Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By Christine Emerson
Observer Staff Writer 

Death Row Inmate Pleads Guilty to Murder and is Sentenced to Life

Robert Scott in prison since 1989, sentenced to death for 1986 Palmdale rape and murder of Wanda Jensen.


August 16, 2016

Wanda Jensen ten years ago.

In a grisly case of overkill, the District Attorney's office obtained a guilty-plea to a murder from a man already on death row. James Robert Scott, 52, admitted to the 1982 murder of Vivian Johnson at her residence in the 3900 block of Welland Avenue in South Los Angeles. Johnson, 40, was found strangled to death in her home. Scott's admission followed the discovery in 2014 that DNA evidence at the scene of Johnson's death linked him to the crime. He was immediately sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Lisa Lench.

Scott has been in prison since 1989, when he was sentenced to death for the 1986 Palmdale rape and murder of Wanda Jensen. On April 22, 1986 Scott visited an acquaintance, Glenn Johnson, also known as "Rerun." Johnson later told investigators that he gave Scott, at his request, a screwdriver and some socks. He had not had the gloves Scott had requested. The pair smoked some cocaine. Then, at around 2 in the morning, Scott broke into Jensen's apartment, where she lived with her five-year-old daughter. He was wearing socks over his hands. He placed a screwdriver against Jensen's side and demanded to have sex with her, threatening harm to her daughter if she refused. Finding a baseball bat that she kept in her bedroom for protection, he beat her with it, raped her, and then choked her into unconsciousness. As a final assault on the woman, Scott set her bed on fire before leaving.

Jensen's daughter who'd been asleep in an adjoining bedroom, woke when the smoke alarm sounded. She roused her mother who, though badly burned, managed to carry her daughter out of the apartment and to a friend's, where she called for assistance.

Suffering burns over 35 percent of her body, with her skin hanging off of her in places like rags, Jensen was nevertheless able to tell investigators what had happened and to describe her assailant, who'd told her he was "Rerun's brother Tony."

Jensen succumbed to her injuries, dying on February 25, 1987 of acute pneumonia due to hypoxic encephalopathy which was a result of thermal burns.

LA Superior Court Judge Wesley

Upon his arrest, Scott waived his rights and confessed to the attack on Jensen. At one point during his statement to investigators, Scott glared at the detective and claimed, "he was now Tony and that Tony had taken charge of James' body, and he said he had to destroy the girl because she was a shit bomb." Scott also attempted to sign his waiver with the name "Tony Adman." He told investigators that he was "Tony" and that "James was a wimp."

Jensen's murder was not Scott's first brush with violent crime. In 1983, he pleaded guilty to assault with a deadly weapon in a knife attack on a woman who managed to escape. In 1986, he pleaded guilty to the rape of another woman.

On July 14, 1997, the California Supreme Court affirmed Scott's death row sentence. In subsequent Cal Supreme Court rulings, all of Scott's various appeals have been denied.


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