Judges, Justice & the Name Game
• • • • • • • • • • August 31, 2023 • • • • • • • • • •
Words of wisdom include the observation that a criminal doesn’t care who makes the laws of this country so long as they are not enforced.
After declining from 54 in June, 71 people died of overdoses in July from fentanyl and “Tranq.” ABC News reported that the California Highway Patrol seized last month enough fentanyl in the Tenderloin to kill 2.1 million people! With San Francisco Superior Court judges appointed by California’s governor, prosecution of fentanyl purveyors arrested by police officers or the CHP constitutes a game of chance in the Hall of Justice. (Local judges are permissive!)
Now, however, some country prosecutors are treating fentanyl deaths as murder. Riverside County’s D.A., Mike Hestrin, has prosecuted the most cases in the state, despite the difficulty. Pursuing second degree murder charges requires prosecutors to persuade all 12 jurors that the defendant dealer was aware fentanyl would kill the victim. Hestrin declared, “Just the change in attitude of ‘We’re going to look at this as a homicide investigation’ has made all the difference.”
San Bernardino, Orange, San Diego, Kern and Fresno counties are now also attacking fentanyl death cases as second-degree murder. Los Angeles, the largest county in California, naturally doesn’t. Why not? Because George Gascón is the district attorney who, like recalled S.F. prosecutor Chesa Boudin, portrays the “system” is at fault, not the criminal suppliers of the deadly drug.
Placer County’s D.A. achieved the first murder conviction of a fentanyl dealer in California – a 21-year-old man who supplied it to a 15-year-old Roseville girl. Sacramento County’s new chief prosecutor last month also filed a second-degree murder accusation against a 44-year-old man for supplying the deadly drug to a 24-year-old woman and a 48-year-old husband who gave it to his wife, resulting in her death.”
I’m pleased our capable district attorney, Brooke Jenkins, Esq., stated last fall her office will prosecute drug dealers of fentanyl for murders, sending such an unmistakable message to local judges and San Franciscans. Placer County’s D.A. achieved the first murder conviction of a fentanyl dealer in California – a 21-year-old man who supplied it to a 15-year-old Roseville girl. Sacramento County’s new chief prosecutor last month also filed a second-degree murder accusation against a 44-year-old man for supplying the deadly drug to a 24-year-old woman and a 48-year-old husband who gave it to his wife, resulting in her death. District Attorney Thien Ho has created a Fentanyl Response Team to pursue such murder cases. The first prosecutor to charge murder from fentanyl in 2022 and secured a conviction this past July. Two more such cases await trial in Auburn.
Speaking of crime in which a majority of Police Commission members try to prevent cops from consequent arrests of perpetrators (more next month), have you heard about the two former Lululemon employees who were fired by the apparel giant in Georgia last June for violating company policy by attempting to stop three masked criminals from robbery? Police subsequently charged them with felony robbery.
But only in California could a legislator (Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer of Los Angeles, a Democrat,) introduce a bill inquiring judges to consider race in sentencing a convicted criminal. Assembly Bill 852 deems race part of sentencing guidelines so as “to rectify racial bias.” The Assembly passed the bill last May. It now awaits a hearing in the Senate Public Safety Committee and action by the whole State Senate by Sept. 14.
The “renaming” brigades are still on the warpath. Oops! Sorry! That word derogates Native Americans like the Onondaga Indians who owned a “reservation” in the county of my Syracuse, N.Y. hometown. Middlebury College in central Vermont renamed its chapel because John Mead, an alumnus, who worked his way through the college after joining the Union Army in 1860 and after the Civil War becoming a medical doctor, then Vermont’s governor in 1901, and donated $75,000 to build the chapel, requesting it to be named Mead Memorial Chapel to honor his family. In 2021, however, the Vermont legislature passed a resolution apologizing to the victims of such state-sanctioned sterilization some 100 years before, which arose from a national legislative movement to stop the effect of crime and cure other people with disabilities considered unacceptable to society. Then-Gov. Mead supported such sterilization and prohibition of marriage licenses. Other Americans favored eugenics (improvement of the human race by controlling human mating) in order to ensure humans of desirable character. Later, Vermont enacted a law aimed at disabled, poor and indigenous residents which led to sterilization of approximately 250 Vermonters.
Guess what? Last May, Gov. Mead’s estate sued Middlebury College for breach of contract in a 79-page complaint in Vermont Superior court for removing Mead’s name. Estate representatives blame Middlebury’s adoption of “presentism” which means judging historical figures “by current standards.” It’s the “cancel culture.” The case is still pending with a fall trial date.
It’s another example of the observation: “History tells us about presidential candidates splitting nails; but modern politicians keep busy splitting hairs.”
Judge Quentin Kopp is a former San Francisco supervisor, state senator, SF Ethics Commission member and retired Superior Court judge who was president of the California High Speed Rail Authority governing board, 2006-2008.