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DA’s Death Penalty Resentencing Chafes Former Santa Clara Cop 

Trigger warning: Parts of this article contain graphic details regarding a 1991 murder in Santa Clara.

In late January 1991, James Madden, manager at the LeeWards Creative Crafts in Santa Clara, was locking up for the night when two men, one of whom he likely recognized as a former employee, ambushed him. Armed with a stun gun, they led him back inside, where they forced him to open the safe before binding him to a chair with duct tape. 

Then, joined by three other accomplices, they assaulted him with the stun gun. They stabbed him 32 times in the neck, chest and abdomen. Then they slit his throat.

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Police eventually arrested the men involved in the robbery-turned-murder — Daniel Silveria, John Travis, Christopher Spencer, Matthew Jennings, and Troy Rackley, a juvenile. Silveria, Travis and Spencer ended up getting sentenced to death.

Now, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen wants to remove that sentence, reducing it to life in prison. But one cop who worked the case believes the move is folly.

“It was a brutal, sadistic murder. I have investigated a lot of murders. I can’t say it is the worst, but it is one of the worst,” said Ted Keech, a former sergeant with the Santa Clara Police Department (SCPD), now retired. “These guys were not pleasant guys … there was nothing there to say they were a positive influence on our society.”

Earlier this month, Rosen announced he would be resentencing the 15 men on death row in the county. Although Gov. Gavin Newsom all but dismantled the death penalty in 2019, 625 men and 20 women still sit in prison with death sentences.

Since Rosen’s announcement, Keech has stridently been voicing his opposition. Given that Rosen has already publicly said he will no longer pursue the death penalty and has the right to choose whether to pursue it, Keech said the resentencing is nothing more than a “political move.” 

Further, he said, rescinding death sentences goes against the will of Californians. In recent years, Californians have defeated two ballot initiatives, one in 2012 and another in 2016, that proposed abolishing the death penalty.

“If he wants to represent the defendants, let him work for the public defender’s office,” Keech said. “Jeff Rosen has crossed the line of the general public to the interest of those that have been tried and convicted of crimes.”

Keech said he is speaking up for the victim’s family, who have no one left to advocate for them.

Madden’s wife, Shirley, said after her husband’s death, her life was reduced to “just a big, sad open wound,” according to court testimony. She gained at least 30 pounds, suffered from depression and developed stress-induced psoriasis. 

Rosen has said his reasoning is a shift in belief about the death penalty’s morality. He has called it an “indignity,” saying it is part of a broken system, one that is racially biased and error-prone. 

Many have applauded the stance, but Keech isn’t alone in disagreeing with Rosen’s decision. 

In an op-ed for the San Jose Mercury News, Ron Matthias, a former capital crimes litigator for the California Dept. of Justice, wrote, “… [Rosen’s] responsibilities to the public are properly defined not by his personal opinions but by the law as enacted by the voters and interpreted by the courts.” 

A visit to the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Ala. — a site that chronicles America’s history of lynching — helped change Rosen’s mind about capital punishment, he told the LA Times early this month.

But Keech said justice is about upholding the will of the people, not the DA’s sense of right and wrong. While he was quick to point the finger at Rosen for imposing his morality on the judicial system, Keech shirked questions about his own morality — one that informs his desire to see three men killed. 

He simply said, “They deserve it,” pointing to the heinous nature of their crime, something Rosen has never disputed. 

Nevertheless, Keech thinks Rosen’s beliefs have poisoned his ability to represent the people who put him in office. 

“Everybody’s opinion is going to change. But if your opinion changes so that you are no longer able to represent the people you were elected to represent, you need to move on,” he said. “Do you think Rosen would go before the panel in Nuremberg and ask for life without parole?”

Rosen won nearly 55% of the vote in 2022. He will be up for election again in 2026.

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15 Comments
  1. John Haggerty 4 weeks ago
    Reply

