Gun Restraining Orders, A Murder Sentence May Be Reduced, Top Weekend Arts Events
KPBS Midday Edition / August 9, 2019
San Diego leads the state in gun violence restraining orders, how do they work? Federal officials are considering a similar law in the wake of recent deadly shooting in Texas, Ohio and California. Also, a man serving 25 years to life on a murder charge may see his sentence reduced if a new state law survives challenges. And a documentary celebrating the life of Nobel prize-winning writer Toni Morrison is reprised in the wake of her death and more weekend arts events.
Speaker 1: 00:00 Since the deadly shootings in El Paso, Dayton and Gilroy, there's more talk in Washington about enacting gun violence safety laws among the ideas getting traction, our so called red flag laws that allow authorities to confiscate weapons from people who are illegally designated a danger to themselves or others. California already has enacted gun violence restraining orders, and the city of San Diego is leading the state and the number of restraining orders filed by the court. The city's success has been noted and in this year's state budget, San Diego has been allocated money to teach other jurisdictions how to carry out the process. Joining me is San Diego city attorney Mara Elliott and Mara, welcome to the program.
Speaker 2: 00:41 Thanks Maureen.
Speaker 1: 00:43 The city's enforcement of the gun violence restraining order law has been happening for about two years now. How did the city prepare to enforce it?
Speaker 2: 00:52 It required us to form a relationship with our police department with, of course we already have, they're our client, but we needed to have the same priorities. So this was a priority for the chief of police. Um, then chief of police, Zimmerman and now chief of police in his light. And it also required the court to be on board because this was a relatively new process. And when we filed our first one, the court staff had not seen it before and needed to get used to seeing the forums and train up on it as well. So it really was a trifecta of, um, operational entities working together on something that's become a big priority for the city of San Diego.
Speaker 1: 01:32 How many restraining orders has a, the court issued in the city of San Diego?
Speaker 2: 01:37 We have achieved more than 300 restraining orders in less than two years since we put the program into effect.
Speaker 1: 01:44 And how many guns have been confiscated?
Speaker 2: 01:46 We have confiscated about 400 firearms, including about 40 assault rifles.
Speaker 1: 01:53 And I'm wondering who initiates a gun violence restraining order and what are the reasons that one could be approved?
Speaker 2: 02:00 It can be initiated directly from law enforcement. If they observe something that's concerning or the public will inform law enforcement and law enforcement will do its investigation to see whether the conduct or the threats would merit the issuing of a court order.
Speaker 1: 02:18 At what point does your office actually get involved in the process?
Speaker 2: 02:23 We get involved after the police department does its investigation, so if the community has a concern, they should contact the police department first. They'll look at the case to see whether there's substantial likelihood that the individual whose conduct has been reported is either at risk of hurting themselves or somebody else and they have access to a firearm and after they've done their investigation, they present their materials to our office for review. We carefully vet it because we have to prove our case to a court and if we the evidence we need so that we can obtain an order, then we'll run with it. From there. We make our requests to a judge who looks at both sides because the person whose rights are at issue has an opportunity as well to be present at that hearing. And they can present their own evidence. They can have an attorney there so they have a full opportunity to be heard. And if we prove our case and we have almost a hundred percent of the time proven our case and we get a gun violence restraining order,
Speaker 1: 03:31 how does the removal of weapons actually take place?
Speaker 2: 03:35 It happens that voluntarily, typically when the order is served, so an individual is requested to give their firearms to law enforcement. And if they do not agree to do so, then we get a search warrant in order to do that, that an individual can also store their firearms with a federal licensed firearm dealer of their choosing so that there are opportunities for them to determine how they want their firearms stored. And it's also important to note that that 12 month period gives the individual an opportunity to address whatever caused them to become irresponsible. And what we've seen with these few hundred, um, restraining orders that we've achieved is that there's a triggering event and sometimes it can be post traumatic stress disorder or somebody is going through a rough time at work or they've got alcohol or drug problems, but some folks have medical issues that need to be addressed. So we see all types of circumstances and if the person who's um, right to a gun is impacted, has had that opportunity and taken advantage of it and within 12 months they're now in a good place. They can go back to the court and request that they get their guns back sooner than the duration of 12 months. So there's a lot of flexibility to deal directly with that individual and whatever circumstances they're going through.
Speaker 1: 05:02 Now your office has been allocated in the most recent state budget money to conduct statewide training in how to go through this process. Do you know where and, and how you'll be giving these trainings?
