Monday, December 07, 2009

People v. Ervine (Cal. Supreme Ct. - Dec. 7, 2009)

It's always fascinating to see who gets to live and who's ordered killed. Those of us in California get to read every one of the latter cases (at least state-sponsored ones) due to automatic review in the California Supreme Court.

Here, Dennis Ervine has a domestic dispute with his wife, and the next morning, the police come to his house to arrest him for it. He has barricaded himself in his house, and as the assembled team is encouraging him to leave, Ervine opens fire, shooting an officer in the head (from 187 feet away) and killing him. Ervine subsequently surrenders, and even though he has no prior criminal history, the jury sentences him to death rather than life without the possibility of parole.

It's very hard for me to figure out why Ervine gets picked out to die unless every cop killer gets the same sentence. But I may be an outlier on this one, at least on the California Supreme Court, which unanimously affirms Ervine's conviction and sentence.

Hard to say, also, that judicial elections categorically don't figure into cases like this one. It may well be that there was no error here and hence the California Supremes would have unanimously affirmed in any event. But let's assume otherwise for a moment. After Rose Bird, are you really going to be the justice who lets a cop-killer go free?