Competing death penalty initiatives could spur confusion

There will be a minimum of seventeen measures on the Statewide ballot in November.  San Fran is adding another 39 for their voters—and your city and county may have some as well.  You will be asked to legalize marijuana, repeal the plastic bag ban, vote to take away guns and extend a tax for twelve years, at a cost of $144 billion—transferred from your business and family to the government.

Also, on the ballot are two measures dealing with the death penalty.  One would outlaw the death penalty.  The other making it faster and less complex to complete the death sentence.  There are over 700 people on California’s death row.  Last week a prisoner filed to be let at of prison, because of the cruel and unusual punishment—he had been on death row for more than 30 years (he forgot to mention that is because of all the appeals he filed).  It is time to make a decision—do we support the criminals or the victims?

“One – Proposition 66 – would preserve the death penalty for the most heinous criminals by enacting critically needed reforms to the system.

The other – Proposition 62 – would scrap the death penalty, allowing criminals who kill cops or rape and murder children to live out their lives in the relative comfort of prison.

I cannot overstate the importance of supporting Prop. 66, and doing everything we can – no matter how small – to educate others about it. If Prop. 66 fails, and California scraps the death penalty, the kind of brutal criminals who ambushed and slaughtered five police officers in Dallas Thursday night would only face life in prison if they committed those crimes here.”

Death Penalty

Competing death penalty initiatives could spur confusion

Prop. 66 will preserve and reform the death penalty system 

 

By Michele Hanisee, Association of Deputy District Attorneys,  7/19/16

 

This November, California voters will be presented with two of the most important ballot initiatives in state history.

One – Proposition 66 – would preserve the death penalty for the most heinous criminals by enacting critically needed reforms to the system.

The other – Proposition 62 – would scrap the death penalty, allowing criminals who kill cops or rape and murder children to live out their lives in the relative comfort of prison.

I cannot overstate the importance of supporting Prop. 66, and doing everything we can – no matter how small – to educate others about it. If Prop. 66 fails, and California scraps the death penalty, the kind of brutal criminals who ambushed and slaughtered five police officers in Dallas Thursday night would only face life in prison if they committed those crimes here.

To be sure, the problems with California’s current death penalty system are by no means new, and they have literally transformed a death sentence into life without parole. Since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, the state has executed only 13 inmates. A quarter of the 700-plus inmates on California’s death row have been there for more than 25 years. The average death-row inmate has spent 16 years with a death sentence.

One of the primary problems is the endless inmate appeal process of their death sentences. Prop. 66 would fix this problem, and many more.

Among other things, it would require that a defendant who is sentenced to death be appointed a lawyer at the time of sentence, meaning the defendant’s appeal will be heard sooner. It would also allow the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to reduce the cost of housing death-row inmates, and make it easier for the department to enact an execution protocol.

As we said in earlier posts, failure to pass this initiative is not an option; not only would Prop. 62 eliminate the death penalty going forward, but it would apply retroactively to people already sentenced to death.

You can sign up for campaign email updates, and volunteer for and donate to the campaign, by visiting the Californians for Death Penalty Reform and Savings website and clicking on the links on the right side of the home page.

 

Michele Hanisee is President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys. The Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) is the collective bargaining agent and represents nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles. To contact a Board Member, click here.

Black Lives Matter — 3 Things We’ve Learned; and 1 Thing We Still Don’t Know

0811-riotThe Black Lives Matter movement has raged for nearly two years. In its better moments, it has provoked soul-searching by sincere Americans who want to understand each other, and who want the law to be enforced fairly as well as effectively.

In its worst moments — such as the one we are enduring now — Black Lives Matter has inspired violence, terrorized police, driven up crime and divided Americans.

Overall, the experience has produced three basic lessons — and raised one lingering question.

1. Lesson 1: Race does not actually matter in police shootings. A black Harvard economics professor has published a new study that reveals that there is no evidence of racial bias when police use deadly force. “On the most extreme use of force – officer-involved shootings — we find no racial differences in either the raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account,” the study concludes.

