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Are Capital Punishment's Emotional Costs Worth It?

The capital murder trial of Christopher Evans still haunts some participants months after the fact.

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For Castro, the alternate juror, seeing close-up images of the dead bodies and blood-smeared salon on the trial's first day was tough. "I didn't sleep well for a week," he later recalled. "I'd see a color and I'd flash back to a photo that I did not want to flash back to." Castro glanced around his cheerily decorated classroom. "Even now, just talking about it, I can see things that I haven't thought about in months." He said it's unusual for him to focus on violence and gore, "but even if I do watch a show like CSI, nothing's real. This was."

As the trial wore on Castro became less haunted by the photos, but grew frustrated weighing a death versus life sentence amid the lawyers' spin game. "It's like politics," he said. "You're trying to gain the truth when you've got two sides that are just spouting things they think you want to hear." He raised his palms and shrugged. "Where's the truth in that?"


Tina Rose's mother, Mary Rose, is a short woman with graying black hair. The day Michael Nieto called her to the witness stand she was shrouded in a hooded black leather jacket that draped down below her hips. She walked slowly past the bar, raised her right hand, and was sworn in by the court clerk.

"You are the mother of Tina Rose," Nieto said. "Correct?"

Mary Rose nodded slowly, her face drawn.

"And how many children do you have?" Nieto asked.

Mary Rose raised a long-fingered hand to her face and began to sob.

Over the next several minutes, Nieto showed a series of photographs: Tina Rose as a young child, standing in the sun with brothers, sisters, and cousins. A portrait of Tina, grown up, looking pretty, and smiling radiantly. Her coffin, surrounded by family members in an Alabama cemetery. Mary Rose described how she still celebrates her daughter's birthday each year. She told how Tina loved to dance, and sang in their church choir. She said Tina had used earnings from her job at another hair salon to finally open a shop of her own.

Nieto asked Mary Rose to describe the impact of her daughter's murder on her own life. Rose began to sob again. Her hand trembled in front of her face. "That's everything," she said, her voice quiet and raspy. "I can't sleep at night. I have to be on medication that makes me go to sleep at night." She pointed across the room, where Christopher Evans slouched next to his defense attorneys. "That monster, what he did to my daughter. He did not have to kill my daughter. That monster, I never seen him before in my life." Other Rose relatives sobbed quietly in the court's public seating area.

Asked outside the courtroom a couple weeks later what she would decide if the verdict were up to her, Mary Rose answered matter-of-factly, "I would say death."

Later in the trial, Christopher Evans' mother and daughter testified as well. Evans' mother described for over an hour the tough circumstances in which her son grew up, her voice strong and clear when she wasn't shedding tears. His father was absent, she said, and she was clueless about how to raise a child. Deaths in the family and academic struggles — "He just couldn't comprehend" — further alienated Evans, and he dropped out of high school and began selling drugs, she added. Defense attorney Alexander Selvin called Evans' story "the cycle of the young man from Oakland who has no skills."

Evans fathered a daughter a few years after dropping out. Now thirteen years old, she took the witness stand about a week after her grandmother. Round-faced and wearing a pink headband, she smiled when identifying Evans as her dad. Questioned by Selvin, she described a father who has "always been there for me" despite being incarcerated most of her life.

"I beg you from the bottom of my heart and soul to please, please, please, please, please, please, please don't give my dad the death penalty," she implored the jury.

Selvin asked Evans' daughter one final question. She looked across the courtroom at her father, smiled, then bowed her head and began to cry. "I don't want to lose my father," she said between sobs. "He's a very important person in my life."

She left the stand still in tears. Her waiting mother put an arm around her shoulders as they walked down the aisle and left the courtroom. Christopher Evans turned around in his seat and craned his neck to watch them go, wide-eyed and blinking hard, apparently seeking eye contact. A bailiff shook his head sternly and tapped Evans on the shoulder. He turned back around. NO COMMUNICATION WITH INMATES PURS. 4570 PENAL CODE, said a sign posted in the courtroom.

Throughout it all, Larry Castro looked on from the jury box. He would later say the testimonies from Mary Rose and Christopher Evans' daughter were among the most powerful and emotionally persuasive moments of the trial.

To grant the parting wish of Evans' daughter, the jury would have to believe a couple key points in the defense argument. The first was that, because of the knockout blow from Tina Rose's brother, Evans had sustained a serious concussion and was therefore in an altered state of consciousness that hampered any awareness of what he was doing when he shot Rose and Brown. "His mind was Jell-O and Swiss cheese," defense attorney William DuBois repeated throughout the trial. DuBois and Selvin also argued the violent outburst was an anomaly; that Evans had rarely been in altercations beforehand and he was a relatively model citizen while incarcerated and awaiting trial.

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