Push for ‘Chelsea's Law' Under Way

Murder victim's parents, state legislator partner in call for ideas

As the case against John Albert Gardner III is set on a "slow track," the wheels are in motion to create a Chelsea's Law to address issues raised in the wake of her killing.
King's parents, Brent and Kelly, are partnering with the state Assemblyman who represents them in Sacramento, Nathan Fletcher (R-75th District), who is already putting heat on corrections and parole administrators. He's looking at a long menu of ideas for new legislation.

"Everything is on the table: longer prison sentences, a better system of probation, a strengthened one-strike provision, changes in our parole system, online reporting, GPS monitoring," Fletcher told journalists at a news conference Tuesday in his Mira Mesa office.  "We will look at every single aspect."

Chelsea's aunt Stephanie Dorian represented the Kings at Fletcher's news conference, reading a statement that said, in part, "We do not yet know when or how [these] efforts will take shape, but our commitment to carry her life forward is steadfast."

Fletcher said he was outraged to learn that state corrections officials followed department policy and shredded "field notes" written by Gardner's parole officers a year after he went off supervision. Fletcher is demanding investigations by the state's inspector general and a government accountability committee.

Last week, there were demonstrations outside the downtown courthouse calling for "one strike" automatic life prison sentences for child molesters. Fletcher indicated a threshold agreement with the concept. 

"I mean, look," he said, "I don't believe when you have a sexually violent predator that targets a child, I don't believe that person can be rehabilitated, and so I think in that instance, you really have to look at a significant prison sentence -- perhaps even life."

A criminal defense attorney familiar with the process for handling sex offenders, however, cautions against legislating in haste.

"It's kind of like 'three strikes,' " Marc Carlos said in an interview Tuesday. "When 'three strikes' came out, everybody voted for it -- 'tough on crime, put 'em all in prison for life. Three strikes cost the state a lot of money in actually imposing the law, as well as litigating its legality -- to the point where it is now, where we actually house people for long periods of time on sometimes nonviolent felonies.

Carlos added: "The laws that are in place make it a special circumstance case, make it a death penalty-eligible case. So we have the laws to actually go through what they're going to go through in Sacramento so that politicians can be happy."

Meanwhile, corrections officials say that important "elements" of their parole officers' field notes are retained in the system's central file and that certain material from the central file can't legally be disclosed because they have confidential investigative purposes.

The governor's office is looking into the matter.

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