A Riverside jury has recommended the death penalty for convicted cop killer Earl Ellis Green. The same jury convicted Green last month of shooting down Riverside police officer Ryan Bonaminio.
Jurors reached their verdict after only four hours of deliberation. Green killed Bonaminio in October 2010 after fleeing the scene of a late-night hit-and-run crash in a stolen vehicle.
A witness testified that he saw Green bludgeon Bonaminio with a steel bar after the officer slipped and fell while chasing the suspect through a Riverside park.
Prosecutors say Green had the opportunity to escape. Instead he circled back and pounced on Bonaminio, got hold of the officer’s gun and shot him.
“Justice was truly done," said District Attorney Paul Zellerbach. “It’s unfortunate that we even have to be here this afternoon. Because when an officer is killed in the line of duty it represents a crime against the very basic fabric of our community.”
Defense attorneys conceded that Green was the shooter, but said the killing was not premeditated. In arguments during the week-long penalty phase of the trial, attorneys argued that Green was despondent over financial trouble and turmoil in his family. They also say Green suffered from a range of psychological illnesses.
Prosecutors underscored Green’s extensive criminal history, which includes spousal abuse, cutting the throat of a fellow prisoner and assaulting a police officer.
The slain officer's father, Joe Bonaminio, was pleased with the verdict — but frustrated that executions in California are on hold.
“Big deal, he’s on death row," says Bonaminio. "He’s gonna get three squares a day. Granted, he won’t get the freedom he was looking for in the beginning. Twelve people looked at it differently and I’m very grateful that they did.”
Green will be sentenced later this month on June 25.