San Quentin State Prison

San Quentin death row inmate dies

March 17, 2021

Another condemned inmate at San Quentin has died, according to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

64-year-old Johnny Mungia passed away at a hospital on Tuesday, March 16th.

This Aug. 24, 2018, photo released by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation shows Johnny Mungia, a 64-year-old death row inmate who died on March 16, 2021, at a hospital. (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation via AP)

Mungia’s cause of death is under investigation, but foul play is not suspected.

An official cause of death is pending the results of an autopsy by the Marin County Coroner.

On April 7, 1997, Mungia was found guilty of the first-degree murder of 73-year-old Alma Franklin by a Riverside County jury and sentenced to death on April 14, 1997.

There are currently 705 people on California’s death row.

Sex offender found dead in suspected homicide at San Quentin State Prison

A 66-year-old inmate was found unresponsive in his cell at San Quentin State Prison early Wednesday, and state corrections officials said they are treating his death as a homicide.

John Sullivan had served half of his 10-year sentence from Placer County for failing to register as a sex offender, a second-strike.

John Sullivan is seen in this Oct. 8, 2019, photo released by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

He was found during a head count shortly after midnight and pronounced dead less than 40 minutes later.

Officials said they suspect his 28-year-old cellmate in the death. He has not been charged, but was serving a seven-year sentence from Los Angeles County for first-degree burglary and injury to a dependent adult causing death or great bodily injury.

The Marin County coroner did not immediately provide a cause of death, and corrections officials wouldn’t give more details, citing the investigation.

The Associated Press found in a 2015 analysis that male sex offenders were being killed at a rate double their percentage in the prison population.

San Quentin, north of San Fransico, is California’s oldest prison. It houses the state’s death row, but also general population inmates.

San Quentin Death Row Inmate Found Dead in Cell- Ralph Michael Yeoman

march 6. 2014

A death row inmate at San Quentin State Prison died in custody this week, a prison spokesman said.

Ralph Michael Yeoman, 66, who was sentenced to death for the 1988 murder of a Sacramento County woman, was found unresponsive in his cell Tuesday  morning and subsequently pronounced dead at 5:24 a.m., according to Lt. Sam Robinson.

The cause of death remains unknown pending the results of an autopsy, Robinson said.

Yeoman was convicted of first-degree murder following the Feb. 13, 1988, killing, kidnap and robbery of 73-year-old Doris Horrell, a Citrus Heights resident, according to Robinson.

Her body was found later that evening in an open field west of Interstate Highway 5, near the former Arco Arena.

Yeoman was sentenced to death for the crime and had been on death row since July 23, 1990.

Since 1978 when California reinstated capital punishment, 63 condemned inmates have died from natural causes. Additionally, 23 have committed suicide, 13 have been executed in California, and one was executed in Missouri.

Six died from other causes, and the cause of death is still pending for two condemned inmates.

Of the 725 male offenders on California’s death row, 706 are housed at San Quentin. Nineteen condemned inmates are either out to court, in medical facilities or in custody in other jurisdictions.

Former San Quentin Warden Woodford says death penalty almost dead

To hear former San Quentin State Prison Warden Jeanne Woodford tell it, the death penalty is all but dead in California.

“The political consensus is that California’s death penalty is on its way out,” she told an audience of about 70 people Saturday in the auditorium at the Redwoods in Mill Valley. “The question remains when and how it will go.”

The 61-year-old Woodford, who oversaw four executions during her five-year stint as warden of San Quentin, was a prominent leader in last year’s narrowly defeated Proposition 34 campaign to replace the death penalty with life in prison without possibility of parole.

On the eve of the election, a Field Poll showed the Prop. 34 initiative in the lead. It ended up losing 48 percent to 52 percent, a margin of just 500,000 votes.

She pointed out that public opinion has changed drastically since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978, when 70 percent of California voters favored it. Since then, it has cost the state $4 billion to administer.

