Sunday, May 6, 2012


Once again there is a grassroots movement to abolish capital punishment in California, a move that has been tried many times in our State.  However, as in the past, it only takes one unusually horrific crime like the Polly Klass murder to quickly change people’s minds and start demanding for the re-institution of the death penalty.  

For those of you not familiar with the Polly Klaas case:

Polly Klass

Polly Hannah Klaas (January 3, 1981-October 1993). Kidnapped at knife point by Richard Allen Davis on the night of October 1st, 1993 from her mother's home in Petaluma, California while hosting a slumber party.

During the search for Polly, two police officers from Sonoma County unknowingly made contact with Polly's killer during a routine trespassing complaint in a rural area of the county just 25 miles away from Polly's home. The officers did do a warrant check on Davis that came up negative, however, they failed to conduct a complete check of the his criminal history. Had they done so, the officers would have discovered that Davis had a long history of assaults, robberies and was in violation of his parole.

Davis in Court

Meanwhile, Polly lay helplessly in the brush nearby unable to call out for help. After the officers let Davis go, it is believed he killed Polly shortly thereafter.

The argument for the repeal of capital punishment is the same as it has been since its legalization in 1851, inhumane and too costly to implement and maintain. So too is the same argument in favor of the death penalty; it is a deterrent to capital crimes and insures justice for the victims.

The first real challenge to capital punishment in California came during the use of lethal gas which the State used from 1938 to 1967.  During that time, a total of 194 convicted murderers, including four women, were put to death at San Quentin (San Quentin was the only prison in the State to use cyanide gas).  However, for over 25 years no executions were held in the State due to numerous decisions and stays by the Fed’s and the State Supreme Court.  It would only take another five years for the California State Supreme Court to abolish capital punishment and end executions of any kind. 
California Gas Chamber

The decision in early 1972 to declare capital punishment unconstitutional was quickly amended by the legislature after public outcry and demands from the State’s top cops and D.A.’s to allow executions for certain crimes such as kidnapping if the victim dies (reference the Lindberg and Hart baby kidnappings and murder), train wrecking if any person dies, assault by a prisoner if the victim dies within one year ( to prevent gang hits in prison), treason against the State, and first-degree murder under certain circumstances such as murder for hire, the intentional killing of a peace officer, murder of a witness to prevent testimony against the killer, murders committed during a robbery or burglary, murder during the crime of rape, murder during the crime of lewd and lascivious acts upon a minor, and death for anyone with priors of murder.

In the waning months of 1976, the California Supreme Court, basing its decision on a Supreme Court ruling earlier in the year, held that the California death penalty statute was unconstitutional because it did not allow for the defendant to present any type of “evidence in mitigation” during an appeal for a sentence of death. 

California Supreme Court
Evidence in mitigation is a legal tactic often used as a stalling ploy, usually by a defendant in a criminal trial or appeal, to attempt and establish mitigating circumstances in order to reduce the sentence imposed for the offense committed.  The ban on using this strategy was to halt the never ending appeals filed by those on death row. 

In 1977, the State legislature gave in to the demands of the ACLU and others and permitted evidence in mitigation.  As a result, the legislature re-enacted the death penalty that year allowing capital punishment for “special circumstances” as now described in the statute.  These special circumstances included murder for financial gain, murder with torture, murder of a peace officer, murder of a witness to prevent testimony, and several other murders which include specific acts upon a minor.

The California Penal Code, which defines the circumstances for the sentence of death, also now had a new provision added to it “life without the possibility of parole”.  As previously pointed out, the penalty of death included the crimes of kidnapping for ransom resulting in the death of the victim, extortion, robbery and burglary resulting in a homicide.  However, under the new statute, these crimes were changed to a maximum sentence of imprisonment in the State prison without the possibility of parole, and certain crimes such as treason and train wrecking continued to be punishable by death but also now had the option of life without parole.

