The World Is a Dangerous Place to Live

Anne Marie Schubert
District Attorney
County of Sacramento

Mike Ramos
District Attorney
County of San Bernardino

There are nearly 750 people on California’s death row who are evil. One example of evil is death row killer Hung Thanh Mai, who executed CHP Officer Don Burt Jr. in 1996 during a traffic stop. Officer Burt’s father, Don Sr., was also a CHP officer at the time of his son’s murder; Don Jr.’s wife was seven months pregnant with their first child. During Mai’s penalty trial, he boasted to Officer Burt’s family, “I’d do it again.”

Mai’s extreme violence — even while locked up — is further demonstrated by his federal conviction for conspiring from jail to murder a witness and his explosive tirades during his trial when he threatened to kill witnesses. Mai was found to be so dangerous that he is held in isolation in a super-maximum prison in Colorado.

Another example is death row killer Marco Topete. On Father’s Day 2008, Topete led Yolo County Deputy Tony Diaz on a high-speed chase in the rural area of the county, then Topete abandoned his car and fired 17 shots at Deputy Diaz with an AR-15 assault weapon, killing him. Topete was a known gang member with a violent criminal history.

The perception that somehow justice is served or that society is safe when death row killers like Mai and Topete are locked away is illusory. One only needs to be a family member or friend of a police or correctional officer killed in the line of duty to know this.

Hung Thanh Mai and Marco Topete earned their death sentences. Californians, police and correctional officers will be safe when those killers’ sentences are carried out.

The same is true for the other inmates on death row. They, too, are evil — like Robert Rhoades, a serial sex offender who kidnapped, tortured and sodomized 8-year-old Michael Lyons before he slit his throat and left him in a Sutter County river bed. Rhoades and the other killers on death row also earned their sentences.

But the death penalty system is broken. In 2012, Californians were faced with a proposition to abolish it. Outspent by millions, public safety advocates and crime victims promised voters a better option: Rather than abolish the death penalty, let’s fix it.

And so began the journey for justice — drafting an initiative and qualifying it for the November 2016 ballot.

With a historic collaboration of law enforcement, prosecutors, crime victims and private citizens, public safety advocates stood together, raised money and relentlessly traveled this state to be heard. As a result, Californians voted to not only keep the death penalty, but to fix it. Even in an election where Californians voted to legalize marijuana and allow for early release of felons from prison, they stood with public safety and victims in their continued support of capital punishment for the worst of the worst killers.

The dedication of PORAC to this effort was both extraordinary and historic. The financial contributions made by PORAC and its member associations were outstanding. Through the leadership of Mike Durant and your Board, your Association had a direct impact on the outcome of this election. In fact, PORAC was a leading member of the campaign committee and was directly involved in campaign decisions and strategy. There is little doubt that your Association played a pivotal role.

As public safety officials, it is our responsibility to ensure that we do something about the evil predators who live among us, even when they are locked away. Through the leadership of PORAC, its members and our fellow law enforcement associations, we now have the necessary tools to begin — and complete — that process.

Team Justice is proud to have PORAC and its members on our squad. Thank you for all that you do to keep us safe.