By Terri Vermeulen Keith
A man was convicted Thursday of first-degree murder for gunning down his estranged wife with one of their children in the house and another waiting outside in a car nearly 20 years ago.
The Los Angeles Superior Court jury deliberated for two and a half days before finding Dale R. Hurd, 62, guilty of the April 17, 1993, shooting death of his estranged wife, Bea, when she came to pick up their children from an overnight visit with their father in a Los Angeles neighborhood just outside Culver City.
The nine-man, three-woman jury also found true the special circumstance allegation of murder for financial gain, along with an allegation that Hurd had personally used a semi-automatic handgun during the crime.
He is facing life in prison without the possibility of parole plus two years, according to Deputy District Attorney Danette Meyers. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 23 before Judge Stephen A. Marcus.
It was the third time a jury had heard the case and the second time that Hurd has been convicted of his wife's murder.
Jurors in his first trial deadlocked, while the second jury to hear the case convicted Hurd in March 1995, resulting in a life prison sentence without the possibility of parole.
His first-degree murder conviction was overturned in August 2010 by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that Hurd's rights were affected by the prosecution's multiple references to his silence when he was asked to demonstrate how the accidental shooting occurred.
In his most recent trial, Hurd testified that he accidentally shot his wife while "trying to impress her, to show that I could protect her" as a verdict loomed in the federal civil rights trial of four officers who had been acquitted in state court of charges stemming from the Rodney King beating.
"Right when the gun went off, it was devastating,'' he told jurors. "It shattered my life.''
But Deputy District Attorney Heather Steggell told jurors that Hurd's wife had left him and that "she was going to cost him a lot of money'' in spousal and child support.
Defense attorney Jeffrey Brodey -- who has represented Hurd in each of his three trials -- countered that his client was trying to show his wife how to protect herself. Hurd was loading a round into the gun's chamber when it jammed and then inadvertently fired, Brodey told jurors.
Both of the couple's children -- now in their 20s -- testified during the prosecution's case. The couple's daughter, Diana, who was called as the prosecution's first witness, testified that she was 7 when her mother was killed.
She said she was inside her mother's blue Jeep Grand Cherokee outside the house when she heard a gunshot. She said her father -- whom she referred to in court as "Dale'' -- came out of the house carrying her 4-year-old brother and told them to remain in the vehicle while he called 911.
When asked if he appeared to be upset or was crying, Diana Hurd said that he didn't. When asked about previous incidents in which she recalled hearing her parents fighting, she said she had a vague memory of her father pushing her mother into a wall on one occasion and remembered that another time, she was awakened by her mother screaming and walked into the room to see the woman being choked by the defendant.
"He yelled at her and accused her of scratching him,'' she said.
Charles Hurd, who was 4 at the time of the shooting, testified that he remembered seeing his mother "falling down the stairs and screaming and falling in front of the door.''
The two -- who were raised by an uncle -- said they have not had any contact with their father since then.
Outside court, Steggell said the couple's two children "felt strongly they wanted him to stay in prison.''
"I'm just glad that they did justice,'' Meyers said of the jury's verdict, adding that she was "hopeful he'll never get out.''
Hurd's attorney said he believed his client was "over-tried'' and "over-convicted,'' saying a more appropriate charge would have been second-degree murder or involuntary manslaughter.
"What happened here was a terrible thing, but he is a very decent guy,'' Brodey said, adding that his client is "still grieving over his wife [and] the loss of his family.''
The defense lawyer said he plans to file a motion seeking a new trial for Hurd.