Prosecutors said Friday they are waiving the death penalty in the case of an “Austin Powers” actor who allegedly killed his cellmate while serving a life sentence for torture.
Joseph Son was not transported to Kern County Superior Court for Friday’s hearing, but prosecutor Sara Danville told the court District Attorney Lisa Green has decided not to seek the death penalty. A formal waiver of death will be held at Son’s next hearing in November.
Son’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender T. Alan Rogers, said afterward his office filed a lengthy motion as to why capital punishment was inappropriate in Son’s case. He cited Son’s social and mental health issues, lack of an extensive criminal record and evidence that he acted in self-defense when he killed cellmate Michael Graham at Wasco State Prison.
Graham was serving a two-year term for failing to register as a sex offender. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reports say Graham died from multiple blunt force trauma.
The reports say prison staff responded to Son's cell at 5:25 p.m. Oct. 10, 2011, for a report of a man down. Son was standing at the door of the cell.
"I told you I need to get out of here, " he told an officer, then began washing his hands.
Graham was lying unresponsive on the cell's lower bunk with his eyes and mouth open. He was pronounced dead within a half hour.
Son, 44, is charged with assault by a life prisoner with force causing death. It’s similar to a murder charge, but more specific to Son's circumstances since he was already serving a sentence of life without the possibility of parole when his cellmate was killed.
Son portrayed Dr. Evil's henchman Random Task in the hit 1997 film "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery." He was a mixed martial arts fighter before taking up acting.
He was convicted of torture and given a life sentence in 2011 after DNA evidence linked him to a 1990 gang rape in Orange County.