No Justice for Polly

Polly Klaas

Polly Klaas

I feel like I have been betrayed by my beloved California, as have the other families of people killed by California’s death row killers, who are responsible for murdering more than 1,000 people, including 229 children and 43 police officers. By extension the victim families and friends of the nearly 1,400 lifers that Governor Brown has paroled since taking office in 2011 have also been betrayed, as have the victims of the 18,000 felons who were released from prison early as a result of Governor Brown’s prison realignment plan.

Killer RA Davis

Richard Davis killed Polly Klaas

As a crime victim whose 12-year-old daughter was killed by an unrepentant and violent psychopath, I fully expected that it would only be a matter of time before justice would be served after Judge William Hastings imposed the death sentence with this admonition, “Mr. Davis, this is always a traumatic and emotional decision for a judge. You made it very easy today by your conduct.”

Alex Hamilton killed Police officer Larry Alasater

Alex Hamilton killed Police officer Larry Alasater

Unfortunately, in California, courtroom sentences literally aren’t worth the paper that they are printed on. Just the other day United States District Court Judge Cormac J. Carney declared California’s death penalty unconstitutional because a sense of uncertainty and delay, “violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.”

Trailside Killer David Carpenter murdered raped & murdered at least five women

Trailside Killer David Carpenter raped & murdered at least five women

That Polly’s killer has been on death row for seventeen-years without being executed may be unusual, but it is certainly not cruel. It was cruel when he kidnapped, raped and strangled my Polly in order to, “avoid AIDS by getting a young one,” as was revealed at trial. It was cruel when the judge arbitrarily decided that neither he nor California’s other 747 death row killers will face the sentence imposed upon them by a jury of their peers. It is cruel when the will of the people and the law of the land are subverted by a powerful and unrepresentative minority.

Ramon-Salcido_mugshot.400x800

Ramon Salcido murdered seven relatives including his wife and two daughters

I will never understand how activist judges, the ACLU, the defense bar, and other prison rights apologists are willing to undermine the criminal justice system, betray victims and their families, and endanger innocent people for the approval of killers, rapists and thugs. That they seek the endorsement of society’s underbelly links them to depravity, amorality and future victimization, yet they will never be held accountable for their actions. Might these decisions and this trend represent the death of punishment in California?

National Victim Rights Week

Victims 9

Today National Victim’s Rights Week was acknowledged on the West Steps of the State Capitol in Sacramento. Crime Victims United sponsored an event, so there were plenty of speeches and participating politicians included Governor Jerry Brown. However, it was the victims and murder victim family members who really stood out because each and every one interrupted their lives in order to take a stand for victim’s rights, acknowledge their lost loved ones, and lobby their legislators for effective public safety policy and legislation.

Victims Prayer

Victims Prayer

The importance of being personally involved in the political process cannot be overstated. I’ve been doing it since 1993, when my daughter was murdered by a violent offender with an extensive criminal history. In those days, there were very few legislative fall back positions for children who were being victimized. Call me a cynic, but I truly believe that was because kids don’t vote and politicians don’t have to look them in the eye. Therefore they didn’t have a real voice.

Victims 4

Things have changed enormously since then as the result of a series of tragic crimes and effective children’s advocates. We have Amber Alerts, Megan’s Law, law enforcement missing child protocols, and greater awareness and education surrounding child safety and child welfare issues.

Crime Victim's Harriet Salarno, Lexie Ashford, and Nina Salarno-Ashford

Crime Victim’s Harriet Salarno, Lexie Ashford, and Nina Salarno-Ashford

When I refer to being involved in the political process I’m not talking about the process as practiced in the houses of government that results in political perp walks on the 11:00 p.m. News. I don’t mean politicians like U.S. Congressman Mark Foley who left Washington D.C. in disgrace after he was found soliciting young boys serving as Congressional pages. I don’t mean pious hypocrites like Leland Yee, who I saw walking the halls of California’s Capitol on the day he got arrested, however I don’t think he’d been arrested yet because he wasn’t wearing handcuffs. I don’t mean corrupt politicians like state Senator’s Ronald Calderon and Roderick Wright who yesterday joined Yee in having their names and online archives disappear from the Senate website yesterday.

Sweet Polly...Never Forgotten!

Sweet Polly…Never Forgotten!

In 1995, I joined Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a coalition of prosecutors, police chiefs and crime victims lobbying for prevention funding for at-risk children. In 1995 the federal government was funding quality pre-school and after school activities for 10,000 children, but today, in large part because of people like you and me who became personally involved in the political process that number has grown to 1,000,000.

John

John

I don’t mean the ideological political process that paralyzes legislative bodies throughout the United States. People have differences, but can usually find common ground on the issues that are important to us, particularly if those issues regard the well-being of our kids. However, ideological politics has paralyzed the legislative process so that nothing meaningful ever gets done.

