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Minutes: Plans Get Laid for a Dog Parade (02/12/2014)

February 17, 2014

Invocation:  Andrew Chung

Flag Salute:  Lucille Ramirez

Raffle:  Jerry Smith brought a $50 gift card to Trader Joe’s. Dennis Johns won.


  • The Carpinteria Rotary fundraiser of the 2014 Talent Showcase is coming up on Sat., 2/22, with a 2 PM and 7 PM sitting, at the Plaza Playhouse Theatre. Tickets are $30 or $10 depending on age. If you’d like more info, please see Betsy Munroe.  I understand our Kule Klub is not competing this year.
  • Everyone should have received two emails from Betsy regarding the Rotary Foundation Gala event: (1) AG Rosslyn’s email on the cancellation of the SB 25 Years of Women in Rotary Gala on 3/22 and (2) Westlake’s email with details about its event.  The District strongly encourages those who are interested to attend one of two events being held elsewhere:  March 15 is at the North Ranch Golf Club in Westlake Village at PM costing $60 per person, cocktail attire or international dress; and March 21 at the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo from 6-9 PM costing $50 per person.
  • 2/26 is a dark day! No meeting.
  • Tom Heath was awarded a well deserved volunteer of the year award by Camp Whittier.  The event was last night and Tom and his wife Raquel attended together with Kim Coley and David Velerade. SB Sunrise presents a certificate of appreciation to Tom.
  • Announcing the MuttStrut: Eric Ryan is recently back from visiting with the President and the Minister of Education in Armenia!  Eric described a potential new fundraising event for Sunrise, the MuttStrutt.  He has a sign-up sheet for the tentative event. They want to delineate the functions required and figure out how much interest there would be for various committees for the MuttStrutt. The idea came from his father’s Rotary club up north. They had a small dog parade and events for attendees to register for various games. They also had show dogs come in from various teams in the community (ie K-9, drug sniffing dogs, sheep herding, and agility). We have a history of the Big Dog parade in town. In the past couple of years of the event, they had 1,600 dogs participate and as many as 12,000 spectators. It’s a universal attraction. We felt like it was an event that could attract a broad enough swath of the community to attract vendors and sponsorships. The Big Dog brand had been put to sleep. Eric Ryan contacted the company and they would be supportive. We cannot use the name, however. The event itself, while it was large, did not really net as much as it should have. They spent a lot of money on facilities and police presence. They thought that if it was managed well, it could be more profitable. On a national level, there are large dog-related brands. There are also other good sponsors like Stainmaster Carpet. We need a team to reach out to companies and present it as a sponsorship opportunity for companies to consider. We need it to be a separate group from those reaching out to local companies. We can have different tiers of sponsorships. We wanted to have it at SBCC but there is resistance to having dogs in the stadium. We could have the event at various city parks. Big Dog had contacts at a large shelter in LA that, in return for a donation, put them in touch with various celebrities (like Caesar Milan). We might be able to take advantage of that again. The SB Art Foundry was interested in having a dog parade down in the Funk Zone. So far she’s been interested in working together but we haven’t figured out how to separate responsibilities, funding, etc. This event is great because it would pull in different aspects of the community. Eric thinks that Spring is ultimately the right time to do it but there is not enough time for this year. We could either wait or do just a small one this year and a full-blown one next Spring. Claude Saks says we only have enough capacity to focus on one fundraiser so this year we are locked into Fiddlers. Amy is going to have a professional fundraiser come in to give us some advice. Andy Doerr thinks we can handle two fundraisers a year. Lucille Ramirez says the American Cancer Society has a similar event at Chase Palm Park called Bark For Life. We may be able to partner with them or sponsor a booth. We need various volunteers to reach out to sponsors, organize the event itself, reach out to different demographics, etc. We would need a real PR effort. We need to hone and time the message leading up to the event. Having access to the press will not be difficult. We need to pick a few emotionally connected things that we focus on, instead of just listing out everything.
  • 16 people attended the bike ride from Ventura to Ojai and lunch on February 8. Thanks to Steve Kally for organizing a fun afternoon.
  • Susan Klein-Rothschild reported about the dental clinic. Dr. Nguyen was so happy and thankful for all the help. The turnout was so great there was hardly any room to stand.
  • Camp Whittier is having its golf tournament at Alisal. Joe Weiland says he’d be part of a foursome if we can get something together.

