Opinion

Clemency for the condemned? Remember the victims

The execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Democrats ask that as California Gov. Jerry Brown leaves office he provide mercy to California’s 739 death row inmates.

A few facts:  The governor of California has the power to issue pardons, commute sentences or grant clemency to individuals convicted of crimes in the state.  The state Legislature does not review this power.  It is a power with no checks from the Legislature and one for which the decision requires no explanation.

So now, with Gov. Brown leaving office in a few weeks, six former Democratic governors – Richard Celeste (Ohio), John Kitzhaber (Oregon), Martin O’Malley (Maryland), Bill Richardson and Toney Anaya (both New Mexico), and Pat Quinn (Illinois) – have penned an op-ed for The New York Times in which they urge Gov. Brown to give clemency to all California’s death row inmates.

“Jerry Brown has the power to save 740 lives,” the Democrat governors write.  “From a humanitarian perspective, it is horrifying to imagine executing that many humans.  As a practical matter, it’s beyond comprehension.”

Yet nowhere do the Democrats even mention the many, many victims, the lives taken and the thousands more changed forever – the rape victims, the murder victims and the countless families who lost loved ones.  What about the humanitarian aspects of that?

For him to now grant a blanket clemency to hundreds of extremely violent criminals for political expediency is an insult to victims and their families.

Here are just a few of the death row inmates the Democrats want to save:

Richard Allen Davis
Davis, currently 64, kidnapped and murdered 12-year-old Polly Klaas.  She was taken from her Petaluma home while having a slumber party with friends on Oct. 1, 1993.  Her body was found two months later after Davis confessed to the murder and led investigators to her body.

Prior to this murder, Davis had a significant criminal record which helped drive support for California’s Three Strikes Law signed in 1994.

David Westerfield
Westerfield, currently 66, convicted of first degree murder and kidnapping of Danielle van Dam.

On the morning of Feb. 2, 2002, Danielle, a 7-year-old from Sabre Springs in San Diego, was discovered to be missing from her bedroom.  Following that discovery, hundreds of volunteers searched for the missing girl until her body was found, nude, and partially decomposed, on Feb. 27, in a remote community in eastern San Diego county.

The condition of the body resulted in the identification being made from dental records, and the coroner could not confirm whether Danielle was sexually assaulted.

Albert Brown
Brown, currently 56, convicted of aggravated murder of Arlington High School student Susan Jordan in 1980 in Riverside.  The 15-year-old was walking to school when Brown pulled her into an orange grove, raped her, and strangled her with her shoelaces.  He called the girl’s parents and told them where to find her body.

Brown had been paroled from prison only four months prior for the 1977 rape of a 14-year-old girl.

Michael Angelo Morales
In 1981, Morales, currently 59, attacked then 17-year-old Terri Winchell, of Lodi, from behind, attempting to strangle her with his belt.  When the belt broke Morales struck her multiple times in the head with a hammer, beating her into unconsciousness and crushing her skull.  Morales then drove to an isolated area, dragged Winchell face down into a vineyard, raped her and stabbed her four times in the chest.  Winchell died from both the head and chest wounds.

Police searched Morales’ home two days later.  Inside they found Morales’ broken belt, containing Terri Winchell’s blood, hidden under a bedroom mattress.  They also found three knives, the hammer bearing traces of Winchell’s blood hidden in the refrigerator vegetable crisper, and bloodstained car floor mats in the trash.  Terri’s purse and credit card also were in the house; Morales had used $11 from Terri’s purse to buy beer, wine and cigarettes on the night of the murder.

Mitchell Carlton Sims
On Dec. 3, 1985, Sims, currently 59, invaded the Domino’s restaurant in Hanahan, South Carolina, where he had recently worked.  He held two employees at gunpoint and tortured both before he shot them, execution-style.  He killed one victim outright; the other – shot four times – managed to reach a police station, naming Sims as the gunman before he collapsed.  That second victim died a week later, but Sims and Padgett had already fled to Glendale, California.

On Dec. 10, 1985, Sims ordered a Domino’s pizza delivered to his Glendale motel room.  When deliveryman John Harrington arrived, Sims stripped him of his uniform and drowned him in the bathtub.  Sims then donned Harrington’s uniform, went to the restaurant to loot its safe and left two employees locked in the freezer, bound so they had to stand on tiptoe to avoid hanging themselves.

The mere suggestion that this mass clemency is a good or just idea is shameful.

Gov. Brown has had 16 years to review individual death sentences, and look at each one on a case by case basis.  For him to now grant a blanket clemency to hundreds of extremely violent criminals for political expediency is an insult to victims and their families.

Commuting the death sentences for over 700 death row inmates who tortured, raped, and murdered their victims would be an abuse of power.  And, it is another sign that the political elite is more interested in protecting criminals, rather than standing up for victims and their families.

On behalf of victims throughout California, please immediately contact Gov. Brown at https://www.gov.ca.gov/.  And, include me Senator.Jones@senate.ca.gov so that I can continue to use your support, and your stories, to better fight for the rights of victims and their families.

Editor’s Note: State Sen. Brian Jones, a Republican, represents the 38th District in San Diego County,  which includes El Cajon, La Mesa, Poway, Escondido, Rancho Santa Fe, Alpine, Julian and Bonsall, among others.


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