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Davis Says Bills Will Help Fight Terrorism

September 17, 2002|DAN MORAIN and MICHAEL FINNEGAN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Gov. Gray Davis on Monday signed a bill reauthorizing California's wiretap law, but it will take effect only if he signs separate legislation spawned by the Rampart scandal that would give some convicts a new way to overturn their convictions.

Appearing at a gathering of law enforcement officials discussing homeland security in Ontario, Davis signed the wiretap bill and five other measures he said would increase the state's readiness to combat terrorism.

"For the past year," Davis said in a statement, "we've done whatever it takes to keep our residents safe. As governor, I intend to press the issue and make sure that law enforcement has the tools they need in the ongoing fight against terrorism."

At campaign stops in East Los Angeles and the Inland Empire, Davis also emphasized his record on crime. And in Riverside, while discussing the state's Amber alert system, he praised Kern County sheriff's deputies for shooting suspect Roy Ratliff following the summer abduction of two teenage girls.

The wiretap legislation Davis signed Monday includes a provision pushed by Senate President Pro Tem John Burton (D-San Francisco) that allows it to become law only if Davis agrees to a separate Burton measure that could benefit some convicted criminals.

An aide to the governor said Davis is expected to sign Burton's bill, SB 1391.

More than 100 people caught up in the LAPD's Rampart scandal have had their convictions overturned. But a judge ruled that people could challenge their convictions only if they still were in jail or on probation. Under Burton's bill, those who already have served their sentence would gain the right to challenge their convictions as well.

Concerned that Davis might not sign the measure, Burton used a legislative maneuver called "double joining," which requires that the governor sign both bills for either to take effect.

Davis began the year by seeking a significant expansion of police authority to wiretap suspected criminals' phones. Burton opposed the concept, and the Legislature's counsel said federal law does not permit states to obtain such broad wiretap authority. Davis opted for a pared-back measure. As he signed the wiretap bill, AB 74 by Assemblyman Carl Washington (D-Paramount), the governor vowed to press for a broader wiretap law next year.

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