Death row inmate kills fellow prisoner on death row with a jailhouse weapon

30-year-old Jonathan Fajardo was stabbed and killed in the San Quentin Prison by another inmate on death row, 34-year-old Luis Rodriguez


                            Death row inmate kills fellow prisoner on death row with a jailhouse weapon

In what has been described as an incredibly rare incident, an inmate on death row in a prison in California has killed another inmate, also on death row. The 30-year-old victim, Jonathan Fajardo, was stabbed in the chest and neck with an inmate-made weapon, marking the first death of an inmate on death row in the state in over 20 years.

According to CBS News, the incident took place at San Quentin State Prison, which is California's oldest prison having opened in 1852, and houses close to 5,000 inmates. The suspect has been identified as 34-year-old Luis Rodriguez, an inmate who has been in the prison for over a decade.  

Jonathan Fajardo (Source: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)
Jonathan Fajardo (Source: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)

The stabbing is said to have taken place in the recreational area of the cell house that holds a large portion of the condemned prisoners in the prison, said corrections department spokeswoman Terry Thornton. She said that investigators are currently trying to determine the motive behind the crime and how the suspect was able to obtain, or make, the weapon. 

Fajardo was moved to San Quentin in May 2011 from Los Angeles County. At the time of his death, he was still awaiting execution on two counts of murder in an alleged hate crime. He had also been slapped with seven life sentences as well.

The 30-year-old was identified as a Latino gang member who killed a 14-year-old black girl. He was also found guilty over the stabbing death of a man two weeks later. Prosecutors said at the time that Fajardo had attacked the man because his fellow gang members believed the victim had been talking to the police.

Luis Rodriguez (Source: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)
Luis Rodriguez (Source: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)

Rodriguez was also admitted to the prison from Los Angeles County. He was brought in on August 2008 and was awaiting execution on two counts of murder. He had been identified as a member of a Latino gang who had killed two others from a rival gang. He had also been handed down a life sentence over another murder he had committed.

While violence and killings are a common occurrence in the state prisons, the last slaying of an inmate on death row happened in 1997. High security for inmates on death row, as well as the fact that every inmate is housed separately, makes their interaction limited, though they are allowed to congregate in small groups in exercise yards like the one where Fajardo was killed.

CBS reported the view of Amy Smith, an associate professor at San Francisco State University who studies capital punishment and the psychological impacts of death row. She said that, statistically, prisoners on death row and those serving life sentences have the lowest level of prison violence, brushing away a common notion that they "might do anything because they have the worst penalty".

Despite having a death penalty, the state of California rarely executes its prisoners. CBS reported that more condemned inmates have died from natural causes or suicide than have been executed since the state reinstated capital punishment in 1978. In fact, the situation got to a point where voters passed an initiative in 2016 that aimed at speeding up the entire process, though it has proven just as ineffective as any past measures.