Redding man avoids death penalty for 1998 murder

Jul 2, 2015 2:28 PM by News Staff

A Redding man whose death sentence was overturned by the California Supreme Court will not face a second sentencing trial, the Shasta County District Attorney announced.

The California Supreme Court overturned the death sentence of Paul Gordon Smith Jr. in April, saying he didn't receive a proper sentencing trial.

The court ruled that an expert was improperly barred from testifying Smith would be less of a danger to escape on San Quentin's Death Row than he was in the Shasta County jail awaiting trial.

Smith was convicted of torturing and killing 20-year-old Lora Sinner during a 1998 camping trip. Despite the death sentence being overturned, Smith's murder conviction was upheld and he will serve life in prison.

District Attorney Stephen Carlton said that while he believes Smith deserves the death penalty, a retrial would take valuable resources away from other cases.

In a statement to Action News Now, Lora's brother Jason Sinner said his entire family is outraged about the decision. "This is an injustice to my sister and others who were brutally murdered." Sinner went on to say his entire family will continue asking lawmakers to "fix the death penalty." You can read a statement issued by Jason and his brother Ryan in its entirety below.

We as a family are outraged that justice has not prevailed in this case. The death penalty is a law that exists in California at this time. It is a right to every victim to have it considered fairly in relationship to the evidence in the case. This crime was brutal in nature is deserving of this penalty. I feel I have an obligation to speak on behalf of my sister. I have been told by the DA's own consultant that if we were in Texas there would be no question this case would be moving forward. Guilt has been established and affirmed by the Supreme Court of California. The people ruled in favor of the death penalty. And the people deserve another change to prevail if a judge made a mistake by not allowing some evidence in.

What is occurring here is the system has stopped executing people at the Supreme Court Level and the State of California is tying the hands of Shasta County to retry this penalty phase due to financial burden. The consultant was hired to save face that the DA's office was giving the case a fair review when in fact they knew it was clear they would not be moving forward. The State has shifted the financial burden onto the DA's office and Shasta County to retry this case. From the day I received the first packet of information about the review, it came from the side of why the Death Penalty doesn't work and what it is costing the State and Counties. The system is broken and not working. Other county resources and budgets would be affected as well. The current jail may not want the burden of housing such a violent inmate. This inmate nearly killed a guard. We have heard and seen the pictures on the news recently. Shasta County has to weigh what is most cost effective in relationship to the possible outcome for its citizens. Resources are thin to prosecute all cases. And how much good can they do with the money they have? I highly disagree with the decision and feel it is an injustice to memory of my sister and the family. The decision is more financial than moral. My sister deserves more. She was a wonderful girl. She was not like the people she was with for the short period of time in which she knew them.

Until California at all levels work at fixing the current system more and more people will be victimized and not get justice in which our system of laws is there to protect. We need to fix the system or do away with it. It is legally unfair to all citizens and especially the victim's families. No one wants to take a stand, especially in a smaller rural county. I hope by me speaking out someone in public office listens and wants to help fix the system. A lot more people believe in the death penalty than don't. Just because the last vote was 55% doesn't mean the other 45 don't believe in it. It just means some of them realize if we sit forever doing nothing the costs are becoming too great to sit and do nothing like we are now. Someone please listen to the 55 plus percent and do something.

We as a family have considered so many what if's during the course of this. What happens to society if we don't uphold the penalties in which we stand for?

I care about your community and its resources and do understand this. All I want to do is help. We can agree to disagree even about the death penalty but be United in something has to change.


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