Polly Klaas, murdered in 1993.
News events last week brought forward the horrific North Bay murder of of Polly Klaas. The 12-year-old girl was kidnapped from a slumber party in Petaluma in 1993. She was found dead in Sonoma County, just a few miles north of Novato.
The case sparked national attention and resulted in crime reform in California and elsewhere. Richard Allen Davis was arrested, tried and convicted of the killing of Polly Klaas. He was sentenced to death.
But when Gov. Gavin Newsom took office, he unilaterally ended the use of the death penalty in California. Davis remains on death row at San Quentin State Prison in Marin.
Marc Klaas, Polly’s father, was one of several parents of crime victims to gather in Sacramento last week to denounce Gov. Newsom’s stand on crime in California, which they called lax. Newsom faces a recall in September.
Klaas told the group that he was shocked when Gov. Newsom suspended the death penalty, giving a reprieve to Davis and 736 other death-row inmates.
“The thing that really alarms me about what the governor did, is that it’s a continuation of policies to undermine the criminal justice system, and to put dangerous people back out onto the streets,” Klaas told the Sacramento Bee.
Actions by the governor, recall supporters said last week, have made some inmates eligible for earlier releases as part of efforts to trim the prison population. In May, California announced it would give 76,000 inmates, of the estimated 115,000 total inmate population, opportunities for early release.
63,000 inmates convicted of violent crimes will be eligible for good behavior credits that shorten their sentences by one-third instead of the one-fifth that had been in place since 2017. Of those inmates, 20,000 are serving life sentences with the possibility of parole.
Nina Salarno, president of Crime Victims United of California, blasted the governor at last week’s event. “Murderers, rapists, child molesters, human traffickers, child abusers: they are the worst and he’s releasing them, early release, with no provision for the public safety.”
But Nathan Click, a Newsom supporter, told the Sacramento Bee that “Governor Newsom has stood with victims – increasing financial support and services for these families – and is advancing proven solutions to protect public safety.”
After that anti-crime gathering in Sacramento, Gov. Newsom made his own appeal to the court of public opinion. Cal Matters reported that “In a likely attempt to soothe voters spooked by a 31% spike in homicides, potentially shorter prison sentences for 76,000 inmates, and viral videos of store robberies, Newsom signed into law a bill to continue classifying organized retail theft as a crime and keep task forces in place. He also appeared to chastise progressive district attorneys, such as George Gascón in Los Angeles and Chesa Boudin in San Francisco, by encouraging prosecutors to ‘take seriously those re-offenses’ and ‘be a little bit more proactive on enforcement and prosecution of those crimes.’”
The recall election is scheduled for Sept. 14. The number of candidates on the ballot now totals 46.
(Marinscope Community Newspapers consists of the Novato Advance, the San Rafael News Pointer, the Ross Valley Reporter, the Mill Valley Herald, the Twin Cities Times (Larkspur and Corte Madera) and the Sausalito Marin Scope. To subscribe to any of these newspapers, please see page A3.)