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Death penalty reinstated for Calif. woman convicted of 1990 murder

Maria Del Rosio Alfaro was sentenced to death in 1992 for fatally stabbing Autumn Wallace during a burglary and robbery


By Maura Dolan
Los Angeles Times

ORANGE COUNTY, Calif.  — A federal appeals court Friday reinstated a death sentence for Maria Del Rosio Alfaro, convicted of murdering a 9-year-old Orange County girl a quarter-century ago.

Alfaro was sentenced to death in 1992 for fatally stabbing Autumn Wallace during a burglary and robbery of her family’s home in Anaheim Hills in 1990. Wallace, home alone after school, let Alfaro in the house because she recognized her as an acquaintance of her older sister.

Maria Del Rosio Alfaro was sentenced to death in 1992 for fatally stabbing Autumn Wallace during a burglary and robbery of her family’s home in Anaheim Hills in 1990. (Photo/Calif. DOC)
Maria Del Rosio Alfaro was sentenced to death in 1992 for fatally stabbing Autumn Wallace during a burglary and robbery of her family’s home in Anaheim Hills in 1990. (Photo/Calif. DOC)

Alfaro was 18 at the time and a drug addict. She had four children when she was sentenced to death at age 20. She was convicted of stabbing Wallace more than 50 times.

U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney overturned Alfaro’s death sentence on the grounds that delays in California’s capital punishment system produced arbitrary results in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

But a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said Friday that Alfaro should have raised that claim first in state court.

In a similar case in 2015, a different 9th Circuit panel reinstated a death sentence for Ernest Dewayne Jones. Carney overturned Jones’ sentence on the same grounds he had overturned Alfaro’s.

The majority in the Jones case ruled that that federal judges may not consider new constitutional theories in cases of habeas corpus, the legal means prisoners use to challenge their confinement.

The panel that reinstated Alfaro’s sentence said the Jones ruling had been undermined by subsequent U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

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©2017 the Los Angeles Times

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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