The study also reports that blacks and Hispanics are 50% more likely to experience somekind of force in their interactions with police (see below). But the claim that the police are killing black people has no basis in fact.

There is anecdotal evidence to support the Harvard study’s hard numbers. Fresno police recently shot and killed an unarmed white teenager, Dylan Noble. The police “body cam” videos of the shooting are painful to watch. It is not clear that they had to use deadly force against him. But it is also likely that they had some reason to, after he appeared to be holding a long object in one of his hands; seemed to reach behind his back, or to his waist; and walked towards officers who already had their guns drawn.

The common denominator in most of these sad events is not race, but often the unpredictable behavior of the victims.

2. Lesson 2: Racism is still a part of black Americans’ everyday experience. Though there is no racial bias in shootings, minorities do experience different treatment by police.

On Wednesday, Sen. Tim Scott (R-NC), a Tea Party conservative and the first black Senator from the South since Reconstruction, gave eloquent voice to that sentiment, describing how he had once been stopped by Capitol police. They did not believe the black man standing at the entrance to the building was a U.S. Senator.

“[T]he officer looked at me, a little attitude and said, ‘The pin, I know. You, I don’t. Show me your ID’,” he recalled.

That is not to say that black people are the only people who experience racism. Nor does it mean that America’s institutions are fundamentally corrupt. The idea of “systemic racism,” which has become a Hillary Clinton talking point, is an absurd contrivance that presumes all white people to be guilty, and is used to bully people — including liberals — into conformity with the radical left.

But as even former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani noted, as he called Black Lives Matter “inherently racist,” the perception of racism creates its own reality. And there is a basis for that perception, as the Harvard study notes.

3. Lesson 3: Police, like most people, want to do the right thing. One of the striking, but overlooked, common features of the Alton Sterling shooting in Baton Rouge, the Philando Castile shooting in Minnesota, and the Dylan Noble shooting in Fresno is that the police showed a genuine concern for the people they had shot, once the confrontations were over.

Police called paramedics right away, for example, after Sterling had been shot. And in the body cam video of the Noble shooting, one officer is heard literally pleading with the young man to raise his hands so he would not have to shoot again.

There are rare exceptions, of course. In the Tamir Rice shooting in 2014, where a police officer shot and killed a boy in a park armed with a toy gun, officers struggled to provide first aid.

There are some bad cops, and terrible mistakes by good cops. But police want to solve the problem — without placing public safety at risk.

The point is there is room for debate about how to improve police tactics, and rebuild trust. Airbnb founder Joe Gebbia recently noted that strangers who normally might not trust each other change their minds with just a little more information. As Giuliani sad, we “have to try to understand each other.”

Question: Do black people realize that white people have the same problems? It can be humiliating to be “profiled,” but police make snap judgments about people all the time. In some situations, they have to do so. And sometimes, the decisions are unjust and unfair.

But it is not a uniquely black experience. Breitbart News’ Lee Stranahan was arrested last weekend while covering Black Lives Matter protests, and wrote: “I did nothing to break the law. I was not obstructing traffic … the police came directly at me. I do not know why I was targeted.” Once arrested, he made an effort to be cooperative, and observed that despite being one of the only white detainees, he was treated equally, “no better or worse than any other polite prisoner.”

There has been so much rhetoric lately about “systemic racism,” after years of Occupy-inspired agitprop about inequality, that black people could be forgiven for ascribing the ordinary mishaps and challenges of life, wrongly, to racism.

Do enough black people know that most white people — even among the “wealthy” — struggle to pay the bills, wrestle with addiction, and have run-ins with the cops?

We have let our leaders politicize the everyday. We should try talking to each other, without them.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, will be published by Regnery on July 25 and is available for pre-order through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

This piece was originally published by Breitbart California

Should felons be allowed to vote from behind jail bars?

As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

Thousands of felons serving time in county jails would be allowed to vote in California elections from behind bars under a bill moving swiftly through the state Legislature despite widespread opposition from law enforcement officials.

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) introduced the measure with an aim that providing convicts the right to vote will give them a better sense of belonging to society and possibly reduce their chances of committing new crimes when released.

