By Michele Hanisee
Last month, the ADDA exposed how a key witness told outright lies to a state Senate committee while advocating for SB 620, which would eliminate mandatory enhancements for gun crimes. The ADDA showed that the story told about the young criminal whose case supposedly spotlighted the unfairness of enhancements was untrue.
So the bill’s chief proponent, Senator Stephen Bradford, found another criminal whom he could use to “humanize” his argument. Incredibly, Bradford chose as his new poster child an offender named Denzel Demar Crisp, who committed an unprovoked drive-by shooting, firing multiple times into a crowd of strangers and hitting one of them.
What was the motivation for the December 2009 shooting? Well nothing, really.
The evidence showed that Crisp and another man were unable to find a party hosted by a female friend, and walked up to a group of strangers at a different party. When told their friend wasn’t there they left, with no agitated interaction or harsh words exchanged. Minutes later, a car drove by and multiple gunshots were fired at people standing on the street, hitting one person who had just arrived.
Responding police captured Crisp and his friend as they drove away. At trial, each blamed the other for the shooting. But the jury found Crisp to be the shooter based on eyewitness testimony, seating positions in the car, and forensic evidence. They convicted him of discharging a gun from a car and assault with a semi-automatic weapon, and found that Crisp personally discharged a gun and caused great bodily injury.
Amazingly, Bradford wants people to believe that the imposition of a lengthy enhancement on Crisp for firing a gun at a complete group of strangers and striking one is too harsh. The Appellate Court certainly didn’t think it was, writing, “[W]e simply cannot say that a lengthy sentence for a drive-by shooter, who but for grace or luck or divine intervention could have killed the victim or others standing nearby, is cruel and unusual punishment. … We reject Crisp’s invitation to find his sentence grossly disproportionate because his victim recovered and thereby to benefit him because his victim was lucky enough to survive.”
We can’t agree more with the Appellate Court. Unlike Senator Bradford, we don’t believe that someone who shoots and injures another person should be rewarded with a lesser sentence because a victim was “lucky enough to survive.”
Crisp is fortunate his shots didn’t kill the victim or those standing nearby. The punishment he received is a punishment he rightfully earned; his story is no more of a persuasive reason for changing the law than the false story another witness spun on behalf of Bradford’s bill.
Michele Hanisee is President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, the collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles.