The California Supreme Court today upheld a man's conviction and death sentence for the 1995 slayings of five people, including a 6-month-old baby, at an El Monte apartment.
The state's highest court unanimously rejected the defense's claims that there were errors in the trial of Richard Valdez.
The former West Covina resident was sentenced to death in June 1997 for the April 22, 1995, shooting deaths of Anthony Moreno; Moreno's sister, Maria; Gustavo Aguirre; and Maria Moreno's 5-year-old daughter, Laura Moreno, and 6-month-old son, Ambrose Padilla.
Co-defendant Jimmy Palma of Arcadia was also sentenced to death in June 1997, but was fatally stabbed at San Quentin State Prison about four months later.
A third man, Luis Maciel, of El Monte, was sentenced to death in May 1998. His appeal has not yet been heard by the California Supreme Court.
Two other men were sentenced to 129 years to life in prison, while another was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Anthony Moreno was targeted in a "hit'' because he had dropped out about a dozen years earlier from the Mexican Mafia, which has a rule that members are in the gang for life, according to prosecutors.
Maciel -- who was attending his son's christening ceremony in Montebello at the time -- recruited the killers from a San Gabriel Valley street gang on the order of a Mexican Mafia member, authorities said.
Valdez shot and killed Anthony Moreno and Aguirre, while Palma shot the woman and her two children, according to a filing from the California Attorney General's Office.
A 6-year-old child survived by hiding under a pile of debris.
"Defendant and Palma executed their five victims with gunshots at point-blank range,'' Associate Justice Ming W. Chin wrote on behalf of the panel.
Jurors learned that the Mexican Mafia had not ordered the killing of the children, which violated Mexican Mafia policy, according to the 127-page ruling.
Valdez denied any involvement in the killings and maintained that he was not a gang member at the time of the crimes.