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Jurors hear arguments in Balcom case

Decision is to give the convicted murderer, rapist life without parole or the death penalty.

March 21, 2012|By Alicia Lopez, Special to the Daily Pilot

SANTA ANA — While convicted murderer and rapist Jason Michael Balcom sat and showed no emotion, attorneys explained to jurors during the penalty phase of the trial Wednesday why they should vote for death or life without parole for the killing of Malinda Gibbons.

Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy took issue with the idea that anything in Balcom's childhood was significant enough to influence his decision to rape and murder the young, pregnant Costa Mesa resident in 1988.

Instead, he said, Balcom, 41, did it because he chose to.


FOR THE RECORD:
An earlier version incorrectly listed Jason Michael Balcom's age as 42. At the time this article was written, he was 41. His birthday was Monday.

"He did it because he liked it," Murphy said in the Central Justice Center courtroom. "He wanted to do it. He did it. He liked it and he did it again."

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Deputy public defender Dolores Yost told jurors the cumulative effect of Balcom's unstable childhood was enough to affect the impulses of the then-18-year-old.

His age should not be an excuse, Murphy said, because Balcom was old enough to decide what to do and to know what he was doing.

"How old do you have to be before you understand the look of terror in someone's eyes?" he asked.

Along with his youth and negative childhood, Yost said what should be considered when considering death or life without parole is Balcom's intention.

She said the fact that he did not kill the woman he raped before Gibbons, or the two he raped after — and the fact that he likely used a knife from Gibbons' home to kill her — meant he did not plan to murder. Not planning the murder, she said, makes it spontaneous; therefore he is less culpable.

Murphy argued that Balcom's youth was no more harsh than the typical child living in just about any Southern California community.

He said nothing from Balcom's childhood would explain what he did — he played sports and had a buffer to his moody mom in his aunt and cousin.

He said the defense consistently took acorns and grew them into oak trees, as in the testimony that Balcom's mom used cocaine in the 1970s, which turned into her being a drug abuser.

Testimony that Balcom was sexually abused was another example, Murphy said. He argued that most of the sexual abuse brought up in the trial was not certain. Balcom did not remember an incident his cousin related about abuse by a male babysitter when the two were about 7.

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