By Michele Hanisee
The California State Senate voted to reward repeat drug dealers byrepealing a three-year enhancement imposed for a subsequent conviction for selling drugs such as heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and PCP.

Senate Bill 966 was introduced by State Senator Holly Mitchell, and in its original version would have repealed the enhancement in its entirety.  The original bill was defeated, but then resurrected and passed with two slight changes-enhancements would still apply to those who used a minor to sell drugs, and to those who manufactured drugs.  These changes are meaningless, applying to only a small fraction of those who are engaged in the business of selling drugs.

Senator Mitchell’s reasons for this legislation are, quite frankly, absurd.  “Piling extra years onto jail sentences for repeat offenders of nonviolent crimes overcrowds our prisons, sucks money out of taxpayers’ pockets and makes punishing a greater priority than preventing crime,” she said. “It doesn’t work. Why continue to waste lives and money on a failed policy?” Note to Senator Mitchell, the enhancements are added to “prison sentences”, not jail sentences. You would think a legislator making public safety policy would know the difference.

Let’s examine Senator Mitchell’s arguments one at a time.

  1. The “piling” of extra years reflects the foundation of our criminal justice system, where first offenders get treated less harshly than those on a second, third, fourth or more offense.  Such individualized justice is designed to both deter offenders, and punish those who persist in repeating their criminal conduct.  Reducing punishment for those who engage in the same repeated criminal conduct serves neither to deter nor punish.  (Kudos to Senator Mitchell for working in the magic buzz words “non-violent offender” which are used in Sacramento to justify every inane “criminal reform” change one can imagine.)
  2. The argument that taxpayers would “save money” by this change is likewise puzzling.  First, while there might be some savings from not housing the convicted drug dealer for another 18 months, when a previously convicted drug dealer resumes selling drugs and is caught, there will be money spent to arrest and prosecute said dealer-not to mention the rehab programs for their buyers when they decide or are ordered to attend rehab to end their drug use.  Of course, if we took Senator Mitchell’s “logic” to the natural extreme—we should stop putting drug dealersin prison, and exult in the taxpayer savings!
  3. As for the claim that we make “punishing a greater priority than preventing crime”, where to begin?  How, exactly, does the good Senator believe reducing punishment for selling drugswill result in prevention of that crime?  Inquiring minds want to know.  On a similar note, when Senator Mitchell claims that imposing a three-year enhancement is a failed policy, she was unable to note any study that supports her claim.  We look forward to that data as well.

One of the Deputy District Attorneys in the Major Narcotics Division wrote to me about a case he is currently prosecuting to provide an example of the type of repeat drug dealer Senator Mitchell and her Senate colleagues voted to reward.  The defendant in his case had just served five years in prison for selling drugs, and was recently found in possession of one pound of methamphetamine, two rifles, and a handgun.  Maybe this “non-violent offender” will send a thank you card to Senator Mitchell for knocking a potential three years off his next prison sentence.

By Michele Hanisee

One of the great things about being a Deputy District Attorney is the countless opportunities we have to get involved with charitable organizations that provide terrific networking opportunities while enabling us to give back to the community. The ADDA encourages all of our members to participate in charitable organizations. Here are just a few.

Korean Prosecutors Association (KPA)

The Korean Prosecutors Association is a global non-profit organization of public prosecutors of Korean descent. It was formed for networking, information sharing, mentoring, and serving the community by providing information and education on public safety matters.

Its activities include joint happy hours with other bar organizations, and it is MCLE accredited so members give presentations on topics including elder abuse, domestic violence and juvenile delinquency. Members also can participate in an annual conference that is hosted by the Korean government in Korea every third year.

How to Join:  www.koreanpa.com

Latino Prosecutors Association (LPA)

The Latino Prosecutors Association sponsors regular social events and activities throughout the year including participation in the annual Mexican American Bar Association softball tournament.  Its charitable arm, the Latino Prosecutors Foundation (LPF) primarily sponsors one and sometimes two scholarships for law students who are interested in becoming prosecutors. The scholarships are awarded annually each June. Membership is open to any prosecutor, including city attorneys and federal prosecutors, regardless of race or ethnicity.

How to join: latinoproa@yahoo.com

Black Prosecutors Los Angeles (BPLA)

The BPLA is a chapter of the National Black Prosecutors Association. Its mission is to ensure that justice is provided through fair and firm prosecution; to honor the history of African-American prosecutors; to help facilitate interdisciplinary communication, innovative training, professional development and camaraderie among African-Americans in law enforcement; to educate the community about the criminal justice system; and to offer scholarships, mentoring and assistance to African-American students.