As a stop-gap measure, the passage of Proposition 7 in 1978 superseded the 1977 statute which now makes it mandatory that all death penalty convictions be reviewed by the State Supreme Court which in turn could:

1.      Uphold the conviction and therefore, the death sentence;

2.      Affirm the conviction but reverse the death sentence
              resulting in a retrial of the penalty phase only; or

3.      Reverse the conviction all-together which results in a
               new trial.

As an additional fail-safe from wrongful conviction, even an affirmation of sentence by the California Supreme Court still gives the defendant appeals that may be heard in both State and Federal courts.
Even with the re-instatement of the death penalty in 1978, not one person condemned to death ever met with the “Grim Reaper” until the 1992 execution of Robert Alton Harris.  Harris killed two teenage boys in 1978 in San Diego.  Harris’s final words before getting the gas were “You can be a king or a street sweeper, but everybody dances with the Grim Reaper”. 
By October of the next year however, a U.S. District judge in San Francisco ruled that the gas chamber was cruel and unusual punishment and his decision, which sought to ban the practice of death by lethal gas in California, was upheld by the now infamous left-wing U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals early in 1996.  That decision effectively wiped-out the use of lethal gas in the State and instead, death by lethal injection became the manner of death.  The first inmate to die by lethal injection was William Bonin in February of 1996. Bonin, was nicknamed the “Freeway Killer” because he picked-up his victims while they were hitchhiking, killed them inside his white Chevrolet van, and then dumping their bodies along numerous California freeways, at least 21 in all and most likely many more unidentified or found.
Even with the abolishment of death by lethal gas, the constitutional challenges still kept coming by those adamantly opposed to the death penalty.  In February of 2006, condemned prisoner Michael Angelo Morales’s execution was put on hold because his lawyers claimed that the way California was administrating the injections violated the 8th Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, and again the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stayed his execution just two hours before his sentence was to be carried out.  By the way, Morales was convicted of the brutal slaying and sexual assault of Terri Winchell on January 8th, 1981.  Winchell was in a love triangle with a man named Richard Ortega, a cousin of Morales, and another man.   Ortega hired his cousin Michael to kill Winchell so he (Ortega) could carry-on a love affair with his male lover (the other man).  In the trial, the details were so gruesome that you may have trouble reading this.
Morales attacked Winchell from behind and tried to strangle her with his belt.  When that didn’t work, he hit her repeatedly with a hammer until she was unconscious.  Still not dead, Morales dragged Winchell face-down across a tar and gravel road and into a vineyard and then preceded to rape her multiple times and then finishing the job by plunging a knife into his victim’s chest four times.
Chief Justice of 9th Circuit
On December 15th of the same year, the 9th U.S. District Court of Appeals said, “California’s lethal-injection protocol-as actually administered in practice, create[d] an undue and unnecessary risk that an inmate will suffer pain so extreme that it offends the Eighth Amendment.”  The Court went on to say, “Defendants’ implementation of lethal-injection is broken, but it can be fixed.”
In that December 15th decision, the Court identified five deficiencies in the way lethal injections were being administered:
1.      Inconsistent and unreliable screening of execution team members;
2.      A lack of meaningful training, supervision, and oversight of the execution team;
3.      Inconsistent and unreliable record keeping;
4.      Improper mixing, preparation, and administration of
         sodium thiopental by the execution team;

5.      Inadequate lighting, overcrowded conditions, and
         poorly designed facilities in which the execution 
         team must work.
To this date, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has met all the conditions set forth by the courts and then some.  As of January 1, 2012, there are 3,189 inmates on death row nationwide; California has 723 awaiting execution. 
Laci Petersen
As to how many victims there have been since the death penalty was first made law in the State way back in 1851, no one knows.  I do know this much however, whatever side of the debate you are on, it is much harder to decide when you put names and faces to those that have been murdered instead of just numbers and statistics.  Here is just a small list of the victims in California, and I do mean small.  I caution you however, the descriptions of the crimes below are very difficult to read even for a veteran like myself with over 31 years in the fire and police business:

Kim Raymond Kopatz
Convicted and sentenced to death in the 1999 strangulation slayings of his wife and 3-year-old daughter for insurance money. The verdicts brought sobs from the audience. Kopatz's immediate family and his wife's relatives were at opposite sides of the courtroom. Kopatz, 48, of Riverside, slowly shook his head and talked to his lawyer. Prosecutor William Mitchell used mostly circumstantial evidence to prove that Kopatz used an electrical cord to strangle his wife Mary, 35, and daughter, Carley, and then tried to make the murders appear to be random attacks by a robber, rapist or some other vicious stranger.

Michael Hill
On August 15, 1985, the bodies of Anthony Brice, Sr., and his four-year-old son, Anthony Brice, Jr., were found by police on the floor of the jewelry store operated by Brice in Oakland, California. Each victim had been shot in the head at close range with a .38-caliber gun. The appearance of the crime scene suggested there had been a robbery. Michael Hill was sentenced to death for the murders.

