Man convicted of killing Eureka priest in 2014 files appeal

Gary Lee Bullock, who is serving two life sentences without the possibility of parole for the torture and murder of Fr. Eric Freed , claims his Miranda rights were violated

(Left) An investigator talks with a woman outside St. Bernard Church in Eureka, Calif., Jan. 1, where Father Eric Freed (right) was found dead in the rectory. (CNS photos)

The man convicted of killing  Father Eric Freed on New Year’s Day in 2014 is seeking to appeal his sentence.

Gary Lee Bullock, who is serving two life sentences without the possibility of parole for the torture and brutal murder of the Eureka priest, claims his Miranda rights were violated during an interview with law enforcement on Jan. 1, 2014.

Oral arguments are scheduled to be heard in California’s 1st District Court of Appeals on Dec. 6.

Bullock, of Redway, was found guilty and convicted in April 2016 of first degree murder, two counts of residential burglary, car theft, carjacking, attempted arson, the infliction of torture and special circumstances in the slaying of Freed at St. Bernard Catholic Church. He was sentenced on May 11, 2016, and filed to appeal Feb. 14 of this year.

A key argument from the appeal hinges on whether investigators violated Bullock’s Miranda rights.

“… [Bullock] eventually asked, ‘Can I see a lawyer?’ ” the appeal states. “However, the detective neither stopped the interview nor took steps to clarify appellant’s intent. Instead, he continued to question appellant.”

The appeal cites three main arguments in seeking to overturn the murder conviction, according to a brief filed by Bullock’s San Francisco-based attorney Victor Morse.

Morse did not respond to a request for comment by Wednesday’s publishing deadline.

In addition to the allegations of a violation of Miranda rights, Morse states there was insufficient evidence to prove Bullock had the intent to torture Freed.

“Although the evidence is certainly sufficient to prove that appellant’s assaultive acts toward the victim caused pain and suffering, the prosecution failed to present evidence to prove that appellant committed the assaultive acts with the intent to inflict extreme or severe pain,” the appeal states.

The state asserts that, based on legal precedent, the circumstances of the crime, the nature of the killing and the condition of the victim’s body provide proof of the intent to torture. “Although the order of injuries was unclear, the forensic pathologist could tell by the defensive wounds that Father Freed was conscious while [Bullock] struck him.”

A third argument from Bullock’s attorney states the court violated a rule on multiple punishments.

“By imposing separate terms for both murder and torture, the court violated the ban on multiple punishment … as there is no evidence to support the court’s implicit determination that the torture and murder had separate objectives,” Morse’s brief states.

The state argues the rule cited in the appeal does not apply because the evidence of the crime showed the torture and the murder were achieved through different means.

“Father Freed’s death was caused by strangulation and/or head trauma,” the state asserts. “His death was not caused by his other injuries, such as the cuts to his tongue and mouth that appellant inflicted with the pilsner [glass].”

Full story at The Times-Standard.

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  1. Linda Maria says:

    I think we need much more common sense, in our legal system– and protection for our good citizens, from dangerous, sick, maniac killers! This convicted murderer should have NO FURTHER RIGHTS to any appeals– and it is clear, he was a sick, Satanic torturer, as well as a horrible murderer! Such people need to be locked up until death (if they are not placed on Death Row, for capital punishment) — and daily put to work, on hard labor, to contribute something to society. “The buck stops here” as President Harry Truman said.

    • Linda Maria says:

      The torture and murder of a clergyman, in his house of worship– a priest in his church– is a particularly henious crime! A criminal guilty of such unholy, Satanic crimes, ought to be made to face unique restrictions and punishments.

    • CalCatholic reader says:

      Well said.

  2. May Fr. Freed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace, and may justice be done.

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