Jury deliberating life or death for convicted Fresno killer

September 10, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A Fresno County jury is in the middle of a life or death decision for a convicted murderer right now. A death sentence is on the line for 56-year-old Eddie Ricky Nealy.

Nealy would be eligible for the death penalty based on this case alone -- the 1985 rape and murder of 14-year-old Jody Wolfe. And while the prosecutor focused jurors on the heinous crime and others Nealy has committed, Nealy's defense said no punishment can change what's already happened.

Eddie Nealy briefly glanced at the ABC30 camera in the courtroom, but rarely turned his gaze away from his defense table, the documents on it, and his attorneys.

Only once did he take quick peek in the direction of the jury about to decide whether he should live or die. The same jury already convicted Nealy of a rape and murder he still insists he didn't commit.

14-year-old Jody Wolfe was found in a Fresno canal in August 1985.

"Jody wasn't a person to the defendant," said prosecutor Steve Wright. "He treated her like an object, first when he raped her, then when he killed her and dumped her in the canal."

Wright asked the jury to avoid any displaced compassion for the only survivor of the crime. Wright said Nealy deserves no sympathy after delivering his own sentence to a helpless teenager. "The defendant sentenced Jody to death - a horrible, sickening, painful death," he said.

Nealy was convicted of two rapes, a robbery, and child abuse after Wolfe's death, which went unsolved for two decades until DNA technology pointed to Nealy.

Even defense attorney Eric Green admitted his client has done some bad things. He strategically decided not to present a defense in the penalty phase, but told the jury the crimes are old, and so now is Nealy.

And he left jurors with one final thought: "Sentencing him to death is not going to change anything that's happened some 28 years ago," Green said. "It's not going to change him. And he will be locked up for the rest of his life." The jury has deliberated for about three hours so far.

The last person sentenced to death in Fresno County was Marcus Wesson, who orchestrated a mass murder in his own family. That jury deliberated for parts of three days before reaching its decision.

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