The state Supreme Court this morning upheld the death penalty in the case of Dayva Cross, who killed his wife and two of her daughters in Snoqualmie in 1999.
Cross’ case is still winding its way through the courts on a number of appeals, but one particular issue, whether a defendant can be condemned to death after entering an Alford plea, was resolved unanimously by the state high court. In an Alford plea a defendant concedes there is sufficient evidence to support a conviction, but they are not directly acknowledging guilt.
“We hold that a capital sentence can be predicated on an Alford plea and deny that portion of his personal restraint petition,” Justice Tom Chambers wrote, adding that Cross’s separate appeals will be resolved in other opinions.
Chambers added that a “careful review of the record reveals that Cross’s Alford plea was a calculated one.”
“It likely avoided having all the gruesome details of the murders presented to the jurors at the guilt phase and preserved his ability to argue at the penalty phase of the trial that he killed the three women without premeditation or a common scheme or plan. Unfortunately for Cross his tactic did not work.”
Cross, who had a history of mental illness, stabbed his wife, Anouchka Baldwin, 37, and her daughters, Salome Holly, 18, and Amanda Baldwin, 15, in March 1999. Cross then kept another daughter confined at knife point for five hours while he drank wine and watched television. He was arrested without incident after the surviving girl escaped and called police.
In October 2000, Cross told King County Superior Court Judge Joan DuBuque “I don’t see any reason for a trial, because I’d tell a jury from the start that I’m guilty.”
He added that he wanted to take responsibility for what he had done.
In June 2001, Cross was sentenced to death.
Among Cross’s appeals already dismissed by the Supreme Court was his argument that the state’s death penalty is unconstitutional. Cross pointed specifically to Green River Killer Gary Ridgway, who in 2004 pleaded guilty to 48 counts of murder and was sentenced to life in prison in a deal that helped prosecutors close several of his unsolved murders.
In February 2011, Ridgway pleaded guilty to a 49th homicide.
The majority of justices said Cross’ sentence could not be judged only in comparison with that of Ridgway.