CITY NEWS SERVICE
A man already on Death Row for killing two Marymount College students in a San Pedro supermarket parking lot was sentenced to death again Friday for killing a fellow jail inmate while awaiting trial in the double slaying.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ronald Coen imposed the term on 36-year-old Raymond Oscar Butler after denying the defendant’s motion for a new trial.
“I’ve known you now for many months, Mr. Butler, and you’re a very intelligent man,” Coen said. “You’re a killer, but you’re a very intelligent man.”
Asked by the judge if there was any legal cause why sentencing should not be carried out, Butler replied, “Other than I’m innocent and I shouldn’t be sentenced to death, no.”
Butler occasionally glanced at the audience during the hearing and smiled.
“I intend on being an active participant in my appeal,” Butler said after hearing his punishment.
After Coen told Butler he would have to talk to a jail liaison about his request to have his legal materials forwarded with him to state prison, Butler replied, “Thank you, Your Honor, I appreciate it.”
Jurors recommended Feb. 6 that Coen sentence Butler to death for the March 26, 1995, jailhouse stabbing death of Tyrone Flemming.
Butler was already on death row for the March 25, 1994, shooting deaths of Takuma Ito, a Japanese citizen, and Go Matsuura, a U.S. citizen who grew up primarily in Japan — a crime that made headlines in both countries.
The California Supreme Court upheld his conviction and death sentence for the slayings of Ito and Matsuura, who were shot in the head in the parking lot of a Ralphs store in San Pedro. But the state’s highest court reversed his original conviction and death sentence for Flemming’s murder, ruling that a judge had erroneously decided he could not act as his own attorney.
Butler represented himself during his retrial. He also acted as his own attorney while making his plea for a new trial on various grounds, including his lack of privacy while interviewing witnesses in jail.
“I did not have access to my witnesses without having the sheriff saddled to me,” Butler said. “It had a chilling effect on me and my witnesses thereby being able to talk to me.”
Deputy District Attorney David Barkhurst said the jury’s verdicts were proper and that the alternative sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole should not be imposed.
“The people have always felt the appropriate punishment was death,” Barkhurst said.
During the penalty phase of his retrial, prosecutors introduced into evidence Butler’s convictions for murdering Ito and Matsuura.
Barkhurst told jurors that the evidence they heard during the guilt portion of the trial was “the tip of the iceberg.”
Butler has had a series of run-ins with fellow jail inmates, has had a number of weapons, including jail-made shanks, recovered from his cell, and has unleashed containers with feces and urine at prison guards who were bringing him library books or cleaning up trash, Barkhurst said.
During the penalty phase, Butler called his mother, Donna Ray Butler, to the stand to testify on his behalf.
“You love me, correct?” Butler asked his mother.
“Yes, I do, very much,” she responded.
She said, “I stick behind my children. I love them unconditionally,” adding that he was “the apple of my eye” when he was born.
“Thank you, Mother, I love you,” the defendant said as he finished questioning her.
The murders of Ito and Matsuura stunned Japan and prompted expressions of regret from President Bill Clinton and Walter Mondale, who was then the U.S. ambassador to Japan.
Ito and Matsuura, both aspiring filmmakers, were shot once each in the back of the head. Ito’s Honda Civic was then stolen.