Alexander Rashad Hamilton
Convicted and sentenced to Death in 2007 for the April 23,2005 murder of Pittsburg police Officer Larry Lasater. Andrew Moffett, who was not the shooter but was convicted under California's felony murder rule, was 17 on April 23, 2005, when he and co-defendant Alexander Hamilton, 18 at the time, had a friend steal a car for them and went into the Raley's supermarket in Pittsburg wearing gloves, masks and carrying semi-automatic pistols. At the supermarket, Moffett pressed his gun to one of the cashier's ears, demanded cash and threatened to kill her. He and Hamilton threatened to kill at least two other cashiers and tellers at the Wells Fargo branch bank inside the store before fleeing with the cash, witnesses testified during trial. As the two teens were making their getaway, they crashed the stolen car and took off on foot through backyards and over fences. Eventually they ended up on the Delta De Anza trail as police closed in on them.  Moffett jumped a fence and kept running, but Hamilton was too tired and hid in the bushes. He started shooting when he saw Lasater, 35, the first officer to arrive on scene. Two bullets struck him and he went down. When two more police officers, who happened to be identical twins, went to help Lasater, Hamilton fired at them, too, but missed. According to prosecutor Harold Jewett, Hamilton kept firing until he ran out of bullets and was forced to surrender.

Richard Wade Farley
Obsessed with former co-worker Laura Black, Richard Farley after perusing his unwilling love interest for several years, eventually costing him his job and a restraining order, Farley decided to take action.  In February 1988 he purchased $2,000 worth of guns and ammunition to augment his arsenal in preparation for his plan.  On February 16th, 1988 after 1500hrs he went to the place of his former employment, Electromagnetic Systems Labs, located in Sunnyvale California and unleashed his fury on his former company.   After five hours of violence the toll was calculated, 7 dead and 4 wounded, one of them Ms. Black.  He was convicted in October  1991 on seven counts of first degree murder and four other felonies, and sentenced to death on January 12, 1992.
Warren Hardy – Convicted with accomplices Kevin Pearson and Jamelle Armstrong and sentenced to death for the gruesome robbery, rape, torture and murder of a Long Beach woman who made the mistake of wishing him a happy New Year when passing by them on the street on Dec. 28, 1998.

Randy E. Garcia
On May 8, 1993, Garcia broke into the home of Joseph and Lynn Finzel, 29 and 28 respectively. Mr. Finzel was not at home and their baby daughter was asleep in her crib. Garcia immediately tied Mrs. Finzel to the bed and attempted to rape her. Her husband interrupted everything by returning home, at which time, he was shot by Garcia with his own gun. A gun Garcia found in the house. He then turned around and shot Mrs. Finzel. In fear for her baby daughter's life, Mrs. Finzel played "dead" for two hours. The bed which she was tied up on was a water bed and the water was seeping to the surface. Not only did Mrs. Finzel have to pretend to be dead, she had to try to keep from drowning. Or crying out as Garcia heartlessly ransacked the house, even stealing the wedding ring off her dead husband's hand. Thinking his victims were dead, Garcia left the home. It was then that Mrs. Finzel managed to free herself, climb over her husband's dead body and stagger into the street for help, with a bullet lodged in her. Sentenced to Death in 1995.
Veronica Gonzales
A Chula Vista woman probably will join her husband on death row for submerging their nearly 4-year-old niece in a bathtub of water so hot it peeled the skin from her body. The same jury that two weeks ago convicted Veronica Gonzales, 28, of murder recommended Wednesday that she be executed for the death of Genny Rojas. "Oh, God, no!" Gonzales exclaimed when the verdict was read. She then covered her face with her hands and began sobbing. She was later taken out of the courtroom in a wheelchair.
Gonzales' husband, Ivan, is already on death row for the girl's murder. The couple would be the first in California to face execution for the same crime. During her six-week trial, Veronica Gonzales testified that her husband was to blame for the murder, saying she suffered from battered woman's syndrome.
Genny died in July 1995, six months after she was sent to live with the Gonzaleses and their six children. Her mother was in drug rehabilitation and her father was in jail for child molestation.

