Man pleads innocent in slaying of 3 professors Calif. prosecutors to seek death penalty for student

August 20, 1996|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

SAN DIEGO -- Frederick Martin Davidson, shackled and downcast, pleaded innocent yesterday to three counts of murder in the fatal shootings Thursday of three engineering professors at the California State University campus here.

Deputy District Attorney James Pippin announced that the district attorney's office will ask the jury to find that "special circumstances" -- lying in wait and committing multiple homicides -- exist that merit the death penalty.

Pippin said Davidson admitted to police that he shot and killed professors Chen Liang, D. Preston Lowery III and Constantinos Lyrintzis just as a session devoted to his rebuttal of their earlier criticisms of his master's thesis was beginning. Police say Davidson used a gun he had hidden in a first-aid kit in the laboratory where the meeting was to take place.

Defense attorney Kate Coyne said the 36-year-old Davidson remains emotionally distraught over the killings and suffers from mental problems that were not recognized by his family.

Davidson is being held, without bail, on a suicide watch at the county jail. His mother and sister attended the brief arraignment but would not speak to reporters.

Coyne said she hopes that prosecutors will look at Davidson's life history, drop the bid for the death penalty and instead seek life in prison without the possibility of parole. She said she has not ruled out a plea of innocent by reason of insanity.

Coyne, who did not dispute police claims of a confession, said that it was Davidson who called the 911 emergency line after the shootings. Campus police found Davidson walking the hallway outside the laboratory, sobbing, carrying a suicide note and begging for police to kill him.

Municipal Court Judge Albert Harutunian set a preliminary hearing for Dec. 5.

Pub Date: 8/20/96

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