Southern California breaking news and trends

Court won't force California to resume executions

Lethal Injection Chamber


California's lethal injection chamber at San Quentin State Prison.

On Monday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Larry Fidler denied L.A. County's request for the state to execute two longtime Death Row inmates who've exhausted all of their legal appeals.

For decades, Mitchell Sims and Tiequon Cox have sat on California's male Death Row at San Quentin State Prison in Marin County. That's why earlier this year, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office asked a judge to step in and order the state of California to set execution dates for the men. The state, argued Assistant District Attorney Michele Hanisee, has dragged its feet on its legal obligation to carry out the death penalty in California.

The state has been mired in litigation over its lethal injection process for years. On Monday, Hanisee argued that instead of resolving the lawsuits, the "state is going as slow as they can and calling it progress." 


Death as a bargaining chip: Plea bargains and capital punishment

Jared Lee Loghner Undated Photo

Handout/Getty Images

In this handout provided by the Pima County Sheriff's Forensic Unit, Jared Lee Loughner is seen. Loughner pled guilty to the shooting spree at a political event outside a Safeway grocery store in Tucson, targeting U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ).

Jared Loughner pled guilty on Tuesday to murdering six people and wounding 13 others, including former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, in a Tucson parking lot.

Loughner, it is widely assumed, pled guilty as part of a deal: in exchange, federal prosecutors agreed to not pursue the death penalty against him. As Loughner’s plea deal illustrates, capital punishment is sometimes used as a bargaining chip.

As California voters take to the ballot box this November to decide whether to ban the death penalty in the state, some are arguing that they should vote "no" for that very reason.

But is it necessary — or even ethical — to get a guilty plea by holding a gun to a defendant’s head?

There are surprisingly few studies on the topic; even fewer have been published in peer-reviewed journals.


California Supreme Court throws out death sentence for killer of Dave Navarro's mother

Dave Navarro

Vivien Killilea / Getty

The California Supreme Court reversed the death sentence for man who killed Dave Navarro's mother.

On Monday, the California Supreme Court reversed the death penalty for a man who killed two women, one of them the mother of Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro. The Court upheld John Alexander Riccardi's conviction for double murder, but dismissed the death death sentence because of a legal error during jury selection.

According to the court, in 1983, Riccardi stalked and killed former girlfriend Connie Navarro, after failing to come to terms with the end of their relationship. Riccardi, also allegedly a regular house burglar, repeatedly broke into Navarro's home, at one point even allegedly handcuffing her son, Dave, while he rifled through her personal items. After threatening her a  number of times, Riccardi shot and killed Navarro and her friend, Susan Jory, at Navarro's home. He fled town the day after, eventually moving to Texas, applying for a passport under another name, and having plastic surgery to remove a mole and shorten his nose.


Campaign to end the death penalty raises nearly $3 million

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings gave $250,000 to the Proposition 34 campaign, which would end California's death penalty.

So far, those campaigning to end the death penalty in California have vastly outraised their opponents in the brewing battle over Proposition 34, scheduled for the November ballot. According to records put together by MapLight, a money in politics watchdog, the ballot initiative that would end capital punishment and replace it with life without parole has raised $2.9 million. It's opponents, meanwhile, have about $44,800 in the bank.

Capital punishment, it turns out, has some wealthy foes: Nicholas Pritzker, whose financial empire includes the Hyatt hotel chain, gave $500,000 to Prop 34. Other big donors include the ACLU, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, and Quinn Delaney of the Akonadi Foundation.

Donations against the proposition have mostly come from law enforcement groups so far, including the Peace Officers Research Association of California and the Sacramento Deputy Sheriffs' Association. 


SAFE California: The political battle over a ballot initiative that would end capital punishment in California is centered on victims

SAFE California

Courtesy of Bethany Webb

Linda Webb (right) was the maid of honor at her sister's wedding. Webb was killed by a gunman in 2011. Her sister does not want the death penalty for the killer.

Laura Webb was murdered in the most deadly shooting in Orange County history, the Seal Beach hair salon rampage that left nine dead in October of 2011. Her sister, Bethany Webb, recently told assembled reporters that she can't even say the name of the man, Scott Dekraai, who's accused in the massacre. 

"I'd appreciate it if no one did," she said. "It just happened. I'm still raw."

The trial in the case is set for October, but that delay is the least of her worries. Already having been to court seven times, Webb said she has 25 years of trials, testimony, and appeals in front of her. That's because the prosecutor in the case said he plans to seek the death penalty for the man accused of murdering Laura and eight others, and seriously wounding Webb's mother, who was getting her hair done by her daughter when the gunman opened fire.