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January 30, 2004

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Publication Date: Friday, January 30, 2004

McGrath guilty in Blockbuster murder McGrath guilty in Blockbuster murder (January 30, 2004)

29-year-old faces life in prison, no parole

By Julie O'Shea

Michael McGrath was convicted last week of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of a Mountain View Blockbuster clerk.

A Santa Clara County judge also ruled that McGrath killed Carl "Chip" Mirikitani while committing a robbery, a conviction which will put McGrath, 29, behind bars for life without the possibility of parole. A sentencing hearing is set for March 26.

"We are very pleased because the defendant will be spending the rest of his life in prison, and that is exactly where he belongs," county prosecutor Cameron Bowman said, adding that Mirikitani's family will fly in from Hawaii for the sentencing.

Russel Mar, a longtime friend of Mirikitani who he played volleyball with, wanted a harsher punishment. "I think all of us would have preferred the death penalty. ... He was a good guy," said Mar.

Defense attorney David Epps said his client will appeal the conviction.

Epps said McGrath has admitted to killing the 33-year-old clerk at the Grant Road Blockbuster on Sept. 19, 2001. What Epps disputes was the prosecution's claim that McGrath was trying to rob the video store at the time of the stabbing. If convicted of second-degree murder, which the defense was hoping for, McGrath could have faced a 15- to 25-year prison sentence instead.

"It wasn't an issue of whodunit," Epps said. "He (McGrath) was under the influence of methamphetamine.

"Our whole defense was that he didn't have the intent to commit a robbery," the lawyer added.

A surveillance camera caught the early morning stabbing on tape shortly before McGrath exited the video store with a fist full of cash, according to initial police reports. It is unclear what exactly made him become unhinged.

Epps said McGrath had discussed the idea of robbing the Blockbuster with his friend, an employee at the video store. However, the attorney said, McGrath had no intention of robbing the store that particular night.

E-mail Julie O'Shea at [email protected]

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