While David Westerfield prepares for life in prison or an endless series of appeals from death row, most San Diegans have overdosed on opinions about his guilt or innocence. One group that has not been heard from, however, is the inmates at downtown's central jail, where Westerfield was held during his trial.
Michael Collins, 34, was jailed for possession of a methamphetamine pipe and spent none of his time watching the Westerfield trial. "None of the other inmates watched it either. We were all wondering where he was. They all thought he was guilty. Me too. With all that forensics evidence? Yeah. You bet your ass. When the law gets you, man, the law gets you. That's all there is to it. He's mental. I have no idea what's going to happen to him. Look at that Night Stalker [Richard Ramirez, who had been on death row since 1989 until his death last week]. He hasn't been executed yet, and he's been on death row for years! If he'd been in our cell, those guys would have tore him up."
At a thin, tall 6'4", with a pimple-covered face and hair standing straight up, Eric looks more as if he belongs in Juvenile Hall than in the Central Jail. "I was in for drug court, 45 days. We could watch the trial if we wanted to, but no one did. We just read about it in the paper. Everyone said he was guilty. It was all the evidence against him. He was striking a deal before they even found the body. I never heard anyone talk about his motives. He's just messed up in the head, I guess. A lot of them would kick his ass if they saw him. He might not live long enough to be executed, but he's in PC [protective custody], so he might. If he'd been in our cell, as a guy who killed and molested a little girl, he would have got seriously beaten, at least."
Ralph just walked out of jail but was not in during the trial. "One of the trustees I talked to was moppin' the floor near Westerfield's cell. He [said Westerfield] was totally bummed out. The trustee's exact words were 'shot out.' He was down the tubes. He had a remote-control bed and color TV in his cell. Nobody really talked about it, because everybody knows that he is guilty. If he had been with us, it wouldn't have been very nice after we got through with him."
Marcus, a small, wiry 53-year-old, bounds out of the jail-release door on a mission to get cigarettes. "I was in for five days. I violated a court order, being drunk where I wasn't supposed to be." Unlike Eric, Marcus says that most of the inmates watched the coverage of Westerfield's trial. "They all said the same thing: 'Burn him alive! Or let him in here and let us take care of him!' You have to remember that the vast majority of people locked up in there have kids of their own. We know he was guilty. The guys that I discussed it with said it all came down to the blood on the coat. How did the blood get on the coat? And it really pissed everybody off when they heard he was making a deal before the trial. We don't know why he did it, but a couple of the guys think that the pornography drove him to it. It's weird, because I live in Pacific Beach, and two days before this happened, me and some friends were at Crown Point Park, and there were all kinds of kids running around, and we caught a guy masturbating in the bathroom. We chased him out and chased him down, grabbed him, and two little young kids had seen him while they were in there. We threw him down on the ground, called the cops, the cops showed up, ran his name, and, sure as hell, he's got priors for child molesting.
"I thought the jury's death sentence was just a recommendation," continued Marcus. "But the jury only recommends, and the judge gets to sentence him. I mean, if he gets death, it's 16 years, average, before they put him to death. He's the same age as me, and I plan on living at least 20 more years. Maybe he'll get to that point, he gets older, he gets sick, or cancer, or something like that, and they'll say, 'We can't kill this poor old man with cancer!' He could never be put in the general population. If he had been in my cell, he probably would have been beaten to death. But I was in a misdemeanor cell, so I know I'm getting out in a short while. But if they put him in with felons, there's guys in there doing life without parole, and they got nothing to lose. Somebody down the line is going to say, like with Jeffrey Dahmer, 'You go beat him to death, make him feel pain, and we'll keep you in cigarettes for the rest of your life.' It happens all the time. These guys were all watching the trial. If he had been in the felony tank -- I mean, as soon as they came out with the blood on the coat -- if he had been with career felons, that would have been it."
After six days in jail, Jeff, 33, wants to walk in any direction, as long as it's away from the jail. Several times he expresses concern that he's being set up by my questions. "I was arrested on a couple of misdemeanor warrants. I don't want to go back in there, so I hope you're not pullin' no shit on me. I don't want to ever go back in there." When the topic turns to Westerfield, Jeff is more open. "Everybody was talkin' about it. It was all in the newspapers, on television. That's pretty much all they talked about: what's going to happen to him when he gets to the big house, you know. They're not very happy with him, and neither am I. It's unfortunate that there are people out there like that. Not everyone thinks he's guilty. A lot of them think the son has a lot to do with it. More than half the people I talked to had something to say about his kid and that Westerfield wasn't in it alone. I don't think he was either. Some of the guys think the kid did it alone and that Westerfield had nothin' to do with it. I don't understand why they did this or what their motive was. I don't understand why somebody with that much money -- I mean, you know, the guy could go out and buy himself a lady. He didn't have to do that. He had everything a man could want and now look at him. But look at Kurt Cobain: he had $50 million, and he shot himself in the head. People do weird things for stupid reasons."