LOS ANGELES -- Convicted Trailside Killer David Carpenter faces a penalty phase trial beginning this week that will determine if he gets the death penalty or life in prison for murdering two young women in Northern California.
Defense attorneys will present in the penalty phase of the trial a psychological profile aimed at eliciting sympathy and sparing his life of the balding, bespectacled Carpenter, 54.
The penalty phase is scheduled to begin Wednesday, with motions in the case to be heard Monday.
Testimony by defense witnesses is expected to attempt to explain the factors in Carpenter's life that led up to the killings, including his being an abused child.
'My main concern is ... to save David Carpenter's life,' defense attorney Larry Biggam has said. 'I can't excuse his crimes, but hopefully, we can explain them.'
Carpenter is a mental 'mess,' Biggam said, 'a personally damaged human being' who is 'out of control.'
Prosecutors will portray Carpenter as 'a cold and calculating' murderer who has spent much of his life in prison for rape and assault, who is charged with five other murders in Marin County and who deserves to die.
'If there's one case that is appropriate for the death penalty, this is it,' Santa Cruz County District Attorney Art Danner has said.
Evidence at the penalty phase will be heard by a different jury from the one that convicted Carpenter last month of two in the string of Trailside killings that terrorized Northern California for three years.
Jurors at the penalty phase -- expected to last four to six weeks - will in turn recommend to Superior Court Judge Dion Morrow one of the two punishments for Carpenter.
Morrow, who has the authority to reduce a death recommendation to a life in prison term but who cannot impose a death sentence if jurors recommend life, will formally sentence Carpenter at a later date.
Carpenter qualifies for a penalty phase because he was convicted of first-degree murder plus the special circumstances of multiple murders, murder during a rape and murder while lying in wait.
Carpenter was found guilty July 6 of the murder and attempted rape of Ellen Hansen, the murder and rape of Heather Scaggs, both 20, and the attempted murder of Miss Hansen's boyfriend, Stephen Haertle, 23.
The attacks occurred in state parks in Santa Cruz County in 1981. Both women were shot in the head with a gun belonging to Carpenter.