SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The California Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the death penalty of a woman convicted of poisoning her husband to collect on a life insurance policy.
The high court ruled on Thursday that Angelina Rodriguez received a fair trial in 2004. It said if any errors occurred during her trial, they were harmless.
A Los Angeles County jury convicted Rodriguez of killing her husband in 2000 by pouring anti-freeze into his Gatorade. Investigators say that Rodriguez had also slipped her husband some oleander, a poisonous plant that grows wild in Southern California.
Rodriguez had taken out a $250,000 life insurance policy a few months before her healthy 41-year-old husband died. It took investigators several months to arrest and charge Rodriguez after her husband’s death because a cause of death could not be immediately established.
According to court documents, Rodriguez was anxious to collect on the life insurance policy and needed a death certificate stating cause of death to do so. Investigators secretly recorded numerous phone calls with Rodriguez where she made numerous incriminating statements while attempting to blame the death on her husband’s co-worker at the school where he worked.
During her trial, prosecutors also presented evidence that she had killed her 14-month old daughter in 1993 to collect a $50,000 insurance policy. Her daughter choked on a plastic nipple that had broken free from a bottle made by Gerber. She and her then-husband collected a $710,000 settlement from Gerber after the couple filed a lawsuit.
A search of Rodriguez house after her arrest in 2001 turned up an expert’s report commissioned by the couple’s lawyer that concluded the nipple could not have been broken off while the baby was feeding. It also emerged that Rodriguez purchased the $50,000 life insurance policy two months before the baby died without telling her then-husband, the baby’s father. Rodriguez was named the sole beneficiary.
“This circumstance alone strongly suggests she murdered her daughter to collect the life insurance proceeds, just as she later murdered her husband to collect on a life insurance policy that she insisted he take out,” Justice Ming Chin wrote for the unanimous seven-judge court. “After her daughter died, she seemed more concerned about collecting the pacifier parts and suing Gerber than about losing her.”
Only 20 of the state’s 747 condemned inmates are women. Executions have been on hold in California since 2006 because of lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of California’s death penalty.