Window on Death Row

With everybody and his crazy uncle getting on the Net, it was only a matter of time before death-row inmates got their own Web pages. The Toronto-based Canadian Coalition Against the Death Penalty (CCADP) hosts pages for 220 mainly U.S. convicts facing execution, at (Canada has abolished the death penalty.)

Richard Allen Davis, the notorious San Quentin inmate convicted in the Polly Klaas kidnap-murder case, is there, with a request for pen pals (“The most often thought that I do have, is wondering if for someone such as myself, can one ever fall back in love with life again. For myself, I feel that I do not have that right, or even the time spent considering such a thought”). But so is Jimmy Dennis, an aspiring Philadelphia musician whose case is the subject of an international human-rights campaign. The CCADP alleges that Dennis was set up by police hungry for a conviction in the high-profile killing of a teenage girl for her dime-store earrings. As the site recounts, a witness against Dennis, who later recanted, was handcuffed to a chair during an hourslong interrogation by five police detectives. Dennis’ public defender failed to have a button ripped from the victim’s dress analyzed for fingerprints or DNA.

A lot of this stuff you’ve heard or seen before, on other Web sites or perhaps in those Benetton ads. But a real eye opener is the CCADP space devoted to “Texecutioner” George W. Bush, “America’s biggest serial killer.” Did you know that the GOP presidential candidate has presided over 124 executions? Or that among those snuffed were a battered woman and several severely mentally ill and/or mentally deficient men?

The Bush-authorized execution of Odell Barnes made headlines in France, where President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin had interceded on the inmate’s behalf. New DNA and other evidence suggested that police framed Barnes, CCADP’s site reports. Such allegations were once routinely ignored; Bush’s executions aren’t even on the radar of most political reporters this election season. But in these days of the Rampart evidence-planting and police-perjury scandal, can we afford to ignore them any longer?


Just when you thought L.A. Unified owned the title of “school district most likely to piss people off,” along comes wealthy La Cañada Unified, which managed to get into a dustup with the Animal Defense League that ended in police action on all sides.

The occasion was the Palm Crest Elementary PTA fund-raiser featuring the Culpepper & Merriweather Circus. The Defense League was protesting what members say are the cruel training techniques and punishing travel schedule adhered to by the circus. Arriving at Palm Crest, 25 to 35 strong, they were asked to leave by deputies from the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s substation, who had been warned beforehand of the protest. According to the Sheriff’s Department, six to eight protesters stepped onto the school grounds without permission, and one of them refused to follow deputies’ orders to leave.

Enter PTA organizer Tammy Kaitz. Kaitz snatched away Defense League protester Jerry Vlasak’s anti-circus pamphlets; he responded by making a citizen’s arrest, accusing the PTA mom of grabbing his arm. As the schoolchildren looked on, deputies cited Kaitz on misdemeanor battery charges; her case was later thrown out by the district attorney. Vlasak was arrested on a misdemeanor trespassing charge, and faces arraignment in Glendale Municipal Court.

“We were told we had to leave while on public property. When we tried to maintain [our] rights, the police just would not hear anything of it,” said Vlasak. “It’s seldom we run into people as overzealous as those PTA people.”

The animal-rights activists subsequently posted pictures of Kaitz and La Cañada schools Superintendent Lorene Gonia on their Web site’s “Most Wanted” list, and promise to add the women’s home phone numbers and addresses as soon as they can find them. The promise appears to be no idle threat. When Fur Commission USA executive director Teresa Platt ran afoul of the Defense League last fall, she soon found her photo, date of birth, telephone number, address, directions to her home, car make and license-plate number on the Web site. Her neighborhood was later plastered with fliers and pamphlets.

“They’re intimidating. They’re basically trying to frighten people,” Platt said. “If they believe in the sanctity of life, that should include human life, and then they should be pacifists. They’re definitely not pacifists.”

For her part, Kaitz does not seem worried about the animal-rights group, averring that she believes the community is behind her.

“They [the activists] were like tiny mosquitoes on my arm that I swatted away, and when they left, everyone cheered,” said Kaitz. —Michael Gutierrez



IOWA CITY (April 30) — New Pioneer Co-op Earth Day Celebration and Bulk Compost Sale. Live music by Stones in the Field & Irish Folk Dance by the Ceili Dancers. Stacie Johnson of Organic Matters combines and matures organic material, including soiled horse bedding, to create the crumbly, brown, dry compost that is so helpful in improving garden soil and plant performance. Persons wishing to purchase Organic Matters Bulk Compost at the event are required to bring their own containers such as pails, garbage cans or heavy garbage bags, and tools with which to load the compost.

Ed Heffernan leads the local Irish folk dance group the Ceili Dancers. Ed notes, “We like to have a good time. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. Among the dances we’ll perform and teach are the Pagan Bonfire Dance, Gay Gordons Scottish Dance and Limerick Tumblers.”


It’s hard to take yourself too seriously with horse manure on your hands at a regular bonfire dance, much less a pagan one.


Just as the modernist craze is elevating L.A.’s star in the design universe, another local architectural gem is threatened, this time in Sherman Oaks. Although the City Council last week handed the Chase Knolls Garden Apartments a temporary reprieve, preservationists fear the days are numbered for this premier artifact of the postwar garden-city movement.

“Chase Knolls is a product of the garden-city movement in planning and the modern movement in architecture,” says Ken Bernstein, director of preservation issues with Los Angeles Conservancy. “The buildings are a cluster style of housing around extremely large public spaces, with mature landscaping and small semiprivate backyard spaces. In its size and quality it is extremely rare in L.A.”

Chase Knolls’ new owners, Legacy Partners of San Francisco, have proposed demolishing the 260-unit complex on Riverside Drive and replacing it with “luxury” apartments. The council referred the site to the Cultural Heritage Commission, which could designate the circa-1949 apartments a historic monument, enabling the council to veto any demolition efforts.

In retaliation, the developers reneged on promises to provide tenants with handsome relocation packages.

“The tenants will have to move under any scenario. Under any scenario it is a question of when,” said Legacy Partners spokesperson Richard Lichtenstein. “We thought we did a good job balancing the interests.”

The Valley in recent years has lost several significant modernist buildings to the Northridge earthquake and runaway development. Among the losses: several Richard Nuetra buildings at Cal State University, Northridge; the Tiny Naylor’s coffee shop in Studio City, and an adjoining “boomerang”-style car wash.

Large garden apartments are an endangered species in Los Angeles; the only other complexes that survive are Park La Brea in midcity, Village Green in Baldwin Hills and Lincoln Place in Venice. Chase Knolls provides not only some architectural interest to the sometimes dreary Valley landscape, but hard-to-find affordable housing for its fixed-income senior tenants.

Chase Knolls resident Sandy Roberts says her apartment complex is more than a home, it’s a community.

“It is a little piece of the valley of Los Angeles that has simply not changed,” said Roberts. “It is a little piece of our past. It was built specifically to create neighborhoods, and that is exactly what it does.”

—Christine Pelisek


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