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Bills Signed to Combat Violence on the Freeways

September 27, 1987|JERRY GILLAM | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Gov. George Deukmejian on Saturday signed into law bills aimed at cracking down on freeway shootings by increasing penalties and putting more California Highway Patrol officers on the road.

The governor, facing a Wednesday midnight deadline for acting on all bills passed during the 1987 legislative session, also signed a measure to shift the cost of financing trial courts from the counties to the state. That bill also allows the governor to appoint 109 new judges.

In his regular weekly radio speech, Deukmejian said: "We are committed to our goal of providing more support for local law enforcement, tougher penalties for lawbreakers, speedier trials and more common-sense judges. . . . And I can assure you that the men and women I appoint will be common-sense judges who respect the rights of victims as well as the accused."

To step up law enforcement efforts to catch and punish freeway shooters, who have killed four people and wounded 16 others since mid-June, Deukmejian signed four bills that would:

- Authorize spending $7.3 million to hire 150 new CHP officers and 30 support personnel. Another $2 million would go for overtime pay for existing officers. The funds would come from existing motor vehicle registration and drivers' license fees. This measure was carried by Assemblyman Paul E. Zeltner (R-Lakewood), who said, "Nothing cools off a hot-headed motorist more than the sight of a black-and-white in his rear-view mirror."

- Add five years to the prison sentence of anyone convicted of shooting someone in a motor vehicle and causing serious injury or death. This bill was sponsored by Sen. Cecil Green (D-Norwalk).

- Deny probation for people convicted of causing great bodily injury or death to another person by shooting from or at an automobile. This measure was introduced by Assemblywoman Sally Tanner (D-El Monte).

- Permit the forfeiture and sale of automobiles used in the commission of felony offenses involving the discharge of firearms from motor vehicles. Assemblywoman Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) carried this legislation, which is also designed to deal with gang-related "drive-by" shootings.

The governor noted he previously signed into law another bill by Sen. Ken Maddy (R-Fresno) to create a new crime of aggravated mayhem, punishable by life imprisonment, in cases where a victim is permanently disabled or disfigured by an attacker.

It was sparked by public criticism regarding the recent parole after eight years in prison of Lawrence Singleton, who was convicted of raping a teen-age girl and hacking off her forearms.

Law on Toy Guns

Another new law by Assemblyman Curtis Tucker (D-Inglewood) makes it a specific misdemeanor offense to point a toy gun at another person in a threatening manner.

This measure was designed to deal with incidents such as a recent case in which Los Angeles television commentator David Horowitz was forced to read a statement on the air by an intruder who later turned out to be armed with a toy gun.

The bill to transfer the responsibility of paying for the operations of the Superior and Municipal courts from the counties to the state was carried by Sen. Bill Lockyer (D-Hayward).

In an effort to relieve court congestion, the measure also creates 64 new Superior Court judgeships, 34 Municipal Court positions and 11 appellate court seats. The state already pays Superior Court judicial salaries.

Long sought by the counties, the bill was pushed through the Legislature during the final hours of the recently concluded session.

Deukmejian said the law would mean an additional $375 million for the counties next year to relieve fiscal stress and thus could free up more funds to help local sheriffs' departments.

The statute also provides for a three-year pilot project in Fresno and Santa Cruz counties to allow the courts, rather than attorneys, to question potential jurors before the selection of a jury.

"I have insisted that this state funding for the court system be accompanied by reforms designed to speed up the trial-court process," the governor said, "so that both civil and criminal trials can be resolved in a more efficient manner."

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