Sacto 9-1-1
May 19, 2011
State Supreme Court upholds 1997 death penalty in McDonald's slaying

By Denny Walsh

The California Supreme Court this morning upheld the death penalty imposed in Sacramento Superior Court on Sean Venyette Vines in 1997 for murdering Ronald Joshua Lee while Vines and a companion were sticking up a McDonald's on Florin Road.

Vines, now 37, was found guilty of shooting Lee, a 21-year-old manager trainee at the restaurant, in the back of the head. Vines, who had previously worked with Lee at the fast food outlet, was later to say he killed "my friend" because Lee recognized him and uttered his name.

A unanimous high court rejected arguments by Vines' lawyer that capital punishment itself is unconstitutional and that the more than 13 years Vines has spent on death row constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the federal and state constitutions.

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