Vic­tims’ par­ents urge Gov. New­som to stop re­prieve

The Tribune (SLO) - - Insight - BY KATH­LEEN RONAYNE

SACRA­MENTO

Par­ents of Cal­i­for­ni­ans murdered by peo­ple now on death row shared grue­some de­tails of their loved ones’ killings Thurs­day as they launched a statewide tour to urge Gov. Gavin New­som to re­verse his mo­ra­to­rium on ex­e­cu­tions.

“He was like a thief in the night that stole jus­tice from us,” said Phyl­lis Loya, whose son Larry Lasater Jr. was killed on duty as a po­lice of­fi­cer.

New­som last month is­sued a re­prieve to the more than 700 peo­ple sit­ting on Cal­i­for­nia’s death row, mean­ing none will be ex­e­cuted as long as he is in of­fice. He also or­dered the state to with­draw its lethal in­jec­tion reg­u­la­tions and dis­man­tled the “death cham­ber” at San Quentin State Pri­son.

Cal­i­for­nia’s death row is the na­tion’s largest, but the state has not ex­e­cuted any­one since 2006. Vot­ers in 2016 ap­proved a ballot mea­sure to speed up ex­e­cu­tions, and district at­tor­neys and the families of vic­tims’ ac­cused New­som of de­fy­ing the vot­ers’ will.

Todd Spitzer, Or­ange County’s district at­tor­ney, said the “Vic­tims of Mur­der Jus­tice” tour will travel to all 80 As­sem­bly and 40 Se­nate dis­tricts. He did not an­nounce new le­gal ac­tions aimed at stop­ping New­som’s mo­ra­to­rium. But Spitzer re­quested that New­som re­view each case in­di­vid­u­ally to make clemency de­ci­sions rather than is­su­ing a blan­ket re­prieve. He also said the tour is de­signed to pres­sure law­mak­ers; a pro­posal has been in­tro­duced to again put a mea­sure to per­ma­nently stop the death penalty on the 2020 ballot.

Families crit­i­cized New­som for say­ing he couldn’t sleep at night know­ing an in­no­cent per­son might be killed, say­ing they could not sleep be­cause they had seen their chil­dren’s bod­ies de­filed and, in one case, sewn back to­gether.

“A real leader would say let me lis­ten to this case by case,” said Steve Herr, whose son, Sam Herr, was murdered in 2010 by Daniel Woz­niak, who shot Herr in the head, made it look as if he raped a fe­male vic­tim and dis­mem­bered him. Herr said New­som will never know what it was like to see the mur­der scene and, later, his son’s body sewn back to­gether so it could be buried in one piece.

Jeri Oliver, whose son Danny Oliver was killed while on duty as a Sacra­mento sher­iff’s deputy, had per­haps the harsh­est words for New­som. Luis Bra­ca­montes was con­victed last year for Oliver’s mur­der and said dur­ing the trial he wished he had killed more cops. Oliver said New­som owed her a one-on-one meet­ing to dis­cuss the case.

“You turned the knife again in my heart,” Oliver said. “I dare you to meet with me and I can give you some facts that you don’t want to hear. I chal­lenge you Gov. New­som – come meet with me.”

New­som has said the death penalty is ap­plied un­evenly and often dis­crim­i­nates based on race and class and cre­ates the pos­si­bil­ity of an in­no­cent per­son be­ing ex­e­cuted.

Spokesman Jesse Mel­gar said New­som sends his “heart­felt con­do­lences to sur­vivor families.”

“The Gover­nor sought out and heard from many sur­vivor families as he was making his de­ci­sion on the death penalty,” Mel­gar said in an email. “Some sup­ported the death penalty while oth­ers strongly be­lieved the state shouldn’t take another life in the name of their loved one.”

Na­tional Crime Vic­tims’ Rights Week be­gan Mon­day, and sev­eral at­ten­dees said New­som should have spent it meet­ing with crime vic­tims in Cal­i­for­nia rather than trav­el­ing to El Sal­vador. New­som spent three days in the Cen­tral Amer­i­can coun­try to learn about the poverty and vi­o­lence driving mi­grants to come to the United States.

New­som’s of­fice did not of­fer com­ment on that crit­i­cism.

RICH PEDRONCELLI AP

Phyl­lis Loya’s son Larry Lasater Jr. was killed while he on duty as a po­lice of­fi­cer. Loya calls on Gov. Gavin New­som to re­verse his mo­ra­to­rium on ex­e­cu­tions, dur­ing a news con­fer­ence Thurs­day in Sacra­mento. Fam­ily mem­bers of Cal­i­for­ni­ans murdered by peo­ple now on death row joined district at­tor­ney’s as they launched a statewide tour to urge New­som to re­verse his de­ci­sion.

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