In the latter half of 2003, Kamala Harris ran for the office of District
Attorney, San Francisco. Throughout her campaign, Harris made her intentions
quite clear; to be tough on crime, particularly with respect to prosecution
and conviction rates of violent crimes, but within a progressive agenda that
reflected the will of the San Francisco electorate. Harris' opposition to the
death penalty was a key aspect of that progressive agenda.
In April 2004, San Francisco police officer
Isaac Espinoza, was murdered by a gunman in the city's Bayview district.
David Hill was arrested and charged with the murder shortly afterwards. After
examining the facts of the case against Hill, and in keeping with her stated
principles, Harris decided not to pursue the death penalty against Hill,
aiming instead to secure a conviction and sentence of life in prison without
That decision appeared to mark the start of open season on Harris. Elected
officials of all ranks, including US Senator
Dianne Feinstein, conservative commentators and the
San Francisco Police Department have criticized Harris' decision, calling for
the case to be removed from her office and the death penalty to be pursued.
Despite the pressures brought about by these attacks, Harris hasn't blinked. In
fact, her calm conduct throughout the following weeks, while possibly motivated
by a desire not to prejudice a case yet to be tried, have clearly elevated her
above her critics. She appears professional, holding clear principles
and the integrity to stand by them. Her critics appear variously as vengeful,
fickle, pandering and opportunist. Those critics do not appear to include the
majority of people who elected her to do the job she is doing; a recent poll
shows that 70% of San Franciscans support Harris' actions in the case against
Schott's Original Miscellany
This is a well-presented collection of marginally useful yet curiously
addictive facts. Not a book to be read from cover to cover, it's more fun to
pick through it at random and see what you find:
The nine ways to be dismissed in cricket (I could only remember six of
The names of the shipping forecast areas used by the British Metreological
office. (I only just found out they renamed "Finistere" as "Fitzroy" in 2002)
A table of poker hands and their associated probabilities.
The RGB, CMYK, Pantone and Web Safe color specifications of the Union Jack.
A table of American presidents, with annotations indicating those who were
assassinated, carved on Mount Rushmore, attended Harvard, left-handed,
unmarried, Geminis, Quakers, or bearded.
It's tempting to recommend Schott's Miscellany as an excellent choice of book
for the bathroom; in that department, it definitely gives Tintin a good run
for this money. However, it's very difficult to put this book down...
US Senator, California.
On Friday April 16th, I sat in my car for 20 minutes at a police roadblock on
Market Steet in San Francisco, as the funeral cortege of
Isaac Espinoza slowly snaked by on its way to
a cemetery in Colma. Espinoza, a police officer, had been murdered the week
before. Prior to his funeral, the San Francisco District Attorney, Kamala
Harris, indicated that she would not seek the death penalty against David Hill,
recently arrested and charged with Espinoza's murder. Harris' decision was
based on a philosophical opposition to the death penalty - prominently featured
in her recent election campaign - and on a legal assessment of the case that
could be made against Hill.
Dianne Feinstein chose to use Espinoza's funeral to speak out against the
D.A.'s decision, and to call for pursuit of the death penalty. With an audience
dominated by police officers, it's not surprising she received a standing
Feinstein is not alone; others, including
Barbara Boxer and
Bill Lockyer, have also
called for the death penalty to be pursued, and for the case to be removed from
the San Francisco District Attorney.
It's almost laughable how many established politicians have seen fit
to undermine the office of the District Attorney - and the will of the San
Francisco electorate - while attempting to score cheap points in what for some
is an election year. However, Feinstein deserves special mention for choosing
to use the officer's funeral at St Mary's Cathedral to make her comments; this
represents political opportunism at its worst and frankly, I thought better
of her. Her current disregard for the San Francisco electorate is pointed, given
her past roles as both supervisor and mayor of San Francisco.
In defending her comments, Feinstein says, "I think I've earned the right to
say what I think". Thankfully, that isn't a right you have to earn in the
USA. On the other hand, the right to lead is earned and, when it comes to the
death penalty, Feinstein is no leader - she's a follower, like far too many