Wednesday, September 18, 2002
Davis Signs New ‘Son of Sam’ Law, Bill for DNA Samples
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
Gov. Gray Davis yesterday signed legislation replacing the “Son of Sam Law” declared unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court.
The governor also signed SB 1242, sanctioning prison officials’ use of reasonable force to obtain DNA samples.
“For the longest time, our criminal justice system protected the rights of the criminal, without recognizing the rights of the crime victim,” the governor said in statement. “As Governor, I’ve made sure that the voices of California crime victims are heard—both in the halls of government and the corridors of justice. Today I’m pleased to sign two more bills that will help bring much-needed peace of mind to California’s crime victims and their families.”
SB 1887, dubbed the “Son of Sam Law II,” was sponsored by Sen. Bruce McPherson, R-Santa Cruz, who is the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor. The bill was originally introduced as a prison-reform measure but was amended after the state high court decided Keenan v. Superior Court (2002) 27 Cal.4th 413.
That case stemmed from the proposed participation of convicted kidnapper Barry Keenan in a film about how he and two other men abducted Frank Sinatra Jr. from his Nevada hotel room and held him for a ransom from his father.
The justices sustained Keenan’s challenge to the original Son of Sam law, which was limited to the seizing of proceeds due a convicted felon from the sale of the story of his or her crime, on the ground that the legislation imposed “a content-based financial penalty on protected speech.”
McPherson’s introduction of the bill came three months after his son, Hunter McPherson, was killed in an armed robbery in San Francisco.
Prosecutors have charged two local men with the killing, and contend that they are members of a gang involved in crack sales in the Potrero Hill neighborhood where the younger McPherson lived.
The legislation creates an expanded limitations period for suits against convicted felons.
Under current law, the victim of a felony—absent a longer period prescribed by another statute—has one year from the date of sentencing to sue the perpetrator for damages. SB 1887 extends that to 10 years from the date the felon is discharged from parole where certain serious or violent felonies are committed, including murder, attempted murder, mayhem, kidnapping, rape, or child molestation.
The extension is retroactive, so that cases that have been thrown out on statute-of-limitations grounds may be refiled, and expired claims will be revived if they were not previously adjudicated on the merits.
The bill passed unanimously after supporters agreed to amendments exempting defendants who have received certificates of rehabilitation or pardons from the governor, or those who were paroled or convicted of lesser crimes based on a successful assertion that they acted under the influence of battered women syndrome.
The DNA bill, SB 1242 by Senate Minority Leader James Brulte, R-Rancho Cucamonga, also passed both houses without a dissenting vote.
Davis signed both bills at a downtown Los Angeles press conference.
“I guarantee you when we have those (DNA) samples, a host of crimes will be solved,” the governor said, adding that he hopes it will “bring peace of mind and closure to the victims of that crime who are not getting that closure they deserve.”
One day after jurors recommended the death penalty for the convicted killer of 7-year-old Danielle Van Dam, San Diego County District Attorney Paul Pfingst said the panelists told him the case would not have been solved without DNA evidence.
“What this bill does for prosecutors and law enforcement around the state of California is to say to career criminals, `If you have committed crimes in the past and you have left your DNA at the crime scene, we will now be able to discover who you are and we will now be able to prosecute you,”’ Pfingst said.
He said it has been easier to get blood samples from someone outside jail than a prisoner behind bars.
Pfingst, like Davis, is a candidate for reelection in November.
Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona said he has “looked into the eyes of mothers, fathers and children who have been left behind because of a violent action in our community.”
“You can never give them back their loved one, but you can bring closure by bringing those who committed these crimes to justice,” Carona said, noting that it would also help clear those who held for crimes they did not commit.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca called the measure “a very important step” in the movement toward more rights for crime victims and their familius
Referring to the new Son of Sam Law, the governor commented that “criminals should be doing hard time, not having power lunches with Hollywood producers.” He added that “if a movie or book has been made about the crime, then the benefits will go to the victims, not the criminals.”
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company