Wednesday 10 April 2019

Widow of slain police officer slams Kamala Harris on death penalty stance: 'I want people to know who she is'

The widow of a San Francisco police officer who was killed in the line of duty nearly 15 years ago spoke publicly for the first time to CNN about the pain Sen. Kamala Harris' (D-Calif.) opposition to the death penalty caused her family.

What's the backstory?

Renata Espinoza's husband, officer Isaac Espinoza, was gunned down by David Hill on April 10, 2004 after Espinoza and his partner approached him for walking down the street while appearing to conceal a weapon.
That weapon, which Hill used to murder Espinoza, turned out to be an AK-47. Hill is now serving consecutive life sentences, one without a chance at parole.

Why is she going public now?

Renata Espinoza said she was and is upset by how Harris, who was San Francisco's district attorney at the time, refused to consider pursuing the death penalty for Hill, and how she never spoke to the family before announcing that decision.
"I want people to know who she is, how she was back then and how her actions affected us," Espinoza told CNN. "I want people to know everything about her, even in the past, before they vote for her. And I want them to hear Isaac's story."
Three days after Hill was arrested for the murder, Harris held a press conference announcing that she would be seeking a sentence of life without parole for Hill.
Gary Delagnes, who was the president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, was at the press conference with Harris and remembers being alarmed by Harris' statement.
"I'm standing there and I'm going, 'Oh my God.'" Delagnes said. "The kid's not even in the ground yet. You're thinking to yourself, OK, is she sorry that this kid died or is this just a political opportunity? Is this just an opportunity for her to double down on the fact that she's not going to pursue the death penalty?"
Espinoza was discouraged that Harris would go on camera days after her husband's murder without even calling the family.
"She did not call me," Espinoza said. "I don't understand why she went on camera to say that without talking to the family. It's like, you can't even wait til he's buried?"

'For the people' or for yourself?

Espinoza's view of Harris was further complicated by Harris' 2014 decision to appeal a U.S. District Court judge's ruling that California's death penalty was unconstitutional.
If Harris was so strongly against the death penalty, Espinoza wondered, why would she fight for it then but fight against it when it could've brought justice for Isaac Espinoza?
"It feels like, why are you changing your mind now?" Espinoza told CNN. "Why couldn't you change your mind back then and put your feelings aside?"
Espinoza said she's talking publicly about the situation now because she wants people to understand who Harris is since she's running for president, and because her late husband would not have approved of how Harris handled their case.
"You're trying to be President of the United States," Espinoza said. "That's a lot. Are you going to show compassion? Are you going to be 'for the people?' Or are you going to be for yourself?"

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