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Is this paroled killer still a threat?

Sandra Lawrence was a model prisoner. The governor wants her back behind bars. The high court will decide.

July 13, 2008|Michael Rothfeld | Times Staff Writer

"I come to you today, apologizing as I do on a daily basis when it comes up in my mind, apologize to Rubye Williams, knowing that I took her life," Lawrence told the board at her 2005 hearing. "And I have stood strong . . . for 21 years letting everyone know that I was willing to make a change."

In rejecting her parole, as governors Davis and Pete Wilson had done before him, Schwarzenegger acknowledged that Lawrence had made "creditable gains" while locked up.

In his most recent denial letter, on Jan. 11, 2006, however, he indicated that he believed she had not taken real responsibility for her crime.

After Lawrence petitioned for release, the California Court of Appeal concluded in a May 2007 decision that the governor had presented no real evidence that she was still dangerous.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday, July 22, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 77 words Type of Material: Correction
California convicts: A chart in Section A of the July 13 edition, with an article about when convicted murderers should be released from prison, said that John E. Dannenberg, a convicted murderer, had been released from state prison. The state Court of Appeal ruled in November that Dannenberg should be let out on parole, but the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has kept him incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison because his case is still under review.

When she left prison, her niece traveled to see her at Crossroads, the halfway house.

"I thought she would look like a hard-core biker chick," Mitchell said. "And when I saw her I was just blown away, because I'm like, wow, she is so pretty, she is so bubbly. Her personality, her character, everything does not match what you would think a person would be like after those 24 years."

In the last few months, Lawrence has spent most of her time living at Mitchell's house in Los Angeles, sometimes fetching Mitchell's 10-year-old daughter from school. From time to time, she reunites with old friends from Chino, other women like herself who have made the move to life on the outside.

On June 4, Lawrence, accompanied by two friends from prison, attended a hearing on her case in Los Angeles before the seven justices of the state Supreme Court, who sat high above the packed gallery. Some seemed sympathetic.

"For many, many years, the prisoner has expressed deep remorse for the crime," said Associate Justice Joyce Kennard.

But Associate Justice Marvin Baxter asserted that she had led "a full life of deception," referring to the affair and her time on the lam.

He said the murder was especially brutal: "After firing the weapon, the defendant finished the victim off with a potato peeler!"

In the lobby later, Lawrence regrouped with her lawyers.

"I'm not feeling the best," she admitted, though she switched gears quickly. "But I'm optimistic. I'm the ultimate optimist."




Governors' records

The state parole board under Gov. Arnold Schwarzen-

egger has been granting releases to about 5% of eligible inmates serving life sentences.

Governors narrow the pool further in deciding who can leave prison. Here is the record of the last three governors:

Arnold Schwarzenegger


Parole grants reviewed: 830

Releases allowed: 191

Gray Davis (Democrat)

Parole grants reviewed: 371

Releases allowed: 9

Pete Wilson (Republican)

Parole grants reviewed: 174

Releases allowed: 137

Source: Times reporting


Nine other state Supreme Court cases

The California Supreme Court is reviewing the cases of 10 inmates, including Sandra Davis Lawrence and the nine named below, who have challenged their denials of parole by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger or the state parole board. Some were released by lower courts; others remain incarcerated.

John E. Dannenberg

Killed his wife by drowning and blows to her head. May 15, 1985.

Status: Freed

Peter George Cooper

Killed his wife with a sledgehammer. Nov. 16, 1986.

Status: Freed

Arnold Jacobson

Shot his ex-girlfriend and killed her friend. March 13, 1985.

Status: Incarcerated

Michael Montgomery

Driver in a drug-related murder-for-hire. Nov. 6, 1985.

Status: Freed

Richard Shaputis

Shot his wife in the neck, killing her. Jan. 24, 1987.

Status: Incarcerated Justo Avalos

Outside a bar he managed, he shot and killed an unarmed customer. May 10, 1981.

Status: Incarcerated

Lee Staben

Killed a pregnant woman, firing a shotgun into her boyfriend's home. July 15, 1990.

Status: Incarcerated Lennie Parker

Helped a friend murder another friend with a shotgun. Jan. 1, 1987.

Status: Incarcerated

Joseph Rozzo

Participated in a racially motivated killing by beating the victim, puncturing his windpipe with his fingers. July 29, 1980.

Status: Incarcerated

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