By Michele Hanisee
In 2016, the people of California spoke loudly and unequivocally by passing Prop. 66, a ballot measure to reform and maintain the state’s death penalty.
Last week, Governor/Emperor Gavin Newsom thumbed his nose at votersand victims of crime sided squarely with the state’s most monstrous murderers, rapists and torturers by imposing a moratorium on executions, granting reprieves to all 737 death-row inmates and closing the state’s execution chamber. The governor’s powers of clemency, commutation and reprieve exist so that the governor can, in individual cases, issue such an order as an act of mercy.
Newsom’s act is a slap in the face to victims who were shown no mercy when they were raped, tortured and murdered. It’s a slap in the face to their families and loved ones. And it’s a slap in the face to the majority of voters who supported Prop. 66 and who, a new poll shows, still support the death penalty
Let’s meet some of the fine, upstanding people who were granted mercy courtesy of our governor.
Charles Ng and his pal, Leonard Lake, kidnapped and murdered women, men and even entire families. They made videotapes of them raping and sodomizing terrified women while their anguished husbands and children howled in the background. They forced girls as young as 12 to engage in three-way sex with them and other captives. Lake committed suicide when cornered by police; Ng was convicted of 11 murders, but it’s believed this sadistic killer brutally murdered more than 25 victims.
Emperor Newsom thinks Ng deserves mercy.
“Tool box killer” Lawrence Bittaker and his partner, Roy Norris, called their van “Murder Mack” because it had no windows so they could safely hide the young girls they kidnapped as they cruised up and down Pacific Coast Highway in the first half of 1979. 16-year-old Cindy Schaeffer was picked up by the pair near Redondo Beach. Norris forced into the van, duct taped her mouth and bound her arms and legs. Bittaker drove her to the San Gabriel Mountains where both men raped her. Bittaker then wrapped a wire coat hanger around her neck, tightened it with vice-grip pliers and strangled her to death. Afterward, they dumped her body in canyon. They next picked up 18-year-old Andrea Hall. She was taken to a remote area and raped repeatedly. Afterward, she was stabbed with an ice pick in both ears. When she wouldn’t die fast enough, the duo strangled her and threw her body off a cliff. In September, Bittaker and Norris offered Jackie Gilliam, 15, and Leah Lamp, 13, a ride while they sat at a bus stop. After getting in the van, the girls became suspicious and tried to escape. Bittaker and Norris beat the girls with a baseball bat. The girls were bound and kept alive for two days, while being raped and tortured with a wire hanger and pliers. Bittaker and Norris audio recorded the agonized screams of the victims. Eventually, they killed the girls using a sledgehammer and an icepick and dumped their bodies over a cliff. Jackie’s head still had the icepick in it when she was found. Later that month, the pair kidnapped Shirley Sanders. Both men raped her, but she managed to escape. Finally, they went on to kidnap 16-year-old Lynette Ledford, raping her and then tape recording her screams of agony as they crushed and mutilated her genitals, and nipples with vice grip pliers. Eventually, they strangled Lynette with a wire hanger and dumped her body on the front lawn of a residence in Hermosa Beach.
Emperor Newsom thinks Bittaker deserves mercy.
Rodney Alcala murdered 18-year-old Jill Barcomb, 27-year-old Georgia Wixted, 31 year-old Charlotte Lamb, 21-year-old Jill Parenteau, and 12-year-old Robin Samsoe during his murder spree in Southern California between 1977 and 1979. In November 1977, he raped and sodomized his victims, beat some of them in the face in with a rock before strangling them with a belt. After raping Georgia Wixted who was a nurse, he sodomized her with a claw hammer before using the tool to beat her head in before strangling her to death with a nylon stocking. After murdering his victims, Alcala often posed them in lewd and grotesque positions and photographed them. When arrested, Alcala possessed over 100 photos of women, most of whom were never identified.
Emperor Newsom thinks Alcala deserves mercy.
We do not take issue with Newsom’s philosophical opposition to the death penalty. Reasonable people can disagree and opposing views deserve respect. And in some instances, the power of clemency – an act of mercy – is entirely justified.
While Newsom claims he took this action in part because an innocent person might receive the death penalty, there is no doubt about the guilt of these despicable killers. If Newsome has proof someone is innocent, he has the ability to do something about that individual case without making a blanket order that includes every person on death row. Yet Emperor Newsom would rather these vicious murderers avoid the justice a jury and the courts decided they deserved.
It’s beyond unconscionable that Newsome coddles the worst human beings imaginable while arrogantly dismissing the victims, their survivors and the majority of California voters.
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.