Convicted Fresno killer chooses not to ask jury to spare his life

September 9, 2013 2:42:28 PM PDT
The Fresno man convicted of raping and killing a teenager 28 years ago took a calculated risk Monday that could pave the way to a death sentence.

In the penalty phase of his trial, Eddie Nealy decided not to testify, or present any evidence at all. The jury is about to make a life or death decision on Nealy, and they will do it without ever hearing from Nealy himself. But an Action News crew heard from him Monday as he announced his decision not to say a word in his own defense. "I have decided," Nealy said. "I'm not going to testify."

Eddie Nealy's only words in court Monday came before the jury deciding his fate entered the courtroom. Two weeks ago, the jury convicted him of Jody Wolfe's 1985 rape and murder. Nealy decided against trying to convince them to spare his life. In fact, he didn't even want them to hear from a psychologist scheduled to testify on his behalf.

"What's inside his report is just based on history of my life and that doesn't need to be out there," Nealy said.

His decision is a dangerous one, according to Action News legal analyst Tony Capozzi -- one that may give the jury no other alternative but to send him to death row.

"Anyone who's looking at a possible death penalty, I think the jury wants to hear from that person, find out what kind of person he is," Capozzi said. "At least get on the stand and still deny that you committed this offense."

Prosecutors let jurors know about Nealy's two prior rape convictions and presented evidence of two more alleged crimes, a murder four years after Wolfe's death, and another rape.

But Capozzi says Nealy's attorney is experienced in these situations. Eric Green says his client believes his best bet is to win an appeal, not to ask forgiveness for something he didn't do.

"I don't think Mr. Nealy is concerned about being immediately executed if they impose the death penalty," Green said. "I think he's more concerned about the fact that there's no physical evidence that he should've been convicted in this case to begin with."

Closing arguments in the penalty phase will come Tuesday morning. Then the jury will decide on either a death sentence or life without the possibility of parole. The jury took less than two hours to find Nealy guilty in the first phase.


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