A Yolo County judge sentenced Marco Antonio Topete to death this morning for the June 2008 assault-rifle slaying of Sheriff's Deputy Jose Antonio Diaz.
Yolo Superior Court Judge Paul K. Richardson called the weight of the aggravating circumstances in the case "simply enormous."
Topete, wanted on suspicion of DUI, led Diaz on a high speed chase with his infant daughter in the car. He stopped on an isolated dirt road, grabbed an assault rifie and took cover behind a house. Then he fired on the deputy, who had gone to check on the girl instead of pursuing Topete.
"He aimed his weapon at Deputy Diaz and fired 17 shots in 3.9 seconds," Richardson said.
As jurors had earlier, he rejected Topete's claims that he had been impaired by alcohol and overwhelmed by stress, personality disorders and a troubled upbringing.
Topete "acted out of anger and retaliation, not out of desperation," Richardson said.
After hearing from four victims, including Topete's father, sisters and former supervisor at the Sheriff's department, the judge ordered Topete taken to death row at San Quentin State Prison
Sgt. Al Williams said Diaz's killing and the all-night manhunt for his murderer left him with post-traumatic stress disorder that made him strike out in rage at his family and traumatized his toddler son.
"We all have family that were touched by Marco Topete's actions," he told the judge.
Maria Guadalupe Diaz, the deputy's sister, spoke directly to Topete, in a profanity laced statement.
She said that throughout the trial, she had been "watching your pathetic face, waiting for this moment."
Her brother's killing had devasated her elderly parents and the rest of her family, she said.
After shooting the deputy, "you ran like a f---ing coward," she told Topete.
Rafael Diaz, the deputy's father, addressed the court in Spanish from his wheelchair.
He said Topete had pursued a life of crime and violence rather than changing his ways.
"I'm not happy the law condemns him (in this way), but that was his pleasure," he said.
There were tears among both Diaz's and Topete's family, but as he had done throughout the trial, Topete showed little emotion.
As the judge condemned him to death, he held his his chin up and appeared to almost smile.
Photo caption: Marco Topete is sentenced to death in the Yolo County Superior courthouse in Woodland, Calif. on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012. Photo by Randy Pench / firstname.lastname@example.org