By Paul Hughes
A superior court jury in Pomona Wednesday recommended the death penalty for three Hesperia men convicted this month in the execution-style murders and robberies of two alleged drug dealers whom they lured to a local motel.
The convicts sat quietly, their lawyers at their sides and chains on their legs and wrists, as the death penalty verdicts were read inside a full third floor courtroom. A woman in the audience cried openly as each member of the jury was polled.
Chauncey Veasley, 27, Dellano Cleveland, 28, and Rajesh Charan, 25, were found guilty Nov. 8 of first-degree murder for luring two men to the Allstar Inn Oct. 12, 1990 and shooting them to death.
Anthony Quinn Nelson, 30, and Charles Hunter, 26, of San Dimas, were shot execution style as they knelt in front of a mirror in a room of a motel at 2470 S. Garey Ave.
The jury, which considered the penalty for Veasley separately from the other two, recommended death for him on Nov. 15. That decision had been sealed until Wednesday.
Judge S. James Otero ordered Cleveland to return to court on Dec. 9 for formal; sentencing. Veasley’s sentencing was set for Jan. 21 and Charan’s for Jan. 24.
In deciding the penalty, jurors had the option of recommending either death or life in prison without the possibility of parole for the men.
“I would be surprised if judge Otero overturned any of the death sentences in this case,” said Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Jenkins.
With some 200 men currently on California’s death row, and the last death sentence having been carried out in 1967, it would likely be many years before the three men would die if Otero goes along with the jury recommendations.
They all would have automatic appeals to the state Supreme Court if sentenced to death, standard practice in all capital punishment cases.
Anthony Robusto, attorney for Veasley, said he believes life in prison without parole is a more appropriate sentence for his client. “In my opinion, it does not warrant death,” he said outside the courtroom.
He declined comment when asked what he believes Otero will do, but said he would stick by his client through any appeals. “I’ll see it to the end. I always do,” Robusto said.
The recommendations ended a six-week trial that began in October and which featured testimony from police about the murder scene. Family members of at least two convicts testified during the penalty phase of the trial.
In her opening comments in October, Deputy District Attorney Antoinette “Toni” Decker said Nelson was a drug dealer who agreed to meet Veasley at the Pomona motel. Veasley, Cleveland and Charan devised a plan to kill Nelson after an attempt to buy drugs from a Hesperia man failed on Oct. 11, 1990, she told jurors.
After asking all jurors to his chambers for a meeting after their recommendations, Otero praised the prosecutors and defense attorneys in their handling of the case.
“Of all cases I’ve handled in Superior Court, the quality of lawyers in this case is the best I’ve ever seen,” he said. “It’s made my job easier.”
All jurors left the courtroom declining comment.