Calif. governor rejects parole for deadly dentist
– Thu Dec 30, 2:10 pm
FOLSOM, Calif. – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has rejected parole for a Southern California man who killed three of his dental patients in the 1980s by administering fatal doses of a general anesthetic, the man’s attorney said Thursday.
Schwarzenegger made the decision on Dec. 15 even though a panel of appellate court judges and a state parole board favored release for Tony Protopappas, attorney Rich Pfeiffer told the AP.
In late 1983 and early 1984, Protopappas gave fatal doses of a general anesthetic to Kim Andreassen, 23; Cathryn Jones, 31; and Patricia Craven, 13, in his Costa Mesa office.
Protopappas was using narcotics at the time and wasn’t licensed to administer the drug.
Protopappas, 65, has served more than 25 years of his 15 years-to-life sentence for three counts of second-degree murder. A proposition passed by California voters in 1988 gives the governor the power to reverse parole decisions in murder cases.
The governor’s decision wasn’t a surprise, Pfeiffer said. The attorney plans to file another petition with the state’s Fourth District Court of Appeal to overturn Schwarzenegger’s ruling.
The state’s parole board denied parole for Protopappas in 2008. Pfeiffer appealed that decision and the appeals court ruled in March that the former dentist should be freed unless prosecutors could prove he was still a danger to society.
The parole board granted Protopappas his freedom in July.
Protopappas has been a model prisoner and assists in the prison’s dental lab, where dentists have praised his talent, Pfeiffer said.
“Here’s the thing: He’s not a risk because his crime evolved out of being a licensed dentist, which he’ll never be again,” Pfeiffer said.
Schwarzenegger commutes sentence for ex-speaker’s son
Schwarzenegger reduced Nunez’s sentence from 16 years to 7 years.
In May, Nunez and an accomplice pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon in connection with the stabbing death of a college student at San Diego State University. They also admitted they used a knife and caused great bodily injury.
Fabian Nunez, a Democrat with whom Schwarzenegger pushed landmark legislation to reduce greenhouse gas houses, is now a political consultant in a firm with Schwarzenegger’s former communications director, Adam Mendelsohn.
Yee: Unfortunately, there are others also deserving of a more appropriate sentence
SAN FRANCISCO – Today, Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) commended Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-Los Angeles) for one his final acts as Governor – granting clemency to Sara Kruzan, who was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole at the age of 16 after the shooting death of her pimp in 1994. Yee had urged Schwarzenegger to reduce her sentence, which today he commuted to 25 years to life with the possibility of parole.
Yee, who is also a child psychologist, has long-advocated for abolishing life without parole sentences for youth and last month, he reintroduced legislation (Senate Bill 9) to allow courts to review such cases after 10 years, potentially allowing some youth offenders to receive a new minimum sentence of 25 years to life.
“I applaud the Governor’s action and the hard work of some many to highlight this case,” said Yee. “Unfortunately, there are many more Sara Kruzans out there who are also deserving of a more appropriate sentence.”
No other country in the world outside of the United States allows children to be sentenced to life without parole (LWOP). In contrast, there are approximately 275 people in California serving LWOP for crimes they committed as kids.
“The case of Sara Kruzan demonstrates why we should never sentence a child to life without the possibility of parole – a sentence to die in prison,” said Yee. “The neuroscience is clear; brain maturation continues well through adolescence and thus impulse control, planning, and critical thinking skills are not yet fully developed.”
Kruzan was raised in Riverside by her mother who was abusive and addicted to drugs. Sara was very vulnerable, and at age 11, a man began grooming her to become a prostitute. Soon after meeting her, he sexually assaulted her, and at 13 years old she began working as a prostitute for him. At age 16, she killed him and for this crime was sentenced to LWOP, despite the California Youth Authority and a psychiatric evaluation determining that she was amendable to rehabilitation.
Yee’s earlier legislative attempt, SB 399, was approved with bipartisan support in the Senate but died during the final days of session last year in the Assembly.
The legislation has been supported by child advocates, mental health experts, civil rights groups, churches, and correctional officers. Most major newspapers also endorsed Yee’s effort last session, including the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, Sacramento Bee, New York Times, Ventura County Star, and the San Diego Union-Tribune. Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), Senator Juan Vargas (D-San Diego) and Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes (D-Los Angeles) have already signed on as co-authors to SB 9.
“There is clearly a growing understanding that sentencing kids to life without the possibility of parole is wrong and I am hopeful that with a new class of Assemblymembers we can pass this bill in 2011,” said Yee.
While prosecutors and judges have discretion on whether to pursue LWOP for juveniles, the cases of Kruzan and others call such discretion into question.
Another such case involves Anthony C., who was 16 and had never before been in trouble with the law. One day when Anthony’s friend said, “Hey do you want to rob this guy?” Anthony replied in what can only be described as a quintessential adolescent response, “I don’t care.” When the victim refused to comply with his friend’s demand, Anthony said he thought the bluff was called, and he remembered turning away and bending down to pick up his bike and leave, when he heard a gunshot.
The prosecutor offered a lower sentence, but in Anthony’s teenaged mind he could not see how he would be responsible for the other person’s actions and he turned down that deal. The DA was quoted in the newspaper as saying, “It’s hard for teenagers to understand concepts like aiding and abetting.” Anthony was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
“In California, a sentence of life without parole is a sentence to die in prison,” said Elizabeth Calvin, children’s rights advocate at Human Rights Watch. “Teenagers are still developing. No one – not a judge, a psychologist, or a doctor – can look at a sixteen year old and be sure how that young person will turn out as an adult. It makes sense to re-examine these cases when the individual has grown up and becomes an adult. There’s no question that we can keep the public safe without locking youth up forever for crimes committed when they were still considered too young to have the judgment to vote or drive.”
A report published by Human Rights Watch found that in many cases where juveniles were prosecuted with an adult for the same offense, the youth received heavier sentences than their adult codefendants.
Despite popular belief to the contrary, Human Rights Watch found that life without parole is not reserved for children who commit the worst crimes or who show signs of being irredeemable criminals. Nationally, it is estimated that 59% of youth sentenced to life without parole had no prior criminal convictions. Forty-five percent of California youth sentenced to life without parole for involvement in a murder did not actually kill the victim. Many were convicted of felony murder, or for aiding and abetting the murder, because they acted as lookouts or were participating in another felony, such as a robbery, when the murder took place.
California also has the worst record in the nation for racial disparity in the imposition of life without parole for juveniles. African American youth are serving the sentence at a rate that is eighteen times higher than the rate for white youth, and the rate for Hispanic youth is five times higher.
Each new youth offender given this sentence will cost the state upwards of $2.5 million. To continue incarcerating the current population of youth offenders already sentenced to life without parole until their deaths in prison will cost the state close to $700 million.
Contact: Adam Keigwin,