Executed Inmate Summary – Robert Alton Harris
WARNING: The following crime summaries contain graphic descriptions of one or more murders and may not be suitable for all audiences or ages.
Name: Harris, Robert Alton
- Alias: None
- Race: White
- Date Received: 03/14/1979
- Education: Unknown
- Location: San Quentin State Prison
- Married: No
- County of Trial: San Diego
- Sentence Date: 03/09/1979
- County of Residence: San Diego
- County of Offense: San Diego
- Offense Date: 07/05/1978
- Court Action: Affirmed
- Court Date: 2/11/1981
- Case #: CR44135
- Victims: John Mayeski (male, 16), Michael Baker (male, 16)
- Co-Defendant: Daniel Marcus Harris, CDC# C03005
The defendant, Robert Alton Harris, and his brother, co-defendant Daniel Marcus Harris, abducted two teenage boys. The defendant brutally murdered the boys, and then stole their car.
The investigation revealed that at 10:30 a.m. on July 5, 1978, the defendant and co-defendant left their residence, and drove to a fast food restaurant. Once at the restaurant, the two men abducted two 16-years-old boys, John Mayeski and Michael Baker. The defendant held the victims at gunpoint with a 9mm Luger pistol and forced them to drive until they reached an isolated area. Daniel Harris followed in the defendant’s 1963 Ford.
At about 11:45 a.m., the defendant shot and killed both victims in the presence of Daniel Harris. Following the killings, the Harris brothers drove both automobiles to their residence. Later that day they drove the stolen vehicle to a local bank. Donning colored ski masks, the two robbed the bank, netting $2,000 in cash.
The Harrises fled the bank at 12:30 p.m. and drove back to the residence. Robert Harris parked the stolen vehicle in the garage.
At about 1:05 p.m., San Diego police officers, acting on a tip by a witness who had followed the suspects’ vehicle to the residence, apprehended the Harrises. Police recovered 20 unfired rounds of 9mm ammunition from Robert Harris. Clothing and other effects linked to the robbery were found smoldering in the fireplace.
At about 6:20 p.m. that evening, police questioned Daniel Harris who gave a voluntary statement describing in detail the abduction and the killing of the victims by the defendant. Officers went to the scene of the murder and discovered the two murdered victims.
When initially interviewed by authorities, the defendant admitted robbing the bank but denied kidnapping the youths or being responsible for their murders. He later indicated to authorities that his brother, Daniel, had furnished the stolen automobile. The defendant continued to deny any involvement in the murders, indicating that it had been his brother who had suggested the robbery while they were in Porterville, California.
The San Diego District Attorney’s Office filed felony charges of auto theft, kidnapping, murder and burglary against the defendant. The U.S. Attorney’s Office filed bank robbery charges against him.
On March 6, 1979, Robert Alton Harris was convicted in San Diego County, Superior Court of two counts murder in the first degree with special circumstances, and kidnapping.
Co-defendant Daniel Marcus Harris was convicted of kidnapping and sentenced to six years in state prison. He was discharged in 1983.
Robert Alton Harris was executed April 21, 1992 in the gas chamber at San Quentin State Prison – the first execution in California in 25 years.
For his last meal, Harris requested and was given two large pizzas, a bucket of fried chicken, and ice cream. At 6:01 a.m., Harris was escorted into the gas chamber. The execution order was given at 6:07 a.m., and Harris was pronounced dead at 6:21 a.m. The body was removed from the chamber at 7 a.m. and left the grounds at 8:15 a.m.
The Harris execution was scheduled for 12:01 a.m. on the morning of April 21, but a series of four stays issued by individual federal judges delayed the execution until just after 6 a.m. In its order vacating the fourth stay of execution, the U.S. Supreme Court stated, “No further stays of Robert Alton Harris’ execution shall be entered by the federal courts except upon order of this court.”
According to Warden Daniel Vasquez, Harris’ last words were: “You can be a king or a street sweeper, but everyone dances with the grim reaper.”
- SERVED 3 YEARS IN FLORIDA AS A JUVENILE: PETTY LARCENY; AUTO THEFT; ESCAPE
- Date: 08/04/1975
- P192.1 – VOLUNTARY MANSLAUGHTER. PAROLED JAN. 1978