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A Capital Case in a Left-Leaning County

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The number of cases in which the prosecution seeks the death penalty has been declining for years. Among principal reasons are a decline in the number of murders and greater selectivity on the part of prosecutors in seeking the death penalty. Among the old cases, there are some (e.g., Lockett v. Ohio) that leave one wondering what distinguishes this murder from the many in which the death penalty is not sought. That is far less common in more recent cases.

Alameda County, California is a large county including the City of Oakland and a lot of other areas as well. It voted 79% for Hillary Clinton in 2018, second only to San Francisco in lopsidedness among California counties.

District Attorney Nancy O'Malley has been DA since 2009, and just last June fended off a Soros-financed opponent.  See this post from June and this column by Dan Walters at CalMatters.

Yet even in Alameda, there are some cases that cry out for the death penalty. Angela Ruggiero reports for the East Bay Times:

In only the second time in her career, District Attorney Nancy O'Malley will pursue the death penalty for defendant Mark Estrada, accused of killing Sgt. Scott Lunger, 48, a Brentwood father of two. Lunger was fatally shot in the head and thigh shortly after he approached a white Chevrolet Silverado he had stopped for swerving in the roadway at 3:15 a.m. July 22, 2015, in Hayward.

In May 2017, Estrada was held to answer on all his charges, including murder with the special circumstances of lying in wait and drive by shooting, which qualified him for the death penalty. The District Attorney's Office typically assembles a team of prosecutors, including O'Malley herself and in this case John Brouhard, who is prosecuting Estrada's case. After a meeting, O'Malley makes the final decision on whether seek the death penalty.

Since she was appointed top prosecutor in 2009, O'Malley has only sought death for one other defendant, Darnell Williams, who was convicted in May 2016 for the deaths of 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine and 22-year-old Anthony Medearis in separate instances. The jury in that case recommended death. Brouhard also prosecuted that case.

In the olden days, the anti-death-penalty crowd used to proclaim loudly that the ultimate punishment must be applied more sparingly. Now that prosecutors are doing exactly that, they cite compliance with their own previous demand as evidence that "America is turning away from the death penalty."

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