Category Archives: death penalty

Overcoming Victimization Through Empowerment and Education

By Rebecca Petty


Andi Brewer

The abduction of a child is every parent’s worst nightmare. In the event of a child abduction, that child can be taken away from their family at the rate of a mile per minute. Within an hour of an abduction, a child can be as far away as 60 miles, staggering if you think about it in those terms. In the event of a child abduction, swift action must be taken and law enforcement called immediately. Many people are still under the misconception that law enforcement cannot be called in until the 24 hour mark is reached, but this is simply not the case anymore. Sadly, we have all learned that time is of the essence in the case of a missing child. In 76 percent of child abduction murders, the victim was killed within 3 hours of the reported abduction, and in 89 percent of child abduction murders, the victim was killed within 24 hours.  (Gregoire, C., US Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Deliquency Prevention. 2006)


The importance of contacting law enforcement cannot be stressed enough. In the event of a true child abduction, a myriad of people will become involved in the search for the missing child including the community in which the child lives. The people in the community can help immensely in the return of a missing child by holding candlelight vigils to bring awareness to the missing child and by assisting in the search for the missing child. Community involvement is sometimes the key in the return of the child, whether alive or deceased.


May 15, 1999, 12-year-old Andria “Andi” Nichole Brewer was babysitting at her father’s rural Arkansas home when a knock came at the door. Her two younger stepsiblings said it was “Uncle Karl,” and that he said her grandparents were ill and she must immediately come with him. Brewer left under the assumption that she was going to her grandparent’s house. A three- day, state-wide search ensued, which included local and state police, the FBI, and hundreds of community volunteers who collectively scoured the rural area in the Ouachita Mountains. The frustrated Sheriff, Mike Oglesby, commented that Andi seemed to have disappeared off the planet.


The nightmare is not knowing what happened to your child and not knowing who did these terrible things to your child. (Walsh, 1997). “Uncle Karl,” an uncle by marriage, confessed to kidnapping Brewer and taking her ten miles away to Cove, Arkansas. He drove her down an old logging road west of town where he brutally raped and strangled her to death. He then covered her nude body with scrub brush and threw her clothes in Buffalo Creek. He then proceeded to his parent’s house where he shared a cup of coffee with his father and then, upon a frantic call from his wife, returned to help search for Brewer. He assisted in the search for her for three days and finally confessed to the state police and FBI upon the failing of a polygraph test, shortly thereafter, he led authorities to her body.


Andria “Andi” Nichole Brewer was my daughter. Her short life set my own life on a path of creating a legacy for my daughter and made me realize that the only way to overcome victimization was through empowerment and education. It became my passion to ensure that this sort of thing never happened to another child. However, first on the agenda was something that only stood in line behind burying her. That was to attend the capital murder trial for the man who murdered her.


Abduction and Capital Murder

On Tuesday, May 18th 1999, Karl Douglas Roberts was charged with the capital murder of 12-year-old, Andria Brewer. He pled not-guilty in front of a stunned Polk County Circuit Court in the small town of Mena, Arkansas. Prosecutor Tim Williamson was set with the task of not only dealing with Brewer’s family, but also with the task of controlling a community who wanted to hang Roberts on the front lawn of the courthouse. Death threats were coming in for Roberts and even his own family cowered in fear in their homes. Williamson did his job to the best of his ability considering he had only prosecuted one capital murder case and never a case involving a young child. This quickly became a learning event for everyone involved, the State of Arkansas, the community, law enforcement, and the victim’s family. Some of the larger issues were regarding the media, and Williamson handled them with grace. Additionally, to deal with the victim’s family, Williamson assigned Jo Mitchell, a victim advocate for the Prosecutors office. She helped answer tough questions and was there for the family when they needed emotional support. It was after strong support and encouragement from Jo Mitchell that I realized that, one day, I could help others and be there for the hurting families. I was treading on a path few had walked and had empathy for people I never felt before. It was then my stirrings for helping others were born.


