Governor vetoes justice, commission says

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger pays lip service but won’t take easy steps to make California’s criminal justice sysyem fairer, former state Attorney General John Van de Kamp, chairman of the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, said today.

van-de-kamp.jpg“Governor Schwarzenegger has taken California out of the front lines of criminal justice reform. His veto of three FAIR Commission bills shows once again the power of California’s law enforcement agencies to block needed justice reform at the state level.

“The three bills:

  • SB 756 requiring the appointment of a task force to consider current research and best practices to develop guidelines for the conduct of police line-ups and photo arrays to increase the accuracy of eyewitness identification,
  • SB 511 requiring the electronic recording of police interrogations that happen in police stations, jails, or other holding facilities for cases involving homicides and other violent felonies, and
  • SB 609 requiring the corroboration of testimony by jailhouse informants,
  • had legislative support and the editorial support of every California newspaper which editorialized about them. They were modest bills which were based on the best science and the best practices available. Each was intended to guard the public and the individuals affected by wrongful convictions against the avoidable errors that have led to large dollar judgments inflicted against cities and counties. These were errors which let the guilty go free. In framing the bills, their authors took special note of the Governor’s veto messages in 2006 and drafted the bills to meet the concerns he expressed at that time.

    “By vetoing the bills, the Governor has essentially washed his hands of the state powers to take measures to reduce the possibility of wrongful conviction and has left it up to every police department and sheriff’s department to do what it wishes. Some departments have stepped up and adopted the protective measures the Commission recommended. We urge other departments to review our recommendations and implement them. They’ll find it’s in their own best interests.

    Added commission executive director Gerald F. Uelmen: “The vacuum of leadership in the Governor’s mansion will not make the causes of wrongful convictions disappear. We cannot insert our heads in the sand as the parade of innocents who have been wrongfully convicted continues to grow. They will continue to haunt the courts, and invite the courts to step in and fashion measures necessary to prevent injustice.”

    Read the governor’s veto-message rationales, and the commission’s future plans, after the jump…

    In his veto message for SB 756, Schwarzenegger wrote, “Law enforcement agencies must have the authority to develop investigative policies and procedures that they can mold to their own unique local conditions and logistical circumstances rather than be restricted to methods created that may make sense from a broad statewide perspective.”

    Of SB 511, he wrote, “While reducing the number of false confessions is a laudable goal, I cannot support a measure that would deny law enforcement the flexibility necessary to interrogate suspects in homicide and violent felony cases when the need to do so is not clear. Police interrogations are dynamic processes that require investigators to use acumen, skill and experience to determine which methods of interrogation are best for the situation. This bill would place unnecessary restrictions on police investigators.”

    And of SB 609, the governor wrote, “This bill would enact a broad solution to a perceived problem that arises in very few criminal cases. In-custody informant testimony is disfavored and therefore rarely used. When that kind of testimony is necessary, current criminal procedures provide adequate safeguards against its misuse. Consequently, this bill is unnecessary.”

    Its efforts thus far vetoed, the commission is preparing to release its reports on mandatory reporting of misconduct and incompetence, funding of defense services and other issues raised during public hearings in July on the professional responsibility and accountability of prosecutors and defense lawyers. This Wednesday, it’ll hold a public hearing at Santa Clara University to discuss post-conviction access to scientific testing and other remedies for the wrongfully convicted.

    And in January, the commission will tackle a four-month study of the fair administration of the death penalty in California, starting off with a public hearing at the State Capitol including testimony from California Chief Justice Ronald George and 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Circuit Judge Arthur Alarcon. Further hearings are scheduled for Feb. 13 in Los Angeles and March 27 at Santa Clara University. The commission will issue its final reports and recommendations by June.

    Josh Richman

    Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

    • Morris2007

      Dear Mr. Governor,

      I have been a Republican for 35 years and all that you have shown me is that you are bought and paid for by law enforcement and every other special interest lobby out there just like all the others before you. Your legacy will be nothing special.

