Families of LA murder victims feel ‘tricked’ by woke DA pushing to commute killers’ death sentences
Families of LA’ slain are speaking out against the city’s recent push to commute their loved ones’ murderers’ death sentences to life in prison – a campaign implemented by the city’s progressive district attorney George Gascon.
Several grieving relatives slammed Gascón’s relentless resentencing efforts Monday as an offensive ‘crusade’ – one they said further victimizes the deceased’s families as they mourn the loss of their loved ones.
Some said the felt lied to, and others blindsided, by the campaign – with one family revealing they only learned that their loved one’s killer’s sentence had been lightened thanks to a formality in the city’s court system.
That family further revealed the murderer – who was transferred out of death row and into a program for inmates with good behavior thanks to Gascón’s efforts – was resentenced without a hearing, leaving them no opportunity to object in person.
So far, Gascón has officially filed three resentencing motions for killers who had been doomed to die – but sources say that the office is planning to file motions to resentence at least 65 post-conviction cases, further fueling families’ rage.
They accuse the office of turning its back on them, and Gascón – an outspoken opponent of the death penalty – of ignoring their repeated cries of outrage.
Meanwhile, Gascón is facing a second recall effort in less than a year to remove him from office over his controversial policies, after narrowly escaping the first by the skin of his teeth.
Several grieving relatives slammed Gascón’s relentless resentencing efforts Monday as an offensive ‘crusade’ – one they said victimizes the deceased’s families as they mourn the loss of their loved ones
Heather Scott, seen at bottom right in this undated image, was only 12 years old when her father, Fred Rose, top middle, was gunned down by a man in 1992. Gascon’s office recently campaigned to nix the killer’s death sentence, outraging the family
‘When you take someone’s life, there has to be consequences,’ the daughter of one victim, Heather Scott, told The New York Post Monday, criticizing the DA’s most recent, woke campaign.
‘There have been massive consequences for my family that is permanent.’
Scott was only 12 years old when her father, Fred Rose, was gunned down ‘execution-style’ in 1992 by Scott Forrest Collins, who kidnapped and robbed the 42-year-old father-of-three on his way home from work before killing him.
Collins, 52, was subsequently convicted and sentenced to die in 1996, but escaped being put to death thanks to a series and Golden State’s relatively recent aversion to doling out the death penalty. The state has not ordered an execution since 2006.
Earlier this year, officials from Gascón’s office reportedly reached out to Scott, 43, who still lives in the City of Angels, to tell her they had filed a motion to resentence Collins, who has since been transferred out of death row and into a program at a correctional facility in Tehachapi, Calif., for inmates who have shown good behavior.
Scott, 43, told the paper that she was completely taken aback by the revelation, which saw city officials assure her that a life sentence ‘would be the same thing’ due to a recent moratorium placed on death row cases by Governor Gavin Newsom.
The motion, if granted, would see Collins’ sentence reduced to life without parole – and would make the case the first to be offiically reversed as a result of the embattled DA’s campaign.
Scott Forrest Collins was convicted and sentenced to death in 1996 for kidnapping and robbing 42-year-old Rose at gunpoint
‘I was in total shock but then I began to realize that maybe we have been lied to because it’s not true when they told us that nothing would change,’ Scott told The Post.
‘I asked why they would do this because that sounds like something (Collins’) defense attorney would do, not the DA,’ she added. ‘The response I got was, “He would never would’ve been executed in the first place,” but that’s not true.
‘They can’t guarantee that he will never get out of prison, and that’s our biggest fear.’
Scott said her family were only notified by the DA’s Office about the resentencing motion – which is currently being considered – as a formality, with documents revealing that prosecutors had plotted to proceed with the resentencing without a hearing, leaving Scott and her family with no opportunity to object in person.
Scott would then reache out to the city’s former Deputy DA Kathy Cady, who along with former DA Steve Cooley, agreed to help the family, file an opposition to resentence Collins without a hearing.
Cady Monday panned the maneuver as premeditated and ‘scandalous’ – a systematic way to try to undo every death sentence based on (Gascón’s) policy.
‘Policy does not mean that the law has changed when there is no legal mechanism to do what you want to do. That’s not how the law works,’ the prosecutor told the Post.