Speaker 2: 05:15 We've been doing it for over a year now. We started in May of last year we did a symposium for law enforcement throughout the San Diego County. And we share our success with the state legislature. And Phil Ting was an advocate. He's an assembly member up in northern California and got $50,000 for us in the state budget, which has allowed us to train law enforcement agencies throughout the state of California. So we have been doing that for well over a year. We've trained over 200 law enforcement agencies and we're getting ready to go out to San Mateo County next week. So the program has been very successful. And what we're trying to show is that we have a model here in San Diego that can be replicated not only throughout the state but throughout the country. So we start with the nuts and bolts of a program. This is what law enforcement does, this is what our lawyers do, this is how we got our programs started.
Speaker 2: 06:11 Here's how we educated the court. And then following that training, we're available to take phone calls because sometimes the questions are going to come when you're actually putting your program into place. So that is what the legislature anticipated. They wanted us to do that up front training. But what we found is that that's actually not enough because those questions will come after the training occurs. So the state legislature and the governor just allocated an additional $250,000 for our office so that we can be available to take phone calls or assist as other jurisdictions tried to create their own programs
Speaker 1: 06:49 to follow up on their questions. Absolutely. Yes. I've been speaking with San Diego city attorney Mara Elliott, and thank you so much for your time. Thank you.
Speaker 3: 07:01 Uh.
Speaker 1: 00:00 It's called felony murder, a law that allows people to be convicted of murders they were present for, but did not actually commit. California changed the law this year, giving these prisoners a chance to get their sentences reduced, but now the new laws being challenged in court by district attorneys including San Diego Summer, Stephen KPBS, investigative reporter Claire Traeger, Sir tells us about one man convicted under the old felony murder law.
Speaker 2: 00:26 This was a, that was right. Yeah, that's right. Before he was arrested, Coleen Khalifa has spread out photos of our son, Sean on the kitchen table. Her daughter Jennifer and grandson Jackson lean over the table to look. Jackson worth Uncle Shawn [inaudible], candy aide. Sean Khalifa is in Donovan State Prison. Yes, he's 15 years into a sentence of 25 years to life for murder, but no one is claiming he killed anyone. When, when Sean was first arrested, I've called people you know, lawyers and I said, felony, any murder? They told me right off the bat, you've lost your going go visit your son. So the rest of his life in prison, he acted as lookout for two older teenagers. When they robbed a house and killed the homeowner, though Sean Khalifa had no idea they were going to kill the man and wasn't in the house when the murder took place. He was still convicted of felony murder.
Speaker 2: 01:28 This is because of a long established legal doctrine in California that allows prosecutors to file felony murder charges against suspects. Even if like Khalifa, they weren't directly involved in the killing, but late last year then governor Jerry Brown signed a law that allows prisoners in this position to apply for a lesser sentence. The khalifas now have hope, but they're still not sure Sean will be free. That's because district attorneys are challenging the new law in court and we've, it's been a huge rollercoaster. Yeah, I mean, we get our hopes up and we're letting you know, and the pain all comes back again because we're let down
Speaker 3: 02:10 and I've had some hope at different points from my incarceration.
Speaker 2: 02:13 This is Sean Khalifa on the phone from prison.
Speaker 3: 02:16 I have this newfound hope. It's, uh, it can be stressful,
Speaker 2: 02:20 stressful because he feels stuck in a permanent state of limbo. It's extraordinary to have this hope of getting out, but at the same time, that increases one's vulnerability tremendously. Alan Mobley runs project rebound, which helps people transition out of prison and earn college degrees. He considers the felony murder rule that put Khalifa away, a byproduct of the mass incarceration era. Many laws I'm draconian in nature, um, were brought into existence in response to both the politicalization and then also increased public concern. In recent years. The pendulum has swung the other way with national criminal justice reform and state rollbacks to things like three strikes, sentencing. But these changes are often met with resistance. I've completely believe in safe reform. I just don't believe in unsafe reform that tramples over a victim's rights. San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan feels the changes to the felony murder rule go to far criminal justice reform has to weigh the constitutional rights of everybody, of victims, of offenders, of public safety, but some see juveniles with life sentences as victims, victims of a harsh system and of human brain development.
Speaker 4: 03:43 Yeah, some adolescents are, um, likely to take risks.
Speaker 2: 03:49 Terry Jernigan runs the Center for human development at UC San Diego and leads a national study looking at adolescents, brains,
Speaker 4: 03:56 young people during adolescents. Do you have a perfectly natural spike in their impulsive behaviors? And this does result in more mistakes in judgment.
