MARTINEZ, CA – A candidate for a district attorney seat in California is taking heat for saying cop killers don’t deserve the death penalty because “it’s part of the risk [police officers] take . . . ”
Attorney Lawrence Strauss
Attorney Lawrence Strauss — who made the comments at an April 24 forum for the June Contra Costa County District Attorney election — was criticized by local police union presidents, one of whom said Strauss’ comments were “archaic” and “extremely inappropriate,” The Mercury News reported.
Sgt. Sean Welch
“Law enforcement officers are hired to ensure the public’s safety and enforce the constitution and laws of the state. We are not pawns for a brutal dictator,” said Contra Costa County Sheriff Sgt. Sean Welch, president of the agency’s officer union. “Strauss’ performance last night should have made it clear to anyone voting in the primary election that he should not even be on the ballot for district attorney.”
Strauss Pacifies Cops
During the forum, Strauss, who noted that he trained cops to act with caution on duty as a prosecutor in Hawaii, said people who kill single officers shouldn’t be death-penalty eligible.
“I feel sorry for the officer. It’s part of the risk they take as being an officer of the law,” Strauss said during the forum, adding when an officer is murdered it affects not only his family, but “a nationwide network of police officers.”
The attorney who has operated a private practice for 23 years cited the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing as an example of a death penalty case he would support, according to the paper.
Officer Ben Therriault
Officer Ben Therriault, president of the Richmond Police Officer’s Association, called Strauss “tone-deaf” about public safety: “The men and women in our profession don’t sign up to be hurt or killed or receive less justice than our fellow citizens we protect.”
According to his response to a candidate questionnaire, The News reported, Strauss’ priorities are ending “wealth-based disparities” and excessive sentences as well as invalidating the war on drugs; he also stands for increasing transparency and accountability, and promoting policies “that aid undocumented communities.”
Two days after the forum, Strauss put out a two-page written statement thanking police officers for their service, and noted that people who kill single officers should receive life sentences without the possibility of parole.
“The death penalty is always a controversial subject. There is no right or wrong position. Most of the industrialized world has abolished the death penalty. The United States is the leader in seeking the death penalty. It takes decades to execute an individual and at great expense to the taxpayers,” Strauss said in the statement. “I believe that the death penalty should only be sought in mass murders, serial killers, and multiple victims. There is no redemption for these psychopathic criminals.”
Other candidates at the forum included interim DA Diana Becton, and senior deputy district attorney Paul Graves, reported East Bay Times.
They seemed to hedge on the death penalty question, with Graves saying death cases are reserved for “the most heinous crimes,” and Becton saying, “Yes, to answer your question, whenever there is a case in our system where the crime is heinous or serious, the death penalty is the law in California.”
Both said they would use an existing committee that makes decisions on each potential death case.
One such person who should qualify for the death penalty is Michael Christopher Mejia. He was arrested in 2017 for the murder of Whittier police officer Keith Boyer, 53.
Mejia, an admitted gang member told detectives he “smoked” Boyer and his own cousin and “shot another cop,” according to a tape-recorded interview played in court last June, reported NBC Los Angeles.
“I guess you guys have everything down — smoked my cousin, smoked the cop. … I mean, what else do you guys want? I shot another cop,” Mejia said in the interview.
Mejia, now 27, is charged with murder for the Feb. 20, 2017 killings of Officer Boyer, in Whittier and his own cousin, 47-year-old Roy Torres, in East Los Angeles earlier that day.
The murder charges include the special circumstance allegations of murder of a peace officer in the performance of his duties, murder for the purpose of avoiding arrest and multiple murders.
“I did it, I mean, I did it … both of ’em, all three of them had it coming,” Mejia said in the Feb. 28, 2017 interview, telling detectives that the “officer got too aggressive with me.”
Officers Boyer and Hazell
Boyer — the first Whittier officer killed in the line of duty in 37 years — was fatally shot when he responded shortly after 8 a.m. Feb. 20, 2017 to a report of a traffic collision near Colima Road and Mar Vista Street in which Mejia had been involved.
Mejia reportedly pulled out a semi-automatic handgun and fired at Boyer as well as Officer Patrick Hazell, who was shot in the abdomen but survived. Mejia was shot in the back during the shootout.
He told detectives in the interview he was trying to flee after the crash, but “the cops came right behind me, within two minutes.”
He noted that the arriving officers did not have their guns drawn when they approached.
Mejia Is Ill-Equipped to Function in Society
“I delayed it. I should have smoked ’em quicker,” he said.
Asked by detectives if he had anything to say to the Whittier Police Department, Mejia said, “I mean, train your guys better. Train your guys better. They just got a taste of an L.A. gang member, real L.A. gang member. You know what I mean? And, nope, I don’t feel sorry.”
He said the officer who survived the shooting was lucky to be alive.
“He’s lucky or he would have been in a casket,” Mejia said in the interview.
In the taped interview, which was conducted in a jail medical ward, Mejia admits that he did drugs the morning of the shootings, but knew what he was doing. He admitted being a gang member and said he understands “he is probably getting washed up” and will “probably” get the death penalty.
But he later says he expects to eventually get out of prison.
“I’m gonna walk out them gates one day … and I’m gonna change one day,” he said. “I might be 50, 35, 40. But I’m gonna walk out them prison gates one day. And I’m gonna change.”
Deadly Flaws in the System
Mejia had recently been released from jail. Whittier Police Chief Jeff Piper and Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell have both suggested that Mejia was back on the streets due to recent voter-approved propositions that reduce criminal penalties and allow for early release of inmates. Los Angeles County began investigating parole and probation records for Mejia after his arrest in February.
Los Angeles County Prosecutors Seeking Death Penalty
In February 2018 prosecutors announced they will seek the death penalty against Mejia.
Returning to Contra Costa County
Although Mejia’s case is in Los Angeles County, and the controversial statements made by DA candidate Strauss are in Contra Costa County, this is the type of case that should be eligible for the death penalty, as long as the punishment remains on the books.
If Strauss were to win the election he is essentially saying he will not abide by the will of the people, a continuing trend by left-leaning politicians in California.
Read Strauss’ full statement here.