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Klass Killer's Caustic Comment Stands Out

Trials: Hurling insult was like 'throwing emotional acid' in grieving father's face, law professor says.

September 28, 1996|From Associated Press

SAN JOSE — It was the ultimate insult, hurled at one of the gravest moments in the judicial process.

The accusation: that 12-year-old Polly Klaas had been molested by her father. The accuser: Richard Allen Davis, the parolee about to be sentenced to die for killing Polly.

Other defendants have erupted in court, shouted obscenities at the judge and even turned on their own attorneys. But rarely, if ever, trial observers said Friday, has one uttered the kind of malevolent insult Davis aimed at Marc Klaas.

"It's extremely unusual that a defendant, a convicted defendant who is present for sentencing, takes the opportunity to throw . . . emotional acid in the face of the bereaved survivor," said Robert Pugsley of Southwestern University School of Law.

"Most defendants don't say anything, except to plead for mercy," said former Massachusetts prosecutor Tom Hoopes, who is now in private practice. "This guy is just a manipulator to the end."

What made the Davis incident unusual was that it involved an attack by a defendant on someone outside the system--a bereaved parent.

"It exceeds the bounds of decency that we expect even from people convicted of the kind of vicious crime for which he was sentenced to death," Pugsley said.

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