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Kamala Harris stands by decision not to seek death penalty for cop killer as San Francisco DA


'...I did what I believed was the right thing to do'

Al Drago/Getty Images

One of the first things political analysts and observers are digging into regarding newly announced presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) is her stances on crime during her days as a prosecutor.

On "The Rachel Maddow Show" on Wednesday, Harris was asked about a particularly notable case during which she refused to seek the death penalty for a man convicted of murdering one police officer and attempting to murder another in April 2004.

Despite the heinous nature of the crime, and the fact that even Democrats (including California Sen. Dianne Feinstein) at the time were pressuring her to seek the death penalty, Harris said she stands by her decision.

"I am going to tell you that there were ... high-level elected Democrats who said the case should be taken away from me because I would not seek the death penalty, but I did what I believed was the right thing to do," Harris told Maddow. "And the killer of that officer will be in prison for the rest of his life."

Details of the case

The case involved 23-year-old David Hill, who killed San Francisco police Officer Isaac Espinoza, who was 29 at the time of his death.

Espinoza and his partner, Officer Barry Parker, pulled up on Hill in an unmarked car as Hill was walking down a street the night before Easter Sunday. Parker said they stopped Hill because he was acting suspiciously.

Espinoza got out of the vehicle, approached Hill, and identified himself as an officer while asking him to stop. Hill kept walking, twice looking over his shoulder saying he didn't have identification. Then, according to Parker, Hill pulled out an AK-47 and opened fire.

"We all believed that David Hill knew he (Espinoza) was a police officer," said the jury foreman, who didn't want to be identified, according to SFGate. "There was the car, a Crown Vic, the fact that a flashlight was shined. It was sort of obvious. To me, anyone who shines a flashlight on someone, they are police."

Days after Hill's arrest in 2004, Harris announced that she would not seek the death penalty in the case, which reportedly caused tension between prosecutors and officers.

Harris said Wednesday that her views haven't changed.

"I've been my entire life (opposed to the death penalty), and I still am for very good reasons that I can expand on," Harris told Maddow.

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