Program: Joanne Schoenfeld Orenstein introduced Ron Bamich to speak about famous murders, the jury selection process and the death penalty. Ron comes to us from the Rotary Club of Ventura. He was part of the George W Bush’s administration. He was a prosecutor for Ventura and won Prosecutor of the Year. Now he is in private practice. The following notes are in first person from Mr. Bamich.

  • We have a firm in Ventura and practice in Ventura and Santa Barbara exclusively. We specialize in personal injury, but I am more well known for the criminal aspect.
  • 713 were killed from 1778 to 1972. We had a death penalty even before California was a state. DP was ruled unconstitutional in 1972 then reinstated in 1978. In 2006 a Federal Court put a stay on execution because the way we do lethal injections was considered cruel and unusual punishment.
  • As of 2013, there are 741 offenders on California’s death row.
  • How do you get on death role? You need to have a “Murder +”. For example, you murder someone for financial gain, or lying in wait. Murder of police officer, witness, prosecutor, judge, federal agent. Murder using poison, drive by shootings, etc. This puts you on the eligible list.
  • There are more life without parole inmates in CA than any other state. CA is perhaps the harshest punishing state.
  • Each county makes its own decision on how to seek the penalty. For example, it is better to commit a special circumstance crime in SF since that DA does not believe in the death penalty.
  • It is worse to kill a taxpayer vs a non-taxpayer — for example, a gang member killing another gang member. Who you kill is very important.
  • Position of the victim’s family – they get input. The defendant’s family also gets input.
  • Death penalty is the sole discretion of the district attorney. It’s different everywhere and there is no pattern or rules. Jurisdiction is determined where you find the body. This mattered when we had different DAs in SB and Ventura counties.
  • Justin Merriman Case – Katrina Montgomery, 20-year-old missing woman, 1996. She went missing the Saturday after Thanksgiving. She never showed up. They tried to find her for four years but no one involved would talk. Neither agency (LAPD and VPD wanted the case so it went back and forth. She was last seen at a party in Oxnard, hosted by Ventura Skin Head Gang called The Skin Head Dogs. She was seen leaving the party with three skin heads – Justin Merriman, Ryan Bush, Larry Nicassio. Larry was extremely intelligent but the other two were very dumb. We knew she ended up at Merriman’s house, which was across from the Ventura courthouse. At that time, the 3 strikes had come to pass. The criminals did not know how the law passed so Ron used it to pressure them. Deal with PD was to get a call any time they got a skin head in custody. Found out that Merriman’s mother was seen in the early morning hours, with carpet cleaners cleaning her rugs. We put a lot of pressure on them. We threatened to say they were rats in the community. We never found the body. The way to prove this case is by statements. You don’t get evidence 8 years down the line. We put wire on anyone who would cooperate. We ran six wires against Merriman and 4 gang associates against his woman. We learned that it was a sexual assault case that became murder. The four women that were still alive told the exact same story about their rape. We used informants on Merriman’s sister who told the story about cleaning up the blood to a church group member. We pressured her to testify, and she did — against her mother and brother. Larry broke, told us he witnessed the murder and rape. She was raped and beaten with a wrench. The two others drove the body to Angeles National Forrest and buried the body. Both Ryan and Larry testified at Merriman’s trial. So did Merriman’s mother. He was indicted on 43 counts. Was convicted by all.
  • I convicted 28 fellow gang members. Arrested Merriman Fall of 1998. While in custody, he tried to contract the murders of me and several witnesses.
  • In 2000, I was required to make a formal recommendation to the DA on whether or not to seek the death penalty. I am a Catholic, and so I was very conflicted. I did at the time but today, looking back, I know I would not have made the same decision.
  • October 1999 – Beverly Sue Merriman broke down during a jury duty and confessed.
  • March 2001 – same Ventura jury recommended the death sentence.
  • June 2001 – imposed the death penalty on Merriman.
  • Currently resides at San Quentin’s death role and has yet to file his first appeal. Nobody files the appeal for the first 7-9 years because of the stay, there is no need.
  • My views – I think it’s a fruitless exercise. Even if I put my morals and faith aside, it still is pointless. We, as Californians, don’t have the stomach for the DP. We don’t get to 709 people on Death Row if you are imposing it. Texas has about 40 people on DP. Also, the state killing people – what is the purpose? Is it a deterrent? We have prisons where people don’t see the light of day. There is no risk for escape. Is it eye for an eye? Who are we saving? Who are we protecting?
  • Do we have the DP to save money?

Next Week’s Program:  International Committee will be giving a Nicaragua update.


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