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Jurors recommend death penalty for Oyler

March 18, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A jury is recommending the death penalty for Raymond Lee Oyler, the man convicted of killing five firefighters in a Riverside County wildfire that he started. It took the jury of eight women and four men a relatively short period of time. They deliberated just a little over a day before coming in with their decision Wednesday, and that decision: The mechanic from Beaumont should be put to death for starting the Esperanza Fire.

Raymond Oyler showed no emotion as the court clerk read the verdict: Oyler should be put to death for the deaths of the five firemen. He was found guilty of 37 arson-related counts.

In the courtyard of the justice center, a large group of family firemen and prosecutors commented on the verdict of death.

"Sometimes justice takes a while, but in this county, it almost if not always gets delivered," said Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco. "And today justice was delivered by a jury of conscientious and dedicated citizens in the case of great notoriety, in a case that was notorious due primarily to the tragic and unfortunate deaths of five dedicated public servants, five firefighters, five husbands, sons, brothers, and cousins.

"And I'm proud to be an American, I'm proud to be an American today when justice prevails such as it should, for the loss of five very noble firefighters who stood the test on that October morning of 2006," said Riverside County Fire Chief John Hawkins.

"No parent should ever have to experience losing their child," said Gloria Ayala, one slain firefighter's mother. "To the man responsible, I harbor not anger, only hope that you will understand the depth of pain that you have caused so many families, including your own."

"We know my dad didn't do this," said Heather Oyler, Raymond's daughter. "We're going to stick behind his innocence and we're appealing this. He'll be home someday. He will be."

In their comments, some of the victim's family members actually forgave Oyler. They thanked the jurors for what was a very difficult task.

Oyler has the right to be officially sentenced in 21 days. Oyler waived that right. There'll be a meeting in June, a pre-consideration hearing -- under California law, the judge has to agree with the jury's verdict. The district attorney said he has no concerns about there being any change.


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