Death penalty may not be an option
In a move that would erase the prosecution’s chance to pursue the death penalty, attorneys in the Lisa Platz case met Friday to hear a defense motion to lower a kidnapping charge to child abduction.
Richard Meyer, chief assistant public defender, repeatedly hammered at Judge Suzanne Kingsbury that child abduction is more specific and relevant to Platz’s case and thus should overrule the more generalized kidnapping charge. Besides eliminating the chance for the death penalty, which District Attorney Gary Lacy still hasn’t decided upon, child abduction holds less prison time.
Kingsbury said she would submit a written answer in about one week. Lacy is expected to have a decision on the death penalty in two weeks.
The use of force and intent in the taking of Rebbeca Aramburo, Platz’s dead 9-year-old daughter, lies at the heart of the matter. Platz and her boyfriend James Csucsai took Rebbeca with guns on Aug. 13, five months after a judge ruled in favor of Rebbeca’s father to have custody of the child, according to officers.
The couple is accused of taking Rebbeca from her grandmother’s home in Washington. The three were later found at Campground By The Lake on the night of Sept. 20, 2001. Law enforcement officials stormed the bloody tent after a nine-hour standoff, found Rebbeca dead with her throat slashed and the couple with self-inflicted knife wounds.
In April, Csucsai hanged himself with a bedsheet while in his jail cell.
“I don’t know how much more we can be clear that this applies (to child abduction),” Meyer stressed.
Deputy District Attorney Anthony Sears, who is handling the case with Lacy, countered that the California Penal Code section Meyer cited for child abduction falls under sentencing guidelines and not elements of a crime. The section has statements about the use of harm when a parent takes a child away from a legal guardian.
Sears said the use of force in the section was taken out by the Legislature years ago. Prosecution believes that subsection of kidnapping better suits the crime.
Kidnapping, section 207(d) of the penal code, states “every person who, being out of this state, abducts or takes by force or fraud any person contrary to the law of the place where that act is committed, and brings, sends or conveys that person within the limits of this state … is guilty of kidnapping.”
Kingsbury said the penalty for child abduction basically being half that of kidnapping “defies logic.”
“I understand about generalized versus specialized,” Kingsbury said. “It appears to the court (the case) can have both offenses at the same time.”
In April, Platz failed to return Rebbeca to her father in the required time. That delay would better suit the child abduction charge, prosecutors said.
Trial is slated to begin Nov. 12. Evidence, blood-splattered clothes the three were wearing during the standoff, has been in the prosecution’s hands since January. Judge Jerald Lasarow ordered the clothes to be released to the defense’s experts by today.
The next hearing is Thursday at 1:30 p.m. to finalize jury questionnaires.
— Contact William Ferchland at email@example.com.
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