    A few observations:
    (1) Those who are on death row are the worst of the worst.
    (2) Rosen’s proposal disrespects all of the diligent and dutiful work which our juries and court system have most solemnly performed in making sure that truth, justice, and the rule of law have been faithfully served and advanced in our county.
    (3) Both the death penalty and the right of our government to take the life of a criminal (as long as it does so with a due process of law) are expressly recognized in the 5th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution as well as in our state Constitution.
    (4) Throughout its history our government has sent thousands of INNOCENT American soldiers to fight AND DIE for our country without any legal proceedings at all.
    (5) The main purpose of the death penalty is deterrence (not punishment or any personal posturings about morality).
    (6) Even the criminal gangs believe in the strong deterrent effect of the death penalty as can be seen from the fact that they routinely kill any gang member who breaks their code of silence and other rules. Would Rosen not agree that a criminal is much less likely to break a gang’s code of silence as a result of that gang’s death penalty? How could he not unless he was trying to gaslight us?
    (7) When Rosen was first elected in 2010, he said that he was in favor of the death penalty. (My memory is a bit faint in this regard, but I think that he was of the view, back then, that the death penalty helped his office obtain more plea bargains.) Then, in his last term, after he was reelected, he announced that he would no longer seek the death penalty in the future. NOW, he is seeking to undo all of the death penalties which his duly elected predecessors had dutifully obtained in the past.
    (8) HOWEVER, under article V, section 8, of our state Constitution, even our Governor may not reduce the sentence of a person, twice convicted of a felony (which would include most death row inmates), except upon the recommendation of our state Supreme Court. Rosen is not our Governor. Nor is he a lawmaker (we, the People, are). Nor is he one of Plato’s philosopher kings. He is a prosecutor. His primary, if not sole, purpose is to prosecute (not pardon) criminals.

    • Valerie Houghton's Victim 3 weeks ago
      Reply

      These are good questions.

      “Would Rosen not agree that a criminal is much less likely to break a gang’s code of silence as a result of that gang’s death penalty? How could he not unless he was trying to gaslight us?”

  2. Gerald Nordley 4 weeks ago
    Reply

    I don’t think Rosen can pardon anyone. What he might do is ask a court to resentence a person, under California Penal Code section 1170(d). The court would have to agree.

    • John Haggerty 4 weeks ago
      Reply

      I am somewhat reluctant to get into the nitty gritty of California criminal law procedure. However, deterring heinous criminals from viciously murdering more Californians is so important to all of us, I will note here that DA Rosen, in his original press release promoting his quest to commute the death sentences of 15 convicted murderers, indicated that he was primarily relying on the recently enacted Penal Code section 1172.1 (which only went into effect this year), not the section to which you refer.
      Section 1172.1 was enacted (concocted) by the anti-death penalty politicians in Sacramento last year to purportedly empower DAs to go into a trial court and effectively, de facto commute the death penalty of a death row inmate through: (A) a proceeding in which it does not appear that anyone will be arguing in support of the death penalty that a jury has duly imposed, i.e., there will only be the DA (who wants to commute the sentence) and the convict (conceivably the relatives of the victim may be allowed to address the court but that is not clear); MOREOVER, (B) part (b)(2) of this new statute provides that “[t]here shall be a PRESUMPTION favoring recall and resentencing of the defendant, which may only be overcome if a court finds the defendant currently poses an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety.” (All caps added.) To sum up, the Sacramento politicos have concocted a NON-adversarial “proceeding” which has the trial court PRESUMING in favor of the convicted murderer.
      NOTE: The California Supreme Court has yet to decide whether this new statute blatantly violates article V, section 8, of our state Constitution which I described, supra, that only authorizes our Governor to commute the sentence of twice convicted felons (and then only upon the recommendation of our state Supreme Court, not a trial court).

    • B.z. 3 weeks ago
      Reply

      That’s the problem. Rosen can pardon anyone. There doesn’t even need to be a conviction. Anyone with a bit of money can get immunity.

    • Valerie Houghton's Victim 3 weeks ago
      Reply

      He can pardon anyone. The Santa Clara County DA’s Office has turned into a protection racket. His commutations are indicative of what is really going on.

  3. RJ 4 weeks ago
    Reply

    If someone is convicted of a heinous crime like the one this article describes from 1991, it is 100% clear and evident they are the ones who did it and are sentenced to death I agree with it. Another case is Charles Ng who was convicted in 1991 of grotesque rapes, assaults, torture, and murders he committed spanning a decade. Ng video recorded many of his crimes so there is no question of his guilt but he has subjected the California and Federal justice systems with numerous appeals to include a recent appeal in 2022. He has been playing this game and avoided his death sentence for more than 30 years. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Ng
    There have been numerous persons sentenced to death after being wrongly prosecuted and convicted of crimes. So, I do agree with using every resource to defend a person and using extreme caution when prosecuting capital crimes but that should be done at time of prosecution by the DA’s office. There is a current lawsuit brought by a man wrongfully and incompetently prosecuted by SJPD and the Santa Clara DA’s office. https://www.mercurynews.com/2024/03/28/san-jose-wrongful-conviction-lawsuit-for-exonerated-man-heads-toward-trial/
    Setting DA Rosen’s ‘moral stance’ aside, I agree with his office that seeking life in prison instead of the death penalty as it’s a useless battle against the state’s indefinite moratorium on executions. A death sentence will only provide those properly convicted of capital crimes an endless and costly opportunity to challenge their convictions in court even if there is undisputable evidence of their crimes.
    This part really irks me though: ” Keech shirked questions about his own morality — one that informs his desire to see three men killed. He simply said, “They deserve it.” The problem with a cop’s opinion on justice is their hypocrisy. Cops all too frequently lie and wrongfully frame people for crimes but when called to account for their own lack of integrity they try to claim Qualified Immunity to not be held accountable. Cops don’t want their pensions and benefits accessible to compensate victims for crimes committed under the color of law but cops want the justice system to implement harsher sentences on people.
    Keech and all police officers would benefit from a visit to The Legacy Sites museum. https://legacysites.eji.org/about/museum/