James Daveggio
couple accused of abducting, raping and murdering a 22-year-old Pleasanton woman in a minivan rigged for torture was sentenced to death Wednesday. James Daveggio, 41, and his then-girlfriend Michelle Michaud, 43, kidnapped Vanessa Lei Samson in December 1997. The Sacramento couple kept Samson inside their minivan, rigged with hooks and ropes, where they repeatedly tortured her with curling irons while driving east toward the Sierra Nevada. A motorist found Samson's body two days later, face down in the snow, about 30 feet down an embankment alongside a road in Alpine County. She had been strangled. Judge Larry Goodman ordered Wednesday morning that Daveggio be delivered to San Quentin State Prison within 10 days.

Jasari Donaldson
Date of crime: 1998
Donaldson kidnapped Khen Tran on her way to an adult class, raped her, put her in the trunk of his car, and then set the car on fire, burning her to death. He had been out on parole only two weeks at the time. The case was solved “cold” in 2000 through a “hit” in the state’s new DNA databank. At that time, Donaldson was serving sentences of more than 200 years in prison for another attempted murder and carjacking. No information is available concerning the defense approach to the case.

Dean Eric Dunlap
Date of Crime:  1/10/92
Dunlap kidnapped 9-year-old Sandra Astorga on her way to school.  He raped her and held her several days.  The case was solved in 1999 due to a match with DNA he provided before a planned parole for another sexual assault.

Scott Erskine
Date of crime: 3/27/1993
Charlie Keever and Jonathan Sellers (ages 13 and 9) were molested, tortured and strangled to death by Erskine; Sellers’ body was discovered hanging from a tree. The case went unsolved for eleven years until new DNA analysis linked Erskine to the killings. When Erskine was charged with the boys’ murders he was already serving a 70-year sentence for rape. He had an additional long history of sex crimes. Erskine also pleaded guilty to murdering a woman in Florida in 1989. The defense did not contest the killing, but asked the jury to spare Erskine life because he suffered from a brain injury when he was hit by a car at age five. The defense argued the injury caused Erskine to lose the ability to stop sexual

Antonio Espinoza
Renee Rontal and Nancy Rubia, both ages 13, were found dead in an irrigation ditch west of Stockton on January 25, 1982. Renee's throat had been cut, Nancy had been drowned as a result of having her face forced into the muddy water of the ditch, and both girls had been sexually assaulted. Renee and Nancy were last seen alive with two men: Antonio Espinoza and Alfredo Reyes-Reyes. Sentenced to Death 1986.

Giles Albert Nadey Jr.
A felony probationer who had four prior felony convictions and had previously served several prison terms, Albert Nadey savagely sodomized and murdered a 24-year-old woman in Alameda. Terena Fermenick, wife of Don Fermenick and new mother of five-month-old Regan, began relocating with her family in late 1995 from Pleasanton to Alameda, California. Don had just been appointed Pastor of the Church of Christ in Alameda, and they were in the process of moving into the designated church residence. On the afternoon of January 18, 1996, Terena and the baby went to the new residence to meet with an employee of Chem-Dry, a company she chose out of the yellow pages a few days earlier to clean the rugs prior to their move-in. The carpet cleaner was Giles Albert Nadey. Terena met with Nadey, discussed the areas to be cleaned, and then left for about two hours so she did not have to be alone with Nadey as he worked. When she returned about 4:00 p.m., she left the baby in her car, wrote and gave a check to Nadey at the door, and was about to depart — when Nadey apparently tricked her to return by claiming he needed to see her driver’s license in order to accept her check.
Once inside, Nadey produced a knife, forced her into the master bedroom, made her strip, stabbed her twice in the right flank to show he was serious, then forced her onto the bed where he viciously sodomized her. Thereafter, he pulled her head back and cut her throat, severing the jugular vein.
Though fatally maimed, Terena staggered through the hallway and into the family room where she ultimately collapsed near a telephone. According to the pathologist, she lived for 60-90 seconds before bleeding out and dying. When Terena and baby Regan failed to return home, the fearful Pastor drove to Alameda and retraced his wife’s last-known whereabouts. At the church residence, he found the baby in Terena’s car, and his dead and obviously abused wife some six hours after the carnage. Alameda police executed a search warrant on Nadey and his residence. Recovered from the search was a notepad containing writings made by Nadey boasting, “sodomy is my specialty.”
Among other evidence, blood drawn from Nadey was compared to anal swabs from Terena’s body and semen stains on her jeans; a DNA expert from California’s Department of Justice found a match, with the frequency being one in 32 billion. Giles Albert Nadey was sentenced to death in April 2000 following his conviction for murder with special circumstances and sodomy.
Charles Chitat Ng
Charles Ng and Leonard Lake tortured and killed 12 people in a kidnapping and sex-slavery spree in Northern California in 1984 and 1985. Lake took a cyanide pill to commit suicide. Ng, whose 1999 trial was moved to Santa Ana because of pretrial publicity in Northern California, was convicted and sentenced to death on 06/30/1999. His victims were; Kathleen Allen,Michael Carroll, Robin Stapley, Randy Johnson, Charles Gunnar, Donald Lake, Paul Cosner, Brenda O'Conner, Lonnie Bond Sr., Lonnie Bond Jr., Harvey Dubbs, Deborah Dubbs, and Sean Dubbs.