“If 250,001 voters had changed their minds and voted yes, we would have won and no longer have the death penalty in this state,” she said, adding, “We did succeed in forever changing the landscape on this issue in this state. With 48 percent of voters supporting repeal, we have shown that the state is now evenly divided on the death penalty. We have fundamentally changed the conversation.”

In opposing the death penalty, Woodford, who rose through the ranks to become the director of the entire California prison system, says she knows from first hand experience that it wastes money, does not make law-abiding citizens any safer and risks executing death row inmates who may have been wrongfully convicted and are innocent. (Marin Independent Journal)


Nancy Mullane, a reporter for KALW Radio in San Francisco, is one of the few reporters to visit California‘s death row at San Quentin Prison. In the block she visited, there were 500 inmates, in 4-by-10 foot cells, stacked five tiers high. The cells are about the size of a walk-in closet. Many of the inmates have been on death row for over 20 years. Inmates can shower every other day. One of the inmates she met with, Justin Helzer, had stabbed himself in both eyes. He later committed suicide. California has the largest death row in the country with 727 inmates. No one has been executed in 7 years. Listen to the full segment here.

new animated film, The Last 40 Miles, will follow a death row inmate on his final journey from the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas, to the death chamber in Huntsville. The film uses three forms of animation to tell the inmate’s story, from his tragic childhood to the moment he is being escorted to the lethal injection chamber. The script was written by freelance journalist Alex Hannaford and is based on interviews he conducted with death row inmates for news stories. Hannaford described why he used the metaphor of the trip to the death chamber: “It struck me a long time ago that this was the last thing these men see as they’re escorted from death row in Livingston to the death chamber at the Walls Unit in Huntsville. One of the last things they see is that big Texas sun rising over a vast lake. It’s quite breathtaking.” A trailer for the short film can be viewed here.

One For Ten is a new collection of documentary films telling the stories of innocent people who were on death row in the U.S. The first film of the series is on Ray Krone, one of the 142 people who have been exonerated and freed from death row since 1973. Krone was released from Arizona’s death row in 2002 after DNA testing showed he did not commit the murder for which he was sentenced to death 10 years earlier. Krone was convicted based largely on circumstantial evidence and bite-mark evidence, alleging his teeth matched marks on the victim. The film is narrated by Danny Glover.  All the films will be free and may be shared under a Creative Commons license.

CA InfographicThe Death Penalty Information Center has introduced a new series of graphs and quotes from prominent individuals, emphasizing various death penalty issues. These infographics have been displayed on Facebook and other outlets in the past few months. We are now offering them serially in a slide show on DPIC’s website. The graphics can be individually downloaded for use in various mediums. The slide show is available at this link. The infographics are grouped under a range of topics such as Costs, Race, and Innocence, with more information on each topic available on DPIC’s site. You can also find this collection of infographics on Facebook (click on any “photo” and it will enlarge, and you can scroll through the entire series) and on Pinterest. New infographics will be added in the coming months.



A new documentary released by the Constitution Project and the New Media Advocacy Project commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark 1963 decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, requiring states to appoint lawyers for indigent defendants in criminal cases. Prior to this decision, some states only provided attorneys in cases with special circumstances, like death penalty cases. Defending Gideon is narrated by Martin Sheen and includes interviews with national experts, including former Vice-President Walter Mondale, former N.Y. Times reporter Anthony Lewis, and death-penalty attorney Bryan Stevenson. Clarence Gideon was convicted, without an attorney, of breaking into a pool hall in Florida and stealing money. When he was retried with legal counsel, he was acquitted. The video underscores the importance of guaranteeing effective representation, especially if a person’s life is at stake.

California’s longest-serving death row inmate spared execution – Douglas Stankewitz,

October 30,2012

SACRAMENTO (Reuters) – A federal appeals court has overturned the death sentence of California’s longest serving death row inmate, a 54-year-old Mono Indian man convicted in 1978 for killing a woman during a drug- and alcohol-fueled carjacking.

