A man who co-owned a gold trading company was sentenced to death today for masterminding his estranged wife's murder in a Century City parking garage just over three years ago during an acrimonious divorce battle.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy rejected a defense motion for a new trial for James M. Fayed, 48, along with an automatic motion to reduce the jury's recommendation of a death sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Jurors deliberated just over three days before recommending on May 31 that Fayed be executed for the fatal ambush of Pamela Fayed, who was stabbed 13 times as she approached her SUV in a parking garage at Watt Tower in Century City on July 28, 2008.
The same jury earlier convicted Fayed of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, and found true the special circumstance allegations of murder for financial gain and murder while lying in wait.
Kennedy called the slaying a "cold-blooded, vicious and brutal murder.'' She noted that Fayed was nearby as his wife was being "brutally and brazenly'' murdered. "That is one cold, calculated human being, Mr. James Fayed -- doesn't feel anything,'' the judge said.
Kennedy added that surveillance video showed Fayed outside the parking garage "totally immune to the screams of his wife, the mother of his child.'' The Fayeds were in the midst of a bitter divorce. The killing occurred just after the two met with their criminal attorneys as a result of a federal investigation into the couple's gold-trading business.
Based on a taped confession to a jailhouse informant, prosecutors contended that Fayed contracted the hit on his estranged wife because he believed the mother of two would cooperate with federal investigators and because she could have ended up with half of the couple's marital assets in a divorce.
One of Fayed's attorneys, Mark Werksman, said his client has maintained his innocence throughout the case. He unsuccessfully argued for Werksman to be sentenced to life in prison instead of death, saying Fayed has already lived through ``the most oppressive incarceration that one can endure,'' spending 23 and a half hours a day in lockdown.
Werksman noted that Fayed once had dozens of employees and "millions of dollars in gold reserves.''
"Today he is indigent,'' Werksman said. "... I would ask this court to spare his life. ... He wants to see his daughters grow up.''
Three other men charged in Pamela Fayed's killing are awaiting trial separately.
The alleged killer, Steven Vicente Simmons, 23; the alleged getaway driver, Jose Luis Moya, 51; and the alleged lookout, Gabriel Jay Marquez, 46; each face life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted. Moya worked as a ranch hand for Fayed at his Ventura County ranch.
During the penalty phase of Fayed's trial, Deputy District Attorney Eric Harmon told jurors that the defendant had orchestrated the "cold'' and "vicious'' murder of Pamela Fayed.
"She never had a chance, ambushed by a guy bigger than her who boxed her in,'' Harmon said. "There is no more brutal crime than one perpetrated on your own family,'' the prosecutor said, telling jurors that Pamela Fayed's two daughters were left motherless and that her husband has shown "zero remorse.''
Harmon also alleged that Fayed planned to arrange more killings from behind bars in hopes of eliminating the people who committed the crime for him. Another of Fayed's attorneys, Steve Meister, urged jurors to recommend a sentence of life-without-parole, telling jurors his client -- who was "once something'' -- is "going away forever, period.''
A man who "once had it all'' will be "trapped in prison'' for the rest of his life without sunlight or hope, Meister said.
Meister called Pamela Fayed's slaying "an unforgettable murder'' but maintained that it "is not a death penalty case.''
"Is Jim Fayed the worst of the worst? No,'' Meister told jurors, noting that his client had no criminal history.
Outside court after the verdict, Meister told reporters he was "disappointed'' but understood the decision.
"We know the reality of capital punishment in California ... I would not expect an execution of Jim Fayed to ever occur,'' he said, noting that his client was in "poor health'' and facing what will likely be at least two decades of appeals.
Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson, who along with Harmon prosecuted the case, told reporters that "the just verdict was reached.''
"Mr. Fayed earned it. He earned it from his own conduct,'' he said.