Calvin Lamont Parker
Convicted and sentenced to Death in 2003 for the killing of Patricia Gallego was read in court. Parker also raped the Brazilian immigrant and dismembered her body in the 2000 slaying. The trail that led to a judge sentencing Calvin Lamont Parker to death yesterday began when a transient rummaging through a trash bin behind a pet store in the Midway District found a human finger. In the vicinity, police officers discovered eight fingertips, which appeared to be burned, along with a bolt cutter, a used roll of duct tape, cigarette lighters, notes, paperwork, incense, a breathing mask, cologne, clothing, red-stained rubber gloves and numerous other objects, according to court documents. That same day – Aug. 14, 2000 – two women found the body of Patricia Gallego, 29, in Carlsbad. The body was wrapped in plastic and stuffed into a large wheeled trash can with several pieces of duct tape on the outside. Parker was arrested, tried and convicted in the murder, rape and dismemberment of his former roommate, a Brazilian native who her parents said came to the United States in 1997 to start a new life. In a rambling hour-long talk before San Diego County Superior Court Judge Michael Wellington yesterday, Parker accused his attorneys and the prosecutors of collusion. Defense attorney Dawnella Gilzean said outside of court that Parker's having been sexually and physically abused as a child contributed to his sense of isolation and his inability to trust anyone. Wellington denied a defense request to sentence Parker to life in prison without parole. Instead, he upheld the jury's recommendation that the 33-year-old former eyeglass salesman and Navy man should die by lethal injection for murdering Gallego in the apartment they shared near the
University of San Diego. The judge agreed with the prosecution that Parker "was romantically and sexually obsessed with the victim and had a deep hatred of her." Gallego first met Parker in 1998 when she was dating his then-roommate, according to court documents. They moved in together in May 2000, but were not romantically involved. Prosecutors Brenda Daly and Blaine Bowman said Parker wrote about his infatuation with Gallego
and superimposed her face on the pictures of at least 75 of the hundreds of women in sexual positions that he had on his walls, his bed and in duffel bags. They said the murder was carefully planned and that Parker tried to steal her money by cashing forged checks after he killed her.
Parker had taken a week off from work, telling his boss that he needed to visit his mother. He wrote out a "to-do" list detailing what he intended to do to Gallego that included notes about getting a "small med. car w/ decent trunk, burn palms + face thoroughly." Prosecutors said he then attacked Gallego in their apartment, handcuffed her, raped her, hit her in the head and slit her throat. He drained her blood in the bathtub and cut up the body.
Parker got rid of the blood-and-semen-spattered mattress from her bed in a field in Bonita, prosecutors said. The last time Gallego was seen alive was when she left her job at Cafe Chloe on Pearl Street in La Jolla a few days before her body was found. She was killed two weeks before her 30th birthday. Her father, Ruben Gallego, testified during Parker's trial that he had a plane ticket and was planning to visit her for her birthday when he received a telephone call about his daughter's death. Her mother, who attended the trial, was not present at the sentencing. Gallego was her only child. "She didn't die by herself," her mother, Terezinha Ramos Das Silva, said. "It was a family that died with her. I died twice."

