Defense asks jury to judge Serial Shooter 'as a whole man'

By Nick R. Martin | July 15th, 2009 | 11:26 am | No Comments »

Live from the courtroom: During an emotional opening speech this morning, defense attorney Maria Schaffer gave the jury an unflinching look at the gruesome crimesof her client, Samuel Dieteman, in the summer of 2006.

It began with the wounding of Kibili Tambadu on May 20. Dieteman was riding in the car with his friend, Dale Hausner, when Hausner pulled a shotgun from the back seat, rolled down a window and shot the lone man walking in the dark. Schaffer described her client’s reaction as “shock.”

Minutes later on that same night, Hausner handed the shotgun to Dieteman and told him, “Your turn, dude.” Dieteman mimicked his friend, and fired the gun at another lone figure, this time nearly cutting in half a woman named Claudia Gutierrez-Cruz. The woman did not survive. Schaffer called it “Sam’s first kill.”

“Ladies and gentleman,” Schaffer said, “this is the beginning of a long, tragic and bloody spiral into the depths of hell for my client.”

For the next three months, Dieteman and Hausner drove around the Valley on random nights, shooting random pedestrians and bicyclists, all in the same manner. Another woman would die and several people were seriously wounded before it was all over.

The random shootings were something, it turns out, that Hausner had been doing for nearly a year by that point. He was convicted earlier this of six murders and numerous other shootings, and he was sentenced to death in addition to more than 400 years in prison.

“All of these shootings stick with Mr. Dieteman until the day he dies,” Schaffer told the jury.

The panel of Dieteman’s peers are being asked to decide whether he should join his former friend on death row. Schaffer told the jury that the three-month killing spree certainly makes him eligible for the death penalty, however, she pleaded with them to remember his life before the crimes, as well as his cooperation with police and the remorse he has shown since then.

“You must, and I ask you to, judge him as a whole man,” Schaffer said.

The sentence of life in prison without the chance of parole, the only alternative to the death penalty, will not be easy for Dieteman, his attorney said. Because he cooperated with police and prosecutors in the trial against his former friend, Dieteman will be seen as a snitch to his fellow inmates, a reviled role behind the jailhouse walls. “His life will be hell, either as a lifer or on death row,” Schaffer said.

During the trial, however, Schaffer said, neither she nor Dieteman will offer excuses for the crimes.