“Civic participation can be a critical component of re-entry and has been linked to reduced recidivism,” Weber told her colleagues during a recent heated floor debate on the bill.

But police chiefs and sheriffs throughout California say the proposal that passed narrowly in the state Assembly undermines a longstanding social compact: those who commit a serious crime lose not only their freedom to live in society for a time but also their right to participate in democracy. …

Click here to read the full article

Prop. 57 Would Grant Early Release For Violent Criminals

Police carJust a week ago, California Attorney General Kamala Harris released an alarming report detailing how violent crime in California is on the rise, increasing 10% over the last year.

Violent crimes were up last year by about 15,000 to a high of 166,588. Homicides went up 9.7 percent, robberies 8.5 percent, aggravated assaults 8 percent. Rapes increased 36 percent!

It is in this environment that Governor Jerry Brown has placed before voters this November a ballot measure deceptively titled the “Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016”  – when it might be more accurately dubbed the “Let Violent Criminals Out Of Prison Early Act of 2016.”

The measure, now officially Proposition 57, purports to allow for early release only of those inmates who have committed “non-violent offenses,” but is written in a way that even a spokesperson for the initiative says will only prevent early release for those who committed 23 specific violent crimes.

Here are just some of the supposedly “non-violent crimes” for which early release would be possible if this measure is passed: rape by intoxication, rape of an unconscious person, human trafficking involving sex act with minors, drive-by shooting, assault with a deadly weapon, taking a hostage, domestic violence involving trauma, possession of a bomb or weapon of mass destruction, hate crime causing physical injury, arson causing great bodily injury, discharging a firearm on school grounds, corporal injury to a child, and false imprisonment of an elderly person. The list actually goes on and on.

In addition to significantly reducing the time a vast number of violent criminals would have to serve before being eligible for parole, the Governor’s measure actually allows bureaucrats at the Department of Corrections to give “time off for good behavior” to literally any inmate in state prison, including those convicted of the most heinous criminal acts, including first-degree murder.

I suppose another equally valid ballot title for the measure could be the “California Crime Victim Re-victimization Act,” because the measure was purposely drafted to allow every prisoner currently serving time for the violent crimes listed above (and more) to be eligible for early release based on the new guidelines. Which means that all of the victims of these terrible acts, who had some degree of certainty as to the disposition of their attackers, would all have to wonder if suddenly their attackers would be back on the streets – much sooner than they had been promised by the criminal justice system.

Brown’s measure, in one broadly written provision, would overturn a number of previous tough-on-crime measures passed by California voters, including key provisions of Marsy’s Law; 3-Strikes-And-You’re-Out – the Victims’ Bill of Rights; the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act; and the Gang Violence and Juvenile Crime Prevention Act.

Brown has so far spent over $5 million from a ballot measure advocacy committee he controls to put Prop 57 before the voters, and he still has over $20 million in that fund. He argues that these “reforms” are needed to address prison overcrowding, and also says that he very much regrets his support in 1977, as governor, for establishing determinative sentencing laws in California. These have led to the establishment of strict sentencing guidelines, mandatory minimum sentences, and enhanced sentences for certain crimes.

Brown also feels strongly that the current system provides no incentive for inmates to be exemplary while behind bars, and feels that with the carrot of reducing sentences that prison authorities can cause inmate behavior to change in a positive way, reducing recidivism.

A robust conversation about criminal justice reform is a good thing, and clearly some reforms are worthwhile to discuss, and even implement. However, in the case of this particularly dreadful ballot measure, its basic premise is a lie. Governor Brown wants to soften sentences and allow for early release of violent criminals – while trying to tell voters with a straight face that that is not what this measure actually does.

A final and disturbing fact: Attorney General (and United States Senate candidate) Kamala Harris is charged with writing an accurate title and summary for each ballot measure. As the state’s top prosecutor, Harris knows full well what this measure does, but still placed before voters the sentence, “Allows parole consideration for persons convicted of nonviolent felonies…”.