Coping with Becoming a Crime Victim Overnight

Coping is one of the hardest things to learn after becoming a victim of violent crime. Trust is nonexistent, hope is out the window, and belief in God is questioned. There are many things to learn. One of the most astounding things I learned was how evil the world could be. Being raised in a middleclass family and not being associated with any type of crime, I was stunned to learn that the average victim of abduction and murder is an 11-year-old girl who is described as a low-risk, “normal” child from a middle-class neighborhood who has a stable family relationship and whose initial contact with an abductor occurs within a quarter of a mile of her home. (Gregoire, C., US Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Deliquency Prevention. 2006). My knees came out from underneath me as I learned that my young daughter had been brutally raped before being strangled. I will never forget the prosecutor telling this me this fact and his face becoming shadowed to my view as I began to pass out. This happened while picking out a casket, too. When the door opened to the room lined with about twenty caskets for me to choose from that shadowy darkness enveloped me once more and my knees again became weak.


A child’s funeral is awful. The way I remember it was that all of the faces seemed out of place. People that I knew from every aspect of my life had filled the room. My parents. My church friends from Oklahoma. There were people who lined the wall. I recall wailing. Someone said I wailed, but I do not remember this. All I remember is a casket. Pepto Bismol pink. And I remember Amazing Grace, and the drone of a sermon, and pink balloons, and watching that Pepto Bismol casket lowered into the ground.  But, I wanted only one thing. To be inside of it, holding her, caressing her, telling her I was sorry I hadn’t been there to stop this, and to tell her I loved her. This was truly the moment when I knew that no parent should ever have to bury a child. It was then I knew that I must be the one to advocate for victims of crime and children.


In the State of Arkansas, a person commits capital murder if they commit murder in the commission of another crime. (Arkansas General Assembly. 2013). In this case, Williamson decided to charge Roberts with the rape and murder. He left the abduction out of the charge in the rare event that something went awry at the trial and he needed to charge the abduction at a later time. In the fourteen years since this crime was committed, he has never had to charge for that felony kidnapping. Karl Douglas Roberts was charged with first degree capital murder and the only hope he had was to receive life without parole. This wasn’t likely in a rural Arkansas county where truly, as politically incorrect as it seems, even blacks were told not to be seen in town after dark. Seems there were two things not tolerated in Polk County, blacks and child killers, although I never could understand the racism issue and blamed it on the character of the Deep South. Wanting to kill a child murdered was another story.


Watching Roberts being led into that courtroom, I could only think of one thing. Andi was dead and cold and he was warm and alive and beginning the fight for his life. Hate had a new meaning, and it was standing in front of me. He was vile and disgusting and hate consumed my heart. I knew even then that this wasn’t right and I was in for the biggest challenge of my life, to live through a capital murder trial.


Facing a Capital Murder Trial

Prosecutor Williamson informed the Brewer family that it would be about a year for the trial to begin. And true to his words the trial began exactly one year to the day Andi was kidnapped, raped and strangled to death. Prior to the trial, I had to admit to myself that I knew absolutely nothing about the criminal justice system or how it worked. This was when my training and the journey of empowering myself began. The wealth of data on the information superhighway became my best friend and was where my true learning started. I became a self-taught lawyer, advocate, and law enforcement guru. Over the previous year, I had already become an advocate of sorts. People began to tell me things such as they had been raped as a child. Whenever another child went missing, the news media would reach out to me for comment as though I had all the answers. I found myself speaking in front of crowds of parents, law enforcement, and my community, and teaching them the dangers of predatory crime against children. I was invited to Washington D.C. to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to become a member of Team HOPE, a group who offers peer support for families with missing or sexually exploited children. And in this, I taught and memorized the language of the law, what law enforcement lingo meant, some of the Latin that was used in terms of the law, actus reus (guilty act), per curium (through the court), modus operandi, (manner of operation or M.O.), and habeas corpus, (to secure the person’s release unless lawful grounds are shown for their detention), the latter is a word that often haunts crime victims for many years in death penalty cases.


