Jury Begins Hearing Penalty Phase of Convicted Triple-Murderer’s Trial

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CITY NEWS SERVICE

A prosecutor urged jurors Tuesday to recommend a death sentence for a man who killed a fellow inmate in 2005 while awaiting trial for the slayings of two Marymount College students gunned down in the parking lot of a San Pedro supermarket.

Raymond Oscar Butler, who is acting as his own attorney, urged the Los Angeles Superior Court jury to “give me the chance to make my case” as the panel considers whether to recommend that he be sentenced to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole for the March 26, 1995, jailhouse stabbing death of Tyrone Flemming in the Men’s Central Jail.

Butler, now 36, has already been sentenced to death for the March 25, 1994, shooting deaths of Takuma Ito, a Japanese citizen, and Go Matsuura, a U.S. citizen born in Japan — a crime that made headlines in both the U.S. and Japan.

The California Supreme Court upheld his conviction and death sentence for the slayings of Ito and Matsuura, but the state’s highest court reversed his conviction and death sentence for Flemming’s killing, ruling that a judge had erroneously decided that he could not act as his own attorney.

The seven-man, five-woman jury in Butler’s retrial convicted him Monday of first-degree murder for Flemming’s slaying and found true the special circumstance allegation that he had been convicted of murdering Ito and Matsuura, who were both 19 years old.

In his opening statement in the trial’s penalty phase, Deputy District Attorney David Barkhurst told jurors that the evidence that they heard during the first portion of the trial was “the tip of the iceberg.”

Butler has had a series of run-ins with fellow inmates, has had a number of weapons — including jail-made shanks — recovered from his cell and unleashed containers with feces and urine at prison guards who were bringing him library books or cleaning up trash, Barkhurst said.

“The death penalty is necessary in this case to adequately punish the defendant for the crimes he has committed,” the prosecutor said.

Butler, who stood up at the lectern to give his opening statements as sheriff’s deputies sat nearby, told the jury he was “very nervous” and had been put in the jail’s high-power unit at age 18 with “inmates who were older than me.”

He urged jurors to keep an open mind about the jailhouse incidents in which he allegedly attacked other inmates or had weapons in his cell.

“For many of these incidents, there are reasons behind these incidents,” he said, noting that “this is a very violent atmosphere.”

“You don’t want to have to have a razor blade … You feel you need it in order to survive,” he said. “Is it wrong? Of course it’s wrong.”

Butler urged jurors not to “rush to a judgment,” imploring them to keep their minds open until they hear the entire case.

During a brief exchange in court, Ito’s younger brother told Butler, “Well, you did destroy my family into pieces and that still goes on (to) this day. Being told you’re sorry, Takuma’s not coming back,” 31-year-old Hidehiko Ito said through a Japanese interpreter.

He said his father had initially contemplated coming to Los Angeles to testify during the trial.

“I came because his testimony would be too sad to make in front of the defendant,” the murder victim’s younger brother testified.

Testimony was expected to continue Wednesday.

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