Calif. inmate hangs self less than week after judge commutes death sentence

A 70-year-old California inmate who had just had his death sentence lifted has hanged himself in his cell less than a week after the reprieve.

San Quentin State Prison spokesman Lt. Sam Robinson said that a guard found George Smithey on Saturday hanging from a noose made from bed sheets tied around his cell bars.

A Calaveras County judge overturned Smithey's death sentence Aug. 23, more than 20 years after he was convicted of killing a woman there during a 1988 break-in.

The judge ruled that Smithey was mentally retarded under state standards set years after his trial and therefore ineligible for the death penalty. His sentence was commuted to life without parole.

Robinson said he did not know whether Smithey had learned his death sentence had been overturned. Authorities found no note.

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Information from: San Francisco Chronicle, http://www.sfgate.com/chronicle