAngelo appears in court for his arraignment on April 27, 2018. Image: Getty

A capital trial, which would follow a lengthy preliminary hearing in May, could cost taxpayers an estimated US$20 million.

DeAngelo’s offer was first hinted at by one of his attorneys, Sacramento County assistant public defender Joe Cress, during a January 25 hearing to set the date for DeAngelo’s preliminary hearing.

Cress told Judge Steve White that the defense team had been trying to “resolve” the case with the district attorney.

The offer came into sharper focus this week in a motion filed by the defense team seeking to have the charges dismissed.

Officer stands guard in front of the home of accused rapist and killer Joseph James DeAngelo on April 24, 2018 in Citrus Heights, California. Image: Getty

DeAngelo’s attorneys wrote in a brief footnote, “Mr. DeAngelo is 74 years old. He has offered to plead to the charges with a lifetime sentence.”

A letter sent by the public defender’s office to survivors and victims’ families dated February 25 and obtained by CBS13 gave a more complete explanation of the motive behind DeAngelo’s offer.

"Criminal cases often take many years to resolve by trial. The trial process is often very stressful for victims and their families. This particular case is exceedingly complex due to the number of charged crimes and the diverse locations of the charged crimes," the letter read.

"We would like to reach a resolution of the case that avoids a trial, satisfies all parties and provides a more immediate resolution of the case. Such a resolution would hopefully provide closure for you."

In this undated photo released by the FBI shows East Area Rapist's fingerprints. Image: FBI/AP

Assemblyman Jim Cooper, (D) Elk Grove, authored the Justice Act of 2019 to reimburse the affected counties for the extraordinary costs they would incur in a death penalty trial that would involve roughly 200 witnesses and thousands of exhibits.

Taxpayers would pay for both the prosecution and defense and a legislative analyst estimated the potential cost at US$20 million, which the analysis concluded could jeopardise critical county services if the counties were not reimbursed by the state.

Cooper told CBS13 that although a capital trial would be enormously expensive, he would prefer that the victims and their survivors ultimately decide whether a plea bargain is put on the table even if it’s likely DeAngelo would die of natural causes on death row before he could ever be executed.

This undated photo released by the FBI shows artist renderings of a serial killer and rapist, also known as the "East Area Rapist" and "Golden State Killer" from 1976 to 1986. Image: FBI via AP.

The daughter of one the Golden State Killer’s victims told CBS13 she was open to the idea of a plea bargain to end the long ordeal but wanted more information first.

The Golden State Killer has also been known as the East Area Rapist in the Sacramento area.

The six counties involved in the prosecution, led by Sacramento County, are Contra Costa, Tulare, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Orange.

When asked to comment on the public defender’s offer, Sacramento County District Attorney spokeswoman Shelly Orio responded that nothing has changed since a statement issued in April 2019.

Joseph James DeAngelo, the suspected "Golden State Killer", appears in court in 2018. Image: Getty

“This morning, the District Attorneys of Sacramento, Santa Barbara, Orange County, Ventura County, Contra Costa, and Tulare met to review the aggravating and mitigating circumstances in the Joseph DeAngelo case pursuant to the death review protocol of Sacramento County," the statement read at the time.

"Thereafter, the four jurisdictions with special circumstance allegations – Sacramento, Santa Barbara, Orange, and Ventura – unanimously concluded to seek the death penalty in this case."