Los Angeles prosecutors are trying to overturn the death sentence on a man convicted of killing two Japanese students in 1994

LOS ANGELES — The office of embattled Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón has asked a judge to overturn the sentence of a man who was sentenced to death for killing two college students during a 1994 car theft, according to court documents by NBC News.

The 264-page resentencing recommendation, filed July 11 in Los Angeles County Superior Court by Assistant District Attorney Shelan Joseph, aims to commute Raymond Oscar Butler’s death sentence to life without the possibility of parole.

The filing argues that Butler, now 47, committed the murders of the two college students when he was 18 after suffering violence and trauma throughout his childhood. As a result, he suffered from mental illness and cognitive impairment prior to and at the time of the murders, according to the petition.

“The defendant today is not the same cognitively immature teenager who murdered two innocent victims in this case. … interests are best served if the accused is reconvicted,” the petition reads.

The petition adds that if all parties agree to the re-sentencing, a hearing is not required.


Butler was convicted in 1996 of shooting Takuma Ito and Go Matsuura, both 19-year-old film students at Marymount College, in the back of the head in the parking lot of a Southern California grocery store. The case sparked international outrage and prompted the US Ambassador to Japan to issue a sorry on tvreported the New York Times in 1994.

Butler was later found guilty, after a trial and a retrial, of participating in the fatal stabbing and beating of a fellow inmate in 1995. He was again sentenced to death.

The latest filing does not seek to overturn the death penalty for the 1995 inmate attack.

However, Joseph noted that the jury in Butler’s double murder trial “had a difficult time reaching a unanimous verdict,” including twice finding that they were deadlocked.

In a statement, a spokesman for the Attorney’s Office said: “Mr. Butler has two separate cases. One case involved the murder of the two college students. This case came before our office because the California Supreme Court ruled that it was a prima facie question of jury misconduct.”

“After reviewing the charges of jury misconduct and considering the equities, our office has determined that it is in the interests of the judiciary to resentence Butler to life in prison without the possibility of parole in this case. The Attorney’s Office is not seeking Butler’s release from prison, Mr. Butler remains sentenced to death in case TA041759. The trial will be public.”

“District Attorney Gascón remains committed to ending the death penalty in Los Angeles because its use is racist, morally untenable, irreversible, expensive and has never been shown to deter crime.”

A request for comment from Butler’s attorney was not immediately answered.

The Death Penalty in California

The death penalty, which is legal in California, was upheld by voters in ballot measures twice, in 2012 and 2016. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order in 2019 imposing a moratorium on the death penalty closure of death rowargues the system is discriminatory, wastes billions of dollars, is error-prone, and has failed to deter violent crime.

The order did not require the release of any person from prison or the otherwise modification of a current conviction or sentence.

Gascón, a progressive Democrat who became Los Angeles County district attorney in 2020, said he opposes the death penalty under all circumstances. Shortly after taking office, he issued a series of special policies, including ending bail reliance and requests for lengthened sentences, waiving the death penalty, and reassessing sentences for those who have served 15 years in prison.


Since then, the bureau has re-examined several dozen previous capital cases, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the cases.

The abrupt policy changes sparked a backlash within prosecutors, forcing Gascón to rescind some of its policies, such as: For example, a ban on trying juveniles as adults and increased penalties for certain violent crimes.

He now faces a second recall attempt after a first failed to collect enough signatures to qualify for a special election. County officials determine if there are enough valid signatures on the second recall request to trigger an election.

In February, more than 80% of the members of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, the bargaining group for more than 800 deputy district attorneys in the district, participated in an internal referendum to remove their chief. Almost 98% of voters were in favor of a recall.

Former San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, also a progressive Democrat, was recalled in June and quit his job in July.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/crime-courts/los-angeles-da-seeks-lift-death-sentence-man-convicted-1994-killing-tw-rcna40108 Los Angeles prosecutors are trying to overturn the death sentence on a man convicted of killing two Japanese students in 1994

Fry Electronics Team

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