The process of grief is difficult. Asking, “why me,” or “why my child,” is a normal human reaction, but not a human reaction that is welcome. It is the wee hours of the morning that are the most difficult and suffering from post-traumatic stress leaves a person exhausted.


Something learned about “why,” was to question whether it was nature, was Roberts some freak of nature? Or was it nurture?


What always is a debate, is it a nature or nurture thing? I can say from the people who I have interviewed, on death row or in prisons around the country, most of them will have some type of violence, psychological, physical violence, sexual violence in the background. However, I’m kind of tough on this because I still don’t believe it should be a mitigating factor, they still have the ability to make choices and [use] free will and they’re making these choices and it’s the wrong choices. (Douglas, J., Olshaker, M. 1999)


To sit through a capital murder trial and realize what a predatory monster did to your child is heart rending. And when Karl Douglas Roberts was sentenced to death for murdering my 12-year-old daughter, I thought that justice had been served. I was wrong on so many levels. I have since learned this was only the beginning of many years of appeals and a lot of work for the State of Arkansas, ACLU, and many appellate judges. All in all, I have learned, a death penalty case, is a cash cow.


Becoming an Advocate for Children and Victims

Being taken seriously became a big area of concern for me. I began to speak out on many issues advocating for victims and children. I found myself in court with victim families, doing media interviews, along with photographing and fingerprinting children at safety fairs. My face and my child’s face became synonymous with keeping children safe. The only problem was that I always seemed to be the mother of that “poor little girl.” People sometimes were overcome with grief when they saw me and at other times I heard people talking bad about all the money I was making by promoting my dead child. It wasn’t true, I never made a dime, but I knew that I had to be taken more seriously. I realized that my lack of education made me seem weak. Even though I had been invited by the White House to discuss the issue of a National Amber Alert in a private roundtable discussion with President Bush who ultimately signed it into law, I still knew I had to do more. I needed a college education. I was scared to death when I enrolled in the Criminal Justice program at Tulsa Community College part-time. I began what has been a ten year trek of trying to raise a family, be an advocate, and a student. However, I always knew someday I would complete my degree. Being an advocate for victims and children has opened many doors for me. However, I will never shy away from saying that if I could have one more second with Andi, I would give it all up in a heartbeat. It has always been about creating a legacy for her, not me having a job. But, the more I talked about the case, the more people wanted to hear what I had to say. And they listened.


Still Learning the Ropes

Empowering myself through education has been the key in this tough field. It has been fourteen years since the death of my daughter and I am still fighting for her legacy. It is surreal to think that Andi would be nearly 27-years-old now. For fourteen years, I have fought for crime victims and children. I have met President Bush, shared Andi’s story with him. I have shared her story with Jamie Lee Curtis, Bryan Cranston, Patrick Dempsey, Morgan Freeman, and sat on Oprah’s couch and told her as well. I have become a consultant for the Department of Justice’s Office for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency as well as Fox Valley Technical College. I train law enforcement on the family perspective of child abduction, and I suppose that does make me the expert now. I have lobbied on Capitol Hill for the Adam Walsh Bill and become friends with other advocates, Colleen Nick, John Walsh, Marc Klaas, and Ed Smart, all victims who taught me through the school of hard knocks.


I am also glad to report that nightmares do not come as often as they used to. Fourteen years is a lot of time to heal. I have worked hard, and my skin had to become tough in the face of naysayers who have told me to “let the dead rest,” and that I should be fighting “against” the death penalty, to which I reply, “I was not a juror in this case.” I have faced many challenges and obstacles and in December, I will be proud to walk across the stage and finally, finally, finally receive my bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. However, I am not stopping there. I plan on advancing forward to graduate school. When that is over, politics seems a logical path for me. City council, state representative, senator, governor?


