People v. Calvin Sharp

People v. Calvin Sharp (Murder, Attempted Murder and Aggravated Mayhem)

Judge finds killer who used meat cleaver sane and sentences him to multiple life terms

In August 2007, Calvin Sharp chased down, attacked, and brutally killed a 6-year-old boy, Sev’n Molina, with a meat cleaver. When Sev’n’s mother, Sandra Ruiz, tried to stop the attack, Sharp attacked her as well, causing major life-long injuries. A neighbor, Diane Cox, also attempted to intervene and suffered serious injuries at the hands of Sharp.

While the evidence of guilt was powerful, it was equally clear that Sharp’s history, pre-crime behavior, and post-crime conduct revealed significant mental health issues. In 2009, Sharp asserted an insanity plea. If found insane, Sharp could eventually be released from custody into the community. As the jury trial was about to commence, Sharp pled guilty to the underlying crimes and agreed to have the sanity phase of the case decided by a judge. In response, the District Attorney’s Office filed a motion under authority of a new state law to allow a forensic psychologist to examine Sharp. Not surprisingly, the defense filed a writ and ultimately this issue went all the way to the California Supreme Court. After briefing and arguing the matter, the Supreme Court ruled in the District Attorney’s favor. In addition, the Supreme Court created a precedent that will help prosecutors throughout the state.

In 2012, the case finally proceeded to a trial by judge on the issue of whether Sharp was insane at the time he committed the charged crimes. The defense presented five defense psychologists and psychiatrists in their effort to establish that Sharp was legally insane. The District Attorney’s Office presented the findings of the forensic psychologist as evidence that, at the time of his crimes, Sharp both knew the nature of his acts and was aware they were wrongful. Ultimately, the trial judge found Sharp to be sane. He was then sentenced to life without parole, plus two additional life terms.