Originally created 01/24/04

Jury finds Rivera guilty on all counts



Mr. Rivera expressed outrage that his Richmond County Superior Court death penalty trial would continue to a sentencing phase today.

But the trial must continue because the jury that determined he is a rapist and murderer must now determine his punishment for killing Army Sgt. Marni Glista.

"This is a joke. This is a circus here," Mr. Rivera, 40, railed Friday afternoon in Richmond County Superior Court, where less than an hour earlier, the jury rejected the defense's plea for a guilty but mentally ill verdict after nearly three hours of deliberations.

On each of the 14 counts in the indictment, the jury wrote not just "guilty," but "guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."

Mr. Rivera faces a death sentence or a sentence of life in prison with or without the possibility of parole for killing the 21-year-old soldier.

"This trial must go forward," Judge Albert M. Pickett told Mr. Rivera.

During a series of questions and answers while the jury waited in the deliberation room, Judge Pickett once again told Mr. Rivera that he had the right to testify, to be his own co-counsel and to tell the jury he wanted a death sentence.

Judge Pickett said Mr. Rivera has the right to make an opening statement to the jury this morning and skip the remainder of his trial. But he cannot prevent his defense attorneys Peter Johnson and Jacque Hawk from presenting evidence to persuade the jury to impose a sentence of life, the judge said.

"I'm really confused about what I'm supposed to do," Mr. Hawk told the judge. As an attorney, his duty is to act in a client's best interest, but there's the duty also to follow the client's wishes, he said.

Mr. Rivera said he will make his statement to the jury and then return to his jail cell for the remainder of his trial.

What he really wants, Mr. Rivera told the judge, is to tell the jury what a liar District Attorney Danny Craig is. At the beginning, middle and end of the day's proceedings, Mr. Rivera ranted about the closing arguments Mr. Craig made Thursday.

In statements to investigators and in testimony before the jury this week, Mr. Rivera described himself as a sex addict, a man living a double life with a bad side that led him to repeated attempts to deceive women with a phony story about being a professional photographer. He confessed he raped and killed Sgt. Glista in September 2000, killed three other woman and tried to kill one last victim.

But Mr. Craig argued to jurors that they shouldn't believe everything that comes out of the mouth of the man doctors described as a sadistic psychopath. Instead of a sex addict who seduced women with promises of modeling, Mr. Craig described Mr. Rivera as a murderous rapist who stalked and abducted each of the four homicide victims.

Mr. Rivera bitterly complained about Mr. Craig's interpretation of the evidence, and about Mr. Craig's seeking an indictment against him in Columbia County in the death of 17-year-old Tabitha Bosdell, even though he has repeatedly said he killed the teenager in Richmond County on June 29, 2000.

"If he can't kill me in Richmond County he thinks he can kill me in Columbia County. He wants a second shot at me," Mr. Rivera complained to the judge.

Murder charges, Mr. Craig has explained since obtaining the indictments against Mr. Rivera in both counties, are lodged in the county where a body is found.

Mr. Rivera's desire to "get it over with" probably won't be granted anytime soon. Mr. Craig has said that regardless of the sentence imposed in Richmond County, he also will try Mr. Rivera in Columbia County.

South Carolina 2nd Circuit Solicitor Barbara Morgan has said she will try Mr. Rivera in Aiken County in the sexual assaults and slayings of Melissa Dingess, 17, and Tiffaney S. Wilson, 17. The teenagers disappeared in July and December 1999.

In Richmond County, Mr. Rivera will be sentenced by the jury for the murder of Sgt. Glista and for his October 2000 attack on Chrisilee Barton.

Judge Pickett will have to impose sentences for the remaining guilty verdicts returned by the jury Friday - three counts of rape, four counts of aggravated sodomy, four counts of aggravated assault, and one count each of burglary and possession of a knife during the commission of a crime.

DEATH PENALTY RULES

Georgia law strictly governs how death penalty trials are conducted.The law requires the trial to be conducted in two phases:

  • During the first, a jury is restricted to considering only the guilt or innocence of the accused.
  • If the jury convicts, a second phase, the penalty phase, takes place. Attorneys again make opening and closing statements and present evidence. At the end, the jury is asked to decide punishment - life in prison with or without the possibility of parole, or death.
  • SENTENCING

    To impose death or life in prison without parole, the jury must find the prosecutor has proven at least one of the state's statutory aggravating factors beyond a reasonable doubt. The verdict must be unanimous.

    Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.