Fight to get off death row in Fresno

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A fight to get off death row is playing out in a Fresno courtroom. In a first-of-its-kind case in Fresno County attorneys for a convicted rapist and murderer are pulling from childhood and prison records to prove the man arrested 35 years ago, doesn't deserve death.

This case continues 35 years after it began. Attorneys are arguing over whether Donald Griffin should be put to death.

Griffin, seen in this Action News archive video from 1992 -- the second time he was convicted of killing, raping and mutilating his 12-year-old step daughter. Janice Kelly Wilson's body was found by someone driving by a field north of Kerman in December 1979. Griffin married the victim's mother in his early 20's.

Daniel Raschly said, "She very much served as his benefactor and she very much guided his behavior in many ways."

Thursday morning, Daniel Raschly, a Vanderbilt University Psychology Professor and expert in special education testified that Griffin's intellect is only around first to third grade levels at best. He examined years of testing from inside the prison and Griffin's school records.

Raschly said, "He was often made fun of on the playground, according to what he said. As well as what other persons commented, including his twin brother Ronald who said both of them were called retard on the playground."

Raschly says over the years Griffin has made very little intellectual progress despite his efforts. Prosecutors are arguing Griffin is intelligent enough to know what he was doing when he killed his step-daughter in 1979. When he was arrested, Raschly says he confessed, but didn't understand the consequences.

Raschly said, "It's an obvious failure to appreciate the very significant consequences of such actions."

Other witnesses are scheduled to testify in this case. Ultimately it will be the judge to decide if Griffin should still be put to death -- though after this there are still other appeals to go through. Prosecutors present their case the second week of august.
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