Knowing that Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon wouldn’t allow his Deputy DA’s to charge a multiple murder special circumstance in the case of a father who decapitated two of his children then forced his two surviving children to observe the bodies for five days, we shouldn’t be surprised at any pro-criminal action Gascon demands of his staff.
As I reported last week, Gascon’s Special Directives also apply to cases that are currently pending in Los Angeles County. Deputy District Attorneys have been directed to file motions to dismiss all special circumstances and all enhancements in all cases, period. They’ve been directed to keep all minor defendants in juvenile court, period. The unique circumstances of the case do not matter.
Word is getting around to victims and their families, and they’re furious. Numerous families held a press conference Monday – including the family of a 6-month-old girl whose babysitter beat her with a blunt object, shattering her skull and leaving her blind and forced to eat through a feeding tube – to call attention to Gascon’s abdication of duty and the miscarriage of justice. The sister of one murder victim spoke to Fox 11 Los Angeles’ Bill Melugin Monday after learning that prosecutors won’t be seeking life without parole for her brother’s killer under Gascon’s new policies, and she didn’t hold back.
In June 2019 Rhett Nelson executed Christina Solano’s brother, LA Sheriff’s Deputy Joseph Gilbert Solano, by shooting him in the head at a Jack in the Box restaurant in Alhambra where the off-duty deputy was waiting for his order. That murder occurred just about an hour after Nelson shot and killed a Russian snowboarder in central Los Angeles, and at the end of a crime spree including multiple armed robberies in San Diego County.
Melugin confirmed with the District Attorney’s office that the office is seeking to drop special circumstances of multiple murders and gun enhancements with great bodily injury. Without these special circumstances or the enhancements, Nelson won’t face life in prison without parole.
NEW: Under new D.A. George Gascon’s reforms, I’ve confirmed his office is trying to dismiss all enhancements & special circumstances against the alleged double murderer/cop killer accused of shooting LASD deputy Gilbert Solano in the back of his head. His sister is irate. @FOXLA pic.twitter.com/SxnPiOuRPG
— Bill Melugin (@BillFOXLA) December 15, 2020
Fortunately, the District Attorney’s office won’t have the last word. A judge will have to sign off on dismissing those special circumstances and gun enhancements, and they’re not required to do so just because the District Attorney’s office asks. And, under California’s Marsy’s law, victims and their families have these rights, among others:
- To reasonable notice of and to reasonably confer with the prosecuting agency, upon request, regarding, the arrest of the defendant if known by the prosecutor, the charges filed, the determination whether to extradite the defendant, and, upon request, to be notified of and informed before any pretrial disposition of the case.
- To reasonable notice of all public proceedings, including delinquency proceedings, upon request, at which the defendant and the prosecutor are entitled to be present and of all parole or other post-conviction release proceedings, and to be present at all such proceedings.
- To be heard, upon request, at any proceeding, including any delinquency proceeding, involving a post-arrest release decision, plea, sentencing, post-conviction release decision, or any proceeding in which a right of the victim is at issue.
Victims’ rights advocates are encouraging crime victims in Los Angeles County to contact the DDA handling their case and demand to be informed of each and every hearing and request to be heard in court at any potential bond hearing, motion hearing, or entry of a guilty plea. As crime victims and their families in San Francisco learned while Gascon was District Attorney there, they can’t count on the DA’s office acting in the interest of the victim. Don Rosenberg, whose son was murdered in San Francisco, told RedState:
In announcing his new “directives” Gascon asked the public to “trust him.” That’s the last thing anyone should do. He has no business being the DA since that job is to represent the victims, not the criminals.
“I can’t remember how many times in all the hearings leading up to the trial I said to his office, ‘You should be sitting second chair for the defense. You’re not representing the interests of my son.’ I even looked at being able to hire my own prosecutor, which unfortunately the law doesn’t allow.”
A statement released by Gascon’s transition team to Fox LA about the Solano case shows just how despicable and disgusting their thought process is. It reads:
“The defendant is facing a sentence of 40 years to life in prison, but there is no sentence that can undo the harm caused in this case. If convicted there is a possibility that decades from now the parole board could determine he’s been rehabilitated. Such a determination, many years from now, would ultimately be a reflection of a system and the public alike weighing their continued interest in incarcerating a man who no longer poses a threat to society, at an extraordinary taxpayer cost. Eliminating that remote possibility today may not be in the public’s best interest decades from now.”
That line of thought isn’t unique to the Solano case. Last week the family of a murder victim contacted Gascon’s office wanting to talk to someone about the new office policy prohibiting charging juveniles as adults. Their loved one was murdered by a gang member who was 17 years and 11 months old when the crime was committed, but unless he’s charged as an adult he will be out of prison by the time he turns 25. According to sources, the family received an email from Gascon’s new chief deputy (more about him later) telling them that, essentially, “the office needs to balance the family’s loss with the trauma the defendant will suffer in the criminal justice system.”
No, the office does not need to participate in any such balancing exercise. It’s abundantly clear that this chief deputy has never spent time in a felony courtroom or with those who have lost their loved ones to violent crime. I have. I sat through more than 15 death penalty cases in my career as a court stenographer, some of which I still have bad dreams about, and some of which have left me unable to hear certain songs or lines from movies or poems without being on the verge of tears more than a decade later. I watched the families go through the torture of hearing in clinical terms how their family member’s last moments on this earth were spent and what they likely felt. I watched a young mom cry every single day for more than a month as the man who stalked her and drunkenly shot at her van was on trial for killing her 8-year-old son (one buckshot pellet struck her son in the heart). The thought that any District Attorney’s office anywhere could be so cruel and heartless as to email a murder victim’s family to ask them to balance their loss with the trauma the defendant will suffer in jail is beyond comprehension. It just does not compute in any way.
Solano’s sister says it best:
My brother is a victim, not the person who shot him. I don’t understand what [Gascon’s] purpose is to let these murderers out of jail. Is this person – he’s like the devil. I don’t understand it. He’s never come to me and ever talked to me about my family, my brother. He should be there for us…it’s disgusting, and he’s disgusting.
Word on the street is that Gascon isn’t backing down in any way and that the backlash in the media so far has only strengthened his resolve to stick to his plan.