With 3-Strikes guru Mike Reynolds

With 3-Strikes guru Mike Reynolds

Let me give you an example that perfectly illustrates how popular and common sense policy concepts that cannot get a vote in the legislature can become law when people become involved. In 2011 I spent a lot of time here at the Capitol with Chris Kelly, Suzanne DiNubile and others lobbying for legislation requiring registered sex offenders to include Internet identifiers like email address and social networking handles. We watched as two separate bills died in committee. In 2012 that concept became an integral component of Prop. 35. Under Daphne Phung’s vision and leadership Prop. 35 passed by the widest margin of any initiative in California history with more than 81% of the vote.

Victims 6

Today I went to the Capitol because National Victim’s Rights week is April 6-12. It represents an opportunity for people like me to remind our elected officials what’s really important. I’ve always felt that their primary duty is public safety, but the isolation and insulation of this building confuses them and sometimes they need to be reminded what is important and who they serve.

No more victims

No more victims

Right now there is a disturbing trend in the Capitol that is putting us all at risk. Many of the accomplishments that cut California’s crime rate in half 20-years ago is being undone by the legislators in this very building. Governor Brown’s realignment policy has dumped tens of thousands of violent criminals onto our streets. The repeal of 3-strikes will allow thousands of lifers to go free. Failure to enforce Jessica’s Law has allowed an untold number of registered sex offenders to abscond. A law written by Senator Lee will allow remorseless killers to be released back into society, and finally Governor Brown’s decision to parole more than twice as many lifers than his three predecessors combined.

Color Guard

Without people like us making our views known to our elected officials we will find ourselves in dire straits. Because we live in dynamic communities that change and evolve and sometimes can be hazardous, while they live in marble lined halls where your hands don’t get dirty and your farts don’t smell. Sometimes they just need to be reminded that people matter, that showing the courage to do the right thing is more important than toeing the line for rigid ideology, or making decisions based on personal gain.

Public Safety Continues to Deteriorate Under Realignment

By Criminal Justice Legal Foundation

Libra Tatt2When Realignment took effect in October 2011, many in law enforcement warned of the unavoidable consequences to public safety it would cause.  As the impact of shifting the responsibility for thousands of felons from the state to California counties began to play out, newspapers and television reporters have focused on the issue.  In recent weeks, news reports continue to paint a picture of innocent people fighting for their lives and property against criminals on the street because of Realignment.  The Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation has been compiling reports of crimes committed by criminals free under Realignment for over two years.

 

On February 18, a Central California  woman was luckily able to fight off a criminal who had broken into her home just hours after being released from county jail after conviction for a similar assault.  Patty Guerra of the Modesto Bee reports that 18-year-old Aaron Modisett-Hollie was arrested last December on charges of kidnapping, assault with the intent to commit felony mayhem or rape, and false imprisonment.  He was convicted on the assault charge and sentenced under Realignment to a year in county jail.  The judge reduced the sentence to 89 days after he factored in time served and good behavior credits.  But due to jail overcrowding caused by Realignment, Modisett-Hollie was released on Monday, February 17, after only seven days.

 Aaron Modisett-Hollie

Aaron Modisett-Hollie

According to investigators, hours after his release, Modisette-Hollie saw the woman in her front yard as he wandered her neighborhood and waited until she went back inside her house.  He then broke in through a window and reportedly threw the woman to the floor, but she used a shard of glass from the window to stab him several times.  Injured, he fled the scene and was later arrested.  Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson said that the crime was a direct consequence of Realignment, “We house the worst of the worst and we’re forced to release the best of the worst, all due to realignment and jail bed capacity,” he said.  Christianson mentioned that even before Realignment went into effect, his department was struggling with jail overcrowding, and this legislation has only exacerbated the problem.

 

On January 2, Raymond Moreno was arrested in Long Beach and later convicted on charges that include a violation of a gang injunction and being an ex-felon in possession of a loaded firearm, burglary tools and drug paraphernalia.  Prior to Realignment, these charges and Moreno’s prior record would have made him eligible for state prison.  Under Realignment he was sentenced to 180 days in jail and released on February 8 due to jail overcrowding.  On February 9, Long Beach Police report that Moreno approached an unsuspecting victim sitting in a vehicle in the area of 15th Street and Chestnut Avenue and attempted a carjacking, but the victim was able to escape and report the crime.  Moreno was later arrested.  Jonathan Van Dyke of the Long Beach Grunion Gazette Newspaper reports that Moreno is one of many convicted felons whose criminal history represents the dark side of Realignment.  The Long Beach Police Department reports that during 2013, there were more than 800 arrests from Realignment offenders.  Two were for murder, ten were for assault with a deadly weapon, and the rest were a host of other serious felonies.

