(The Center Square) – Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon passed on pursuing the death penalty for the alleged murderer of a young Los Angeles Sheriff’s deputy, continuing his standing policy of not seeking the death penalty for any case. The alleged murderer is accused of lying in wait and shooting the newly engaged deputy in the head as he sat in his patrol car at a traffic signal in front of the department’s local station.
“We’re hoping for nothing less than the maximum punishment available under the law,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna at a news conference.
In California, prosecutors can pursue the death penalty, but with Governor Gavin Newsom having placed a moratorium on executions in 2019, anyone convicted of a capital offense and assigned the death penalty would not face such a penalty until Newsom or a new governor issues a new executive order ending the moratorium.
“If I thought that the death penalty was going to stop people from committing brutal murders, I would seek it. But we know that it won’t. The reality is that the death penalty doesn’t serve as a deterrent, and the death penalty does not bring people back,” said Gascon at the same news conference.
Should the defendant, who has claimed insanity and whom his relatives claim had previously been diagnosed with schizophrenia, be convicted but determined to have been insane at the time of the killing, he would be placed in a state hospital, not prison.
However, some say that by taking the death penalty off the table, prosecutors will end up with reduced sentencing that may not be commensurate with the crime.
“[The death penalty] shows what society will or will not tolerate, and this is a death penalty case … When you take your biggest chip off the table, you have a lot less to bargain with,” said former Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villaneuva. “Trust me, it’s going to be watered down to the point the penalty will not match the crime.”
Meanwhile, questions are emerging about how the defendant was able to acquire a firearm, as law enforcement sources told the Los Angeles Times that he was barred from purchasing a gun until 2026.