BPLA offers scholarships to deserving high school seniors who have been accepted to a college or university and have expressed interest in the field of criminal prosecution.

BPLA sponsors numerous social events throughout the year such as the annual bowling tournament and Thursday night football toy drive.  BPLA’s premier event is the annual Alfred Jenkins Scholarship and Awards Dinner which occurs in June.  At the dinner, BPLA honors Champions of Justice in the Los Angeles Community and raises money for college scholarships.

BPLA has a Facebook page.

How to join: BPLA@gmail.com

National Asian Pacific Islander Prosecutors Association (NAPIPA)

The National Asian Pacific Islander Prosecutors Association is dedicated to promoting justice and to advancing the interests of prosecutors of Asian and Pacific Islander (API) heritage. The Association organizes the efforts of API prosecutors for the collective benefit of the American criminal justice system and of the legal profession. To that end, it advocates for fairness, equality and justice for crime victims, the criminally accused, people working in the criminal justice system, and the community at large.

Activities include joint happy hours with other bar associations and an annual scholarship dinner for law students.

How to Join: www.napipa.org

Hollenbeck Youth Center

The Hollenbeck Youth Center is a non-profit organization that provides inner city kids with a safe haven from gangs and crime.  The center is open after school and all day during the summer.  The center offers after school tutoring and several sports programs including boxing, karate, basketball and weight lifting.

During the holidays, the center sponsors a turkey dinner and toy giveaway.  This year’s toy giveaway, organized by DDAs Steve Lopez and James Evans, will be on December 17th, 2016.  The goal is to collect 5,000 – 10,000 toys to distribute to inner city youth.   There is also an annual Gala every August.

Volunteer opportunities at the center include after school tutoring, coaching athletics, acting as a community advisor and helping to organize the many functions sponsored by the center.

To contribute or join: priscilla@hollenbeckpbc.org or Like on Facebook

International Footprint Association – Chapter 58

The International Footprint Association (IFA) is non-profit association that promotes and encourages fellowship, respect, cooperation and helpfulness among all arms of law enforcement and civilians who are sympathetic to law enforcement.  IFA Chapter 58 supports police explorer programs for multiple police agencies by sponsoring them and providing the funds for supplies and uniforms.

IFA 58 holds a dinner meeting on the last Tuesday of the month at Taix restaurant in Echo Park.  The cost for dinner is $45 for members and $55 for non-members.  Each meeting includes a speaker presentation on a law-enforcement related topic.  The big annual event is the June dinner meeting at which the explorer groups are hosted and presented to their sponsors.  Current IFA board members include former DA Steve Cooley, former DA Robert Philobosian, Sheriff Jim McDonnell and Judge Phillip Soto.  Members include DDAs, judges, defense attorneys, police officers, bail bondsmen and others working within the criminal justice system.  The meetings are a great place to get acquainted in an informal setting.

To attend dinner as a guest or to join as a member contact Vanessa Evelia Cuellar by email at footprinter58@aol.com

By Michele Hanisee

The crucial initiative to reform and preserve the death penalty for California’s most brutal criminals has cleared a significant hurdle bysecuring enough signatures to qualify for the November statewide ballot.

The Californians for Death Penalty Reform and Savings campaign recently submitted 593,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s Office. Qualifying an initiative requires about 366,000 valid signatures.

While this is an important step, our hard work has just begun. Over the coming months, we have to convince our friends, loved ones and acquaintances why it’s critical to support this initiative.

For starters, you can tell them that failure to pass the initiative will, quite simply, mean the end of California’s death penalty. Opponents are pushing a competing initiative to eliminate this form of justice for thugs who murder, torture and rape.

At the same time, you can explain to them that the current system is broken and in dire need of repair.

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 endless inmate appeal process of their death sentences has essentially turned a death sentence into life in prison. Indeed, California’s last execution took place more than a decade ago.

The Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act would solve 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 an earlier post, failure to pass this initiative is not an option. A donation of $25, $50 or $100 will go a long way toward helping the campaign educate voters about its importance. You can donate here.

You can read about this measure in detail, and learn how to help, at www.deathpenaltyreform.com.

