Thursday, March 26, 2009
(03-26) 16:18 PDT Sacramento, CA (AP) —
A federal judge on Thursday blocked a portion of a crime victims’ rights measure approved by California voters in November that restricts legal rights for parole violators.
U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton of Sacramento ruled that a permanent federal injunction previously agreed to by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration trumps voters’ support for Proposition 9.
The administration agreed in 2004 to provide, at taxpayers’ expense, lawyers for ex-convicts who risk being sent back to prison for violating parole conditions. It also requires the state to act quickly on parole violation allegations and to set up rehabilitation programs that can be used instead of returning the violator to a cell.
Karlton rejected the administration’s argument that voters’ approval of the ballot measure nullifies the administration’s settlement of the class-action inmate rights lawsuit. The measure was supported by 53 percent of voters.
While the Schwarzenneger administration supported the original settlement, its lawyers say the administration is legally bound to uphold voters’ will. The authors of Proposition 9 had written language into the initiative intended to overturn the lawsuit settlement.
That’s not enough to overturn the injunction, Karlton concluded:
“A change in state law standing alone is not the type of change in factual circumstance that renders continued enforcement of a consent decree inequitable,” he wrote in a 34-page opinion.
It costs the state about $30 million annually to provide alleged parole violators with lawyers, according to corrections officials. Victims groups say the agreement exceeds constitutional requirements, though attorneys representing inmates say it is cheaper than other ways of protecting ex-convicts’ legal rights.
Proposition 9 writes victims’ rights into the California Constitution and contains numerous other restrictions on criminals that are not affected by Karlton’s ruling.
Administration lawyers previously said they are required by state law to appeal Karlton’s decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“This is an unfortunate reversal of the will of California voters,” Nina Salarno Ashford, founder and board member of Crime Victims United of California, said in a statement. “What’s worse is that we should never have been at this point in the first place.”
She blamed the administration for agreeing to the 2004 settlement.
The settlement ensures that parole can’t be revoked without a proper and swift hearing, responded attorney Ernest Galvan, who represented parolees in the case.
“What Judge Karlton did protects that process,” Galvan said. “I think it’s a win for public safety in California. I think what we’re learning every day is we need to use our scarce prison beds to keep the dangerous people behind bars and to give the parole agents the tools to keep the less dangerous parolees in the community.”
Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesman Seth Unger said the administration is reviewing Karlton’s decision. Corrections officials never implemented the portions of Proposition 9 overturned in Karlton’s decision because the judge had entered a temporary stay immediately after the November election.
“We are implementing the will of the people on Marsy’s Law aside from the areas which the court has ordered us not to implement,” Unger said, using the proposition nickname adopted by supporters.
That includes giving more notice to crime victims and delaying parole hearings for inmates serving life sentences. Previously, inmates serving life sentences were entitled to a hearing every one- to five years, but now they are eligible every three- to 15 years.
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Oakland police department stunned by day of loss
By TERRY COLLINS and LISA LEFF – 6 hours ago OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Bouquets of flowers from grieving residents were piled up at a growing memorial in front of the Oakland police department after its worst single day death toll. Three officers were killed Saturday during separate confrontations with a 26-year-old parolee who relatives said feared returning to jail. A fourth officer was on life support. “We lose officers about every 57 hours in this country,” said Chuck Canterbury, president of the national Fraternal Order of Police. “But seldom do you have one of this magnitude.” Oakland had never lost even two officers in the line of duty on the same day. Flags at the state capitol were flown at half-staff Sunday. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger returned from Washington, D.C., to meet briefly with Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and members of the police department. Police said all four officers were shot Saturday by Lovelle Mixon, 26, of Oakland, a parolee who fled after shooting the first two officers following a traffic stop, then shot two more after a SWAT team entered an apartment in which he was hiding. Mixon was killed by officers, police said. Mixon’s family gathered Sunday at his grandmother’s East Oakland home, where he had stayed on and off since being released from a nine-month sentence for a parole violation, family members said. LaTasha Mixon, 28, a cousin of the gunman, said her family’s prayers were with the slain officers’ relatives. “We’re devastated. Everybody took a major loss. We’re crushed,” she said. Mixon was wanted on a no-bail warrant for violating his parole when Sgt. Mark Dunakin, 40, and Officer John Hege, 41, both on motorcycles, stopped a 1995 Buick sedan in east Oakland just after 1 p.m., police said. The driver opened fire, killing Dunakin and gravely wounding Hege, Oakland police spokesman Jeff Thomason said. Police initially issued a statement Sunday saying Hege had died but later backtracked, saying the officer had been declared brain dead but remained on life support while a decision was made about donating his organs. Reached by telephone, Dr. John S. Hege said his son was attached to a ventilator and “looks fine” except for a black eye behind which the bullet was lodged. “He does not have vital brain function to sustain life and will not regain that,” Hege said, adding that the family would soon make a decision about continuing life support. After shooting Hege and Dunakin, the gunman fled on foot, police said, leading to an intense manhunt. Two hours later, officers found the gunman inside a nearby apartment building. When a SWAT team entered, the gunman opened fire, police said. Sgt. Ervin Romans, 43, and Sgt. Daniel Sakai, 35, were killed and a third officer was grazed by a bullet, police said. Officers returned fire, killing Mixon, police said. Mixon had previously served six years in state prison for assault with a firearm during an armed robbery in San Francisco, the family said. While he was in Corcoran state prison, he married his childhood girlfriend, they said. Mixon’s uncle, 38-year-old Curtis Mixon of Fremont, said his nephew had become depressed because as a convicted felon he could not find work. His nephew expected authorities to issue an arrest warrant for missing parole meetings, even though the he felt he was not to blame, he said. “I think his frustration was building up, but he was trying to better himself,” Curtis Mixon said. LaTasha Mixon said Sunday her cousin was “not a monster.” Dunakin is survived by his wife of 16 years and their three children, two boys ages 15 and 8, and a 13-year-old daughter, said Maxine Schwab, Dunakin’s mother-in-law. “He was smart, and he was so good with people, very warm and affectionate,” said Schwab. “If you met him, you’d be charmed by him.” Schwarzenegger’s office said that like Dunakin, Romans, who lived in Danville, left behind a wife and three children. Friends who knew Sakai from his days at the University of California at Berkeley and his continued involvement in his college fraternity said he was married to a campus police officer and was the father of a young daughter. He and his family lived in Castro Valley. Oren Levy, a fraternity brother of Sakai, said his friend grew up in Big Bear and was an accomplished mountain biker and outdoorsman who majored in forestry and graduated in 1995. As an undergraduate at Berkeley, Sakai worked for the campus police department as a student volunteer. After graduation, Sakai spent a year in Japan teaching English. “His honor was extremely important to him. Whenever there was a situation where someone could take the path that was less honorable, he always advocated doing the right thing,” Levy said. “Being a police officer was really perfect for him.” Hege’s father said his son, who lived in Concord, loved being a policeman. He worked well with people and was an Eagle Scout. He played high school football and wrestled. He umpired and coached even as a youth, and joined the Oakland Police Department reserves. He taught high school physical education for a few years in Hayward before joining the police department a decade ago. He recently became a motorcycle traffic patrol officer, Hege said, adding, “He liked excitement.” As for the slain shooting suspect, Dr. John S. Hege said, “The man was evidently terribly desperate. It is a sad story.” Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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