I’m a bit surprised to see this story up at CNN because it seems to cut against the grain of the network’s obvious political slant. This is a story about Renata Espinoza the wife of a police officer who was gunned down in the street. Espinoza felt that DA Kamala Harris should have pursued the death penalty against her husband’s killer:
It was the day before Easter in 2004. Officer Isaac Espinoza, 29, was called in on overtime, to work the Saturday shift. He was looking forward to getting off that night so he could rest before Easter services with his wife and 3-year-old daughter. Espinoza worked as a plainclothes officer in the Bayview District of San Francisco. Bayview struggled with poverty and gang wars — but it was a neighborhood Espinoza was drawn to, requesting it as an assignment because he felt he made the most impact as a cop there.
On that night, April 10, Espinoza and his partner saw a man who appeared to be hiding a weapon as he walked down the street. Espinoza got out of their unmarked car and approached him, identifying himself as a police officer, according to court testimony. The man, 21-year-old David Hill, turned to face him, about a dozen feet away. Then he took out an AK-47 assault rifle and fired about a dozen rounds.
Renata was rushed to the hospital but by the time she arrived her husband was gone. Also at the hospital that night was Gary Delagnes, president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association.
On April 13, 2004, three days after Isaac Espinoza was shot to death, a suspect was in custody and Delagnes agreed to join Harris at a news conference.
“In San Francisco, it is the will, I believe, of a majority of people that the most severe crimes be met with the most severe consequences,” Harris told reporters and camera crews. “And that life without the possibility of parole is a severe consequence.”
“I’m standing there and I’m going, ‘Oh my God,'” recalled Delagnes, who stood stoically next to the DA, then 39, as she spoke. “The kid’s not even in the ground yet. You’re thinking to yourself, OK, is she sorry that this kid died or is this just a political opportunity? Is this just an opportunity for her to double down on the fact she’s not going to pursue the death penalty?”
The news conference was how Renata Espinoza learned the death penalty would not be sought in her husband’s case. Neither Kamala Harris nor anyone in her office had called to speak with her about the decision. In fact, Harris never called her. The situation was so raw that Sen. Dianne Feinstein rebuked Harris at Isaac Espinoza’s funeral:
She parted from her prepared remarks and, while not using her name, blasted the new district attorney. “This is not only the definition of tragedy, it’s the special circumstance called for by the death penalty law,” she said.
Renata Espinoza remembers the din of chaos after Feinstein’s words — then the standing ovation by hundreds of rank-and-file officers as they turned to Harris.
Renata wrote a letter to Harris but never received a response. However, Harris did write a piece for the San Francisco Chronicle just 13 days after Espinoza’s death defending her decision. Renata did eventually meet with Harris thanks to an ADA who agreed to set up the meeting, but she says there was no human connection.
Espinoza’s killer was eventually sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, the maximum penalty short of death. Here’s the video report which really fleshes out the story in human terms.