Speaker 2: 04:07 And she says, court sentences should take that into consideration, though she didn't know about Khalifa's particular case back at the Khalifa household, Coleen is ready for her son to come home. I can't believe that he's kept his integrity still intact. And his, his, uh, empathy and passion for others. Claire [inaudible] KPBS news KPBS reached out to the family of the man who was killed and did not hear back.
Speaker 5: 04:40 Uh.
Speaker 1: 00:00 Beethoven is in the spotlight this weekend at Summerfest in the Hoya Nineties alt rock returns to San Diego in the form of death cab for Cutie. And a film tribute to Nobel Prize winning author Toni Morrison. Journey me with more on the weekend preview is KPBS arts editor, Nina Garren. Nina, welcome. Hello. So La Jolla music society continues to Summerfest its Summerfest chamber music festival. What's going on this weekend? This weekend they're doing Beethoven complete string quartets and it's part of a two season project where they perform all Beethoven 16 string quartets with a different world famous group coming in to do it. Tell us more about these string quartets. So Beethoven wrote 16 string quartets and they're considered some of his finest work in particular, the last five. They're thought of as some of the best musical compositions of all time. They're not as romantic, they're more complex, so they might not be as popular and not heard as much. So it's a good opportunity to hear them. Now performing tonight is the Brentano Quartet, a quartet in residence at Yale School of music. Let's listen to them perform Beethoven's opus 18 number four
Speaker 2: 01:25 [inaudible].
Speaker 1: 01:31 Then on Saturday night, the Miro Quartet returns. Now there are Summerfest favorite, aren't they? Yeah, they're from Austin, Texas and they have a very accessible way of playing classical music. Kind of like open to everyone. Everyone can understand it and they're going to perform the last major piece of music Beethoven composed. Let's listen to the mural quartets string quartet number 16 in f major opus one 35
Speaker 2: 02:00 [inaudible] [inaudible], [inaudible] summer
Speaker 1: 02:14 fests, Beethoven complete string quartets. That happens to night and tomorrow at the Conrad with part three happening next Friday. Alternative band death cab for Cutie returns to San Diego. Remind us who they are, Nina. They're a band that formed in the late 1990s but really they were played a lot in the early two thousands bear music is kind of poppy and quirky and they have very clever lyrics. It's like an English major wrote them, but like a good English major because they have a lot of emotion and a lot of intention. You've probably told us this before, but remind us how they got that name. It comes from a 1967 song performed by Bonzo dog dog band, and that band performed in the Beatles magical mystery tour. Okay, so this band I would imagine has evolved over time. It's been around for a long time. Yeah. In the early days it was the leader, Ben Guibert and musician Chris Walla, and they had this kind of low fi meandering, unpolished sound, and over the years it's evolved to be a lot more radio friendly, a lot more pop hooks, things like that. Let's listen to early death cab for Cutie. This is four oh five from the album. We have the facts and we're voting yes.
Speaker 2: 03:47 [inaudible].
Speaker 1: 03:53 That song was like my anthem back in the day. Why do you think the band is still popular? I think because they still appeal to their early fans like me and they don't elite their new fans like kind of Weezer does that. I think because also at the heart it's just good songwriting. So in honor of Nina, let's listen to later death cab. This is gold rush from the album. Thank you for today.
Speaker 2: 04:26 [inaudible] keep doing it. [inaudible] new ground. Swing it in plaster wall
Speaker 1: 04:39 death cab for Cutie performs tonight and tomorrow at the observatory. Now finally, Tony Morrison died earlier this week and in her honor, digital Jim is bringing back a documentary about her. Tell us more about that. It came out in June and it's built around an extended interview with her and it's not so much a biography, but really an essay about her ideas and her causes. This documentary was made by a friend of hers. Yeah, Timothy Greenfield Sanders. He's a photographer and friend. She was a very private person. She didn't write a memoir or want any biographies, but she was able to open up to him in a way that we haven't seen. Say a few words about Toni Morrison's legacy. Well, she was just such a beautiful writer and she captured the experience of blackness without caring what white people thought. She actually challenged white people to confront their own prejudice and I also love that she helped other black writers like Angela Davis and she influences people today, like Roxanne Gay. The documentary is called the pieces. I am at plays today through August 15th at Digital Gym. You can find more arts events at kpbs.org/arts and I've been speaking with KPBS arts editor, Nina Garin. Nina, thank you so much. Thanks. Have a good weekend.