The event that led me to this career path, is not something I would wish on anyone, the price is too high and no one should have to lose a child. That being said, I won’t stop, a legacy is still in the making and it is for a 12-year-old girl everyone called Andi. A girl who had a mega-watt smile and an infectious giggle. She was taken from this planet far too young and will always remain in my mind as a gentle apparition, one forever trapped at the tender age of twelve. But she will have a legacy. I will see to it.

Death Penalty: Fix It, Don’t Nix It!


ScumThe events that transpired during the 1996 death penalty trial of my 12-year-old daughter Polly’s killer were extreme, even for a death penalty case, but the events that have transpired in the 17 years since simply defy belief. No one, not even the defense, argued that Richard Allen Davis wasn’t the person who snuck into Polly’s bedroom in the late evening of October 1, 1993, tied, bound and gagged her girlfriends and stole her into the night. All agreed that he strangled and discarded her remains on a trash pile adjacent to a freeway off ramp in Cloverdale, CA in the early hours of the next morning. The points of contention were whether or not he raped my child and whether he committed the heinous crime of his own free will or if the Devil made him do it.


More of his life has been spent behind bars than on the street. He had been previously diagnosed as a sexually sadistic psychopath, and his endless rap sheet was filled with violent encounters, attempted sexual assaults and kidnappings. People would avoid him on the street because of his public drinking, prison tattoo’s, surly manner, or gruff language. He had no friends because he couldn’t be trusted, so he depended upon his duplicitous family for support.


He was three months out of prison, rehabilitated, and working a job that paid more than twice the minimum wage when he decided to murder my child. Prior to being released from prison he told cell mates that he would avoid AIDS by, “Getting a young one.” Kidnapping, raping and murdering my little girl was Richard Allen Davis’ definition of safe sex.

richarddavis3Evil exists and he epitomizes evil. When he was found guilty of killing Polly he turned toward the jury and stuck both middle fingers in the air. As the sentence of death was about to be imposed, he told the judge that he didn’t rape the little girl because she told him, “Don’t do me like my dad.” Apparently, the depths of his depravity have no boundaries.


Many good men and women who helped to solve the case have quietly passed since he was sentenced to death row seventeen-years ago. Should the glacial appeals process for Polly’s killer be exhausted there is a small, but determined group of individuals who will continue to lobby on his behalf. They decry the death penalty. They say that it is inhumane, that it is beneath us as a civilization, that it is immoral and that it costs too much. They have successfully denied the law and subverted the will of the people of California for far too long.


We need to exert our will and demand that justice be served. It has become apparent that this will never be accomplished through the California state legislature. Join me in supporting the Death Penalty Reform & Savings Coalition.

Vote NO on Prop 34

Polly Klaas’ killer is on death row

Proposition 34 repeals the death penalty as maximum punishment for persons convicted of 1st degree murder with special circumstances and replace it with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. It applies retroactively to individuals already sentenced to death.

Michael Lyons’ killer is on death row

Plenty of studies have demonstrated the deterrent effect of the death penalty. Even common sense will help you to understand the difference between crime and consequence. If you have an extreme consequence or punishment for a particular crime then you are less likely to find someone moving in that direction. Statistics show that when executions are up in a given year, first degree murder goes down the following year.

Lacy & Connor Peterson’s killer is on death row

The death penalty is a powerful negotiating tool. There is a character named John Gardner. He murdered two girls in San Diego a couple of years ago. The first victim was a 14-year-old named Amber Dubois who disappeared while walking to school. The second victim was Chelsea King, a high school junior who was murdered while she was out on a run. Gardner was arrested for the murder of Chelsea King and told that he would face the death penalty. He then told the authorities that if they took the death penalty off of the table he would divulge the whereabouts of Amber Dubois. I can assure you that Amber’s remains never would have been located otherwise. This is an instance where the death penalty was used as a tool to bring finality to the family of a missing child and a community gripped by the thought of a homicidal predator in their midst.

