Juan Ignacio Blanco  


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Classification: Homicide - Murderer
Characteristics: Juvenile - Robbery
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: May 20, 1972 / January 3, 1978
Date of birth: 1957
Victims profile: Douglas Green (a rival gang member) / Edgardo Kramer, 29 (Peruvian airline employee)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Los Angeles County, California, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on November 19, 1986. Commuted to life in prison, 2006
people v. frierson

The United States Court of Appeals
For the Ninth Circuit

opinion 04-99002

Sentenced: Aug. 9, 1978, age 21. Resentenced for third time Nov. 19, 1986.

Crimes: Kidnapping, robbery, murder

Date of crimes: Jan. 3, 1978

Location: Outside Holly Aire Motel, Inglewood

Victims: Peruvian airline employees Edgardo Kramer, 29, and Guillermo Bulnes.

Status: Federal habeas denied by U.S. District Court; on appeal to 9th Circuit

On parole for killing a rival gang member, Frierson forced Kramer and Bulnes into their car at gunpoint and robbed them of their wallets and watches. Frierson then shot both execution style.

Wounded, Bulnes wrestled the gun away, fired the remaining bullets into the ground, and survived to identify Frierson.

Jurors convicted Frierson and he was sentenced to death, but the state Supreme Court reversed the conviction in 1979, faulting Friersonís attorney for not presenting a case.

Jurors at a second trial also convicted him. The state Supreme Court upheld the conviction, but overturned the death penalty conviction because Friersonís attorney did not offer a diminished capacity defense.

Frierson again was prosecuted in 1986, convicted and sentenced to death. The court upheld his death sentence in 1991.


Lavell Frierson, Petitioner-Appellant, v. Jeanne S. Woodford, Warden, of the California State Prison At San Quentin, Respondent-Appellee.

463 F.3d 982 (9th Cir. 2006)


This case arises from Frierson's 1978 kidnaping and robbery of Edgardo Kramer and Guillermo Bulnes, and his execution-style murder of Kramer. The California Supreme Court described the events leading up to the shootings as follows:

On January 3, 1978, Kramer and Bulnes, two Peruvian airline employees, drove to the Holly Aire Motel in Inglewood to visit a woman named Chris. Bulnes knocked on the door to room 18 and told the young woman who responded?later identified as Zondre Wooley?that he was looking for Chris. . . . Wooley later said that Chris would arrive shortly. Bulnes and Kramer then sat in Bulnes's car parked across the street from the motel. Soon thereafter, [Frierson] approached the car and asked if they were waiting for Chris. When Bulnes said that they were, [Frierson] drew a gun and pointed it at Bulnes. He entered the back seat behind the two men, and ordered Bulnes to lock the door, close the windows, start the car and begin driving.

During the ride, [Frierson] demanded and obtained property from both victims.. . . After traveling a few blocks at [Frierson]'s direction, [Frierson] ordered Bulnes to park the car. He then shot both Bulnes and Kramer in the backs of their heads. Kramer was killed. The bullet directed at Bulnes hit him above the ear but did not penetrate his skull. He was able to grapple with [Frierson] and disarm him. Bulnes pointed the gun at [Frierson] and left the car.

After running a few steps, Bulnes fell to the ground. [Frierson] grabbed him around the neck and tried to retrieve the weapon. During the ensuing struggle, Bulnes emptied the gun's chamber by firing shots into the ground and threw the gun away. When [Frierson] released his grip, Bulnes ran to a nearby street, flagged down a passing motorist, and was driven to a hospital.

At the retrial, Bulnes . . . positively identified[Frierson] as the assailant. He had observed nothing suggesting [that Frierson] was intoxicated . . . . [Frierson] and Wooley were arrested a few hours after the crime in room 18 at Holly Aire Motel. Distinctive watches owned by the victims, [Frierson's] bloody clothing, and other incriminating evidence was found in the motel room.

An inmate who had been at the county jail when [Frierson] was initially apprehended testified that [Frierson] had recounted the entire crime to him, admitting that he had robbed and shot the two victims.


At the penalty phase, the prosecution presented evidence that in 1972, Frierson was convicted in juvenile court for the murder of Douglas Green and committed to the California Youth Authority ("CYA"). Id. at 1200-01. On May 20, 1972, Green was killed at a Los Angeles house party from a bullet wound to the chest. Frierson, Michael Conception, and Lewis White, all 15 or 16 years old at the time, were arrested for the homicide. The investigating officer, Detective Thomas Miller, testified at Frierson's penalty trial that he interviewed the juvenile suspects for eight hours and then placed them in an interview room in order to overhear and record their conversation. Miller testified that he recognized Frierson's voice and heard Frierson confess to the Green homicide, laughing and imitating Green's attempt to breathe as he was dying. The prosecution also presented evidence showing that Frierson committed two robberies in 1977, one of which was an armed robbery. Id. at 1201.


Longest Standing Death Row Inmate's Sentence Overturned

September 14, 2006

California's longest-serving death row inmate had his sentence overturned for the third time Thursday after a federal appeals court ruled a defense lawyer failed to present evidence that could have kept his client from being condemned.

Reversing a lower court, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said lawyer Arnold Lieman "rendered constitutionally defective assistance" by failing to tell jurors that Lavell Frierson had a history of mental retardation, child abuse, brain damage and drug use.

"There is a reasonable probability that, had the jury been able to consider this evidence, the outcome of the penalty proceedings would have been different," Judge Richard A. Paez wrote for a three-judge panel.

Frierson, 49, has been on death row at San Quentin State Prison since he was convicted of murdering Edgardo Kramer, 29, a Peruvian airline employee, in 1978.

Frierson kidnapped, robbed and shot Kramer and a colleague in the head when the two men went to a motel near Los Angeles International Airport allegedly looking for a prostitute, according to court documents.

The 9th Circuit ordered the district court to commute Frierson's sentence to life in prison without parole unless California prosecutors decide to retry him on the penalty phase with hopes of securing another death sentence.

Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections, confirmed that the 27 years and one month Frierson has been on death row was a record among the state's 653 condemned prisoners.

The death sentence reversed Thursday was the third one Frierson had overturned after arguing he received inadequate counsel. In 1979, the California Supreme Court reversed his capital punishment conviction because another defense lawyer did not present a diminished capacity defense.

After a second jury found Frierson guilty and recommended the death penalty, the state's high court upheld the conviction, but threw out the sentence because lawyers only presented testimony about Frierson's mental capacity during the penalty phase of the trial.

The Supreme Court upheld Frierson's third death sentence. But in Thursday's ruling, the 9th Circuit said that while Lieman presented evidence of Frierson's drug use, he did not give the jury information about Frierson's low IQ, emotional problems and childhood brain injuries.

The panel said Lieman was inadequately prepared because the lawyer did not read the transcripts of Frierson's second trial.

A telephone call to Lieman was not immediately returned.

Gwen Freeman, Frierson's current lawyer, reacted jubilantly to the news of Thursday's ruling, saying capital punishment was supposed to be reserved for the most horrific crimes.

"If he had the trial that I think any competent attorney would have been able to provide for him, there is no question in my mind he never would have gotten the death penalty," Freeman said. 



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