Gerald Parker
Serial killer Gerald Parker, dubbed the "Bedroom Basher" for a spree of sex slayings that terrorized Orange County in the 1970s, was sentenced to death in 1999 after an emotional hearing in which victims' families spoke of their years of anguish and loss.
Using new DNA technology and a computer database, prosecutors developed the case against Parker 17 years after he raped and murdered five Orange County women and killed the unborn child of a sixth woman. The surviving victim's husband was later wrongly convicted of the crime.
Sandra Kay Fry, 17, Anaheim, Dec. 2, 1978
Kimberly Rawlins, 21, Costa Mesa, April 1, 1979
Marolyn Carleton, 31, Costa Mesa, Sept. 14, 1979
Chantel Marie Green, stillborn, Tustin, Sept. 30, 1979
Debora Jean Kennedy, 24, Tustin, Oct. 7, 1979
Debra Lynn Senior, 17, Costa Mesa, Oct. 21, 1979

Scott Peterson
Either strangled or smothered his wife on or around Christmas Eve 2002 and dumped the body in the San Francisco Bay.  Peterson claims he was fishing alone that day.  The decision came almost two years to the date after the disappearance of Laci Peterson, a 27-year-old substitute teacher who married her college sweetheart and was soon to be the proud mother of a baby boy named Conner. The story set off a tabloid frenzy as suspicion began to swirl around Scott Peterson, who claimed to have been fishing by himself on Christmas Eve and was carrying on an affair with a massage therapist at the time.  The remains of Laci and the fetus washed ashore about four months later, just a few miles from where Peterson claims to have gone fishing in San Francisco Bay. The case went to trial in June, and Peterson was convicted Nov. 12 of two counts of murder.
Harold Ray Memro
Was sentenced to death for murdering 3 children -  Scott F. and Ralph C. on July 26, 1976, and Carl C., Jr. (Carl Jr.), on October 22, 1978.

Michael M. Martinez
Convicted of murdering Lisa White and attempting to murder her daughter in White's Hayward home
in December 1990. White was beaten to death with a hammer and also stabbed in the neck,
authorities said. Her daughter testified that Martinez raped her and hit her in the head with a
hammer. When she regained consciousness, the girl said, she saw Martinez hit White with the
hammer and stab her as she entered the home. Martinez, who worked for a moving company,
admitted killing White but denied molesting her daughter, an attack that made the murder a
capital crime. He said he had gone to the house to sell methamphetamine to White and that they
had shared drugs before getting into an argument. He said she had first swung the hammer at him
and that he had then punched her, grabbed the hammer and hit her in the face and head.

Lawrence Bittaker
Bittaker and Norris hatched a plan to rape and kill local girls. Bittaker bought a 1977 GMC cargo van, which they came to call 'Murder Mack', because it had no side windows in the back and a large passenger side sliding door. From February to June 1979, they gave their plan a test run. They drove along the Pacific Coast Highway, stopped at beaches, talked to girls and took their pictures. When arrested police found close to 500 pictures among Bittaker's possessions. On June 24, 1979 they claimed their first real victim, 16-year-old Cindy Schaeffer. They picked her up near Redondo Beach, Norris forcing her into the van. He duct taped her mouth and bound her arms and legs. Bittaker drove the van to a fire road on San Gabriel Mountains out of sight of the highway. Both men raped the girl, and then Bittaker wrapped a straightened wire coat hanger around her neck. He tightened the wire with vice-grip pliers, strangling her to death. They wrapped her body in a plastic shower curtain and dumped it in a nearby canyon. They picked up 18-year-old Andrea Hall hitchhiking on July 8. Norris hid in the back of the van and Bittaker talked her into the van. After she had gotten in Bittaker offered her a drink from a cooler in the back. When she went to the cooler Norris jumped her, bound her arms and legs, and taped her mouth. They took her to the fire road and raped her several times. Bittaker dragged her from the van, and Norris left to get beer. When he returned Andrea was gone and Bittaker was looking at Polaroid pictures of her. He had stabbed her with an ice pick in both ears and when she wouldn't die fast enough, strangled her. He threw her body over a cliff. On September 3, while driving near Hermosa Beach, the pair spotted two girls on a bus stop bench and offered them a ride. Jackie Gilliam, 15, and Leah Lamp,13, accepted their offer. The girls became suspicious when Bittaker parked the van near a suburban tennis court. Leah went for the back door and Norris hit her in the head with a bat. A short scuffle broke out, but with Bittaker's help Norris subdued the teens and bound them both in the usual fashion. Bittaker then drove them to the fire road. They kept the girls alive for two days, raping and torturing them the whole time with a wire hanger and pliers. They even made an audio recording of the events. Eventually Bittaker stabbed Jackie in both ears with an ice pick. Like Andrea Hall she didn't die, and the men took turns strangling her until she died. Bittaker then strangled Leah while Norris hit her in the head with a sledgehammer seven times. They dumped the bodies over a cliff, the ice pick still in Jackie's head. They kidnapped Shirley Sanders on September 30, macing her and forcing her into the van. Both raped her, but she escaped. Unfortunately she couldn't identify the men and didn't know the license plate number of the van. They kidnapped 16-year-old Lynette Ledford on October 31, raping her and torturing her with a pair of pliers, while driving around Los Angeles instead of heading to their usual mountain spot. Again they tape recorded the whole thing, eventually strangling her with a wire hanger and pliers. Instead of tossing her body over a cliff, they left it on a random lawn in Hermosa Beach to see local reaction in the newspaper. The body was found the next day and caused quite a stir, being only days since the arrest of "Hillside Strangler" Angelo Buono.
Norris had been telling prison friend Jimmy Dalton all about the murders. Dalton thought the stories were lies until Ledford's body was found. He talked to his lawyer and they went to the Los Angeles Police Department with the information about Norris. Bittaker was convicted of rape, torture, kidnapping, and murder on February 17, 1981 and sentenced to death. As of February 2008, he is still on Death Row, where he still receives fan mail from women, which he signs using his nickname "Pliers" Bittaker. Norris was also sentenced, but was guaranteed not to serve a life sentence or be executed for his testimony against Bittaker.

