SANTA ANA, Calif. – Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer challenged California Governor Gavin Newsom today to listen to the families whose peace of mind was shattered when the governor announced a moratorium on the death penalty last month. There are currently 737 inmates on California’s death row.

Addressing hundreds of family members of crime victims, crime survivors, victims’ advocates and members of law enforcement at the 11th Annual Victims’ Rights Rally on Monday, Spitzer implored the governor to hear the stories of decades-long waits for justice and the suffering endured by the loved ones.

“I have news for the Governor: your protection of these vicious and most brutal, sadistic and torturous murderers does not give you the moral high ground,” Spitzer said. “Only the crime victims possess the moral high ground.”

Spitzer told the crowd that on Thursday he will hand deliver video of the speeches given today by the family members whose loved ones were murdered.

“I hope, governor, that you will watch and listen,” he said. “I hope you understand the magnitude of your decision.”

“Stay mad,” Spitzer told the victims. “Stop the madness.”

Keynote speaker Steve Herr, whose 26-year-old combat veteran son, Sam, was murdered by his neighbor, spoke to the crowd of the 322 court hearings he and his wife were forced to endure over the last 8 ½ years. Daniel Wozniak was sentenced to death for killing Sam Herr, and his friend and tutor, Julie Kibuishi. Wozniak dismembered Herr’s body and cut off his head before scattered the parts in a park.

“(Governor Newsom) did not see the decomposed, dismembered body of my son, whom I had to identify at the mortuary,” Steve Herr said. “Newsom wasn’t there when I requested Sam be sewn together, so he could be buried in one piece, without one hand – because it was never found.”

“Not only did Governor Newsom reopen old wounds, he created new ones,” Herr said. “What is the point of voting, if those votes can be nullified by one person’s personal whims?”

Keynote speaker Ron Harrington, whose brother Keith and his sister-in-law Patti were killed by the Golden State Killer in their Orange County home in 1980, spoke about the 40-year search for their killer.

“He is the most prolific murderer and rapist, not just in California, but in U.S. history,” Harrington said. “Governor Newsom is now telling all of the (Golden State Killer’s) victims that they must show leniency and compassion. I will never be lenient or compassionate to the Golden State Killer.”

The Golden State Killer has been charged with 13 murders with special circumstances sentencing enhancements across six counties, including four murders in Orange County. He is scheduled to appear in a Sacramento courtroom on Wednesday.

Spitzer and Harrington will attend the hearing.

The Orange County Victims’ Rights event was established in 2009 and has since become a meaningful milestone for all victims of crime. Orange County is and always has been the place where reform begins, and the OCDA has fought actively for victims’ rights over several decades.

District Attorney Todd Spitzer chaired the ground-breaking campaign for Proposition 9, Marsy’s Law, the nation’s most comprehensive Victim’s Bill of Rights, and served as State Co-Chair for Proposition 83, the nation’s toughest sex offender punishment and control law as well as Proposition 69, which requires the collection of DNA samples from all felons. Fighting to protect our community, DA Spitzer also joint-authored Megan’s Law on the Internet, the landmark legislation requiring the release of public information related to sex offenders.

The keynote speakers also included Nina Salarno Besselman, an Orange County Deputy District Attorney whose sister was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 1979. Salarno Besselman serves as the Orange County District Attorney’s Office’s Sacramento Advocate, lobbying for victims’ rights.

Co-Sponsors and Donors
The OCDA would like to extend a special thank you to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the Santa Ana Police Department for their time, service, and support at the 2019 Victims’ Rights Rally.

For their contributions, the Orange County District Attorney would also like to thank the Association of Orange County Deputy District Attorneys Civic – Action Committee, the Orange County Board of Supervisors, the Orange County CEO’s office, Orange County District Attorney Investigators Association, OC Parks, OCSD, SAPD, and Waymakers.