Friday, August 7, 2009

Justice for Officer Jeffrey Fontana

Greg Fontana and his mom Sandy after the sentencing.

"This was a hate crime. He hated the police uniform.''
Quote from Sandy Fontana after the sentencing of DeShawn Campbell for murdering her son Jeffrey, a San Jose police officer, in 2001.

I had every intention of attending the sentencing hearing that will bring some minor closure to the family of San José rookie police officer, Jeffrey Fontana, who has been gone for nearly eight years now.

Eight years is not a typo. Jeff was gunned down in the early morning hours of October 28, 2001, following what is believed to be a routine traffic stop.

But my body wasn’t willing this morning, and I knew the courtroom would be packed. According to the San Jose Mercury News, that was the case.

Superior Court Judge Diane Northway went a little bit off of standard operating procedure and allowed SJPD Chief Rob Davis time to address the court. Usually the only people permitted to speak at court are family members, but I feel Chief Davis needed to speak for not only his brothers in law enforcement but also for the citizens of San José, sending a message to the court that it is not acceptable to kill our men in blue (or tan, or whatever colors our law enforcement people are wearing). I applaud the judge for at least giving the chief that satisfaction, though it does not make up for her buying into DeShawn Campbell’s attorney, Edward Souza, who held up this case for years while working to get his client declared mentally retarded, which took the death penalty off of the table. I fear this case will set a dangerous precedent in encouraging the “mildly mentally retarded” defense, thereby taking the death penalty off the table.

Campbell was given the maximum possible sentence, the equivalent of a lifetime and a half behind bars. The now 30-year old convicted cop killer received no credit for the 8 years he’s served thus far (remember he was convicted of a pair of felonies while awaiting this trial; he already received 20 years for that crime), and was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole plus 47 years and 4 months.

Finally, he will leave Santa Clara County, never to return while alive. Despite the felony convictions, Campbell remained incarcerated in the Santa Clara County jail for nearly 8 years, so he could more conveniently work with his attorney on his defense. His family could easily visit him, just off of Hwy 87 in north San Jose. Now it might not be as convenient to just drop by and say hi. Things might get a little more uncomfortable in state prison.

I attended only one day of this trial—work kept me away, though I thought of Sandy Fontana (Officer Fontana’s mother) and his brother Greg, every day. I was glad they were surrounded by Jeff’s brother officers and their network of supporters. They are as fine a group of people as you will ever meet, and even though we are mere acquaintances I consider them heroes and friends.

There are many things that anger me about this trial: the slow justice for the Fontana family, the legal wrangling and posturing that managed to take the death penalty off the table for Campbell, and even some of the character assassination of Jeff Fontana that’s gone on while waiting for this case to come to closure. At least with the death penalty, Campbell would have been on Death Row, mostly isolated, and forced to look at the same walls until the day he takes the one-way walk to the Green Room, or he dies of natural causes (He’d be housed at San Quentin, which is where executions take place—that is, once all of the court brouhaha is resolved about California’s procedures, etc.). With the sentence he received today, he will have the opportunity to see much of the State of California through the windows of a prison bus—he’ll initially go to San Quentin for processing, but then he’ll get to move around from prison facility to prison facility, presumably living among the mainline population, a hero in the eyes of his fellow inmates as he’s now a convicted cop killer.

I have written in this blog’s comments during the Phil Spector trial about how Department of Corrections officers are in place to keep a convicted felon behind bars, and not to administer any “punishment.” I’ve written about how I don’t want Spector harmed in any way while he does his time, and how corrections personnel are obligated to protect him from other inmates who would make him a victim.

I will not say the same for DeShawn Campbell. I am sure he’ll have a rotten attitude in prison and do much to endear himself to the corrections officers (in a negative way, of course). I hope he ends up in Pelican Bay, the supermax of California prisons, utterly devoid of human contact. I hope he somehow comes in contact with an inmate who isn't so tolerant of cop killers. There has got to be a few out in the system, right?

Campbell's family can still traipse around California, visiting him on Saturdays and holidays. They can look at Campbell’s disabled daughter (yes people he reproduced, and the kid is on the dole!) and have her as a memory of him. The Fontanas go to Jeff’s gravesite or to the park that now bears Jeff’s name and likeness in statue form. No children to hug and tell stories to.

Congratulations to Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Lane Liroff. It was a long painful road, but your performed your duties admirably, and never lost sight of the victim and his family—who continued to be victims during justice delayed.

Of course an appeal is planned. Campbell’s attorney and family say the wrong man was convicted. Yeah right.

Now if only Sandy Fontana and Donna Clarkson could join forces in some sort of "justice delayed" non-profit for the families of slow justice. That pair of brave, strong women would be fantastic victims' rights advocates, and formidable opponents to the current "criminals have all the rights" justice system we now have in place.
DeShawn Campbell gets life without parole for killing San Jose cop
Cop killer sentenced to life without parole
Justice for Jeffrey blog


Sprocket said...

Excellent entry CaliGirl! Totally understand that you couldn't be there in person for the sentencing, but were certainly there in spirit.

Anonymous said...

My prayers go out to the family of the victim. Nothing will ever bring your son or brother back but try to find a way to forgive so that your hearts can be free and the attention is taken off of the convicted. Knew Deshawn as a young man as well as a child. His father was like a brother to me. I won't condemn Deshawn for what has occoured, the legal has pretty well done this. I hope that the heeling can begin.