By Michele Hanisee

Fallout from the six-month sentence of rapist, Brock Turner, continues. This week, 16 California Legislators signed a letter to the Commission on Judicial Performance requesting disciplinary action against Judge Aaron Persky, the sentencing judge. A second letter sent to Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen demanded he appeal the sentence.  One signatory to the letters caught my eye (and an eye roll of disbelief is an understatement) — that of Assemblywoman Shirley Weber.

You see, Assemblywoman Weber authored AB 2590, cleverly named the Restorative Justice Act, which would change state law so that punishment is no longer one of the purposes of incarceration. Instead of incarceration, judges would have the ability to impose “community-based punishment” for all criminal defendants — including those convicted of sex offenses. The California District Attorneys Association(CDAA), which opposes AB 2590, says that the change would allow courts to explain away a defendant’s criminal behavior, absolve them of full accountability for their crimes, and that “given the right judge, a convicted defendant could avoid jail time altogether for almost any offense.

Unlike the recall effort, the letters requesting that Judge Persky be disciplined and the sentence be appealed, are really empty publicity seeking gestures. However as much I and others (like  Deputy District Attorney Alaleh Kianerci who has done a phenomenal job in the Brock case) strongly disagree, the sentence was fully within the limits of discretion granted judges by the state legislature. That discretion, as pointed out by the CDAA, would only be expanded under AB 2590. Sentences such as those imposed on Brock Turner will be more likely if this bill becomes law.

Unlike members of the public, Assemblywoman Weber has within her power the ability to ensure that no future defendant convicted of sexual assault will receive a sentence as lenient as Brock Tuners. She simply has to introduce a bill, with the support of her fellow signatories, to make the punishment for sexual assault an offense carrying a mandatory state prison sentence. Don’t hold your breath.

Incidentally, thanks to another pending Weber bill (AB 2466) that changes the definition of incarceration to exclude a county jail sentence and allows felons to vote, Brock Tuner will be able to vote while serving his sentence, if he is actually in County jail when the November election takes place.

As I considered AB 2590 and juxtaposed it with Weber’s letters on the Brock Turner case, a refrain ran through my mind: “Shirley you jest.”

To read my previous blog, “Stanford Sexual Assault Case Typifies California’s New Approach to Criminals,” click here.

By Michele Hanisee

National outrage ensued over a six-month county jail sentence imposed this past week on a former Stanford student who was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. A powerful 12-page letter by the victim describing the emotional and psychological devastation the attack inflicted upon her failed to sway the sentencing Judge, who explained he did not sentence the defendant to state prison because “a prison sentence would have a severe impact on him.” Sadly, the reasoning by the Judge encapsulates the wholesale turnover in the criminal justice system the past several years, spearheaded by Governor Brown, the State Legislature, and “criminal justice reform” groups.

One only has to look at actions by both branches of the Legislature and the Governor over the past months. The California Assembly passed AB 2590, explicitly removing “punishment” as a purpose for incarceration. For his part, the Governor is placing on the November 2016 ballot aninitiative releasing violent convicts early from prison by allowing them to avoid serving sentence enhancements. Not be outdone, the State Senate recently voted to go one better on enhancements by repealing from the Penal Code a three-year enhancement imposed for a new conviction on criminals for selling or transporting drugs such as heroin, methamphetamine, or PCP.

Recently enacted legislation includes SB 261, rewarding those who were between 18-23 when convicted of crimes such as murder with accelerated parole hearings on the grounds that adults of those ages are less culpable because of incomplete judgement and decision-making skills-notwithstanding our country entrusting thousands of young men and women and police forces at the very same ages with authority to make life and death decisions.

Maybe those behind the rash of this legislation, like the Judge in the sexual assault case, do so because they lament the “severe impact” of prison on criminals. Perhaps, like Governor Brown, they believe attending a few classes in prison and saying the right things to a parole board is evidence of “rehabilitation” and should be rewarded with an early release. Or, maybe, the don’t believe convicted criminals should be sent to prison-after all, Governor Brown famously berated San Bernardino District Attorney Mike Ramos in a phone call last year, yelling at him that “Your county is sending too many people to prison.”

Forces have been long plowing the ground for this change, taking advantage of a public accepting as normal and permanent the drastic fall in crime since Brown’s last stint as Governor. It took legislation increasing criminal penalties and incarcerating repeat offenders to lead to a reversal of the massive crime rate during his last tenure.