Teresa Del Rio’s killer is on death row

Under Prop 34, persons found guilty of 1st degree murder must work while in prison with their wages subject to deductions applied to victim restitution. Prop 34 proponents say that expenses related to murder trials, death penalty appeals and corrections could result in about $100-million annual savings. The whole idea that they are going to save all of this money by integrating death row inmates into the general population and putting them to work is preposterous.

Terri Winchell’s killer is on death row

First of all, it is already the law that prisoners are supposed to work and pay victim restitution. But the idea that you are going to give the Nightstalker, or Ramon Salcido a wrench or screwdriver would send chills down the spine of the most hardened criminal. To suggest that these killing machines will integrate into the general population is absurd. No prisoner will want to share a cell, let alone a cell block, with a cop killer, baby killer, serial killer or mass murderer. They and the prison guards will be at great risk under these circumstances. Death row inmates live in single cells now and they will remain in segregated, single cells in Prop 34 passes because they are an extremely violent and dangerous population.

Deputy Sheriff Tony Diaz’ killer is on death row

Proponents say that the death penalty is broken beyond repair, but it is not. If Governor Brown signed an executive order allowing for a one drug protocol as Ohio, Washington and 5-other states have done we can begin executing the 30-death row inmates who have run out their appeals tomorrow. Currently only 100 lawyers out of a population of 171,000 practicing lawyers on California are qualified to handle the direct death penalty appeal. We can clear this backlog by training more lawyers to handle this procedure. Currently, the direct death penalty appeal must be heard by the 7-member California Supreme Court. If we divert that process to the 107-member California Court of Appeals, then we can remove that burden and speed up the process. If we limit frivolous Habeas Corpus appeals we can further streamline the process. If it’s broken, mend it, don’t end it.

Mei Leung’s killer is on death row

Supposedly, evidence shows that more than 100 innocent people have been sentenced to death in the United States, and some have been executed. Proponents say that if Prop 34 passes we will never execute an innocent person. Guess what, we haven’t executed an innocent person. In fact, Governor Brown, who has a history of opposing the death penalty, says that he is sure that there are no innocent people on California’s death row. Many of the so-called innocent that have been exonerated have been removed from death row for administrative rather than evidentiary reasons. There is no proof that an innocent person has been executed in the United States. That is simply a myth perpetuated by liberal media and death row apologists.

Cheri Domingo &Gregory Sanchez’ killer is on death row

Let’s not send a message that it doesn’t matter how heinous your behavior, how many victims you pile up or how many cops you execute, you will not be executed. Join me in voting NO on Proposition 34 on Election Day.


Death Penalty Case Study: Kevin Cooper

Death Row Inmate Kevin Cooper

As California voters decide whether to side with the ACLU and other liberal special interests to get rid of the death penalty, the No on 34 campaign continues its profiles of the “worst of the worst” convicted murderers on death row. Here is another killer who would be spared if Proposition 34 passes in November.


In June 1983, Kevin Cooper escaped from a minimum security prison in Chino, CA. After hiding in an empty house, he attacked the Ryen family next door, killing Doug and Peggy Ryen, their 10-year-old daughter Jessica and 11-year-old family friend Chris Hughes. 8-year-old Joshua Ryen survived.


The victims had died from numerous chopping wounds later determined to have been inflicted by a hatchet or axe and stab wounds inflicted by both a knife and an ice pick. Cooper was arrested on a boat near Santa Barbara two days later. In 1985 he was sentenced to death for the murders.

Death Penalty Case Study: Spencer Brasure

Torture Killer Spencer Rawlin Brasure

As California voters decide whether to side with the ACLU and other liberal special interests to get rid of the death penalty, the No on 34 campaign continues its profiles of the “worst of the worst” convicted murderers on death row. Here is another killer who would be spared if Proposition 34 passes in November.


