California?s Supreme Court on Monday upheld the murder conviction of Richard Allen Davis, concluding that a Petaluma police officer acted properly when he did not advise the suspect of his Miranda rights because he was hoping Davis would help them find 12-year-old Polly Klaas.
The 110-page decision, released on the final day of a 90-day review window, affirmed all of the convictions against Davis in the 1993 abduction and killing.
The judges upheld the state?s ?rescue doctrine.? The doctrine allows police to ignore a suspect?s rights to counsel if they believe someone?s life is in jeopardy.
Davis?s attorney argued it was unlikely the child remained alive at the time of questioning. But Senior Assistant Attorney General Ronald Matthias, who argued the state?s case in the appeal, said that because there was the slightest chance the girl still was alive, the officers had the right to ignore Davis? rights to consult an attorney.
?We are very disappointed in the California Supreme Court?s decision today,?though it is hardly unexpected,? said appellate attorney Phillip Cherney in an e-mail.?The rule of law that protects us all from overzealous law enforcement agents has taken a severe hit by this decision.?
Former Petaluma Police Sgt. Mike Meese, who was the lead investigator in the Klaas case, was one the officers whose Miranda decisions were a focus of the appeal.
Meese Monday morning said he was gratified by the ruling, though he had expected it.
?I had tears of relief,? said Meese, who teaches criminal justice at Santa Rosa Junior College.
?I felt very confident in what I did in talking to Davis ... I didn?t ask him any questions in the case. I said ... ?if there?s any hope she?s alive you should think about talking to someone,? he recalled.
The comment led to revelations by Davis that incriminated him in the girl?s death and led to the discovery of her body.
The court said Davis made the choice to contact the detective sergeant and make the statements. The ruling also indicated police did read Davis his rights at critical points when he was brought in as a suspect.
?I don?t think anybody took advantage of him at all,? Meese said.
Polly Klaas was taken from her Petaluma bedroom in October 1993 by Davis, who threatened her and her two over-night friends, telling them not to make noise or he would hurt them.
The kidnapping launched a massive police hunt and volunteer effort, bringing the attention of the world to Petaluma and the Klaas family, and was a driving force in the Three Strikes sentencing legislation.
Weeks later the discovery of clothing and evidence on a hillside off of Pythian Road in east Santa Rosa led to further clues in the case pointing toward Davis.
He was arrested in late November 1993 on a burglary charge and while in custody, a palm print found in Polly?s home matched Davis and he implicated himself in the killing.
The lengthy judges? document outlined the particularly heinous details of the crime and how the trial in 1996 laid out the case against Davis.
Following a lengthy trial, he was convicted of first-degree murder with ?special circumstances? of kidnapping, burglary, robbery and attempting a lewd act on a child.
He has been held on San Quentin?s death row ever since.