Last month, Scott, along with her husband and her mother, Sharon, appeared in court to plead their case before a judge, asking the jurist to deny Gascón’s motion – a request the court is still mulling over.
The family is now waiting for action from the city, who insist that Collins is a ‘model prisoner’ and was only 21 years old at the time of the offense.
Deputy DA Shelan Joseph wrote in Gascon’s resentencing motion in February that the con ‘experienced hardship as a child,’ including the death of his father, and that he had multiple learning disabilities that were ‘never adequately treated in school’ – thus earning him a second chance at life.
The family, however, is unhappy with the city’s explanation, and say they will accept nothing less than the motion being denied.
‘Anything short of denying the motion to resentence would be to victimize my family again,’ widow Sharon wrote in her statement to the court.
”In the end, a jury and a judge handed down the correct verdict and chose a sentence, which is still to this day a legal sentence in California.
‘What the current DA is doing changes everything. It changes our entire judicial system and the faith we can place in verdicts and sentences today.’
LA County DA officials, meanwhile, argued that they have made every effort to reach out to victims and their families, telling The Post Friday that they will continue to do so as more motions are filed.
‘We have made every effort to reach out to the victim’s next of kin in these cases,’ spokesperson Greg Risling told the paper.
Another citizen scorned over Gascon’s recent resentencing movement was Jane Bouffard, whose elderly wheelchair bound father and mother’s killer may see his sentence nixed thanks to the campaign
“We center the needs of the victim and have a licensed social worker available to support them if they wish to consult with her.
‘While we understand that some victims may not wish for the defendant to be resentenced, we must evaluate each case individually and on the merits of the legal issues presented.’
Another citizen scorned over Gascon’s recent resentencing movement was Jane Bouffard, whose elderly wheelchair bound father and mother, Elmer and Gladys Benson, were slain in their home in South Gate, a city in LA county, in 1996.
Bouffard also got a call from the DA’s office to inform her that Gascón has filed a motion to resentence her parents’ killer, Samuel Zamudio – and said Monday that she and many other families feel the DA’s Office has turned its back on them.
Both in their 70s at the time of the 1996 slaying, the pair were found lying on the living room floor on Feb. 11, 1996, having been stabbed multiple times, with Elmer’s wheelchair tipped over next to their corpses.
Elmer and Gladys Benson, were slain in their home in South Gate, a city in LA county, in 1996.
Bouffard also got a call from the DA’s office to inform her that Gascón has filed a motion to resentence her parents’ killer, Samuel Zamudio (pictured) – and said Monday that she and many other families feel the DA’s Office has turned its back on them
Prosecutors revealed during the ensuing trial that Zamudio had been the couple’s neighbor and borrowed money from the Bensons, leading to the brutal slaying.
In their recent motion, the DA’s Office argued that proceeding with Zamudio’s previously planned death sentence would be unconstitutional, citing supposed intellectual disabilities present in the con.
A judge, however, has since denied the DA’s disability claim, setting an evidentiary hearing in the case for August.
During that hearing, the judge will hear from a court-appointed expert hired to observe Zamudio, and determing whether the sentence should be reversed.
Bouffard, however, told the Post Monday that prosecutors have repeatedly blocked her attempts to obtain pertinent records regarding Zamudio.
‘he opinion that he had a disability was never mentioned in the trial as far as I know, but now they are also saying we can’t read any of his records that proves this,’ Bouffard told The Post.
‘What really bothers me is that in these proceedings, there is no consideration given to my parents whatsoever … about who they were and anything they did in their lives,’ she added. ‘They are never mentioned. It’s all about getting him (Zamudio) off death row and back into the general population.’
Meanwhile, Gascón is facing a second recall effort in less than a year to remove him from office over his controversial policies, after narrowly escaping the first by the skin of his teeth
Last week, Gascón also filed a motion to reverse the sentence of Raymond Oscar Butler, who has been housed at San Quentin State Prison’s death row since he was found guilty of murdering two Marymount College students, Takuma Ito and Go Matsuura, in 1996.
Butler, now 46, was 18 years old when he killed Marymount California University students Takuma Ito and Go Matsuura in a 1994 carjacking in San Pedro.