In August 1998, Spencer Rawlin Brasure was convicted and sentenced to death for brutally torturing and killing a Redondo Beach man on Sept. 7, 1996. Brasure and his accomplice kidnapped 20-year-old Anthony Guest, tied him up, burned him with a propane torch, stapled wood to his head, forced him to eat broken glass, and shocked him repeatedly with a cattle prod before setting him on fire and leaving him to die in a remote Ventura County campsite near Gorman.


The coroner’s office testified that it took the victim several hours to die in agony. The judge described the murder as “savage, barbarous, merciless and cruel.”  Evidence at trial also showed that Brasure had tried to have several witnesses in the case killed.


While sitting on death row at San Quentin State Prison, Brasure has found time to campaign against the death penalty. In 2011, he wrote a blog from prison complaining that he is a victim of a “political agenda”.

Death Penalty Case Study: John Ghobrial

Child Killer John Ghobrial

As California voters decide whether to side with the ACLU and other liberal special interests to get rid of the death penalty, the No on 34 campaign continues its profiles of the “worst of the worst” convicted murderers on death row. Here is another killer who would be spared if Proposition 34 passes in November.


John Ghobrial lured 12-year-old Juan Delgado, a La Habra sixth grade student, to his death in 1998. After befriending the boy, he killed him in a backyard shed, then tried to cover up the crime by dismembering the body with a meat cleaver. He then encased the body parts in blocks of concrete that were scattered about the neighborhood. The shed was later found to contain pornographic magazines along with bags of cement.


Ghobrial was accused of molesting a relative before emigrating from Egypt. He was convicted and sentenced to the death penalty in 2002.


Words Left Unspoken

Professor Lawrence C. Marshall

On Sunday afternoon, October 14, I participated in a public forum at Santa Rosa’s Shomrei Torah Synagogue. The focus was on two propositions that will appear on California’s November ballot. Proposition 34, if passed, will replace California’s death penalty with a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. Proposition 36 would amend the Three Strikes and You’re Out law by requiring that the third strike is a serious or violent felony.


I was invited to support No on Prop 36, as I believe that the Three Strikes and You’re Out law should not be amended. Defense attorney and ACLU of Northern California board member Steve Fabian represented Yes on Prop 36. Kent Scheidegger, Legal Director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation argued against Prop 34. The argument to overturn the death penalty was represented by Stanford University Professor and legal clinic Director Lawrence C. Marshall. Congregation Shomrei Torah Rabbi George Gittleman concluded the program with reflections on the death penalty in Judaism.


Overall it was an educational and informative forum that was well attended by an enthusiastic audience. However, the incident that stood out the most was not witnessed by the audience as it occurred after the forum was concluded.


Throughout the years I have witnessed numerous interactions between crime victims and those who advocate on behalf of death row inmates. These criminal apologists make impassioned, and often times very compelling arguments on behalf of remorseless killers or other serious and violent criminals; yet they fail to look me in the eye, rarely shake my hand and never reference the circumstances that have brought me to the podium.


Proposition 36 was presented first. Mr. Fabian made his case for ten minutes and then I made mine. We were each given a five minute rebuttal and then took questions from the audience. Both sides were given equal weight and I hope that I changed some minds toward my position.


The same format was followed by the Prop 34 discussion. In his opening statement, with obvious emotion and in the throes of passion Professor Marshall said that life sentences give society “every bit of protection” it could ask for without risking “the cost of executing innocent people.”  This despite the fact that Governor Brown just signed Senate Bill 9, which can overturn prison sentences of life without parole for 309 convicted killers. He also seems unaware that Governor Brown, a death penalty opponent, recently said that, “There are no innocent inmates on California’s death row”. At one point in his opening, Professor Marshall even referenced my commentary that, “You can’t blame 3-strikes for racial disparities, because they exist throughout the criminal justice system.”


