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Defense Lawyer Calls for Mercy as Polly Klaas Case Goes to Jury

July 30, 1996| From Associated Press

SAN JOSE — The fate of the man who killed Polly Klaas rested in the hands of a jury Monday after a prosecutor demanded justice in her memory while a defense attorney begged for mercy for one of "God's children."

"There's just been enough pain and enough death and having more doesn't solve anything," defense attorney Lorena Chandler said as she made a final appeal to the jury before it was given the case about 2:30 p.m.

But prosecutor Greg Jacobs portrayed Davis as a violent criminal who has had his chances and made his choices.

"I am asking you not to forget Polly Klaas," he said. "You should not reward him for the coldblooded killing of a witness and a victim to his own crime."

Davis, 42, was convicted June 18 of killing Polly after kidnapping her from a slumber party in her bedroom in Petaluma on Oct. 1, 1993.

Jurors found the "special circumstances" of robbery, kidnapping, burglary and attempting a lewd act on a child. That left only two possible punishments, execution or life without possibility of parole.

Both sides invoked the spirit of the dead 12-year-old as they finished closing arguments.

Chandler said she had visited a memorial to Polly, and it was a place of love.

"That should be her memorial, the concern for all children, not the execution of this man," she said.

She also focused on Davis' traumatic beginnings, imploring jurors to make a decision that will allow them to say, "I exercised mercy. I saved one of God's children."

However, Jacobs said there is no amount of sympathy that can justify Polly's murder.

"The defense has maximized sympathy and reduced responsibility," Jacobs said.

Before he turned the case over to the jury, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Thomas Hastings explained the meaning of the charges and the two verdict forms the jury will be given, one for death and one for life.

Prosecutors said the horrible nature of Polly's death, coupled with Davis' long life of violent crime, demand the death penalty.

In a soft-spoken, logical approach, Jacobs declared that Davis must die for his "affront to humanity."

But the defense presented witnesses who described Davis' youth as one of abuse and neglect. Defense attorneys said they weren't trying to excuse Davis' crimes, but believed life in prison was sufficient punishment for a man damaged by a flawed environment.

Chandler appealed to the jurors' spiritual sides, telling them that a sentence of death would cut off any chance of atonement.

"What it is really about more than anything is whether you will choose life over death, whether you will choose hope over despair and whether you will choose mercy over vengeance," Chandler said.

Toward the end of her main argument, Chandler listed reasons Davis should live, including his confession, which solved Polly's murder.

Sitting in the front row, members of Polly's family shook their heads.

Chandler told jurors that "to exercise mercy is to imitate God."

But Jacobs said the decision is a question of justice and asked jurors to see the crime for "what it is. A cruel, cold, deliberate murder."

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