Jesse James Hollywood was formally sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole after Judge Brian Hill denied the defense’s motion for a new trial.

Hollywood was convicted last year in the August 2000 kidnapping and murder of 15-year-old Nicholas Markowitz, and on Friday, Hill upheld the jury’s sentence.

The defense requested a new trial on several grounds, with the most hotly debated being alleged juror misconduct.

A change of venue was denied for the highly publicized case, the inspiration for the 2006 film Alpha Dog, and two evidentiary hearings were held around the time of the trial to explore the possibility of juror misconduct.

Juror No. 5 allegedly made crass jokes and comments that could have been construed as prejudicial during the trial, and defense attorneys James Blatt and Alex Kessel said she was a biased juror with an agenda.

Hill said that while there may have been misconduct, none of it rose to the level of prejudice.

“This is a human endeavor,” he said. “We are not robots. There are going to be mistakes.”

Blatt and Kessel also took issue with the testimony of Graham Pressley, the man who dug Markowitz’s grave and testified in both his own trial and Hollywood’s.

Pressley was called out for lying during his trial, yet similar testimony was allowed when he was a witness in Hollywood’s trial, Blatt said.

Hill said the testimonies were consistent with each other, and there was full disclosure to the jury.

Susan Markowitz, mother of kidnap-murder victim Nicholas Markowitz, attends Friday's sentencing for Jesse James Hollywood

Susan Markowitz, mother of kidnap-murder victim Nicholas Markowitz, attended Friday’s sentencing for Jesse James Hollywood. (John Conroy photo /

Santa Barbara County Acting District Attorney Josh Lynn said Pressley was “impeached six ways to Sunday,” and the information given as a witness was not the information questioned as untruthful.

Blatt called it fundamentally unfair for prosecutors to call testimony perjury in one trial and then use the same testimony in another trial and call it truth.

The defense also argued that the kidnapping was not continuous, but Hill said there was substantial evidence of Markowitz’s continued confinement.

Before Hill sentenced Hollywood on Friday, Lynn asked permission for the Markowitz family members to speak, but he was denied. Kessel said the family had their chance to speak at the penalty hearing, and Hill ruled that it wouldn’t serve any purpose to the court.

Lynn was surprised, saying he had rarely heard of a victim’s family members being denied the chance to speak at a sentencing.

Prosecutors said 29-year-old Hollywood was the mastermind of the kidnapping nine years ago. Markowitz was taken near his West Hills home, allegedly in retaliation for a $1,200 drug debt his brother owed to Hollywood. The teen was driven to Santa Barbara, where he was held for several days before being taken up to the Lizard’s Mouth trail off West Camino Cielo and shot to death by Ryan Hoyt. Hoyt was convicted and sentenced to the death.

Hollywood testified that he didn’t know what Hoyt was going to do.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department has been involved in the case for almost a decade, from the investigation to searching for and arresting Hollywood in Brazil in 2005. Hollywood’s been housed in the County Jail since then, but will likely be transferred to prison before the appeal, Sheriff Bill Brown said.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at