Friday, June 8, 2001
Gutman to Consider Davis Interview in Ruling on Rosenkrantz Parole
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge said yesterday he’ll consider deposition testimony by a Los Angeles Times reporter concerning an interview with Gov. Gray Davis before ruling on Robert Rosenkrantz’s petition for release from state prison.
Judge Paul Gutman ruled that a portion of Dave Lesher’s deposition is relevant to the issues raised by Rosenkrantz, a convicted murderer who claims that the governor had no basis for revoking a court-ordered grant of parole.
Lesher testified to the accuracy of comments attributed to the governor in an April 1999 news story headlined “Davis Takes Hard Line on Parole for Killers.”
The story included the following:
“Asked whether extenuating circumstances should be a factor in murder sentences, the governor was blunt: ‘No. Zero,’ he said.”
Deputy Attorney General Robert Wilson, representing the governor, said the governor’s comment was taken out of context. It was unclear from the isolated remark whether the governor was referring to release on parole, to clemency, or to sentencing, Wilson argued.
The state lawyer noted that the story dealt in part with Davis’ considerations in deciding not to grant clemency to a pair of convicted murderers executed in the state’s death chamber. Wilson also said he was unable to place the comments in context because Lesher invoked the reporter’s shield and refused to answer questions dealing with the unpublished portions of the interview.
But that objection goes to the weight, rather than the admissibility, of the evidence, Gutman said.
Lawyers for Rosenkrantz had hoped to place in evidence a recording of the actual interview. But Wilson reported that after conferring with officials, it appeared that no such tape existed.
Gutman said he would also consider a compilation of parole statistics by the Department of Corrections. The Rosenkrantz attorneys are arguing that it supports their claim that their client is a victim of an unconstitutional policy of denying parole to persons convicted of murder unless the facts of the case indicate that the underlying conviction is flawed.
Davis only approved one parole grant in a murder case—to a woman convicted of murdering an alleged battering spouse prior to the adoption of legislation recognizing the Battered Woman Syndrome defense—out of the handful approved by the Board of Prison Terms since he took office.
Beyond that, Rosenkrantz co-counsel Donald Specter of the Prison Law Office at San Quentin said, the governor doesn’t even look at the thousands of cases in which the board denies parole, even though the constitutional amendment at issue in the Rosenkrantz case—Proposition 89—authorizes review of those cases as well as the grants.
The judge denied motions by Rosenkrantz’s attorneys to subpoena two Board of Prison Terms employees to talk about the board’s implementation of parole policy. Gutman said the time involved in reviewing the evidence would outweigh its value.
The judge scheduled a conference call with attorneys for this morning to set deadlines for submission of further evidence and briefing. It appeared likely that no live testimony will be taken, and the judge promised to rule quickly, acknowledging that there is “no doubt” his decision will be appealed, however he rules.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company