Inmate wants charge dismissed

first_imgRANCHO CUCAMONGA – The Chino prison inmate accused of slaying a guard is asking a judge to dismiss one of the charges that could bring him the death penalty.Lawyers for Jon Christopher Blaylock say the charge of assault by a life prisoner is unconstitutional because it could allow Blaylock to be executed even if he isn’t convicted of first-degree murder.California is the only state that elevates assault to a capital crime, Blaylock’s lawyers contend.“California’s elevation of an assault to a capital crime is out of step with evolving standards of decency, improperly punishes a defendant because of his status as a `lifer,’ has no rational justification and fails to constitutionally narrow the type of murder eligible for death,” his attorneys wrote in recently filed court documents.Investigators say Blaylock was serving a life sentence at the California Institution for Men when he stabbed 43-year-old Correctional Officer Manuel Gonzalez of Whittier on Jan. 10.They say Blaylock stabbed Gonzalez minutes after the guard let the inmate out of his cell in an attempt to quell racial tensions.Blaylock has yet to be arraigned on charges of first-degree murder, a special circumstance of murdering a peace officer, and assault by a life prisoner.In order to receive a death sentence in California, a killer must normally be convicted of first-degree murder and at least one from a list of 22 “special circumstances,” such as murder during a robbery, multiple murders or lying in wait.But a different law, assault by a life prisoner, also exists solely for inmates, making it easier for prosecutors to win a death sentence against them.To convict an inmate of the count, prosecutors need only to prove that the inmate fatally assaulted somebody and that the inmate acted in disregard for human life. Unlike first-degree murder, prosecutors do not have to prove the murder was premeditated.Blaylock’s lawyers argue that California is the only state to hold inmates to such a different standard than the rest of society.Doing so violates inmates’ protection against cruel and unusual punishment, as well as their constitutional rights to due process and equal protection under the law, the attorneys argue.Prosecutors, meanwhile, say that while no other states have precisely the same law, most have something similar.Of the 37 states that allow capital punishment, 17 do not require a capital murder to be murder in the first degree, Deputy District Attorney Joanne Uhlman wrote in court documents. Furthermore, California’s law is just because inmates already serving life prison terms would otherwise have nothing to lose if they kill people behind bars, Uhlman argued.“Without such a consequence, safety in prison would be meaningless,” the prosecutor wrote.Judge Ingrid Uhler is expected to rule on the motion Dec. 9 in West Valley Superior Court. The motion is significant for Blaylock because, if granted, he could be spared the death penalty if his lawyers are able to convince a jury he was guilty of something less than first-degree murder.A loss would give the inmate grounds for appeal if he is convicted.Joe Canty, one of the three public defenders representing Blaylock, filed a similar motion in another death-penalty case in 1998. A San Bernardino County judge denied that motion and the defendant, Daniel Landry, was ultimately sentenced to death for murdering another inmate at the California Institution for Men.Landry’s case has yet to be appealed. r_levequ[email protected](909) 483-9325 AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img