The question is whether general election voters, inundated with campaign messaging from not only a presidential election but from a boatload of other ballot measures, will understand this measure for what it actually is. Because if they just go by the ballot title and summary in front of them by Kamala Harris, thousands of very dangerous people will be back on the streets very, very soon.

Originally published at Breitbart California.

ublisher of the FlashReport

Violent crime in California jumped 10 percent last year

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

California violent crime increased 10 percent last year, the first rise since 2012, according to a report Friday from Attorney General Kamala Harris.

The number of violent crimes reached 166,588 in 2015, about 15,000 more than the previous year. Aside from the small uptick four years ago, and a few earlier blips, violent crime has been on a steady decrease over the last two decades.

The new report said homicides increased 9.7 percent, robberies rose 8.5 percent and aggravated assaults were up 8 percent.

Rapes increased 36 percent, to 12,793 from 9,397. …

San Francisco police union rejects outside criticism

Police carThe abrupt May 19 resignation of San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr after police Sgt. Justin Erb shot and killed Jessica Williams, an unarmed African-American woman fleeing in a stolen car, drew national and international attention to the city’s Police Department. Its officers are accused of callously killing minority crime suspects and homeless people and some have been embroiled in a scandal for more than a year involving racist and homophobic text messages.

In the normal dynamics of government scandal and dysfunction, leaders identify a problem and work to address it, seeking to win media and public approval. But what’s going on in San Francisco reflects the normal dynamics of law-enforcement scandals. Police officers who feel underappreciated — even besieged since the Black Lives Matter movement began in 2014 —push back hard at the idea that they’re doing something fundamentally wrong, even when it comes to police killings of unarmed people.

The San Francisco Police Officers Association denounced Mayor Ed Lee’s decision to ask Suhr to quit. “His retirement under pressure is an extreme loss to the department and the city,” a union statement said. “Chief Suhr, at the core, was and always will be a cop’s cop and dedicated to the men and women who don the uniform every day to serve and protect.”

This attitude doesn’t bode well for interim Police Chief Toney Chaplin, who told reporters that his agenda was “reform, reform, reform” because “the department has to move forward.”

But despite the praise for Suhr from the police union, the fatal May 18 shooting of the stolen-car suspect was one more example of his lack of control over his department. Suhr has long implored officers not to shoot into fleeing cars. The police union had also criticized his response to the text-message scandal, including his demanding that officers sign a pledge essentially promising to not be bigots.

Union: “Protect due process” of accused officers

There are presently 18 police officers accused in the texting scandal. While police union president Martin Halloran condemned “the appalling racist behavior committed by a handful of officers,” he also said the police union would closely scrutinize the disciplinary process to ensure it “protects the due process rights of the officers.”

Those right are so strong that it is often difficult to fire a police officer in California unless he commits a crime or acts in egregious ways with indisputable evidence. It’s also difficult to even find out about officer misconduct, as the Los Angeles Times reported in April.

Nearly 40 years ago, California took its first steps to shield police misconduct from the public when Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law in his first term restricting details of officer personnel files from disclosure. A 2006 California Supreme Court decision went further and extended the law’s protections to cases in which civil service commissions weighed in on officer discipline. Today, almost all details about misconduct — including cases in which police officers were found to have used excessive force, engaged in racial profiling or lied on the job — are kept secret outside of court, administrative or civilian review board proceedings.

And although 23 states keep most public employee personnel records confidential, California is one of just three to provide specific protections for police information, according to a recent investigation by WNYC, a public radio station in New York.

Partly in response to the problems in his home town, Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, introduced SB 1286 that would open up police records in cases of “serious misconduct.” It passed an initial Senate committee vote last month, but then died without a second vote on Friday.

But as Conor Friedersdorf reported last August in The Atlantic, many police reform efforts have been launched in the Golden State only to go nowhere.

What’s next in San Francisco?

Meanwhile, Mayor Lee is facing pressure from the most liberal members of the city’s Board of Supervisors to go after bad cops. Supervisor Jane Kim, a rising star in city politics, has been pushing for change for more than four years and now has more support than ever.

But the police union thinks that Lee has already done too much to address police controversies.

