Advertisement
Share

Story of Last San Diegan Executed Shows How Times Have Changed

Before there was Robert Alton Harris, there was Raymond Lesley Cartier.

Cartier, 32, died in the gas chamber Dec. 28, 1960, for the slashing murder of his wife in their City Heights duplex. To the end, Cartier protested that he was drunk that night and had no idea who cut out his wife’s heart.

The baby-faced sailor was the 13th and last person from San Diego County put to death since the state began executions in 1893. Until he won a last-minute delay, Harris was slated to be the 14th.

From crime to punishment took three years for “Frenchy” Cartier, a truck driver’s son from Minnesota. The Harris case is nearing its 13th year in the courts.

Advertisement

To read the transcript of Cartier’s jury trial is to step into another era: the language and place names are familiar, but many of the legal customs, for better or worse, are quite different.

Cartier’s third wife, Geneva, an assembly-line worker at Convair, was found mutilated on Nov. 11, 1957. His hands and shoes covered with blood, Cartier was arrested at the scene.

He made incriminating statements to police. There was no Miranda warning in those days.

Cartier was a butcher for the chiefs’ mess aboard a San Diego-based repair ship. He had no criminal record.

After a two-week trial, jurors began deliberating at 10:40 a.m Feb. 5, 1958. At 3:39 p.m. they returned to court to ask a question.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, what seems to be the difficulty?” asked Superior Court Judge John A. Hewicker. “You have been out there all these hours.”

At 4:37 p.m., the jury delivered a guilty verdict. The next day, during the penalty phase, it took the jury less than five hours to decide Cartier should die.

“Jack the Ripper in fiction was a novice compared to Cartier the Butcher,” prosecutor Francis Gallagher told the jury.

Advertisement

Defense attorney Alden Fulkerson was blocked from introducing evidence of Geneva Cartier’s infidelity or the allegation that she taunted her husband about his inadequate sexual performance.

Fulkerson, who was paid $1,200 to defend Cartier, asked that the sentence be reduced to life imprisonment.

“Why, if I did, they would have me up to the psychopathic ward to examine my head to see what was wrong with me,” Hewicker said. “The most brutal crime ever commited in the state of California and I think he was carving on her heart when she was still breathing.”

An appeals court ordered a new trial because prosecutors had withheld pretrial information. A non-jury trial brought another guilty verdict.

Advertisement

Appeals to the California Supreme Court were futile. Gov. Pat Brown refused to grant a last-minute stay to consider new psychological evidence.

Fulkerson remembers Cartier as accepting the state’s right to execute him: “He always said, ‘If I did that, I should die for it.’ ”

The San Diego Union reported the execution in nine paragraphs at the bottom of the front page; no pictures, no feature stories, no analysis, nothing like the saturation coverage of the Harris case.

Executions weren’t big news in 1960.

Advertisement

More space was devoted to Union editor Herb Klein returning to the newspaper after working in the losing presidential campaign of Richard Nixon.

Lights Out on Star-Crossed Campaign

Everywhere you look.

* Jane Ramshaw has now withdrawn from the 78th Assembly District race. But, while she was a candidate, there were recurring rumors about her campaign and astrology.

Advertisement

Ramshaw, before dropping out, said that, yes , she has a passing interest in horoscopes, and, yes , she has a friend working in the campaign who has an even keener interest.

Still, she insisted that no charts were made for what proved to be a star-crossed campaign.

* When The Times reported on the marriage plans of Los Angeles television anchors Jim Lampley and Bree Walker (formerly of KGTV in San Diego), the headline was subdued: “L.A.'s Most Visible Office Romance.”

But, when the San Francisco Chronicle ran The Times story, it jazzed things up: “TV Anchors in Love: More Details at 11.” The jump head: “From Happy Talk to Pillow Talk.”

Advertisement


Advertisement