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The Judge Will Think About Whether to Overturn the Man’s Death Sentence for Killing Polly Klaas, 12


SAN JOSE, Calif. — On Friday, a judge in California will decide if Richard Allen Davis’s death sentence should be revoked. Davis killed 12-year-old Polly Klaas in 1993 after robbing her in her bedroom with a knife and executing her. The crime shocked the whole country.

At the end of 1996, Davis was found guilty of first-degree murder, kidnapping, burglary, robbery, and trying to do something sexual to a child. Davis was given the death penalty because he had a long history of kidnapping and assaults going back to the 1970s.

In a court document filed in February, Davis’s lawyers said that his death sentence should be revoked because of changes to California’s sentencing rules. They also talked about California’s present ban on the death penalty. In 2019, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California put a stop to all executions. He did this because he said the death sentence was “a failure” because it unfairly targeted people who are mentally ill, Black, or can’t afford expensive lawyers. If there is a next governor, they could change that rule.

The Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office said Davis’s lawyers’ claims are “nonsensical” and that the laws they are using don’t protect Davis from being put to death for killing Klaas.

In October 1993, Davis took Klaas from her bedroom in Petaluma, which is 40 miles (64 km) north of San Francisco, and choked her to death. That night, she had a sleepover with two friends, and her mother slept in a room close. When Klaas went missing, thousands of people searched all over the country. Two months later, Davis was caught and led police to the child’s body, which was found in a small grave 50 miles (80 km) north of her home in Sonoma County.

The case was a big reason why California passed the “three strikes” law in 1994, which made punishments longer for people who break the law more than three times. Both lawmakers and voters agreed with the plan.

Since Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor of California in 2006, no one has been put to death. And even though voters barely passed a measure in 2016 to speed up the execution process, no one was about to be put to death.

Since California’s last execution, one out of every four people on death row in the United States has been put there.

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