California high court overturns death penalty, ruling sentencing trial was unfair

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SAN FRANCISCO — The California Supreme Court has overturned a Redding man's death sentence.

The high court ruled Monday that Paul Gordon Smith Jr. didn't receive a proper sentencing trial. The unanimous court said an expert was improperly barred from testifying that 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. The jury was told of Smith's several attempts to escape from jail and violent attitude toward guards. A prison expert was barred from telling the jury that security is tighter at San Quentin.

Smith was convicted of torturing and killing 20-year-old Lori Sinner during a 1998 camping trip. The court upheld Smith's murder conviction. Smith could face another penalty-trial or be sentenced to life in prison.

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