Judge denies motion to recall death penalty for man convicted of kidnapping and murdering 12-year-old Polly Klaas

 June 1, 2024

A California judge refused to grant a new sentencing hearing for the man who kidnapped and killed Polly Klaas in 1993, the Associated Press reported. Richard Allen Davis was sentenced to death after being convicted of the 12-year-old's murder.

Because of California's new sentencing guidelines, attorneys for Davis petitioned the court to recall his death sentence. Davis had been convicted of first-degree murder in 1996 and later condemned to death, though the state has not executed anyone since 2006.

However, Burke's sentence included "special circumstances" due to charges of robbery, burglary, kidnapping, and attempting a lewd act on a child. Davis' attorneys asserted that changes in California law in 2022 allow for criminals to have their sentences reevaluated in that case.

Sonoma County Deputy District Attorney Sarah Brooks said the attorneys were wrong about the law and that challenging the sentence amounted to a "collateral attack on the 1996 conviction and sentence to death." Judge Benjamin Williams stunned America when he agreed in his ruling Friday and denied Davis' petition.

The Horrific Crime

On an autumn night in 1993, Davis broke into the home where Polly slept with her two friends who were over for a slumber party. In the next room was Polly's mother, unaware of the nightmare unfolding under her roof.

Davis kidnapped the 12-year-old at knifepoint from the home in a San Francisco suburb. Thousands of volunteers conducted a nationwide search for the girl after her disappearance.

Unfortunately, her body would be found in a shallow grave two months later after police arrested Davis. Her final resting place was just 50 miles from the home where she was abducted.

At the time of the murder, Davis was on parole. He had a long history stretching back decades for crimes that included kidnapping and assault, yet he was allowed on the streets to re-offend.

This fact led to California's "three strikes" law passed in 1994 that imposed stiffer sentences on repeat criminal offenders. It was wildly popular at the time, but support has eroded since then, even in Polly's own family.

Mercy or Justice?

In the aftermath of the crime, Polly's father, Mark Klaas, became an activist for criminal justice. In 2021, Polly's sisters began pushing back on the reforms made in their sister's name following George Floyd's death and the ensuing cries for mercy over justice, the Los Angeles Times reported at the time.

Jess and Annie Nichol, now adults, claim that they had misgivings about the tough of crime stance their sister helped take hold. Jess Nichol recalled her unease as far back as her childhood when she heard about the increased penalties for nonviolent offenders.

“And I remember thinking, when I was 13, maybe someday our family can do something to change that. That this is actually not right," Jess Nichol said of the stiffer sentences.

"But it just feels like this is the time," she added. Of course, this came just as every insane notion about going easy on criminals was taking hold in places throughout the U.S., but especially in liberal areas like California.

Thankfully, the judge had no misgivings about refusing to overturn the verdict that was deservedly applied in Davis' case. People who kidnap and murder cannot be out on the streets to offend again, regardless of how icky it makes certain people feel to admit it.

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