CARLSBAD — Despite Jonathan French’s contention that the murder of his ex-girlfriend was unmethodical, it may have been a simple equation that led jurors to believe the slaying was premeditated, the defendant’s attorney said May 11.
“Distance equals time and time equals deliberation,” said defense attorney Ken Kaminski, referring to his belief that the jury’s guilty verdict on May 10 of first-degree murder revolved around the evidence that his client went into the kitchen to get a knife after beating and choking the North County court reporter unconscious in her Carlsbad home last summer.
Stark’s 15-year-old son found his mother with her throat cut when he arrived home around 11:20 p.m. July 31, 2009. The 43-year-old mother of two worked as court reporter at the San Diego Superior Courthouse in Vista for nine years.
Kaminski said the case was a “tragedy for everybody,” but he believed the scenario of the evening, in particular the fact that Stark’s son was supposed to be home or was on his way home and that French’s daughter was waiting for him at his La Costa house makes the murder appear to be the result of an impulsive snap on his client’s part.
“To me it was indicative of rage rather than someone who was planning or premeditating something,” said Kaminski in a phone interview. “I understand how the jury may have gotten to their decision as well.”
From the witness stand, French admitted to murdering Stark; however, he portrayed the slaying as a spontaneous fatal assault, and asked that the jury find him guilty of voluntary manslaughter, which carries a lighter prison sentence compared to first-degree murder.
French, 41, testified he and Stark had an on-again, off-again relationship for three years, and on the night of the murder they had gone out for dinner and drinks. The evening took a quick turn for the worse after he discovered text messages from another man on Stark’s cell phone while at her house following their date, the defendant said.
Deputy District Attorney Jeff Dusek said one of the keys to the case was to show that the medical supplies salesman thought about the killing beforehand and not during or after.
The prosecutor said Stark suffered bruising to her face and body as well as a broken nose from the beating she received from French. After French returned from the kitchen with an approximately 1-foot-long knife, Dusek said he made 13 to 14 superficial knife slices to her neck and then one fatal cut to her throat.
“We thought that showed a willful, deliberate, premeditated thought process, and that for some reason he changed his plan from hitting and choking to using the knife,” Dusek said.
After the murder French tried to commit suicide but was unsuccessful. He turned himself into authorities several hours later.
French faces 26 years to life in prison. His sentencing date is scheduled for July 12. According to court documents, French has a history of physical violence, including an incident out of Florida in 1992, in which he beat and strangled a girlfriend. The defendant was discharged from the Navy as a result of that domestic violence altercation.
Retired Contra Costa Judge Peter Spinetta is handling the case at the Superior Courthouse in downtown San Diego, because of Stark’s employment with the county court system.