LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The state Supreme Court today overturned the death sentence of a Sun Valley man twice convicted of the 1982 killings of his father, stepmother and stepsister, ruling that his attorneys inappropriately told jurors in both trials that he admitted carrying out all three slayings, even though he only conceded to killing his father.
In a nearly 80-page ruling, the high court upheld Robert Maurice Bloom's first-degree murder conviction for the April 22, 1982, shooting death of his father, Robert Bloom Sr. But it tossed out his second-degree murder convictions for the killings of stepmother Josephine Bloom and 8-year-old stepsister Sandra Hughes Bloom.
With those convictions vacated, the court also overturned the special-circumstance allegation of multiple murders and Bloom's sentence of death. According to the ruling, Los Angeles County prosecutors can seek to retry the now-58-year-old Bloom -- who was 18 at the time of the killings -- on murder charges involving the stepmother and stepsister and the special-circumstance allegation ``if they so choose.''
``At trial, defense counsel conceded Bloom's responsibility for the deaths of all three victims in an effort to pursue a mental capacity defense to the murder charges,'' according to the court's ruling. ``Bloom, however, was willing to accept responsibility only for the killing of his father and expressly objected to admitting responsibility for the deaths of the other two victims. In conceding responsibility for these victims against Bloom's wishes, defense counsel violated Bloom's Sixth Amendment right to choose the fundamental objectives of his defense...''
The court ruled that the error did not affect Bloom's conviction for the killing of his father, so that conviction was upheld. But the rest of the case was overturned. Bloom's original conviction and death sentence in the case were overturned by a federal court in 1997, with a court ruling that his attorney had failed to present evidence regarding his mental health. But he was convicted again in 2000.
In his first trial, Bloom admitted killing his father, but said he did it in retaliation after seeing his father shoot his stepmother. Prosecutors alleged that Bloom stabbed his stepsister 23 times with a pair of scissors before shooting her. His stepmother was shot multiple times in the head.