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Melvin Turner, death row inmate at San Quentin prison, dies at 67

Gov. Newsom tells San Quentin inmates the prison will be transformed
Gov. Newsom tells San Quentin inmates the prison will be transformed 03:49

Melvin Turner, a death row inmate at the San Quentin Rehabilitation Center, died over the weekend, prison officials said Wednesday.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) said Turner was pronounced dead at 6:04 p.m. Saturday. He was 67. There were no further details on the cause of his death.

Turner was convicted of the 1979 execution-style slayings of 35-year-old Dr. Joseph Hill and 44-year-old teacher Joella Champion in an airport hangar in Torrance, Los Angeles County. Prosecutors said Turner and an accomplice were at the airport to steal Hill's sports car, and Turner shot both victims in the head as they were bound and gagged on the floor.

The co-defendant, Teague Hampton Scott, of Inglewood is serving a 52 years to life sentence for the killings.

Melvin Turner in 1980 and 2007 California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

Turner was a parolee who was working at the airport when Hill and Champion arrived at the hangar where Champion kept her single-engine plane. Turner and Scott robbed them at gunpoint before tying them up in the hangar where Turner shot them.

Turner was sentenced to death in 1980, but the state Supreme Court overturned his death sentence in 1986, ruling that prosecutors failed to justify removing minorities from the jury.

Turner was retried and again was sentenced to death in 1988.

As of January 2024, there were 650 inmates on death row at San Quentin Rehabilitation Center, formerly known as San Quentin State Prison.

California placed a moratorium on the death penalty in 2019. Gov. Gavin Newsom is pushing his plans of turning the notorious prison into a facility for preparing people for life after prison, in a shift from the state's decades-long focus on punishment.

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