Unfortunately, whether deceptively labeling their proposed changes, or convincing the public that California spends more on prisons than any other program, these forces have an upper hand. On the budget, for example, government spending, the Governor’s latest proposed budgetwill spend $65 billion on education, $32 billion for social services programs, and $10 billion on prisons. Deception is symbolized by Proposition 47, which proponents referred to as the “Safe Neighborhood and Schools Acts.” It had nothing to do with schools, but as predicted by District Attorneys across California, has led to a rising crime rate and an ever increasing number of victims in this state.

A hand-wringing Los Angeles Times editorial on the sentencing of the Stanford student trumpeted that “Criminal sentencing decisions belong to judges, not the outraged public” It is ironic that the same Times Editorial Board lauded a system where carefully crafted sentences are handed down by “trained and experienced judge with the evidence and the probation report before him” yet praised Governor Brown’s initiativewhich will transfer that power to eviscerate those sentences to unelected and unaccountable parole boards.

Perhaps those spearheading the changes in the adult criminal justice system want it to become the juvenile justice system. There, convictions are called “true findings“, records are sealed in a matter month, the failure to pay restitution to victims is ignored, informal probation which requires little more than an apology letter is common, and after arrest the accused is often released on “home supervision” (i.e., a curfew) to the very adults that have usually failed to supervise said accused in the first place.

Whether it be a lenient sentence handed down by a Judge dismissive of harm to a sexual assault victim, a haughty editorial dismissive of public outrage over that sentence, a Legislature determined to unravel punishments the public has demanded via initiative and hard-fought legislation, or a Governor who is willing to deceive the public on the impact of his prison release initiative to get it passed, there is one common thread.

In California, victims are taking a distant second fiddle to the convicted criminals who victimized them. Perhaps we will soon even stop referring to people who commit crimes as criminals, as Attorney General Loretta Lynch recently did when calling juveniles accused or convicted of crimes as “justice involved youth.” Sadly, it appears that in California only when the number of victims grows to unbearable levels will the “impact” of a crime on the victim will outweigh the “impact” of punishment on the convicted criminal.

By Eric Siddall

Governor Brown’s charade is over!  His own spokesperson admitted that his initiative will allow early release of violent prison inmates.

Well respected Sacramento columnist Dan Walters, following up on the excellent analysis by California District Attorney Association, got the governor’s spokesperson to admit the truth. The spokesperson “confirmed the association’s interpretation is correct.”

This means inmates serving sentences for a laundry list of what Walters correctly labeled “despicably violent crimes” would qualify for early release from their imposed sentences.  The crimes listed by Walters included assault with a deadly weapon, soliciting murder, intimidating or harming a crime victim or witness, resisting arrest that injures a police officer, violent elder or child abuse, arson with injury, and human trafficking.

Just the week before Governor Brown was s parceling out misleading soundbites in a never ending stream as he attempts to “mainstream” his initiative reducing prison sentences for all inmates. In pitching his proposal last week to more than 1,000 business professionals and Capitol insiders, he touted his initiative as an injection of flexibility into a rigid sentencing.  In fact, what the initiative does is transfer flexibility that does exist in the criminal justice system from judges—who impose a sentence after hearing from the prosecutor, defendant, and victims- to an unaccountable parole board who can reduce prison sentences based on whatever whim a parole commissioner decides to follow. And no one, not even the state legislature, would have the power to overrule their policy decisions.

The truth, as exposed by CDAA, and now Walters is that prisoners would be eligible for parole after serving just a fraction of their primary offense – regardless of any enhancements for the harm and damage caused by their crime.  Enhancements for a prior offense such as rape, torture, and murder -also known as strikes- could be ignored by a parole board. A criminal could have three, four, even 10 strikes and still be eligible for a parole hearing after on serving a few years in prison.

The key factor in this full-fledged assault on public safety is placing the ultimate authority for a sentence -one which not even a Court of Appeal could change -with a 12-person parole board.   These unelected bureaucrats would decide, without input from victims or prosecutors and without regard to the facts of the crime, whether the sentence imposed by a judge after hearing from all parties could be drastically shortened.

George Hofstetter, President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, may have said it best, “The governor longs for a return to the ‘bad old days’ of his first term that began in 1974 when parole boards freed inmates who had served extremely short sentences.”