      You just vetoed key legislation that “protects citizens” from the abuses that riddle law enforcement. The Duke Rape case should have given you a clue and you ignored what you know goes on everyday in our “Justice” system because you are afraid of what Law Enforcement Unions would say. How many more citizens will be intimidated and coerced into prison before someone wakes up.

      You are a complete and total embarrassment and I will not forget what you have cost Californians. You can BS citizens that don’t pay attention and there are plenty, but there are plenty of us who do. I am ashamed that I voted for you. You lied on so many occasions. Especially the one that “Nobody owns you”. That one would be the biggest lie. Law Enforcement lobbies and Unions owns you. The second one would be Prop. 66 to finally fix the 3 strikes law that puts petty theft criminals in prison for life at today’s rate of $45,000 per year each to Californians. AB 900 will turn out to be the biggest failure yet. You had no interest in real reform. Just throw more taxpayer money at it and create more law enforcement jobs rather than use logical intelligent programs like the sentencing commission and other reforms that did not carry a price tag like AB900.

      The parole board speaks volumes about who you align with. You have micro managed all your boards, not just the parole board to the point of breaking the law. You do not let them do their appointed jobs. The parole board doesn’t need you. You should be held accountable for your interference with the law. You have overturned almost every grant of parole for lifers. You are not judge jury and executioner, the courts handed down the sentence. That is not your job. It is the job of the parole board to decide who is ready for parole and when.

      I know what you want. You want the Federal Government to take over the whole prison system so you can say it was “not your fault”. You tried to put California on the right track but the Federal Government stepped in and stopped you. I can hear it now. Californians will not let you use us as a platform for all your so called “successes”. Your real record will follow you.

      You have not done one thing for this state that is important. You are no better than any of your predecessors. You came in with big promises to change things. You told us you were different and could not be bought. You didn’t need money from anyone, you had your own. Now that seems completely laughable. You should have stayed home in California and attended to California business, but instead you were out traveling the country and abroad selling yourself as something you are not. You have vetoed too many important bills that would have helped Californians. You have passed useless expensive bills. The handgun imprinting system is the best one. Give us a break! You can’t seriously think criminals go to gun stores and legally buy guns. Criminals will figure a way around that in minutes. You need to stop listening to your advisors and use your own brain for a change.

      All you have really accomplished is putting California in debt for the next 30 years and beyond with roads and levies and a massive prison package. Those funds are already being diverted away from what they were supposed to be used for just like usual. You are making sure that no big decisions are made by you just like every other politician with further political agendas. You want nothing to stick to you. Bye-bye California, hello US Senate. I hope you make it. You need to leave California. My family is in the upper income bracket, we are leaving California because of the condition California is in and thanks to you will continue to be. We had hoped for better but it is clear that will not happen. We have already begun the transfer of assets to another state.

      Sorry to be so blunt, but I am very angry at the decisions you have recently made. The citizens of California pay the bills yet we are not the main concern. You use us to get into office and then do for yourselves. I am sick to death of California politicians.

      A very angry and disappointed citizen…

    • Madhatter

      I’m glad I got out of California when I did so my youngest 2 children didn’t have to put up with what is going on there today.

      The “Governator” is indeed being influenced,coerced, and/or a puppet of special interest groups. It doesn’t matter how often he spews “I make my own decisions”, the evidence speaks for itself.

      Let him spend a week inside the prison – with no special perks – let him live the life the prisoners live – eat what the prisoners eat – let Maria set up a phone account and see what that costs and how reliable it is – let him try to get medical attention – and then let’s see what he says. Maybe they will give him something he is allergic to as they tried to do to my son.

      After the fiasco his term as governor has been, I would suggest he not try to make movies after he leaves office. There is so much animosity against him in California now they would probably bomb at the box office.

      I am ashamed and disgusted that I believed him and was rooting for him to get into office.