James Nelson Blair
Convicted on July 19, 1985, of the attempted murders of Dorothy Green and Rhoda Miller by placing cyanide in a bottle of gin from which they drank. He was sentenced to a term of 14 years and 4 months, and his conviction and sentence were affirmed on appeal. In October 1986, after Dorothy Green died as a result of complications from the poisoning, Blair was charged with murder. On May 2, 1989, a jury found him guilty of murder in the first degree and found true the special circumstance that he intentionally killed the victim by poison. Approximately two months later, Blair was sentenced to death.

Richard Booker
Convicted and sentenced to Death in 1999 of the 1995 murders of two girls and a young mother in a Riverside apartment he set on fire with the mother's baby inside. The 7-month-old boy was saved when firefighters discovered the bodies of Tricia Powalka, 19, Amanda Elliott, 15, and Corina Gandara, 12, inside the smoke-filled apartment on the morning of Aug. 10, 1995. All three were stabbed and slashed and Elliott also was shot.

Dewayn Boyce
Kevin Boyce, a member of the Crips street gang, received the death penalty in 2000 for murdering Shayne York, an off-duty Los Angeles County deputy, after finding York's badge during a 1997 hair salon robbery in Buena Park. Boyce kicked York in the side, called him a "pig" and shot him in the back of the head.

Friday, May 4, 2012

San Jose-A Limited Liability Corporation

Eyes Wide Shut” best describes many of the residents and politicians residing in and running the City of San Jose.  I wonder, do the ordinary tax paying citizens really see what is happening to their City and do they even care?   This weekend Cinco Di Mayo celebrations will go on without the City of San Jose’s blessings again for the second year in a row.  In fact, this year there exists a heightened sense of concern in the wake of the killing of a juvenile in Roosevelt park this week, a sense of concern on the heels of one of the most important votes for city employees and the way city services are delivered to the citizens it serves.   

Budget cuts, class warfare, less-than-truthful politicians, and an ever increasing population dependent on government services is literally tearing down the City in front of our very eyes and it is a crying shame.  San Jose, once the 7th largest economy in the world, is now 48th according to last reports and continues on the decline.  San Jose no longer stands apart from the rest of famous sprawling locales throughout the Country; instead it resides in the shadows of Detroit, Cleveland, and our own Vallejo, California.  So, how did we get here and where are we going?  That is a question that has too many answers to cover in one blog post without turning it into a 1200 page novel.  However, living and working in the City for over 50 years has given me a perspective that I believe is unique to most of us baby boomers. 

When we were kids, our parents not only resided in the City, they worked there too; of course those were the days when folks could actually afford to live here.  San Jose kind of reminded you of ‘Leave it to Beaver’, a 60’s Television show depicting the ideal American family and the community they lived in;  you know, where Mr. Cleaver drove 5 miles to work and June stayed home to rear the kids.  We all know now that the show was just that, a show and had nothing to do with reality.  Not once did my mom serve up dinner in an evening dress with a string of cultured pearls around her neck, nor did my step-father sit down with fork and knife in hand wearing a suit and tie.  But the Clevers lived and worked in “Pleasantville” not Stockton or Discovery Bay and that may be one of many things that sicken our own community as a whole. 

