LOS ANGELES—A state appeals court panel last week upheld a woman's conviction for fatally stabbing her three young daughters at their home in an unincorporated area of Carson.
The three-justice panel from California's 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense's contention that there was insufficient evidence of premeditation and deliberation by Carol Coronado before the May 20, 2014, killings of her daughters, Sophia, 2, Yazmine, 16 months and Xenia, almost 3 months, who died from stab wounds to their jugular veins.
In a 22-page ruling, the appellate court justices cited "overwhelming physical evidence of premeditation and deliberation" and noted that there was "evidence that Coronado planned the attacks by laying out weapons on a kitchen counter, and carefully placing her children on the bed."
"Evidence that she had used several different weapons during the attacks suggests she had time to reflect as she retrieved each weapon," the justices found, noting that a bloody cross was drawn on each child's chest.
The appellate court panel also rejected the defense's contention that there was insufficient evidence that she was sane at the time of the crime.
After she waived her right to a jury trial in a Compton courtroom, Superior Court Judge Ricardo Ocampo found Coronado guilty of first-degree murder, along with finding true the special circumstance allegation of multiple murders and determined she was sane at the time of the killings.
Coronado was sentenced in February 2016 to three consecutive life prison terms without the possibility of parole.
"The court does believe that she needs treatment, but the treatment will have to be in state prison," the judge said then.
Coronado's trial attorney, Stephen T. Allen, contended that Coronado was suffering from postpartum depression and psychosis when she killed her children and has no memory of what happened.
Prosecutors countered that there was no evidence that the woman was suffering from psychosis, the appellate court panel noted.
Coronado's attorney had asked the judge to "do something out of the norm" and "take the unpopular approach and send her to a mental hospital."
"This was a psychotic episode," Allen said, calling the U.S. laws around the issue "archaic" and noting that "other first-world countries have laws" that protect women in cases of infanticide where mental illness is involved.
Coronado's husband, Rodolfo, joined advocates for women with postpartum depression in asking for his wife to be sent to a state mental hospital instead of state prison. He said his wife was "out of her mind when it happened."
During the trial, her husband testified that his wife was behaving strangely in the days leading up to the killings.
"I definitely knew something was wrong," he said. "She didn't act the way Carol acts."
The day of the killings, he left home to go to an auto parts store and was back working under his truck when his mother-in-law came out of the house screaming, "Don't go in there. She killed them."
He said he ran inside, pushed the bedroom door open and saw his daughters laying on the bed, but he didn't see any blood. He testified that he saw his wife with a knife in her left hand, with a "blank stare" on her face, and that she told him that she loved him before stabbing herself.