Man sentenced for 39-year-old murder
Unlikely to serve full term
Published Thursday, 27-May-2010 in issue 1170
A 62-year-old man has plead guilty to murdering a gay man 39 years ago in Pacific Beach and the San Diego Superior Court has sentenced him to five years to life in state prison.
On Tuesday, Deputy District Attorney Jill Schall said the guilty plea was allowed because Metcalf is terminally ill.
“He’s not expected to live very long. That ultimately was a factor that was taken in consideration, among others,” Schall said about the plea.
The term was the maximum or second-degree murder in 1971, when the crime was committed. However, David Lamb, attorney for the convicted Gerald Dean Metcalf, said Monday that Metcalf might be paroled from prison after less than two or three years due to his age, declining health and to parole laws from the 1970s.
Metcalf avoided a May 21 retrial and plead guilty in the 1971 death of Gerald Jackson, 27, of Pacific Beach, whose nude body was found on his bedroom floor in his Pacific Beach apartment. Police linked Metcalf to the murder in 2008 through fingerprints and DNA evidence.
Metcalf requested immediate sentencing from San Diego Superior Court David Gill, and received it, with Gill noting he was “sentenced pursuant to 1971 law.” Gill gave him credits for already serving 526 days in jail since his 2008 arrest in his small Texas town.
Lamb, said Metcalf will get “half-time credits” in which he will get one day off for every day he serves. Those type of credits only apply to inmates who have committed crimes up to the 1980s, when laws changed.
Lamb said the state Legislature changed the law in 1977 that requires the parole board to select either five, six, or seven years as the actual sentence for those given five-to-life sentences. Lamb said he suspects the board will select five or six years as the sentence for Metcalf, given his age, and poor health.
Lamb said if the board selects five years as the sentence, Metcalf will only have to serve 2 ? years with the half-time credits. If the board selects six years, Metcalf will only have to do three years. Metcalf got 526 days credit in jail awaiting trial, so that must be deducted from the sentence, Lamb said.
Laws changed regarding sentences for first- and second-degree murder in 1978, and now inmates can be held for life if the parole board does not find them fit for release. Several governors since Pete Wilson have intervened and stopped parole for inmates who have been convicted of murder.
Metcalf has already been transferred to R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility. Gill fined him $1,030, and denied probation. Before his arrest, Metcalf was on a list to receive a new liver.
Lamb argued in trial that Metcalf had a long history of mental illness and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Metcalf’s wife of 30 years testified about the number of times she had him confined in a mental hospital.
Lamb pursued a defense of “diminished capacity,” in which he argued Metcalf had been drinking all day and combined with the mental illness it created “a perfect storm of terrible circumstances.”
The diminished capacity defense can no longer be used after the fallout in the murder trial of former San Francisco supervisor Dan White who was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the deaths of Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone in 1978. White’s attorney claimed he ate too much junk food, including Twinkies.
Metcalf was 24 years old when he met Jackson in a cruising area of Downtown San Diego. Jackson had a part-time job at a gay bar called the Barbary Coast. He met Metcalf after his shift ended at 2 a.m. and took him to his Hornblend Street apartment in Pacific Beach on Dec. 29, 1971.
Two friends of Jackson became concerned that he hadn’t shown up for work, so they went by his apartment on Jan. 3, 1972, and found Jackson had been stabbed 55 times. They found his alarm clock ringing and his liquor was gone.
A jury heard the case last December, but it deadlocked 8-4 in favor of conviction of first-degree murder. Jurors said a psychiatrist who was also on the jury believed defense arguments that Metcalf was too mentally ill to form the intent to commit murder. The psychiatrist and three other jurors voted for voluntary manslaughter, and Gill declared a mistrial Gill on Dec. 22, 2009.
Police arrested Metcalf due to DNA evidence found in cigarette butts in Jackson’s apartment, along with Metcalf’s blood and fingerprints. Jackson’s vehicle was stolen, and his new stereo was pawned, but police found fingerprints and palm prints they preserved. In 2008, an intern from the cold-case unit ran the fingerprints and a match to Metcalf was made, as he had been arrested in Texas in 1984 and his fingerprints were on file.
Retired police officers testified at the trial about notes or evidence tags they made in processing the evidence found in Jackson’s apartment. A bloody handprint was found at the light switch on the wall, and Metcalf’s palm print was found on the pawned stereo. One cigarette butt had Metcalf’s DNA and Jackson’s blood on it.