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For Immediate Release

Resentencing denied for Polly Klass Murderer

SANTA ROSA, CA | May 31, 2024

A petition for recall and resentencing has been denied for convicted murderer Richard Allen Davis. Judge Benjamin Williams of the Santa Clara Superior Court denied the petition after finding that it amounted to an unauthorized challenge to the death sentence, which can only be done through a writ of habeas corpus.

Richard Allen Davis was convicted of the kidnap and brutal murder of 12-year-old victim Polly Klaas of Petaluma, in 1993. The case received nationwide media attention and led to increased penalties for repeat offenders under the Three Strikes Law. The jury trial was held in Santa Clara County, and the defendant was convicted in 1996. Based on the jury’s recommendation, the judge imposed the death penalty for the murder, plus five terms of life without the possibility of parole, plus a determinate term of 31 years for the other felonies for which he was convicted. The convictions were affirmed on appeal in 2009. The defendant has challenged his sentence multiple times, and a petition for a writ of habeas corpus is currently pending.

Senate Bill 483 enacted legislation allowing recall and resentencing for defendants whose sentence includes 1-year enhancements for prior convictions. The defendant petitioned for recall based on the fact that his determinate term includes 2 years of enhancements, which he asserted authorized the court to grant him a full resentencing, including a new jury trial on the death penalty. The People objected, and in a hearing in April, argued that recalling a death sentence is not authorized under the new legislation. The parties submitted briefing and oral arguments, and on May 31, 2024, Judge Williams issued a written ruling denying the petition. The victim’s father, Marc Klaas, was present for the ruling along with several dedicated supporters.

District Attorney Carla Rodriguez stated, “We are pleased with the court’s ruling as we believe the remedy sought by the defense at this hearing far surpassed what the legislature intended in enacting SB 483. Unfortunately, this ruling is strictly limited to capital murder sentences. Any existing prison sentence in California, whether it involved non-capital murder, rape, torture, or child sexual assault, is still at risk if it includes the one-year prison prior. Even more troubling, this specific legislation is not an outlier, but part of a larger push by many members of our current legislature to undermine sentences and convictions handed down by courts and juries over decades. While I genuinely believe in the importance of thoughtful criminal justice reform, too often these days what we see coming out of Sacramento is simply short-sighted. Our victims, and the families of our victims deserve better.”

The Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office was represented at the hearing by Deputy District Attorney Sarah Brooks assisted by District Attorney Investigator Dave Kahl.


Contact Information

Media Spokesperson, Assistant District Attorney Brian Staebell
Media Coordinator, Carrie Trevena
(707) 565-3098