  4. Ben Z. 3 weeks ago
    Reply

    This really is just a political move. I can tell you from experience that Jeff Rosen doesn’t care about the law or the life of others. He is helping conceal and incentivizing serious assaults against me by my former attorney, Valerie Houghton. Please read this, then decide for yourself if Rosen really cares about justice and public safety. https://www.thepetitionsite.com/272/404/301/district-attorney-jeffrey-rosen-please-stop-sex-trafficking-my-kids/

  5. Ben Z. 3 weeks ago
    Reply

    Jeff Rosen can’t have it both ways. He is either against killing people or he is not. It shouldn’t matter if he knows the person committing the crime, or not. I have been assaulted so many times by Mr. Rosen’s associates, that now my testicles have atrophied, all of my organs are damaged and the shape of my face has changed. Valerie Houghton is not even concealing her crimes. She readily posts threatening messages on social media. She knows that the District Attorney will do nothing to stop that or the sexual abuse of my kids. Houghton is sex trafficking my kids and is assaulting me because I am trying to stop the abuse of my children. Rosen is turning this county into a place of lawlessness. I don’t understand why anyone voted for him. He is destroying the DA’s Office with his poor example. I am being prosected in an attempt to help conceal what is happening. Rosen doesn’t care who gets punished. Case in point, when I asked Daniel Chung for help, he was fired a couple of weeks later. It should have been Rosen who should have been help to account for his conduct. But it was Chung who was subsequently fired. Rosen has a convoluted sense of justice. Now, in the midst of a budget shortfall, the taxpayer is paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for Chung to stay home.

  6. Ben Z. 3 weeks ago
    Reply

    Can you imagine the impact that Rosen has on the DA’s Office? He is teaching his subordinates that it is okay to conceal violent crimes. If someone opposes any of his misconduct, the consequence is losing your job. His protection racket comes first, the community a distant second. You can see it in the prosecution of Anthony Becker. Why is he sinking so much time and effort into that? Why is he not more focused on serious crimes, such as those perpetrated against me?

  7. Ben Z. 3 weeks ago
    Reply

    I can tell you this much. I am not the only who has been poisoned and prosecuted. See freearianna.org. This guy was just trying to protect his daughter from being sexually abused. There are at least 9 other children that have been sexually abused on DA Rosen’s watch. Violet Brooks went to Mr. Rosen, begging him to protect her three daughters. Those girls were abused until the age of 18 because Rosen wouldn’t lift a finger. The perpetrator was too wealthy and connected. Read about those girl’s lawsuit here: https://archive.ph/2HEec

  8. Ben Z. 3 weeks ago
    Reply

    DA Rosen just doesn’t care about victims. Read about how Paul Gackle was mistreated by DA Rosen after being stabbed 15 times: https://www.davisvanguard.org/2022/12/crime-victims-file-complaint-against-judges-and-da-for-having-secret-meetings/

  9. Ben Z. 3 weeks ago
    Reply

    Rosen is just a completely callous person. One day it could be you and your children who are victims. Please consider not voting for him again. Lets put someone else in charge of public safety. If you disagree, you are probably just in on the protection scheme.

  10. Ben Z. 3 weeks ago
    Reply

    Look at the new DA’s website: https://da.santaclaracounty.gov/home Why is he spending resources on a new website? He says that their is a shortage of attorneys and a spike in DV. https://sanjosespotlight.com/domestic-abuse-violence-cases-overwhelm-silicon-valley-bay-area-santa-clara-county-district-attorney-da-prosecutors/ All he cares about is portraying the image that he cares about others and making himself look like an icon.

  11. Ben Z. 3 weeks ago
    Reply

    Watch me beg for a screening for my kids. Rosen starts eating as I describe my son getting raped. I thought maybe he would get sick to his stomach, but he just kept eating. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LaKUYhXaLV8&t=2133s

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