FRESNO, Calif. – A judge on Wednesday sentenced the patriarch of a cult-like clan to death for killing nine of his children, many of whom were born of incest and sexual abuse.
Jurors had recommended the death penalty on June 29, after convicting Marcus Wesson (search) of nine counts of murder. They also found him guilty of sexually abusing the daughters and nieces who grew up in his household.
California law says the trial judge must uphold a jury's verdict unless it conflicts with the law or the evidence. Judge R.L. Putnam (search) earlier in the day had said the evidence presented in the case supported the jury's recommendation.
Putnam also sentenced Wesson to a combined 102 years in prison for 14 counts of sexual abuse.
Before handing down the sentence, the judge heard testimony from two young women who had escaped the Wesson home and were trying to reclaim the children they had with the defendant as a result of sexual abuse.
Sophina Solorio (search), whose son died in Wesson's home in March 2004, along with six other children, a teenager and a 25-year-old woman, told Wesson: "Those were not children who belonged to you. It was not your decision to take them away from this world."
But several of Wesson's surviving children and his wife, Elizabeth Wesson, declared their love and support for the man the judge said had such control over his family that "they did his bidding until their death."
Daughter Kiani Wesson, who had testified that there's nothing wrong with sexual contact between a father and daughter, defended her father even though the two children she had with the defendant were killed.
"I am proud of all my family, of the way we were raised," she said, her voice breaking as she faced the judge.
Wesson's attorneys had filed a motion asking the judge to grant their client a new trial, or reduce his sentence to life in prison. Both requests were denied.
They said in court documents that the judge made mistakes in instructing the jurors, saying other instructions might have led the jury to find Wesson's actions did not qualify him for the death penalty.