Former Chico St Student convicted of double murder may get new trial

Oct 26, 2015 7:09 PM by Debbie Cobb

A former Chico State Student convicted of murdering a prominent Chico doctor and his wife may get a shot at a new trial. Steven Crittenden, now a California Death Row inmate, is facing a new trial after a Federal Appeals Court sided with a lower court that overturned his 1989 murder convictions.

On Monday, two of three judges on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said there was sufficient evidence to show racial bias. The District Court decision found prosecutors were substantially motivated by race when they rejected the only prospective African American juror from Crittenden's trial. The 3rd judge however, disagreed, saying it was a non racial challenge. Stating only the judge in the trial, which took place in 1989, could determine whether the African American juror was justly excused.

Crittenden, now in his 40's, is African American, and was convicted of killing Dr. William and Katherine Chiapella in the Chico home on Downing Avenue in 1987. The couple hired Crittenden to do yard work. During the trial, a massive amount of evidence was presented to the jury. Police found Crittenden's footprint and thumbprint inside the home. The day after the murder he tried to cash a check from Mrs. Chiapella for $3,000, which prosecutors say she signed under duress. The victims had been tied up, gagged, then brutally beaten and stabbed.

The next step, the state attorney general must decide whether to appeal the 9th circuit court ruling and feel an appeal would be successful in U.S. supreme court.. Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey says he is disappointed in the 9th Circuit Court ruling, and felt the 3rd dissenting judge got the facts right. He would not comment further because of the potential of a future trial being held in Butte County. Meantime, a change of venue hearing has not been decided, pending the outcome of the of a ruling on a new trial.


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