To read my previous blogs on this issues, please see (1) Gov. Brown: Longing for the 70’s (2) Governor Brown’s Power Grab (3) The truth will defeat an oft-repeated lie (4) Low-income communities will be devastated by felon-freeing fiasco (5) L.A. Gangs Will Love Governor’s Ballot Initiative (6) Felon-freeing initiative advances (7) A Radically Dangerous Experiment with Public Safety and (8) Wait in Line Governor

By Michele Hanisee

I’m not usually one to cry out for the assistance of the ACLU, defense attorneys, or “civil liberties activists” – but where are they when you need them?  Lt. Governor Newsom’s Safety for All initiative would adversely impact law abiding gun owners, but it would also strip criminals of their Constitutional Rights.  So where is the outcry from the defense bar?  Or from the ACLU?  This initiative proposes to suspend the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution for individuals charged with unlawful possession of a firearm.  Yet the liberals — who generally care more about the rights of criminals than law abiding citizens –remains strangely silent.  Do they just not know what this initiative does?

Here is a brief summary of the particularly unconstitutional bits.

The initiative language states that a court, upon a conviction of a prohibited person shall “Require the defendant to declare any firearms that he or she owned, possessed, or had under his or her custody or control at the time of his or her conviction and require the defendant to describe the firearms and provide all reasonably available information about the location of the firearms to enable a designee or law enforcement officials to locate the firearms.”

Adios, Fifth Amendment privilege!  A defendant is just supposed to tell the court and government about all the other guns he / she possesses regardless of whether they are illegally possessed, stolen, have obliterated serial numbers, or were used in a crime.  There is no immunity from prosecution if those additional weapons are evidence of crimes other than the one defendant stands convicted of.

Moreover, the initiative goes on to say, “If the court finds probable cause that the defendant failed to relinquish any firearms as required, the court shall order the search for and removal of any firearms at any location where the judge has probable cause to believe the defendant’s firearms are located.”

Adios Fourth Amendment!  There is no need for pesky search warrants filed under oath!  A probation officer’s report is more than enough probable cause to conduct a search of a private residence.  Staleness?  Who cares!  If the defendant isn’t convicted until four years later – let’s search his / her last known residence anyway.  And judicial neutrality is treated as a mere inconvenience and kicked to the curb in favor of direct judicial instigation of searches of private property.

The ACLU, defense bar, and those who “cherish civil liberties” have been engaged in a full court press to reduce incarceration, remove penalties for repeat criminals, and critical of powers granted police.  Yet, strangely, when an initiative eviscerates constitutional protections, and imposes new criminal penalties for what has heretofore been law abiding conduct, there is silence from that crowd.

As a prosecutor, I might be expected to support new laws which claim to advance public safety and grant new powers to the prosecution.  However, in this case, I oppose Newsom’s initiative because it tramples on the rights of the law abiding while doing nothing to advance public safety.  When you add to that the wholesale evisceration of Constitutional rights of those who have been convicted of a crime, it is shocking not to see the ACLU and defense bar standing shoulder to shoulder with me in opposing this initiative.  The integrity of our judicial system is rooted in our Constitution and in the concept that society as a whole is better off with a system that protects the rights of the individual against a tyrannical government.  This concept that society is clearly better off with laws that protect individual rights, including the rights of those who comprise a minority of the whole, is clearly lost on Lt. Governor Newsom  If ever there was a law which both prosecutors and defense attorneys could proudly oppose, the Newsom initiative is it.

By Michele Hanisee

The criminal justice system, burdened with being the de facto forum for dealing with the mentally ill population in Los Angeles County, has now becoming the forum of last resort to deal with the homeless population of which the mentally ill are a subset.

For three decades the Central City East Association (CCEA) has been warning that drugs, criminality, and mental health issues would converge at the epicenter of homelessness on skid row.  Add into the mix Prop. 47, which in essence decriminalized theft and drug offenses, and a series of court rulings which have allowed the homeless to take over public streets and sidewalks, and you have an ungovernable mess.  Yet homeless advocates and the attorneys they employ call it a civil right to live in squalor, and judges render decisions from their sterile courtrooms that play out far differently on the streets. Perhaps it would be considered untoward of us to suggest that the City sponsor a new homeless encampment on the sidewalks of 312 North Spring Street Los Angeles, the location of the Federal courthouse.oi

The street population is at nearly 2,000 in skid row alone.  Businesses that remain do so despite the public safety and public health threat, wanting to stay in an area that is centrally located and to provide much-needed industrial jobs.  However, an increasing wave of crime makes victims of area workers, residents and the homeless themselves.  The violent nature of these crimes is escalating.

