Friday, April 24, 2015
Condemned Inmate Raymond Steele Dies on Death Row
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Raymond Edward Steele, 67, has died on Death Row, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said yesterday.
The department said in a release that Steele was found unresponsive in his cell Wednesday at San Quentin State Prison and was pronounced dead at 7:37 p.m.
“The cause of death is unknown pending the results of an autopsy,” the release said. “Steele was single-celled.”
Steele was sentenced to death on July 24, 1990, by a Shasta Superior Court jury for the Aug. 5, 1988, murder by stabbing of Leann Thurman, who was under conservatorship as a result of brain damage suffered at birth. A convicted sex offender and murderer, Steele had been previously convicted in 1971 of the rape of a victim who lived next door to his aunt, and the second-degree murder of his 15-year-old babysitter, who had been stabbed eight times.
Steele had been on death row since July 31, 1990, the department said. His conviction was affirmed in People v. Steele (2002) 27 Cal. 4th 1230, a 5-2 decision.
Writing for the majority, Justice Ming W. Chin said the trial judge acted correctly in admitting into evidence Steele’s conviction in the earlier case. Chin said the prejudicial impact of that evidence was outweighed by its probative value in showing the defendant’s intent to kill, premeditation and deliberation.
Since-retired Justice Joyce L. Kennard dissented, saying admission of evidence of the similar killing 17 years earlier was reversible error.
Since-retired Chief Justice Ronald M. George dissented on other grounds, citing declarations by two jurors that they relied on their own professional expertise in telling other jurors that the defendant did not experience combat in Vietnam or learn how to kill at military school, and that the medical test the defendant took was unreliable.
George also objected to admission of testimony on redirect by the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy of the victim.
Since capital punishment was reinstated in California in 1978, the CDCR said, 66 condemned inmates have died of natural causes, 24 have committed suicide, 13 have been executed in California, one was executed in Missouri, seven have died from other causes and two inmates’ causes of death are pending. There are 753 people on California’s death row.
Copyright 2015, Metropolitan News Company