19 Mar 2009

Death penalty recommended for California arsonist

9:29 pm on 19 March 2009

A jury in California has recommended the death penalty for a man convicted of deliberately starting a wildfire that killed five firefighters.

Raymond Lee Oyler, a 38-year-old mechanic, was convicted of five counts of first-degree murder and 20 of arson for starting the blaze in 2006.

The 12 jurors who convicted Oyler also have to choose his punishment. It took them less than a day to decide he should be put to death.

The fatal blaze, known as the Esperanza Fire, roared to life in October in valleys and mountains about 150km east of Los Angeles.

Flames engulfed a fire truck and the five crew on board.

The sentence recommended by the jury is not final; it must be confirmed by the judge at a later hearing in June.

If Oyler is spared the death penalty, the nature of his crimes means he must be sentenced to prison for life, with no possibility of parole.