SAN FRANCISCO — State prosecutors will seek the death penalty against the San Leandro sausage maker accused of killing three meat inspectors during a shooting spree at his factory, finding little merit to a defense attorney’s argument that his client acted in a heated rage.
Stuart Alexander, 39, is scheduled to appear Thursday in Alameda County Superior Court in the June 21 deaths of two U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors and a third from the state.
Alexander has pleaded innocent to murder charges that include special circumstances of intentionally killing government employees in retaliation for doing their jobs, a stipulation that allows prosecutors the option of seeking a death sentence.
Alexander’s attorney, Alameda County assistant public defender Michael Ogul, did not return a phone call Wednesday.
In an Oct. 5 letter to District Attorney Tom Orloff, Ogul acknowledged that the crimes were “unforgivable and cannot be justified,” but argued that Alexander did not commit premeditated murder.
Rather, Ogul said, his client “was pushed over the edge and shot in a heated rage,” an emotional state that could preclude a first-degree murder charge and the death penalty.
On the day of the shootings, the inspectors arrived to cite Alexander for operating without a permit.
Alexander, whose factory had recently closed and reopened as he struggled to meet health code requirements, called San Leandro police for help in removing “trespassers” from his property.
He then turned on a video surveillance camera, asked his visitors to leave and fired a gun in the air to scare them off.
The inspectors died in a shooting spree that lasted less than two minutes.
A fourth inspector, from the state, fled on foot dodging bullets as he was chased for two blocks.
“These facts demonstrate that these tragic homicides occurred as the result of escalating tensions in which Mr. Alexander was pushed over the edge, regardless of whether there was any intent to harass him or whether another person would have been provoked to anger,” Ogul wrote.
Prosecutors disagreed. Deputy district attorney Colton Carmine, who is trying the case, said Wednesday that Ogul’s arguments were considered but found groundless by a handful of county and federal prosecutors who helped Orloff reach his final decision.