Sacto 9-1-1
December 3, 2012
Defense rests in penalty phase of Hirschfield trial

Attorneys for Richard Joseph Hirschfield rested their case today in the penalty phase of his murder trial in Sacramento Superior Court.

Judge Michael W. Sweet scheduled closing arguments for Wednesday. Jurors already have convicted Hirschfield in the Dec. 20, 1980, murders of UC Davis students John Riggins and Sabrina Gonsalves, both 18. They now are being asked to decide whether he should be sentenced to death or life in prison with no chance of parole.

The defense concluded its case in penalty phase by calling a clinical psychologist who testified about what she called the "state of terror" that existed in the childhood home of the 63-year-old defendant. Hirschfield was born to a 15-year-old mother who had been impregnated by her step-father and who was subjected to further abuse during the course of their relationship in which she had five more children.

The psychologist, Leslie Lebowitz, of Newton, Mass., based her testimony on four reports she read on the case, including interviews with Hirschfield's mother and youngest brother. The reports painted a picture of HIrschfield's father subjecting his mother to sexual and emotional abuse which Lebowitz said was transmitted to HIrschfield and subjected him to trauma.

Lebowitz, retained just last week by the defense, did not prepare a written report and did not examine or interview Hirschfield.

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