When I first came to work for San Jose Fire Department there was a residency requirement in effect.  Every member of the fire and police departments had to reside within 30 miles of First and Santa Clara Streets.  However, there was no real enforcement of the restriction and it was soon abandoned after it was discovered that so many firefighters, including chief officers, already lived outside the city limits and therefore, they would have to force over half the department to pull up stakes and move back.   And it wasn’t just cops and fireman, it was many other city employees and private folks as well because the truth was, most of us could not afford to live here, not in your own home anyway.  Why else would a family choose to live in Stockton or Manteca instead of San Jose?  With the restriction gone, we soon had folks not only living outside of the city limits; we had guys living outside the State!  

Then the practice of hiring fire chiefs from the outside became the norm for our past city managers and mayors.  Why you ask?  So they could hire someone who had no previous ties to the community and to have total control of that individual and therefore the department.  Consequently, incompetency soon began to infect SJFD like a ravage uncontrollable disease with no cure.  The hiring of Robert Osby from Inglewood was the beginning of the end of what was once one of the most innovative fire departments in the country.  Sadly, what that man single-handedly did to San Jose Fire Department was nothing short of a crime and the damage still reverberates through the department to this day.   Regrettably, the hiring from outside the ranks continued and as a result, more irreversible damage.  Robert Brooks, the poster child for incompetent managers, was totally inept and yet it took the Mayor and City Manager, Regina K. Williams, over a year to find him.  In the interim, a lame duck acting chief with no chance of winning the position took SJFD down an even steeper slope. 

So what does the living locale of city employees have anything to do with the issues that plague our City?  I submit more than you might believe.  Think about it, when employees do not live in the city in which they work, what stake do they have in making the city better?  The attitude of “What the hell do I care, I don’t live there” soon was the justification for poor work performance and even perhaps wages and benefits that some employees in the “know” knew the city could not sustain.  Now that might anger some folks I know and used to work with, but if we don’t start asking these questions, then the future of my department and for the City of San Jose is sure to face continued “fiscal emergencies” and cutbacks to the point where there is nobody left.   

Now I’m no psychologist, but I don’t think it takes a PhD to get my point.  You see, fireman, cops, city parks crews and clerk typists all pay taxes too, but if the local taxes you pay are not in the community in which you live, then it really doesn’t have a negative effect on your pocketbook or surroundings does it?  Pensions and raises that city workers receive benefit you as an employee, but what effect does it have in Stockton where you live?  What about the hiring of department heads that have never lived in our community, and therefore, totally unaware of the demographics, history and void of the pride of being from San Jose?  They have no roots here, no ties to the community and the people they were hired to serve.  Most of these folks that the city hires from the outside are lame ducks that are interested in nothing more than padding their future retirement benefits and moving on.  Further, because of Measure J passed years ago transferring the majority of power from the city manager to the mayor, these department heads are at the totally mercy of guys like Chuck Reed.  At one time, when you really screwed up, you and your family had to face the shame of seeing everyone you know at the supermarket, local restaurant and school functions.  Now, you mess up and you go home to Bend, Oregon and who knows the difference.  Not only that, for the “biggies” of local government, you can steal taxpayers dollars meant for essential services through a fencing operation called Redevelopment Agencies and then go home to Tampa, Florida without so much as a middle finger from your once friends and colleagues when they discover you have been ripping them off all those years.

So now the question becomes, where do we go from here?  Obviously, forcing city workers and politicians to live within the city limits is no longer an option; nor can you make city employees become more concerned for the finances of a city they don’t live in.  This is why I foresee city services almost entirely going private, including the fire department.   Non personal employees working for independent corporations and entities is already beginning to take shape in San Jose as I write this post.  Future wage and retirement negotiations will be a thing of the past, replaced with contracts drawn up by city attorneys at the direction of one person, the Mayor.  Dealing with city workers will be no different than interacting with Macy department store employees.  Complaints will be dealt with by a customer service representative based in Atlanta, Georgia, not 200 E. Santa Clara Street and don’t forget about those nice emergency medical services you receive in the comfort of your home or business; along with the bill you’re going to get in the mail 30 days later from Metro Fire and Emergency Services.  And what about all those nice new libraries the Mayor seems to be obsessed with?  Those will become the new portal for city services for the poor in the village they reside in.