Douglas Stankewitz, who has spent 34 years awaiting execution, will be re-sentenced to life without the possibility of parole unless prosecutors decide within 90 days to retry the penalty phase of his trial, which would consider punishment only, not guilt or innocence.

The decision late on Monday by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals comes just a week before Californians vote on a referendum to abolish the death penalty in the state.

A federal judge halted all California executions in 2006, saying a three-drug lethal injection protocol risked causing inmates too much pain and suffering before death. California revised its protocol, but executions have not resumed.

An appeals court panel, in a 2-1 decision, ruled that Stankewitz received ineffective legal counsel during the penalty phase of his murder trial, when he was sentenced to die.

His lawyer, they wrote, failed to investigate and present evidence “including evidence of his deprived and abusive upbringing, potential mental illness, long history of substance abuse and use of substantial quantities of drugs leading up to the murder.”

In a recent interview with Reuters inside San Quentin State Prison, Stankewitz called the death penalty “a joke,” and described how long delays in the appeals process, coupled with ineffective counsel, had led to him spending more than three decades waiting to die.

“They can’t kill me because the system is messed up so bad,” Stankewitz told Reuters during that interview.

Stankewitz suffered alcohol exposure in the womb, was removed from his home at age 6 after his mother beat him and bounced between foster care facilities where he was severely troubled and abused, court documents show.

He was 19 when he and a group of friends carjacked Theresa Graybeal, 22, from a K-Mart parking lot in Modesto and drove across California’s rural heartland to Fresno, roughly 100 miles away. There, Graybeal was shot and killed.

CALIFORNIA – Convicted killer hangs himself on California’s death row – James Lee Crummel

May 29, 2012

(Reuters) – A convicted killer sentenced to death for the 1979 murder of a 13-year-old boy has hanged himself on California’s death row, months before voters in the state are due to decide whether to abolish the death penalty, prison officials said on Tuesday.
James Lee Crummel, 68, was found hanging in his cell at San Quentin State Prison, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesman Sam Robinson said in a written statement.
Crummel, who had prior convictions for child molestation, was pronounced dead at 4:20 p.m. on Sunday. He was sentenced to death in 2004 for the 1979 kidnapping, sexual abuse and murder of 13-year-old Wilfred Trotter, Robinson said. Crummel had been housed on death row ever since.
The suicide comes ahead of a ballot measure in California in November in which voters will decide whether to repeal the death penalty in a state that is home to nearly a quarter of the nation’s death row inmates.
The ballot initiative focuses on the high cost of the death penalty in a state that has executed 13 people since capital punishment was reinstated in the nation in 1976. More than 720 inmates sit on death row pending lengthy and expensive appeals.
Crummel joins another 20 inmates who have committed suicide while on California’s death row. According to the corrections department, since capital punishment was reinstated in California in 1978, 57 condemned inmates in the state have died from natural causes and six died from other causes.
A federal judge halted all California executions in 2006 after ruling that the three-drug protocol that has been used for lethal injections carried the risk of causing the inmate too much pain and suffering before death.
California has since revised its protocol but an appeals court has blocked resumption of executions over the same objections.

California- Man accused in 1982 gay slaying to be retried – James Andrew Melton

May 29, 2012  Source :

SANTA ANA – More than three decades after a Newport Beach retiree was found dead in his condominium – naked and with a cord wrapped around his neck – prosecutors are preparing to retry the man found guilty for the killing but who had his murder conviction overturned.

James Melton, 60, was plucked from death row at San Quentin State Prison in 2007 and brought back here to face retrial after a federal judge threw out his 1982 death penalty conviction finding he had been overmedicated by Orange County jail staff and could not understand his trial.

Article Tab: James Andrew Melton. (file photo)

James Andrew Melton.

District Attorney Tony Rackauckas earlier this month decided not to pursue the death penalty against Melton, who is facing the same charges as before: a special circumstances murder during the commission of a robbery.

If convicted, the defendant faces life in state prison without the possibility of parole.