I don’t want to minimize Mr. Scheidegger’s opposition to Prop 34 because it was eloquent, strong, and based upon facts, but this about things that weren’t said, not things that were said.


During his rebuttal Professor Marshall made an impassioned plea for death row inmates when he said, “They are us, they’re our children. We are a community.” He obviously felt very differently about me because, although he was sitting a mere three feet away from me he didn’t look me in the eye, didn’t shake my hand and didn’t acknowledge the loss of my child at the hands of one of “his” children. In fact, as soon as the Rabbi had finished his remarks at the end of the program Professor Marshall bolted to the back of the room in what seemed to me a desperate attempt to avoid meeting me.


I know that death penalty opponents don’t like people like me. I remind them of the heinous nature of their constituency: cop killers, baby killers, serial killers, and mass murderers. I represent a truth that they would rather deny. After all, how can somebody evoke the humanity and brotherhood of a blood thirsty psychopath when the fruit of their murderous intent is sitting but a few feet away?


If Professor Marshall has empathy then it is misplaced.  How can he advocate society’s inhumanity to death row inmates without first acknowledging the impact of the heinous crimes that death row inmates commit, and the impact upon families, friends, and the community at large?


Personally, I believe that his gesture at the Temple speaks more to Prop 34 and Prop 36 than any of the formal presentations. Too bad nobody noticed it but me.

Death Penalty Case Study: Charles Ng

Serial Killer Charles NG

Charles Ng is one of California’s most notorious serial killers. After being thrown out of the Marines for theft, Ng partnered with Leonard Lake in an extended plot of kidnap, rape, torture and murder. The crimes took place at Lake’s remote cabin in Calaveras County. The crimes came to light in 1985. Investigators later recovered the bodies of seven men, three women, two baby boys, and 45 pounds of bone fragments from the site. Investigators also found, in a bunker, a large cache of weapons and videotapes that Ng had made of some of the murders.


Lake committed suicide as police closed in. Ng fled to Canada but was extradited and convicted in 1999 of multiple counts of murder.


On November 6, please vote no on Prop 34 if you live in California.

Vote NO on Prop 34: Judge Changes False and Misleading Statements by Prop 34 Proponents

California killers Clarence Ray Allen, Richard Allen Davis, Richard Ramirez, Scott Peterson

Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully, a statewide Co-Chair of Californians for Justice and Public Safety – No on 34 – today issued the following statement following the decision by Sacramento Superior Court Justice Timothy Frawley to change false and misleading statements made by Proposition 34 proponents in official ballot arguments as part of their campaign to eliminate California’s death penalty.  Nearly every major public safety organization in the state opposes Prop 34 because it will embolden criminals and endanger California.


“We appreciate Judge Frawley’s thoughtful decision, which upholds our position that the Proponents of Prop 34 are waging a deceptive campaign in an effort to eliminate the Death Penalty.


Convincing a Judge to change ballot statements is an extraordinary action.  Judge Frawley agreed with us that Prop 34 proponents’ attempt to suggest that the measure’s $100 million appropriation was a result of alleged savings is false.  He rightly acknowledged that, if Prop 34 passes, $100 million will be taken from the State General fund, regardless of whether or not any money is actually saved. There were other assertions by the proponents in their ballot arguments that the judge labeled as ‘hyperbole” or “opinion’.  Translation – their assertions are exaggerated claims or opinions.


California voters deserve better. Consumers must get accurate and honest disclosure of what is contained in the products they buy, or District Attorneys can prosecute the manufacturers for consumer fraud.   Said another way, they can be prosecuted for false advertising and unfair business practices.