Gascón has now requested to overturn his capital punishment sentence in a 264-page filing earlier this month, according to the Whittier Daily News. The DA said the murderer suffered from ‘significant cognitive impairment’ during the time of the crime due to mental illness and trauma.
The motion stated that Butler’s cognitive impairment caused him to abuse drugs and alcohol to numb his distress, the Whittier Daily News reported.
If the motion is granted, Butler’s sentenced will be reduced to life without parole. However, it does not reverse the separate death penalty Butler received for fatally stabbing another inmate in 2012.
In a video posted to his Twitter, Gascón – who is strongly against capital punishment – said that ‘over 50 percent of the people that are on death row today, including those from this county, which is approximately 250, have severe mental health problems.’
Last week, Gascón also filed a motion to reverse the sentence of Raymond Oscar Butler, who has been housed at San Quentin State Prison’s death row since he was found guilty of murdering two Marymount College students, Takuma Ito and Go Matsuura, in 1996
The two aspiring filmmakers (pictured) had pulled into Ralph’s grocery story after having dinner with their friends when Butler shot them both in the back of the head and carjacked them
Gascón, 68, recently filed a 264-page report calling for the reversal of Butler’s death penalty sentence, asking for it to be reduced to life without parole (pictured: Butler in 1994)
He also criticize the mass amounts of money that goes into capital punishment. Capital punishment costs more than imprisoning an inmate for life.
Gascón said imprisoning inmates for life without parole costs around $100,000 a year, whereas death row convicts cost around ‘a half-a-million dollars a year.’
The DA, who has been immensely criticized for his lax bail laws, said he was ‘against the death penalty, but that does not equate to no accountability.’
The 68-year-old also criticized that the death penalty has been ‘disproportionately applied to people of color, to poor people, to people with mental health problems.’
However, no matter how Gascón morally justifies his decision, critics are blaming him for not being ‘transparent’ and not ‘respecting the jury’s decision.’
‘George Gascón doesn’t subscribe, understand, or agree with these values. And, as this case makes clear, he still believes he is above the law and beyond question,’ Eric Siddall, the VP of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, told the Whittier Daily News.
Back in 1994, the students’ murder garnered international headlines after they were fatally shot on March 25 in a supermarket parking lot.
The aspiring filmmakers had just finished having dinner with friends when had pulled into Ralph’s when Butler carjack them.
Gascón, who is largely against the death penalty, said Butler’s sentence was ‘racist and morally untenable’ due to his mental illness. He also argued that ‘over 50 percent’ of death row inmates are mentally ill, people of color, or poor and it costs significantly more to house them than regular inmates
Butler shot both men in the back of the head before jumping into the 1994 Honda Civic after dumping the bodies.
The men were taken to the hospital and put on life support until their families were able to fly over from Japan.
Butler was arrested a few days later after being picked out of a lineup.
At the time, Butler’s mother Donna said the ‘system’ had failed him and her son suffered from suicidal tendencies and alcohol addiction, the Los Angeles Times reported in 1994.
Butler attempted suicide at the age of 17 by drinking two bottles of liquor and had been committed to a psychiatric hospital for 72 hours, his mother said in 1994. She reportedly begged doctors to keep him longer, but he was discharged after his mandatory hold.
It comes as Gascon faces a second recall effort in less than a year to remove him from office over his controversial policies.
Last May, Gascon’s opponents organized the first, ill-fated recall effort to oust him from office.
Despite garnering more than 200,000 signatures from LA citizens in a matter of months, the campaign fell short in October, failing to amass the needed 580,000 LA County voters needed to remove Gascon.
A rash of ‘flash mob’-style robberies, assaults and shootings since the have only made matters worse for Gascon, with a second recall effort launched against the DA on Monday.
The renewed recall attempt has been spurred by the string of smash-and-grab attacks and brazens shootouts, which have seen a variety of high-end retailers in the city relentlessly ransacked and hundreds dead this year.
People are being killed in the famously progressive county at a faster pace than 2021, when homicides hit a 15-year high.
So far this year, LA has seen 210 slayings – just 10 less than the same time last year.
Assaults are also up nearly roughly 2 percent from 2021, with police so far recording 11,250 incidents.
Robberies, meanwhile, are up my a more marked 22 percent.