On June 22, Superior Court Judge William Froeberg will consider a motion to dismiss the case by Melton’s defense attorney, Denise Gragg, a senior assistant public defender, because as she put it “there’s been so much damage done by the passage of time that (Melton’s) due process rights to the trial have been violated.”

Prosecutors say Melton is as culpable as before.

“The facts establish just as they did back in 1982 that he’s guilty of the crime of murder,” Deputy District Attorney Steve McGreevy said.

The crime

Melton, a Los Angeles resident, was convicted by an Orange County jury of killing Anthony Lial DeSousa, 77.

The victim’s nude body was found in the bed of his Newport condominium Oct. 11, 1981. The coroner found DeSousa had been beaten unconscious and strangled.

The prosecution’s main witness, Johnny Boyd of Pasadena, said he and Melton had been lovers in prison and plotted to rob elderly men who ran personal ads in homosexual publications.

Prosecutors said Melton met DeSousa through a personal advertisement the victim placed in a gay newspaper.

Boyd, who was given immunity from prosecution, said he answered the ad in the Advocate and set up a dinner meeting between DeSousa and Melton. Boyd testified Melton admitted the slaying to him and that he had seen Melton wearing DeSousa’s diamond rings.

Melton’s 1982 conviction for DeSousa’s murder followed a history of violent crime, including an attempted rape, robberies, an assault and two rapes – one of which occurred on a synagogue altar in Berkeley, the Orange County Register reported.

Melton was released from custody five months before DeSousa was slain.

The reversal

After his conviction, Melton filed numerous appeals.

His appellate attorney took the case all the way to the California Supreme Court, which upheld Melton’s conviction in 1988.

Melton then filed a federal appeal, claiming the medical staff at Orange County jail gave him a variety of psychiatric drugs that impaired his ability to understand his trial and contribute to his own defense. Melton was in the jail in Santa Ana for 13 months during the trial.

The late U.S. District Judge Robert Takasugi overturned his conviction in 2007, saying in a ruling that Melton was given “high doses of powerful mind-altering drugs,” despite the fact he never exhibited symptoms of psychosis or received psychiatric treatment.

The antipsychotic and antidepressant medication “suppressed Melton’s mental functioning, impaired his memory and cognition and made him indifferent to his surroundings,” Takasugi wrote.

“As a result, he was docile and compliant at trial, but also frequently unable to rationally consult with counsel about his defense,” the judge said.

Death penalty decision

Prosecutors were disappointed in the federal court’s ruling but are ready to prove their case again.

“While some of the methods of proving and establishing the circumstances might change, the goal remains the same: to hold the defendant responsible for the brutal murder of Mr. DeSousa,” McGreevy said.

The time lapsed since the crime is part of the reason why the district attorney has decided not to seek the death penalty at retrial, McGreevy said.

“It will definitely be a different case than that tried in 1982,” he said, adding the passage of 30 years with the ultimate penalty contributed to the decision.

Melton’s attorney Gragg is appreciative of Rackauckas’ move to drop death penalty.

“I think the D.A.’s Office has done a wonderful job in evaluating whether this should be a death penalty case. I am grateful for the time they took as well as the decision.”

Death Row inmate who killed mother dies after illness

april 4, 2012 source :

SACRAMENTO — A Death Row inmate has died of natural causes while awaiting execution for killing his own mother.

Lt. Sam Robinson, a spokesman for San Quentin State Prison, said Frank Manuel Abilez died in the prison’s hospital Tuesday.

Abilez, who was 53, had a long-term illness. Robinson says his death was expected but would not discuss the illness, citing privacy laws.

Abilez was on death row for sodomizing and strangling his 68-year-old mother in 1996. He was convicted by a Los Angeles County jury in 1997 and sentenced to die for killing Beatrice Abilez Loza, a mother of 10.

The state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation says 76 condemned inmates have died of natural causes or committed suicide since California reinstated the death penalty in 1978. Fourteen have been executed.