The widow and two daughters of a man who was kidnapped, robbed and murdered three decades ago urged a judge on Wednesday to reject a request from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office to overturn his death sentence. murderer and to re-sentence him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
“I have lived 30 years in the peace that the State of California has given me,” Fred Rose’s widow, Sharon, told Superior Court Judge William Ryan. “I also lived 30 years without Fred. Every second of my life – both practically and emotionally – has been affected by this.
She said anything less than denying former Palmdale resident Scott Forrest Collins’ request for reconviction “would be tantamount to re-victimizing my family”, and urged the judge to “please consider my wish that the request for a new conviction is not granted.”
One of the victim’s daughters, Heather Scott, told the judge her father was taken from his three children when they were 14, 12 and 10, saying Collins “took a few hundred dollars and the my dad’s life so he can buy beer and party”. .”
“The decisions of judges and jurors matter today. How can we rely on our justice system if we allow a few people to override what were legally supposed to be permanent sentences? What does it mean that Collins won’t be condemned to something even less again in the future? ” she asked. “Our family unanimously wishes that Scott Collins’ current sentence be upheld and not reduced.”
In a written statement read out in court on her behalf, another of the victim’s daughters, Amy Rose, said: “Having my father killed when he was a teenager was horrible. One of the only comforts I took with me over the years was knowing that the man responsible for dad’s murder received the proper sentence for the crime he committed.
“Over the past few months, knowing that his sentence might be changed has given me many sleepless nights,” she added.
The judge – who noted he was not going to rule immediately on the request from the district attorney’s office – is scheduled to hear from attorneys handling the case on July 19.
Collins, now 51, was sentenced to death in 1996 for the kidnapping, robbery and murder of Rose, a 42-year-old father of three who did not return to work at a construction company. construction of Lancaster after a lunch break. He was found lying next to train tracks in North Hollywood with a gunshot wound to the head on January 23, 1992, and died the next day after being taken off life support, according to a May 2010 Supreme Court ruling. of California upholding his death sentence.
Earlier in the day, the victim’s ATM card was used to withdraw $200 from a bank in Northridge and his gas station credit card was used to buy gas in North Hollywood at night of the shooting.
Collins – who had previously been convicted of armed robbery, assault and possession of narcotics – was found guilty of first degree murder, robbery and kidnapping. Jurors also found to be true the special circumstances allegations of murder during a kidnapping and murder during a robbery, as well as an allegation that he personally used a firearm in the commission of the crimes.
The same jury that found Collins guilty of Rose’s murder recommended that he be sentenced to death, but Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Leon Kaplan granted the defense’s motion for a new round of punishment based on alleged juror misconduct, then recused himself from presiding further. procedure in the case.
An appeals court overturned the trial court’s decision and restored the jury’s verdict recommending that Collins be sentenced to death. The death sentence was handed down about three years later by Judge Howard Schwab.
In her 2010 ruling upholding Collins’ death sentence, Associate Judge Carol Corrigan noted that Collins claimed to have taken Rose’s gray 1983 Oldsmobile Cutlass after seeing it parked on the side of the Sierra Highway with the keys on the inside.
In a court filing in February, Assistant District Attorney Shelan Joseph wrote that Collins “was only 21 at the time of the offense and experienced hardships as a child, including the death of his dad”.
Joseph’s filing noted that the defendant’s learning disabilities were ‘never adequately addressed in school’ and that he engaged in ‘educational and work opportunities’ since being transferred to the California Correctional Facility at Tehachapi under a voluntary program that allows convicted inmates with good behavior to transfer off death row. She described him as a “model prisoner”.
Former Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley and former Assistant District Attorney Kathleen Cady, who are representing the victim’s family, wrote in a court filing in February that “any objective examination of the case and the procedural history would lead to the conclusion that the people’s recommendation for a new conviction is the result of (District Attorney George) Gascón’s policy that “a death sentence is never a resolution appropriate in all cases” and to work backwards so that the end justifies the means.
“When the evidence suggests that the district attorney’s office and the defense are in collusion, the court is the last and only gatekeeper to ensure justice is served and victims’ rights are upheld,” Cooley and Cady – who are both involved in an attempted recall of Gascón — written in their file.
Last December, Gascón’s office noted that death sentences are no longer sought in Los Angeles County murder cases and said post-conviction death penalty cases were being reviewed to determine whether there is a meritorious legal reason to overturn an inmate’s death sentence or reconsider -sentence them in the interests of justice, saying that five people had already been re-sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.