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Death penalty upheld for woman who shot and killed her 4 children

December 19, 2011 | 12:22 pm

A San Diego woman who shot and killed her four children failed Monday to win a reprieve from the California Supreme Court, which voted unanimously to uphold her death penalty.

In a ruling written by Justice Ming W. Chin, the state's highest court rejected an automatic appeal by Susan Dianne Eubanks, who was convicted of murdering her sons Brandon, 14; Austin, 7; Brigham, 6; and Matthew, 4, in October 1997.

After drinking and taking tranquilizers, Eubanks put a revolver to the temple of Brandon, her eldest son, and shot him, according to the court's opinion. She fired another shot into his neck from a few inches away. She shot her younger three boys in their bedroom.

Before shooting herself in the abdomen, Eubanks left several notes, including an instruction that she be buried in the same casket with her youngest son. Detectives found the notes in the San Marcus home shortly after the bloodshed.

Evidence presented at her trial showed that Eubanks had become addicted to prescription drugs after suffering a workplace injury. She had lost her job, and she and her husband were having marital problems.

The court said her oldest son had telephoned the mother of his best friend for help before he was killed. The woman told him to reassess the situation and call back if necessary.

Eubanks challenged her death sentence on several grounds, including the fact that the trial court admitted evidence during the penalty phase that she had once smeared her nephew’s face with feces. The court said the evidence was proper because it was intended to rebut claims that she had been a   good mother.

Legal errors made at the trial were minor, and the jury would have voted for death even without them, the court concluded.

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-- Maura Dolan

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