Judge Denies Petition to Recall Death Sentence for Polly Klaas Killer

(ReliableNews.org) – In March 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) placed a moratorium on executions in the state. He said at the time that “the intentional killing of another person is wrong,” declaring he would “not oversee” any executions. No prisoner on death row has been executed in the state since 2006, but several big-named killers still await their turn — including murderers Scott Peterson and Richard Davis. Davis recently tried to use that moratorium to his advantage.

What Happened?

Davis brutally murdered 12-year-old Polly Klass in 1993 and was found guilty of that crime and several others in 1996. He was sentenced to death by the California court. In February, the killer’s attorney filed a motion to have Davis’ death sentence recalled, in part because of Newsom’s moratorium and also due to changes in the sentencing laws in California. Those changes include the elimination of sentencing enhancements.

The Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office argued that Davis’ arguments didn’t make any sense and the laws cited in the court filing didn’t apply to the killer’s death sentence.

On May 31, Sonoma County Deputy District Attorney Sarah Brooks told the court that the petition filed by Davis’ attorney was an “attack on the 1996 conviction and sentence to death.” Polly Klaas’ father, Marc Klaas, was in the courtroom awaiting an answer from the judge on the matter. He reportedly gasped with relief when Judge Benjamin Williams denied the petition. Williams accused the defense team of trying to vacate the murder’s punishment.

Reactions and Details

Over 30 years ago, Davis kidnapped 12-year-old Polly from her bedroom in the middle of the night during a slumber party. He brutally strangled the little girl to death and left her body in a shallow grave about 50 miles away from her home. She wasn’t found for months. The murderer was found guilty of kidnapping, murder, burglary, robbery, and attempting a lewd act on a child. Davis had an extensive criminal record and was sentenced to death.

Mr. Klaas spoke to reporters after Williams’ decision. He said there was “no place for [Davis] to go except to hell, of course.” He said he “couldn’t have been happier” about the judge’s decision, commending him for stopping Davis’ petition. Klaas said his daughter’s murderer was sentenced to death 28 years ago and it “was over.” He said the killer’s attempt to have that overturned in this manner was a “travesty of justice.”

District Attorney Carla Rodriguez said she was “pleased” by the ruling, but was concerned about others trying to “undermine sentences and convictions” amid justice reform in California.

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