.Polly Klaas Murderer Denied Resentencing

Another chapter was added to the story of Polly Klaas last Friday.

Klass’ story was the subject of dozens of lurid true crime podcast accounts as well as books like Polly Klaas: The Murder of America’s Child and author Kim Cross’ more recent 2023 publication, In Light of All Darkness: Inside the Polly Klaas Kidnapping and the Search for America’s Child. And in this new chapter of her story, Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Benjamin Williams has denied a petition for recall and resentencing filed by convicted murderer Richard Allen Davis.

In 1996, three years after Klaas was kidnapped at knifepoint from her Petaluma bedroom while her friends were tied up, jurors found Davis guilty of first-degree murder with additional “special circumstances” of kidnapping, burglary, robbery and attempting a lewd act on a child, according to the Associated Press.

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Williams ruled that the petition was essentially an unauthorized attempt to challenge Davis’ death sentence, which can only be pursued through a writ of habeas corpus. The harrowing case gripped the nation and catalyzed stricter penalties for repeat offenders under California’s Three Strikes Law.

The trial, held in Santa Clara County, concluded with Davis receiving the death penalty based on the jury’s recommendation. And the judge also imposed five life terms without the possibility of parole, plus an additional 31 years for other felonies. These convictions were upheld on appeal in 2009. Despite multiple challenges, Davis’ sentence remains firm, with a petition for a writ of habeas corpus still pending.

Senate Bill 483, a recent legislative change, allows for the recall and resentencing of defendants whose sentences include one-year enhancements for prior convictions. Davis seized upon this, claiming that the two-year enhancements in his determinate term warranted a full resentencing, including a new jury trial on the death penalty. However, the prosecution argued that the new legislation does not permit the recall of a death sentence.

After reviewing the arguments in April, Williams issued a written ruling on May 31, 2024, denying Davis’ petition. The victim’s father, Marc Klaas, was present for the verdict, surrounded by loyal supporters.

District Attorney Carla Rodriguez didn’t mince words following the court’s decision, saying, “We are pleased with the court’s ruling, as we believe the remedy sought by the defense at this hearing far surpassed what the legislature intended in enacting SB 483. Unfortunately, this ruling is strictly limited to capital murder sentences. Any existing prison sentence in California, whether it involved non-capital murder, rape, torture or child sexual assault, is still at risk if it includes the one-year prison prior.”

Rodriguez added that this legislation is not an isolated case but rather part of a broader effort by many current legislators to weaken sentences and convictions established by courts and juries over the years.

“While I genuinely believe in the importance of thoughtful criminal justice reform, too often these days what we see coming out of Sacramento is simply short-sighted,” she said. “Our victims, and the families of our victims, deserve better.”

Representing the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office at the hearing were Deputy District Attorney Sarah Brooks and District Attorney Investigator Dave Kahl.


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