Race, Murder Roil Chico

Melody Gutierrez, San Francisco Chronicle, November 3, 2013

For nearly 25 years, Steven Crittenden has been condemned to Death Row at San Quentin State Prison for the gruesome 1987 murder of a prominent Chico couple in their home. Since the day of his arrest, Crittenden has looked for a way to escape, first briefly breaking out of the Butte County Jail prior to his trial, and through endless appeals since he was sent to prison.

Crittenden, 45, is now closer to freedom than ever. And it has nothing to do with whether he killed the affable town doctor and his wife.

A federal judge in Sacramento recently overturned his 1989 conviction based on a technicality in a trial that at the time sparked racial tensions in the overwhelmingly white town some 90 miles north of Sacramento.

The lawyers for Crittenden, a black man from Fairfield, successfully argued that a prosecutor showed racial bias when he dismissed the only black prospective juror.

Prosecutors said they dismissed the prospective juror because it was a death-penalty case and she did not believe in the death penalty.

But San Francisco attorney Mark Goldrosen called the dismissal of the lone black prospective juror in a primarily white town “outrageous,” particularly when the woman did not express more reservations about the death penalty than white jurors who were selected.

Crittenden was ordered to be released or retried.

The Butte County District Attorney’s Office calls the bias claim “insane.”

It was the case of a black man accused of murdering a well-to-do white couple, but in Chico, the dynamics were much more than that.


The city and Cal State Chico have a party-hard reputation, which has proven difficult to rebrand since Playboy awarded Cal State Chico the dubious title as the nation’s No.1 party school in 1987. That same month, fear and outrage struck the campus when Crittenden, a well-liked football player at Cal State Chico, was accused in a double murder. Three years before, Crittenden had helped Vanden High School in Fairfield win a state basketball championship.

“At first, it was, ‘No way,’ ” said Charles Carter, director of the Cross-Cultural Leadership Center at Cal State Chico, a longtime staff member and former student at the university. “Then the evidence came out, and it was like, What’s wrong with this guy? And what does this mean for us?”


Cal State Chico has 15,000 full-time students. Fewer than 2 percent are black, 19 percent are Hispanic and 55 percent are white. Although the university has long emphasized recruiting minorities, it has proved a very difficult sell given the demographics of the surrounding town. Chico’s population of 88,000 is 81 percent white, 15 percent Hispanic and 2 percent black.


It wasn’t just murder. It was torture, prosecutors argued successfully.

William and Katherine Chiapella, who were in their late 60s, were gagged and bound with a strawberry-patterned cloth similar to sheets found in Crittenden’s room.

They were beaten and stabbed with such force that a large knife was driven completely into William Chiapella’s chest, with the handle not visible. Crittenden was arrested in the murders and attempted to escape from jail three times. He escaped successfully once from Butte County Jail before his trial, but was caught.

He pleaded not guilty, saying he had never been to the Chiapella home.

The Chiapellas, described as pillars of the community, had previously hired Crittenden to do yard work at $4.50 per hour, but he didn’t show up.

And when he did show up, prosecutors argued, it was for another reason.

Prosecutors convinced the jury that Crittenden was behind on his rent and fighting with his live-in girlfriend when he went on a murderous rampage at the Chiapellas’ home on Downing Street in an upper-middle-class neighborhood across from an elementary school.


The evidence prosecutors presented at trial won the case: Crittenden’s thumbprint on a desk. A footprint in the home that matched a pair of shoes found in Crittenden’s room. A $3,000 check Crittenden cashed from Katherine Chiapella the day after the murders. He told police the check was for a sexual arrangement he had with Katherine Chiapella, a claim that the district attorney likened to spitting on the woman’s grave.


Crittenden’s case now comes down to one question: Why was the only black prospective juror dismissed?

U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller ruled in September that former chief deputy Jerry Flanagan of the Butte County District Attorney’s Office improperly dismissed the only black prospective juror substantially due to her race, whether “consciously or unconsciously.”

Flanagan declined to comment. Ramsey said the judge’s ruling essentially called Flanagan a racist when “that man doesn’t have a prejudiced bone in his body.”


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  • Jesse James

    So if blacks can’t be fairly tried by whites does this mean they are ready to follow this logic all the way through and proclaim that whites can’t be fairly tried by blacks? Somehow I doubt it.

    • Pro_Whitey

      How about we concede the point and give them all an all-expenses paid trip back to Africa?

      • Whitetrashgang

        Expenses paid and a million each, cheap in the long run.

        • Homo_Occidentalis

          Let’s throw in a speedboat and a prefab bungalow in any African nation of their choosing. I think we’ll see a sizable ROI within three years.

          • Whitetrashgang

            Also free guns, ammo,hair straightner,and skin lightening cream so it will all be white on white crime making everyone feel good. Just like I know you would.

  • Chico’s population of 88,000 is 81 percent white, 15 percent Hispanic and 2 percent black.

    Shhh. Don’t tell anyone, otherwise they’ll want to try to make it more vibrant.

    I’m surprised there’s a town left in California that’s so white.

    • Brian

      Sounds as though that 2% black is already pretty damned vibrant.

