Monthly Archive: August 2021

Kennedy Family Disagreement on Sirhan Parole

In last week’s post, I noted the press report that two of Sen. Robert Kennedy’s children spoke in favor of the parole of assassin Sirhan Sirhan. Turns out those two were definitely not speaking for the family as a whole. AP reports:

BOSTON — Former congressman Joseph P. Kennedy II, the oldest son of Robert F. Kennedy, denounced the possible parole of the man convicted of killing his father in California in 1968.

“Two commissioners of the 18-member California Parole Board made a grievous error last Friday in recommending the release of the man who murdered my father,” Kennedy wrote in the emailed statement released Sunday. “I understand that there are differing views about ending the sentence of this killer, including within my own family. But emotions and opinions do not change facts or history.” Continue reading . . .

Sirhan Found Fit for Parole

Sirhan Sirhan was deservedly sentenced to death for the assassination of Robert Kennedy. Regrettably, a double hit of judicial activism struck in 1972, saving him and many others from their deserved punishments. In February of that year, the California Supreme Court declared that capital punishment violated the California Constitution, brushing off the inconvenient truth that the constitutional convention had debated and voted on the precise question and decided it the other way.

A few months later, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the way nearly all capital punishment statutes at the time gave wide-open discretion to the jury violated the United States Constitution. Only a year earlier, the high court had decided 6-3, in a thorough and scholarly opinion by Justice Harlan: “In light of history, experience, and the present limitations of human knowledge, we find it quite impossible to say that committing to the untrammeled discretion of the jury the power to pronounce life or death in capital cases is offensive to anything in the Constitution.” Had the Constitution been amended in the interim? No.

California had no life-without-parole alternative at the time, so all the death row inmates got life with parole, including Charles Manson and Sirhan Sirhan. But surely no parole board would actually let either of these two out, considering the magnitude of their crimes, right? Continue reading . . .

Two Big and Unanimous Wins for the Death Penalty

Congratulations to Mike and Kent for their work that paid off today in a unanimous California Supreme Court ruling rejecting an audacious, broad-brush challenge to the state’s death penalty.

The CJLF press release starts:

In a unanimous decision announced today, the California Supreme Court rejected a double-murderer’s claim that the state has misapplied its death penalty law since it was enacted 42 years ago, invalidating every death sentence handed down since 1978.

Specifically, Donte Lamont McDaniel argued that the law required sentencing juries to find each aggravating factor of a murder true beyond a reasonable doubt and find that a death sentence is appropriate beyond a reasonable doubt, but that no court has ever complied with those requirements.


Continue reading . . .

The Impact of Progressive Crime Policies

Since my college days in the 1960s when I began paying attention to such things, I noticed that whenever liberal/progressive/socialist policies had failed, the default response from proponents was always that the resources and time devoted to these policies were inadequate.  This kind of deflection remains standard practice among liberals today.  But there are a couple of places in the United States where the government’s investment in progressive criminal justice policies has been substantial and carried out for over a decade.  No state has taken progressive sentencing and police reforms further than California, beginning in 2011 with Governor Jerry Brown’s groundbreaking Public Safety Realignment bill AB109.  That bill qualified roughly 30,000 prison inmates for  early release and eliminated state prison sentences as an option for car thieves, fraudsters, and most burglars and drug dealers.

Continue reading . . .

The Current Status of The People v. Daniel William Marsh

In April of 2013, Daniel Marsh was 15 years old when he broke into Chip Northup and Claudia Maupin‘s condominium in the middle of the night and heinously murdered them as they slept.  His case was directly filed in adult criminal court and, in 2014, he was convicted by a jury of two counts of first degree murder with special circumstances.  The trial court imposed a sentence of 52 years to life.  The Northup and Maupin families found relief in the verdict and sentence and believed Marsh would be locked up for a very long time.  Unfortunately, their relief was short lived and their fight for justice had just begun.  Continue reading . . .

Victims’ Groups Join Lawsuit to Block Cal. Inmate Releases

In a court filing today (August 18), two victims’ groups, Crime Victims United and Citizens Against Homicide, joined a lawsuit by district attorneys to block new regulations announced on May 1 by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) making 76,000 inmates eligible for early release.  A video of the press conference is here.  The new regulations would allow the early release of criminals convicted of both violent and non-violent crimes, including murderers and sex offenders. Inmates that prison officials determine have behaved well or participated in rehabilitation programs would be eligible for release after serving one-half of their sentences.

Continue reading . . .

Asking the Correct Question in a Death Penalty Poll

I have long been critical on this blog of the way major polling organizations phrase their questions on the death penalty. Professors Joseph Bessette and Andrew Sinclair of Claremont McKenna College have done it right. They have this article at Real Clear Policy explaining their work and results. The full technical report is here. (Hint: no one familiar with my prior posts will be surprised at the results.) Continue reading . . .

Under Gascón, Defense Attorneys Serve as Prosecutors

The family of an elderly couple brutally murdered by a habitual criminal in 1996, have asked a Los Angeles County judge to remove the prosecutor in a hearing where double-murderer Samuel Zamudio is seeking to overturn his conviction.  Scott Schwebke of the East Bay Times reports that Diana Teran, the deputy Gascón assigned to the case, was a defense attorney until last April 1, when she went on loan to the DAs office and is still receiving a $218,000 salary from the Public Defender’s Office.  The attorney representing the victims’ family told the court that having a defense attorney serving as a prosecutor presents an “inherent conflict of interest.”

Continue reading . . .