Inmate on Death Row Killed by Another Death Row Inmate in California

One condemned inmate killed another Friday, the first slaying of a death row inmate in California in more than 20 years, officials said.

Jonathan Fajardo, 30, was stabbed in the chest and neck with an inmate-made weapon. The stabbing took place in a recreational yard of the cell house that holds the bulk of condemned inmates at San Quentin State Prison, said corrections department spokeswoman Terry Thornton. Luis Rodriguez, 34, is considered the suspect, she said.

Investigators were trying to determine a motive and how the suspect obtained, or was able to make, the weapon, Thornton said.

Such slayings are common in California prisons but rare on death row, where the last one occurred in 1997.

“It’s very unusual,” said San Francisco State University associate professor Amy Smith, who studies capital punishment and the psychological impacts of death row. “It’s not supposed to happen, of course.”

There is high security on death row, were every inmate is housed separately. Most are allowed to congregate in small groups in the exercise yard where Fajardo was killed, Thornton said.

Smith said that statistically, prisoners serving life sentences and “folks who are on ‘the row’ generally have the lowest levels of prison violence, even though it would seem that they might do anything because they have the worst penalty. In fact, they actually have very, very low incidences of violence in prison.”

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SOURCE: CBS News, The Associated Press