Republicans don’t win a lot of votes in the California Senate, but they have a clear strategy when key public-safety votes come up: mobilize victim’s rights groups and a target moderate Democrats.
This strategy has failed so far this year when it came to appointments requiring only a majority vote. But it worked last month when they were able to pick up three Democratic votes and deny a $75,000 payment to a man they claim is a rapist.
The payment was one of 176 payments, amounting to a total of $215.8 million, to people owed money by the state contained within SB 242 by Appropriations Committee chairman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch. That was this year’s version of a bill generally carried by the Approps chairperson to approve outstanding payments to various citizens for reimbursements, contract payments and unclaimed checks.
GOP senators, led by Jeff Denham, R-Merced, chose to fight a $75,000 payment to one David Allen Jones. In 1995, Jones was convicted in of three homicides and a rape in Los Angeles. In 2004, Jones was cleared of the murder charges when DNA evidence pointed to another suspect. At that point, he’s served almost nine years–746 days longer than called for under his rape conviction. He asked for a fairly standard compensation of $100 per day of wrongful imprisonment.
Jones later was granted a retrial on the rape conviction, and his conviction was voided when the victim died of unrelated causes before the retrial could occur. But based on testimony that he committed both the rape he was convicted for and several others, GOP senators said Jones is very likely a rapist–an assessment that Torlakson said is likely true.
On June 4, SB 242 got a 23-11 vote on the Senate floor, four votes short of the two-thirds majority it needed as an Appropriations measure. The no votes included three moderate Democrats: Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Montclair, and Jenny Oropeza, D-Long Beach. Senate Minority Leader Dick Ackerman, R-Tustin, was the only Republican to vote for Torlakson’s appropriations bill.
The bill was granted reconsideration, but GOP senators kept it from coming back. In a June 18 letter to other GOP senators, Denham noted: “Some proponents of paying Jones’ claim will say ‘We have no choice. The law is the law. We have to pay the claim.’ This is absolutely wrong–no legislator can be forced to vote in favor of any bill.