Sept. 17 -- The parents of Danielle van Dam expressed their relief and gratitude today to the jury that convicted David Westerfield of kidnapping and murdering the young girl.
"Our message today is one of gratitude. First we are grateful to the men and women of the jury," Brenda van Dam said. "You had an incredibly difficult job and we thank you for doing it so well."
On Monday, the jurors unanimously recommended that David Westerfield be executed by lethal injection.
"I feel it was the proper punishment," Brenda van Dam said, speaking at a news conference with her husband Damon.
Jurors had earlier sent a note to San Diego Superior Court Judge William Mudd saying they were unable to reach a unanimous decision. But later, after their lunch break, they sent a note to the judge saying that they wanted to continue working, and shortly thereafter they announced they had a decision.
The van Dams said they were prepared to accept either a life sentence for Westerfield or the death penalty. They were most concerned that Westerfield should never leave prison.
"We were relieved and happy with the guilty verdict," Brenda van Dam said. "We feel the justice system has uncovered the truth and Danielle's murderer has been held accountable."
She said she believed the spirit of her daughter would watch over the jurors.
"We know that she will take special care of you," she said.
Days of Deliberation Over Death Penalty
Westerfield, 50, shook slightly and blinked when the verdict was read Monday.
His attorney, Steven Feldman, had requested a mistrial, arguing that jurors deliberated while they were in recess, a violation of court procedure. Mudd denied the motion.
Immediately after the death penalty recommendation was made, one juror asked for and received permission to leave the courtroom.
"I can't take it any more, your honor," she said.
The panel had deliberated almost 17 hours over five days before reaching their decision. To recommend the death sentence, the jury's decision had to be unanimous.
The judge will now take the jury's recommendation into consideration and make the final decision at Westerfield's formal sentencing on Nov. 22. Under California law, Mudd could not impose the death penalty without the jury's recommendation.