CCEA has released a powerful 5-minute video  that allows the voices of the law enforcement, residents, and business community speak for themselves.  “Emergency” is an intense tour of the daily gauntlet that is Skid Row.  It contains disturbing images of inhumane conditions on public sidewalks with vivid descriptions of Skid Row as told by the people who live and work there.  We urge everyone to watch the moving video and listen to the police officers who work on Skid Row. The question that is posed is one the leadership of Los Angeles City and Los Angeles County need to answer – how long will this nightmare be tolerated?

It is well-documented that support for the mentally ill in our society has declined over the years and that a significant number of the homeless living on our streets are mentally ill. When they cause a disturbance in the community, the police are the first to be called. If and when an arrest is made, it then is deposited in the laps of Deputy District Attorneys and Deputy City Attorneys to decide if charges will be filed – with the low expectation that any misdemeanor charge will result in a meaningful sentence.

Despite law enforcement’s extensive training and new resources, the problems of homelessness and mental illness are vast.  Last year, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey presented a comprehensive plan to the Board of Supervisors that recommends enhanced treatment and services to safely divert mentally ill offenders from the county jail.  In Los Angeles, the Sheriff’s Department and the LAPD are constantly collaborating with the various public and private sector organizations to better address the behavior of mentally ill individuals.  However, at the end of the day, it is the community of Los Angeles that must demand of our elected leaders at both the state and local level a comprehensive plan to combat the true roots of homelessness.

As Oliver Wendell Holmes famously stated, “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.”  In the skid row area of Los Angeles, the homeless population is now not just swinging, but connecting, into the body of the law abiding residents who wish to walk the sidewalks or work in downtown Los Angeles.

By Michele Hanisee

California houses a quarter of the nation’s death row inmates, but we last executed a brutal criminal more than a decade ago.  Since then, we have sentenced at least 167 people to death. Incredibly, that’s more people than are on death rows in all but four states, according to a recent Washington Post article.

These delays in justice are caused by a system that is flawed, but those flaws would be corrected by a ballot initiative that would enact desperately needed reforms. It’s critical that this initiative passes in November. Failure will mean the end of California’s death penalty; opponents are supporting a competing initiative to eliminate this form of justice for the state’s most notorious murderers.

The problems with California’s death penalty 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. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer in an opinion last year remarked that the “unconscionably long delays … undermine the death penalty’s penological purpose.”

The reform initiative would solve 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 an earlier post, failure to pass this initiative is not an option. A donation of $25, $50 or $100 will go a long way to help qualify this crucial reform measure for the November ballot. You can donate here.

If you are able to volunteer your time to gather signatures for the initiative, please contact me at MHanisee@laadda.com. You can read about this measure in detail, and learn how to help, at www.deathpenaltyreform.com.

To read our previous blogs regarding the death penalty, please see Help save the death penalty in California and Death penalty reforms needed in California.

By Michele Hanisee

On Aug. 10, 1969, Leslie Van Houten held down Rosemary LaBianca so fellow Manson-follower Tex Watson could skewer her with a bayonet. Then, she took a knife and stabbed the helpless woman 14 more times in the back.

Nineteen times since she participated in the infamous slaughter, Van Houten applied for parole. Nineteen times, the state parole board turned her down.

Until last week, when a two-member panel inexplicably recommended to grant her parole.

The ADDA vehemently opposes this mind-boggling decision, as does District Attorney Jackie Lacey. There was a very good reason the parole board denied her 19 times. How was her 20th petition any different?

Van Houten’s attorneys have painted her as a model prisoner. They said she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees and ran self-help groups for incarcerated women.

Maybe so. But let’s not forget the facts.

Van Houten brutally murdered an innocent woman while her cohorts carved up her victim’s husband, wealthy grocer Leno LaBianca. She was sentenced to death; her sentence was commuted to life in prison only because the California Supreme Court struck down the death penalty.

Even if she has been a model prisoner, her behavior behind bars doesn’t mitigate the savagery of her crime. And time does not erase the fact that she willfully committed the crime.

“We still suffer our loss,” Leno LaBianca’s daughter, Cory LaBianca, told the Los Angeles Times. “My father will never be paroled. My stepmother will never get her life back.”

Van Houten’s parole is not a done deal.

The parole board’s legal team has to review the recommendation. If they uphold it, Gov. Jerry Brown will decide whether she goes free or remains in prison.

Sometimes justice means compassion, and compassion means justice. But not in this situation.

The ADDA will keep you updated on the status of Van Houten’s case. If it ends up on Gov. Brown’s desk, we will provide you with information on how to express your opposition to freeing this brutal murderer.

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.