On May 26th Mayor Ed Lee made some very disturbing remarks to the San Francisco Chronicle. These comments were directed at the SFPD Sergeant who was forced to discharge his firearm in the Officer Involved Shooting last week. The Mayor’s remarks were prejudicial and irresponsible. The POA has always responded to misinformed politicians who make such inflammatory statements and the Mayor is no exception.

That’s from Friday post on the police union’s Facebook page.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Justice Department continues its investigation of the San Francisco Police Department, launched in February. It’s not clear when the federal probe will conclude.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Wrongful convictions cost California taxpayers $282 million over 24 years, study finds

As reported by the Washington Post:

A California research project tried to do something no one’s ever done: determine the total cost of wrongful convictions. That cost being not just the settlements paid to innocent defendants, but the unnecessary costs of prosecuting and incarcerating them, plus the total legal bills of their criminal trials and appeals.

Beginning the project in 2012 and working backwards to 1989, the study found 692 people who were convicted of felonies in California but whose cases were later dismissed or acquitted on retrial. Those people spent a total of 2,346 years in custody and cost California taxpayers an estimated $282 million when adjusted for inflation, according to the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, which released the study last week.

Now for some scale: Those 692 failed convictions over 24 years were part of a California system that convicts more than 200,000 people every year. Some may argue, the report notes, that 692 mistakes over more than two decades “reflects an acceptable rate of error. We reject the proposition that an acceptable rate of error can apply to proceedings that impact people’s lives in the way that criminal prosecution can…Just as with airline safety and medical mistakes, the acceptable rate of error is zero and that should be the goal.”

The researchers also note …

Click here to read the full story

Apple headed for showdown over San Bernardino shooter’s phone

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

Apple’s refusal to help the FBI access information from the retrieved cell phone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook sets up a long-brewing confrontation between Silicon Valley and members of Congress including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California’s senior senator.

Apple’s rejection of a court order demanding the company unlock the phone represents a pivotal crossroads in a growing debate over digital privacy versus security and is likely to determine whether law enforcement can access data that increasingly is being encrypted.

The outcome of the battle also will have implications not only for the growing use of cell phones in business transactions but for the ability of foreign governments such as China to pry into the personal lives of their citizens, analysts of the dispute said. …

Click here to read the full article

Superbowl Spotlight Bad Timing for SF Police

San Francisco, CA, USAThe global spotlight on the Bay Area created by Super Bowl 50 couldn’t have come at a worse time for the San Francisco Police Department. The fatal December shooting of Mario Woods, a young African American stabbing suspect who was shot by five officers as he walked away from them, continues to trigger increasingly regular protests.

Now the U.S. Justice Department has concluded that there is sufficient evidence of wrongdoing that it is going to review SFPD and its history. Yahoo News has details:

“We will examine the San Francisco Police Department’s current operational policies, training practices and accountability systems, and help identify key areas for improvement going forward,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement.

At the conclusion of the review, the Justice Department will give San Francisco police a list of best practices it can follow to ensure fairness in its interactions with citizens.

San Francisco police will then report back to the Justice Department on a periodic basis to show it is following the practices, a Justice Department official said.

The ACLU of Northern California and African American activists welcomed the announcement.

Officers asked to pledge not to be racists

Meanwhile, San Francisco police are also being called out, in essence, by their chief, who is asking them to pledge to not act like racists, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

“People that would use racial epithets, slurs and things like that clearly fall below the minimum standard of being a police officer,” Police Chief Greg Suhr [said]. “A cop needs to show character and point that out.”

Suhr noted that a website — notonmywatchsfpd.org — had been launched to emphasize what he expects out of his officers. This is from its “About” description:

SFPD created the Not On My Watch initiative … in an effort to improve relationships between police officers and the diverse communities they serve.

This first-of-its-kind pledge is about recognizing that we need to guard against our own implicit biases,” said SFPD Chief Greg Suhr, “and to call out anyone who is intolerant or bigoted.”

