SACRAMENTO (CN) — The California Supreme Court on Monday denied the appeal of a man accused of facilitating the murder of his wife and unborn son, keeping the former Marine on death row.
A Shasta County jury in 2001 convicted Todd Jesse Garton of first-degree murder and conspiracy for coordinating the contract killing of his pregnant wife, Carole Garton.
Prosecutors say Garton, 48, persuaded his friend that the order to kill his wife came from an international group of assassins she had worked with. Garton allegedly promised Norman Daniels $25,000 to carry out the hit.
The two had previously plotted the murder of an Oregon man but that conspiracy fell through. Garton told Daniels and others that he was a former Irish Republican Army member and accomplished assassin, backing up his claims with propaganda and instructions from a made-up organization he called “The Company.”
After weeks of planning, Daniels fatally shot the pregnant woman five times at point-blank range in her bedroom in May 1998. The coroner’s report says a bullet struck the 8-month-old fetus in the head.
After guilty verdicts in separate trials, Garton was given the death penalty while Daniels was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison.
In an automatic appeal to the state supreme court, Garton said he wasn’t given a fair trial and that California’s death penalty is unconstitutional. He said the court wrongly prohibited him from wearing his wedding ring during trial and that the testimony of Daniels and other accomplices should have been tossed out.
The seven-justice panel unanimously upheld Garton’s death sentence, citing his prominent role in the murder plot.
According to prosecutors, Garton not only opened a $125,000 life insurance policy for his wife shortly before the murder, he also paid for the gun used by Daniels. Garton promised Daniels he could join the “The Company” if he carried out the contract.
Throughout the planning process, Garton sent “company” emails to Daniels and threatened Daniels’ life.
“As Daniels opened the envelope, Garton told him that if he opened it, he would have to carry out the assigned killing or else be killed himself,” the ruling states.
Two days after the murder, detectives recorded Garton telling Daniels in a phone call, “I’m going to get on the phone to the big boys and see what we can pull here,” and, “I’ll see whatever monies you had coming … goes to your kid or family or something.”
The supreme court did, however, overturn Garton’s murder conspiracy charges from the failed Oregon murder plot, citing lack of territorial jurisdiction.
In a 4-3 ruling, the court ruled that “Garton’s actions in California were insufficient to satisfy the overt act element of attempted murder.”