A 70-year-old Orange County death row inmate has died not from execution after years and years of appeals were denied but of natural causes.
Teofilo Medina Jr., out of Santa Ana, died Sunday at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville, where he had been receiving hospice care, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDC).
Medina served prison time in Arizona for a rape and was released about three months before October and November 1984, when over a 25-day period he robbed and murdered four store clerks in Orange and Riverside counties. Horacio Ariza Jr., 20, and Douglas Michael Metal, 23, who worked at a Santa Ana gas station, and Victor Rea, 20, who worked at a Garden Grove drive-through dairy, were all shot in the head.
Craig Martin, an 18-year-old night cashier at an Arco gas station in Corona, was also shot dead in October 1984.
Medina's defense attorneys claimed their client was mentally ill and believed he was a high priest who saw Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, the Orange County Register reports.
But Medina was ruled legally sane in 1987 and received the death penalty in Orange County in February of that year and in Corona in September 1989. The California Supreme Court upheld his sentences.
More than 850 people have been sentenced to death in California since 1978, when the state reinstated capital punishment, but only 13 have been executed. The last was Fresno's Clarence Ray Allen, who spent 23 years and one month on death row before he was executed on Jan. 17, 2006.
Federal Judge Cormac J. Carney in Santa Ana ruled last year that California's death penalty violates the U.S. Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment–in part because death row inmates are kept in legal limbo for so many years.