NOVATO, Calif.—James Raphael Mitchell, the 29-year-old son of porn pioneer Jim Mitchell, has been sentenced to 35-life in prison for beating his girlfriend, Danielle Keller, to death with a baseball bat in 2009 as she held their 1-year-old son in her arms. Mitchell was convicted July 12 of first-degree murder, kidnapping, child endangerment, child abduction, domestic violence and stalking.
The sentence, handed down by Judge Kelly Simmons, was the severest possible under the law, according to the Marin Independent Journal: “26 years to life in prison for first-degree murder and nine more years for the kidnapping of the couple's 1-year-old daughter.”
Amazingly, considering the brutality of the crime and the fact that witnesses were present, Mitchell continued to claim his innocence just before being sentenced, and, according to the news site, “called the court case ‘a circus’ and declared, ‘I am not responsible for Danielle's death.’”
During testimony during the trial, Mitchell said that two unidentified men killed Keller and that he arrived at the scene after her death. “But Mitchell could not explain how Keller's blood got spattered on his pants at close range,” the Journal reported.
Mitchell and Keller were not living together at the time of the murder. According to the journal, “Mitchell, who had a history of abusing Keller, drove from his house in Pittsburg to Keller's apartment in Novato and repeatedly clubbed the 29-year-old woman in the head with a softball bat. Then he fled with their 1-year-old baby before being arrested in Citrus Heights.”
Despite taking the child during the commission of a crime, however, the jury declined to convict Mitchell on a charge sought by the prosecutor of murder during a kidnapping, which would have made him ineligible for parole.
Keller’s mother, Claudia Stevens, was in court for the sentencing and made a stament to the courtroom before the sentence was handed down.
"His flagrant dismissal of the law cost my daughter her life," she said. "This man-child didn't care about anything but what he wanted. And if he can't get what he wants, he takes it."
According to the Journal, Mitchell glowered at Stevens as she spoke, and then, in what was called a “last-minute rant” by the paper, “called the case called the case ‘a circus from the beginning’ based on ‘hearsay from a drunk like Claudia Stevens.’”
At the conclusion of the hearing, Stevens said of the convicted killer’s lack of remorse, "I think in his brain, he thinks he really didn't do it. If he ever gets out, he'll be like an animal. He's like a wart we burned off."
Mitchell's father, porn legend Jim Mitchell, ran the infamous O'Farrell Theater in San Francisco with his younger brother, Artie. The brothers produced the classic 1972 Marilyn Chambers hit Behind the Green Door, The Resurrection of Eve, Autobiography of a Flea, and Sodom and Gomorrah; along the way, they were arrested hundreds of times and successfully beat numerous obscenity charges.
Jim shot Artie to death in 1991 and was sentenced to three years in San Quentin State Prison for involuntary manslaughter. He died of a heart attack at his Sonoma County ranch home in July of 2007 at the age of 63.