Sadly, there are no standards for honesty and accuracy for special interests and political campaigns.   If we did, Prop 34 proponents and those who have long sought to eliminate the death penalty wouldn’t get to use hyperbole or be allowed to mislead by exaggeration.  It should be noted that Prop 34 supporters did not challenge a single statement by our side.  That’s because we stick to the facts and respect voters who have consistently and overwhelmingly affirmed the Death Penalty as a just sentence in cases where a murder has been committed with special and horrific circumstances. Never, in the arguments made by those who support repealing the death penalty do you hear them talk about the victims of the killers they seek to save.


Well that stops today. Of course the murdered victims cannot speak, but there are victims who can.  They are the families of murdered victims that lost a loved one at the hands of a cold-blooded killer.  Our campaign will give them a voice to speak out about public safety. And that’s what is important…public safety.  Justice…the right of Californians to live in a safe community.  Today is the first defeat for the Proposition 34 campaign.  The next one will be on Election Day, when voters reject the hyperbole and opinion and stand up for California by voting No on 34.”


Polly’s killer has been on death row since 1996. This November, California voters will be asked to overturn his sentence and the death sentences of 723 other serial killers, baby killers, cop killers and mass murderers. A proposition called the Savings, Accountability, Full Enforcement (SAFE) Act, which will appear on California’s ballot, will retroactively outlaw the death penalty in favor life without the possibility of parole. Abolitionists, led by the ACLU, claim that we should abolish the death penalty because it’s broken. They use the administrative bottlenecks that they created as justification for eliminating the death penalty. Now they believe that voters will be fooled into approving an initiative that will reward evil scum under the guise of alleged cost saving.   

If the death penalty is broken, mend it, don’t end it. Adopt a single drug for executions. Several other states, including Ohio, Washington, and Arizona use a constitutionally valid single drug for executions. Since 2009, Ohio has conducted 14 executions using a single drug method. Executions in California have been delayed because death penalty opponents endlessly file appeals, claiming the current 3-drug method is unconstitutional because it may be “cruel and unusual.” The final ten minutes of a remorseless killer’s life are not legitimate grounds to delay the death penalty.

Several legislative and constitutional efforts can be adopted to fix the appeals process. Retired California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ron George endorsed a Constitutional Amendment to allow Appeals Courts to hear appeals thereby significantly reducing costs and delays. Modify and limit the time for filing certain types of appeals. Require defense attorneys to take appeals and thereby reduce delays. Currently, California has more than 171,000 practicing attorneys, yet only about 100 are qualified to represent automatic appeals.

Unfortunately, elected officials who advocate on behalf of death row inmates never allow those efforts to see the light of day. On April 17 I testified before the Senate Public Safety Committee on two bills that would have streamlined the process. Senate Bill 1514 would have eliminated the automatic appeal in cases, like Polly’s, where guilt was never in doubt. It was defeated by a straight party vote. Senate Constitutional Amendment 20 (SCA 20) would have amended the California Constitution so that appeals of death penalty cases would go to the California Court of Appeals instead of the California Supreme Court. The 105 Appeals Court justices would be able to rule on many more death penalty appeals than the 7 Supreme Court justices thereby greatly easing the backlog. SCA 20 was defeated because it would cost too much.

Politicians who would tax our inner organs in an effort to save a population of salamanders become fiscal conservatives when it comes to the death penalty. There is no objective data that elimination of the death penalty will save money. The studies relied on by death penalty opponents are misleading and inflated and were either written by them or rely on data collected by them. The only unbiased study to determine the true costs was done by the RAND Corporation, a nonpartisan organization which operates independent of political pressures. The RAND Corporation found there was no objective data available to give a true estimate of the costs of the death penalty.

The death penalty is a law that is supported by a majority of Californians. The law of the land and the will of the people have been subverted by administrative shenanigans, frivolous appeals, endless delays and moral bankruptcy. The very individuals and organizations who have created a broken system in California now want the voters to legitimize their misanthropic actions. California’s so called SAFE Act mocks our system of crime and punishment as it attempts to give our very worst criminals the very thing that they denied their victims: to right to live their lives in safety and die in peace.