Mistrial Declared in 1981 Newport Beach Killing

It was the second trial for suspect James Andrew Melton.

Patch file photo.
Patch file photo.

Originally posted at 12:45 p.m. June 3, 2014. Edited with new details.

A mistrial was declared today in the case of a former death row prisoner granted a new trial when a federal judge found that Orange County jail staffers so overmedicated him during his 1982 trial that he could not understand the proceedings.

Jurors deadlocked 10-2 in favor of convicting James Andrew Melton, 62, of killing Anthony Lial DeSouza of Newport Beach, a gay man who advertised in a magazine for companions.

Judge William Froeberg set a hearing for June 27 to discuss a new trial date.

Melton was awaiting execution at San Quentin when a federal judge overturned his conviction, prompting District Attorney Anthony Rackauckas to drop the death penalty but retain the original charges, which included robbery.

Melton, who lived in Los Angeles, allegedly admitted killing DeSouza to Johnny Boyd of Pasadena, a former cellmate and lover who testified for the prosecution. Boyd testified that he and Melton discussed robbing men who advertised for companions.

DeSouza, 77, was found nude Oct. 11, 1981 in his condominium, with cord wrapped around his hands and neck. An autopsy showed he was strangled.

Melton, who had been released from prison about five months earlier, allegedly drove off in DeSouza's car and stole two diamond rings.

Melton had a long criminal record at the time, including two rape convictions, one of which occurred on the altar of a synagogue in Berkeley.

--City News Service


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