Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Where's the Justice?

I had a blog ready to post, but then my friend sent me this article. She lives in a city where they had planned to release this convicted killer. Needless to say, she had reason for concern and took action, as did many other residents. Their combined and rapid action led to this prisoner being released on prison property in another county. That doesn't mean he can't go to her city, though.
Rather than summarize the article, I'll let it speak for itself. After you've read it, ask what's wrong with our criminal justice system? Bear in mind, this prisoner could just as easily have been released in your neighborhood . . .

Convicted killer Loren Herzog is scheduled to be released in Lassen County in mid-September.

Feather Publishing 9/13/2010

If the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has its way, a man some believe is one of California’s most notorious serial killers will arrive at the California Correctional Center in Susanville on Thursday, Sept. 16 and pass through the lethal fence and concertina wire the following day as a free man in Lassen County on three years parole.
But if Lassen County has its way, it will join San Joaquin, Modoc and Tehama as counties that refuse to allow Loren Herzog, 44, to be released on parole in their jurisdiction.
After the news of Herzog’s release in Lassen County broke last Friday, Lassen County District 2 Supervisor Jim Chapman added the issue to the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting.
“I asked that the late item be placed on the agenda for Tuesday so that the board can discuss the matter with the sheriff and be in a position on Tuesday to take any actions that would be appropriate,” Chapman wrote in an e-mail to those on the board of supervisors’ contact list. “The sheriff and sheriff-elect are aware of the matter and have been invited to discuss the issue with the board on Tuesday as well.”
A loud, public outcry might be the best way to thwart the CDCR plan to release Herzog in Lassen County, Chapman said. As the news of Herzog’s parole spreads, Chapman said no one in the community wants the convicted killer released here.
“The bottom line,” Chapman said, “is the law can do what it has to do, but public opinion can make a difference.”
The supervisor acknowledged the story is evolving quickly, but he said time is of the essence.
“Whatever case Lassen County makes to the state to change (its) consideration, we’re going to have to do it by Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest,” Chapman said, “because I think otherwise they’ll be shipping that guy up here on Thursday and cutting him loose on Friday.”
According to reporting on the trials, Herzog and co defendant Wesley Shermantine — childhood friends the media dubbed the “Speed Freak Killers” — each fingered the other as the perpetrator of several murders in California’s Central Valley during the mid-1990s.Shermantine, convicted of four counts of murder, awaits execution on death row.According to a press release from the CDCR, in December 2001, a Santa Clara jury convicted Herzog on three counts of murder and sentenced him to 78 years in prison after a change of venue from San Joaquin County.
But in 2004, a California appeals court overturned his conviction and much of the evidence used against him after it determined his statements to law enforcement officers had been coerced.
Rather than face a new trial, Herzog pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the 1998 murder of Cyndi Vanderheiden, 25, three counts of being an accessory to a felony and one count of transportation of a controlled substance.
According to the Associated Press, Herzog and Shermantine lured Vanderheiden “to a cemetery with the promise of methamphetamine. Herzog testified that he hid in the back seat of Shermantine’s car while his friend attacked Vanderheiden. Herzog also testified that he helped load the body in the trunk, but doesn’t know what Shermantine did after that. Her body hasn’t been found.”
On Dec. 8, 2004, Herzog began serving a 14-year prison sentence — with credit for the time he already had served in county jail and state prison.
According to Luis Patino, a public information officer for the CDCR, by law a parolee should be released to the county of last legal residence.
However, Patino said victims, victims’ next-of-kin and witnesses have the right to file for special consideration regarding the location of the parole releases of their offenders. All requests are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Patino said, “CDCR received additional valid requests. And an evaluation was made to determine what level of consideration was to be granted within the confines of the law. Based on those requests and the confines of the law, Loren Herzog will not be released in San Joaquin County. Herzog will be released in mid-September in Lassen County.”
Chapman said despite the concerns expressed by the San Joaquin county residents, Herzog should be paroled in a county with the resources and personnel to adequately supervise him.“
It’s like a designed-to-fail type thing,” Chapman said. “Maybe that’s what they want — to put the individual in an environment knowing full well this thing is guaranteed for failure, and one of two things is going to happen. Either he’s going to kill somebody or somebody’s going to kill him. Or he will transgress so they can slap him back in a prison where he belongs. If that is indeed the intent behind this maneuver, that’s really sick — to put a community in that kind of a position of jeopardy because the criminal justice system or the judicial system wasn’t able to do what needed to be done in the first place.”
Chapman said he expects these issues will be “hotly debated” at today’s meeting.
“The attitude that Lassen County doesn’t care or is going to roll over and play dead, knowing the folks I know, I doubt seriously that’s what the response is going to be,” Chapman said.
According to Chapman, Rocky Deal, district director of Congressman Tom McClintock’s office in Granite Bay, Calif., has contracted state assemblymen Dan Logue and Ted Gaines seeking their support in blocking Herzog’s release in Lassen County.
Chapman said CDCR may have decided not to release Herzog in Modoc County because of all its problems — including a possible bankruptcy.“
Probably the reason why they abandoned Modoc County early on as a consideration is because all the other problems they’re having, and rightly so,” Chapman said. “I think it would be ludicrous to put him in a place such as Modoc, especially given the shortfalls that they’ve got to contend with. Tehama County’s a little different story, but San Joaquin County’s a pretty good sized county with pretty good resources — much more than we do, so I think if they’re looking at finding a place to put this guy, they need to look at a county, community or area that’s comparable to or even larger than San Joaquin County instead of going to smaller counties that just don’t have all the pieces available to them. If the intent of this is to make it succeed and for him to transition back into society, it’s totally ludicrous to think this is going to work (here in Lassen County). And I have yet to run into anybody who can convince me otherwise.”


Jean Henry Mead said...

Our justice system is obviously broken. I'm surprised that more serial killers aren't back on the streets.

Mark W. Danielson said...

Jean, I'm sure there are a lot of dangerous criminals that have been released and we don't know about them because the lid was kept on them. All we can do is watch out for each other and report suspicious behavior.

Beth Terrell said...

Chilling. And Mark, sadly, I think you're right.

Pat Browning said...

If the courts keep letting people like this out of prison we'll have to donate land to some kind of lepers colony to hold them all.

Pat Browning

Mark W. Danielson said...

I had to add salt to this wound, but this guy now has a new trailer complete with big screen TV so he can live on prison property outside the prison walls. He wears a tracking device, but admits to love hunting people in small towns. The county assemblyman is doing his best to get him out of the county and the state, but who will take him? It's really sad to think that we, the taxpayers, are supporting this murderer while so many needy people starve on the streets.