 Erik Dean Boettcher

Erik Dean Boettcher

A February 20 story by Melissa Pinion-Whitt of the San Bernardino Sun reports that police in Riverside have arrested 34-year-old Erik Dean Boettcher, who was free on probation under Realignment.  Authorities say he abducted and sexually assaulted an 11-year-old girl who ran away from home.  On February 14, the victim told police of the attack and officers were able to arrest Boettcher days later.  Investigators say he picked the girl up and drove her to a secluded area where he sexually assaulted her before driving her to a motel where he gave her drugs and proceeded to sexually assault her again.  He is currently being held in county jail without bail.

 

Residents of the Northern California city of Fairfield are being victimized by increasing rates of robberies and violent crimes.  The city’s police captain believes a big contributor to the increase is Realignment.  On February 14, Ian Thompson of the Daily Republic reported that along with increases in violent crimes, the city has also been afflicted with a 43% increase in arson, a 25% increase in auto theft, and a 10% increase in burglary.  City police have partnered with county sheriff’s officers to keep tabs on felons that have been released from state custody, noting that the large majority of people arrested last year were individuals released under Realignment.

 

These stories and new reports indicating that probation officers in Los Angeles, tasked under Realignment with keeping track of thousands of sex offenders, are being overwhelmed and cannot respond to alerts from GPS monitors that have been cut off or otherwise disabled, should be a serious concern to the Governor and the California Legislature.

 

“But Governor Brown’s response has been to set a new record for granting parole to life sentenced murderers, rapists and kidnappers and cut a deal with federal judges to weaken California’s Three Strikes law so that more habitual felons can be released early from state prison,” said Foundation President Michael Rushford.  “How many law-abiding Californians have to become crime victims before those supposedly representing them in Sacramento take action to change this terrible law,” he added.

More Evidence of Rising Crime Under Realignment

By Michael Rushford

cuffsWith the recent FBI release of preliminary crime statistics for the first six months of 2012, and continuing reports on local crime from news organizations and police agencies across the state, it is becoming increasingly clear that something happened in California last year that caused a sharp increase in virtually every major category of crime.  The FBI report found a small increase nationally in violent and property crime driven by larger increases in the West.  Since the sweeping changes in sentencing under Governor Jerry Brown’s Public Safety Realignment law took effect in October 2011, the California-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation has been monitoring criminal activity across the state to gauge the law’s effect on public safety.

 

While the reports we have collected from local law enforcement agencies over the past year and the recent preliminary report from the FBI are not proof of a trend, they do show a large and abrupt, across-the-board increase in California crime rates which is disturbing.

 

The Criminal Justice League Foundation noted that, in a January 28, 2013 report, researchers at the University of Minnesota identified a downward national trend in crime, citing better technology and changing social dynamics.  In December, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg boasted that his city’s declining incarceration rate and improved policing had caused a dramatic decrease in major felonies.

FBI Preliminary Semi-Annual Uniform Crime Report

FBI Preliminary Semi-Annual Uniform Crime Report

The recent FBI report tells a different story.  Over the first six months of 2012, violent crime in New York City increased by 3.9% and property crime climbed 6.1%.  But not all large states saw increases, Florida and Texas, both of which have reduced some incarceration rates but maintain tough-on-crime sentencing policies, saw only slight increases or declining rates.  States which have been more aggressive at reducing the incarceration of felons, particularly along the West Coast have reversed the trend of reduced crime in recent years and saw rising rates of both violent and property crimes.

 

California’s increase has been the most dramatic.  The FBI report for 2011 had crime dropping in all categories compared to the previous year.  The preliminary report for 2012 shows significant increases.  In a February 3, 2013 Pasadena Star-News story, the Police Chiefs of Pasadena, Glendale, and Covina expressed their concerns about rising crime caused by Realignment.  “This is a dangerous public policy,” Glendale Police Chief Brian De Pompa told reporters.  “Without strong state prison accountability, it’s hard to control crime.”

 

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon disagrees.  His city has embraced the evidence-based rehabilitation and probation approach to most felons, an approach praised by the ACLU.  In a January 19, 2013 Los Angeles Daily News story, Gascon said, “I know that we cannot incarcerate our way out of this problem.”  Unfortunately, according to a January Associated Press story, the homicide rate in San Francisco increased by 36% last year, and the trend is continuing.  On January 1, 2013, documented gang member David Morales, 19, allegedly killed two people while being pursued by police in San Francisco.  Morales is suspected of having driven through a housing complex and shooting at three men.  Police matched the description of the vehicle involved in the shooting to Morales’s car.  Officers then tried to pull him over.  In the ensuing high-speed chase, Morales rammed into a car at an intersection and sent it spinning into a pedestrian.  Both the passenger of the car, 29-year-old Silvia Tuncun, and the pedestrian, 26-year-old Francisco Gutierrez, were killed.  Morales’s most recent conviction was in April 2012 for gang activity which, under Realignment, left him free on probation at the time of the killings .

 

Something happened in California last year that has caused a major shift in crime rates. Excuses by supporters of the Governor’s Realignment are of little comfort to Californians who have lost friends or loved ones to so-called ‘low-level’ felons left in our communities because of this dangerous law.