    • itdoesnotmatter

      But…do non brown invasion area citizens realize that 15 percent mestizo demographic is high enough to create havoc in a community?
      Gangs and gang criminality, trashed neighborhoods, chopped, muscled up, unmuffled noisy tail pipe cars cruising city streets all hours of the night, car stereo mega-speakers thumping hip hop at top volume, lowered quality schools, and relentless sexual pursuit of white girls.
      Get it, good AmReners! Mestizo invasions into white towns, even those small communities in rural areas, create a variation on the bantu theme…..blight.
      I have a first cousin who lives in Thermalito, a teeny rural community in the Oroville/Chico area. He tells me, in high dudgeon, that they are experiencing the effects of brown undertow, “hip” state college campus notwithstanding.

  • Whitetrashgang

    Well that one black juror would have hung the jury, everything always comes down to race. Hence why are any people but whites and natives here? Well if Obama care isn’t the last nail in the coffin of the United States, I hate to think what its going to take to get the ball rolling.

  • D.B. Cooper

    San Francisco attorney Mark GOLDrosen. With a name like that, he must be a Jew.

    • evilsandmich

      To say nothing of the convoluted logic of the decision that only comes down hard on one group in particular.

    • Yummy_Prosciutto

      Yeah , he is probably a liberal Jew. And yes, there are lots of Ivory Tower limousine-liberal Jews. There are also plenty of non-Jewish limousine liberals. I sympathize with most of what is said here. But you guys blame the Jews as if there is a monthly Secret Jewish Convention where they get together to conspire. It’s more that there are plenty of financially successful, university indoctrinated Jews that live in gated communities. And they share the liberal viewpoints of similar non-Jews.

  • D.B. Cooper

    Well, someone had to do it, so it might as well be me again.
    Here is Steven Crittenden murderer, and soon to be paroled Steven Crittenden.

  • Luca

    Yeah, they need a black juror. The more black jurors you have the more likely you are to get an OJ verdict.

    • ThomasER916

      That’s the plan. The Cult of Liberalism knows it will work too!

  • Funruffian

    Let me get this straight. A murderous Bantu has to be released into the public all because some nitwit cries that there was racial bias in the trial by jury?

    • Chasmania

      Don’t forget the big fat check for being wrongfully incarcerated, if he’s freed.

      • MikeofAges

        He will be tried again, and convicted. I lived nearby when the trial took place. The prosecutor may have feared
        losing the death penalty if he had a black juror, but a conviction as
        such would not have been in jeopardy. Given the difficulties of death
        penalty jurisprudence in California, the question is, why put your
        entire prosecution in jeopardy?

        The so-called Night Stalker, Richard
        Ramirez, had spent 28 years on death row when he died earlier this year
        at 53. Another notorious inmate,Richard Allen Davis, 59, has spent 20
        years on death row after being convicted of a child murder. No one has
        been executed in California since 2006, and only 13 since 1992,
        following a hiatus of 25 years. That means 13 death sentences carried out in 46 years, all between 1992 and 2006. Between admission as state in 1850 and 1967. California carried out less than 700 known executions.

  • Spartacus

    Good. Here’s your chance, White Americans – make sure justice is done, at least in this case.

    • MikeofAges

      He will be tried again, and convicted. He will never be on the street.

  • sbuffalonative

    A federal judge in Sacramento recently overturned his 1989 conviction based on a technicality in a trial

    We need to deal with the issue that there are too many dumb judges who are influenced by the nonsense arguments of race hustlers. They are a big part of our problem.

  • joesolargenius

    Lets just retry this Urban Zombie ( new name for Groids) and then give him two life sentences to run consecutively. The prosecutor knew he might get a hung jury and so jumped at the chance to get rid of a problem juror.

  • bigone4u

    This is an outrage designed to strike fear into whites by the likes of GOLDrosen and his ilk. No one reasonably claims that the groid is innocent. There is no claim of fabricated evidence. There is only the dismissal of a black from the jury pool. Let this Negro be retried with blacks on the jury and he’s free as a bird to murder again. Our enemies come up with new ways to cause us fear every day, which just brings a day of accounting that much closer for them.

    • Alexandra1973

      Well, now we know why Lincoln was against blacks serving on juries….

      • bigone4u

        Probably one of the few instances in which I would agree with Lincoln. Putting blacks on juries is like giving a monkey a machine gun. No good will come of it.

        • Whitetrashgang

          Depends if your the monkey.

  • PouponMarks

    I would put this judge in a soundproof room with this sub human for a night and a day, and tell her no prosecution or indictment will be allowed. That would be racial profiling and racist.

  • itdoesnotmatter

    Just checked the comments following the S.F. Chronicle Chico murder item. They are predominantly anti-libtard.

  • Only one black on the jury dismissed by the prosecutor?

    Perhaps one aspect of this faux “problem” is that most blacks don’t show up for jury duty in the first place, which is why there was only one there to be dismissed. They ignore the summons because staying home to drink malt liquor and watch cable TV is more fun than listening to evidence in a courtroom.

    • MikeofAges

      You’ve been through the legal system. You can’t put someone in increased jeopardy because of the unrelated actions of someone else. At least you’re not supposed to be able to. I know this case because I lived near there when the trial took place. He will be tried again and convicted. But there is not likely to be a death penalty sought, I would guess.