SAN FERNANDO (CBSLA) — Prosecutors with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office Thursday announced they would not seek the death penalty for a man awaiting retrial in connection with the June 1983 killing of a police officer in Lake View Terrace.
Kenneth Earl Gay, 63, has been charged with murder in the death of Los Angeles Police Department Officer Paul Verna during a traffic stop.
Prosecutors have previously alleged that Gay and Raynard Paul Cummings, who remains on death row in San Quentin for the slaying, killed Verna to avoid arrest for a series of robberies in the weeks prior to the stop.
The prosecution also asked that the judge dismiss the special circumstance allegations of murder of a peace officer in the performance of his duties and murder to avoid or prevent a lawful arrest, along with gun allegations, that could carry a life prison sentence without the possibility of parole.
Verna’s widow and two sons spoke out in the San Fernando courtroom against the motion.
Ryan, one of Verna’s sons, told the judge that it has been nearly 38 years since his father was killed and that “justice has escaped [his] family,” while Verna’s widow, Sandra Jackson, urged the judge to “do the right thing” and reject the motion.
Superior Court Judge Hayden Zacky ultimately ruled that it was “not in the interest of justice” to file a new court document without the special circumstance allegations and rejected the prosecution’s request.
Gay’s death sentence has been twice overturned by the California Supreme Court, which vacated his original conviction in February 2020. Former District Attorney Jackie Lacey decided to retry the case at the end of her term.
In a courtroom miles away, a Pomona judge presiding over another police officer killing case also turned down a request by prosecutors with the district attorney’s office to dismiss special circumstance allegations against the defendant.
In that case, Isaias De Jesus Valencia could face life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted as charged in the March 2018 shooting death of Pomona Police Department officer Greggory Casillas.
The hearings marked the latest in a series in which judges have rebuffed prosecutors’ requests to drop special circumstance allegations and other enhancements as a result of District Attorney George Gascon’s new directives, which have come under fire from families of crime victims — some of whom are supporting a planned effort to try the new D.A.
Gascón’s directives include one that advises that “a sentence of death is never an appropriate resolution in any case” and another that calls for the dismissal of special circumstance allegations that result in a life prison term without the possibility of parole for cases that have already been filed.
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)