Since 2011, SFPD policy has prohibited biased policing. The inspiration for the Not On My Watch project came from SFPD Sergeant Yulanda Williams, president of Officers for Justice. “It tells everyone that I am going to treat them with dignity and respect,” said Sgt. Williams. “And at the same time, we’re encouraging them to trust us, respect us and allow us to help them by delivering the type of police service that makes for viable, stable communities.”

Selling police chief as idealist may prove difficult

This initiative may play well in San Francisco and nationallly, but Suhr’s critics will question his sincerity and idealism. He’s had to deal with two rounds of harsh news coverage since last summer.

The city had to spend nearly $1.5 million to defend him from a whistleblower’s lawsuit with embarrassing allegations andpersuasive evidence that Suhr mishandled a domestic violence case to help a friend.

He’s also accused of giving special breaks to a family friend in his attempt to secure a job as a San Francisco officer.

Debate Rages Over CA Death Penalty

Death PenaltyObliged by a court settlement to figure out a new method of capital punishment, California officials have exacerbated the state’s protracted debate over executions by settling on a different kind of lethal injection.

With a widespread shortage of execution drugs used in the now-familiar “cocktails,” officials have now aimed to “let corrections officials choose from four types of powerful barbiturates to execute prisoners,” according to KCRA Sacramento. “A choice would be made for each execution, depending on which drug is available. The single drug would replace the series of three drugs that were last used in 2006, when 76-year-old Clarence Ray Allen was executed for ordering a triple murder.”

“The plan to use barbiturates to execute inmates sentenced to die in the most populous U.S. state drew fire from religious activists, who called capital punishment grisly and anti-democratic at a hearing in Sacramento,” Reuters reported. “Law-and-order advocates urged its adoption.”

“If the new protocol is adopted by corrections officials and voters do not outlaw the death penalty next November, the state could theoretically begin executing 18 prisoners who have exhausted their appeals. Legal challenges to the lethal injection drug, however, could drag on for years.”

Opponents of the new plan insisted that it amounted to a trial-and-error approach. “The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California is suing to obtain at least 79,000 corrections department documents related to lethal injections,” KCRA noted. “It says the regulations may lack enough safeguards to prevent the state from using backdoor ways to obtain execution drugs that manufacturers never intended for that purpose.” Past cocktails have been harshly criticized for sometimes failing to execute inmates as quickly and painlessly as lethal injection was intended to do.

Languishing inmates

Much of the frustration around the issue stems from the unique backlog that has built up on the state’s Death Row. “It’s been 10 years since California executed its last death row inmate. Since then, the death row population has grown to 745,” KQED noted. “Since 1978, 117 death row inmates have died, the vast majority from natural causes and suicide.”

Although California’s Death Row has ballooned to an extraordinary size over the years, other states have found themselves burdened by court requirements in similar ways. Florida, second to California in the size of its death row population, recently faced a Supreme Court ruling that has thrown the status of its condemned inmates into question. “Death penalty prosecutions are stalled, and state lawmakers are hustling to write and pass a new death penalty law before their session ends in six weeks,” the New York Times reported. “Also in question is whether the 390 inmates awaiting execution in Florida will remain on death row or be resentenced to life in prison.” The predicament, which has gained the attention of reformers and activists across  the political spectrum, has contributed to the rise of execution reform as a hot-button issue around the country.

Divided opinion

California’s own controversy has strengthened amid a sharp divide in statewide public opinion over capital punishment. Voters, a new poll found, have “now equally divided between scrapping the death penalty altogether and speeding up the path to executing inmates on the nation’s largest death row,” according to the San Jose Mercury News. “The poll found that 47 percent of voters favor replacing the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole in California, up from 40 percent in 2014. But at the same time, the poll shows that 48 percent of registered voters would support proposals to accelerate the state’s notoriously slow system of resolving death penalty appeals to pick up the pace of executions.” Both those proposals were likely to wind up on this election year’s ballot in the form of initiatives.

Opinions have split even among Death Row inmates themselves. “Opinions vary, just like I’m sure they vary on the outside,” one inmate, Charles Crawford II, told KQED. “Some of us are against it, some of us not so much. Some of us, it’s like if they’re going to do it, do it and not have us sittin’ here for 20 or 30 years.”

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com