Police officers filled every seat and lined the walls. Jurors had reached a verdict in the Torrance courtroom.
"I'll never forget it," former Hermosa Beach police Sgt. Paul Wolcott recalled Wednesday. "I just remember the absolute silence and the room being cold and the doors clanking open and shut in the holding area where the prisoners are kept before they are brought into court – hearing the chains and the shackles and the ruffling of his jail jumpsuit and just thinking, 'This has to be a dead man walking.' It was just so surreal."
Roger Hoan Brady, who gunned down 29-year-old Manhattan Beach police Officer Martin Ganz during a traffic stop two days after Christmas in 1993, appeared to shudder when the clerk announced his death sentence. Several police officers throughout the room whispered "Yes" when they heard the decision.
It was Dec. 16, 1998. A few months later, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Stephen O'Neil imposed the sentence, making Brady the 533rd person on California's Death Row. For the last 20 years, Pam Schultz, who had planned to marry Ganz, waited for Brady's sentence to be carried out.
On Wednesday, she was told that won’t happen. Schultz's anger grew as she spoke to SoCal Connected, learning that California Gov. Gavin Newsom had signed an executive order bringing a halt to any executions in California while he runs the state.
“I'm just, “Oh my God,’” Schultz said, her voice breaking. "This is a dark day for our judicial system."
Newsom, however, called the death penalty, an "abject failure” that discriminated by race and affluence. He called it “ineffective, irreversible, and immoral,” saying it “it goes against the very values that we stand for.”
During a news conference, Newsom made it clear his decision was largely personal, but the state Constitution gave him the authority to impose the moratorium. Although the state has not executed an inmate since 2006, Newsom said 25 Death Row inmates have exhausted their lengthy appeals, and the issue had become real for him, not an abstract question. The executions would occur on his watch.
“I believe I’m doing the right thing,” Newsom said. “To the extent this issue is coming faster and sooner and I would be entrusted with executing 25 human beings, I cannot do that. I cannot sign off on executing hundreds and hundreds of human beings knowing that among them will be innocent human beings."
Shortly before 1 p.m., Newsom's office tweeted a photograph of California's death chamber being closed, two workers carrying its chair away.
Newsom said additionally, taxpayers have spent $5 billion since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978 and have gotten nothing for it.
“To the victims, all I can say is we owe you and we need to do better,” he said. “We cannot advance the death penalty in an effort to try to soften the blow of what happened.”
Opponents of the death penalty hailed the decision. The ACLU issued a statement calling the moratorium a “watershed moment in the fight for racial equity and equal justice for all."
"We commend Governor Newsom for exercising leadership and acknowledging that California’s death penalty is biased and broken beyond repair," the statement said. "For decades now, California has propped up a costly, flawed death penalty system that has failed to deliver on its promise of justice and puts the lives of innocent people at risk."
Death penalty proponents reacted quickly with criticism. Los Angeles GOP Chairman Richard Sherman said in a statement that Newsom's decision was "another instance of Sacramento Democrats’ ‘soft-on-crime policies."
“California voters have made their will clear by decisively rejecting measures to end the death penalty in 2006 and 2016," Sherman said. “Instead, voters strongly approved of Proposition 66 in 2016, which ensured that the death penalty would be implemented. The Governor’s actions are reflective of his personal stance on the matter not of the people that he represents."
In a tweet, President Donald Trump said Newsom defied voters.
“The Governor of California will halt all death penalty executions of 737 stone cold killers,” the president said. "Friends and family of the always forgotten VICTIMS are not thrilled, and neither than I.”
Newsom said that although he wants to see the death penalty eliminated in California, he has “enormous respect and admiration for people who disagree.”
“I am not going to judge folks that have strong-held views on this,” Newsom said. “For those victims, all I can say is, as a father of four, I cannot even conceive of their pain, can’t even conceive of their suffering, cannot conceive how they process the entire system of justice, let alone the issues related to the death penalty. Every time, these issues come up it opens up their wounds."
Newsom’s decision indeed opened Schultz’s wounds. On Dec. 27, 1993, Brady shot Ganz when Ganz pulled him over for a traffic stop at the Manhattan Village mall. Ganz did not know that the driver who had stopped beyond the limit line at a traffic light was a convicted bank robber and supermarket robber, likely interrupted as he made his way to the nearby Ralphs store to commit a holdup. Brady shot Ganz when the officer approached his window. The bullet disabled Ganz' gun arm. Ganz ran and collapsed to the ground. Brady stood over him and shot him again.
Ganz’s then 13-year-old nephew, who was riding with his uncle on a Christmas break vacation, used the police car radio to summon help.
Eight months later, Brady was arrested near Portland, Oregon, after he shot a customer to death after robbing a supermarket. The gun he used matched the bullets that killed Ganz.
“I'm really angry right now," said Schultz, who is married and a mother. “It's been 25 years since Martin was killed. It’s been 20 years since his killer was sentenced. I eagerly await every year my token note from the Attorney General’s Office advising me on the current status of the case. Year after year, it is, ‘OK, well, we are proceeding, but we’re not really moving forward.’ And yet I still hope that what that jury imposed and what Martin’s killer was sentenced to will at some point actually happen."
Schultz said whether Brady ultimately is put to death is not a decision for the governor to make. She said he is disrespecting California residents’ votes to support the death penalty, and juries’ decisions to utilize it.
“The victims were never given the choice of whether or not they were going to lose their lives," Schultz said. “They were never given a choice. And it’s up to those of us who loved them to now be their voice. And this voice says that this is not a good decision on the part of the governor.”
Top Image: Office of the Governor of California/Twitter