|Vanguard Awards Ceremony Honors Six on July 26|
|Written by David Greenwald|
|Tuesday, 10 July 2012 11:38|
Cruz Reynoso to Present Award to Pepper Sprayed Students; Northern California Innocence Project Honored
As if the amazing line up of speakers at the Vanguard Dinner and Awards Ceremony was not enough, the Davis Vanguard announces its six annual awards. The Vanguard Awards honor the work of individuals and organizations on behalf of social justice.
Headlining the awards is the Northern California Innocence Project, based at the Santa Clara Law School, winning the award for Law School/University of the Year. Executive Director Cookie Ridolfi and Legal Director Linda Starr will be in house to personally receive this honor. The Vanguard honors their body of work that has helped two notable exonerees, including this year's speaker Franky Carrillo, last year's speaker Maurice Caldwell, and Obie Anthony, among many others.
The Vanguard will also be honoring the students who were pepper sprayed and arrested on November 18, 2011 on the UC Davis Quad, protesting university and state policies. The actions of these students and the subsequent overreaction by university policy found that "the decision to use pepper spray was not supported by objective evidence and was not authorized by policy."
The actions of the students on that day, and the subsequent investigations by the Kroll Investigators and Former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso, were critical in exposing years of faulty police and administrative practices at the university.
Justice Reynoso will be on hand to personally present the award to a representative of those students, many of whom currently face criminal charges in Yolo County for their role in subsequent protests.
Senator Leland Yee wins the Vanguard Elected Official of the Year Award for his staunch advocacy of transparency and open government. He has been a fierce fighter and critic of both CSU and UC both for their lack of openness in their processes and the fact that top executives have received huge pay increases while rank and file workers have taken pay cuts and students have had multiple double-digit fee increases.
Senator Yee has also pushed to end Life Without Parole for crimes committed by individuals as kids. Under Senate Bill 9, courts could review cases of juveniles sentenced to life without parole after 15 years, potentially allowing some individuals to receive a new minimum sentence of 25 years to life.
"The neuroscience is clear - brain maturation continues well through adolescence and thus impulse control, planning, and critical thinking skills are not yet fully developed," said Yee, who is a child psychologist. "SB 9 reflects that science and provides the opportunity for compassion and rehabilitation that we should exercise with minors."
"SB 9 is not a get-out-of-jail-free card; it is an incredibly modest proposal that respects victims, international law, and the fact that children have a greater capacity for rehabilitation than adults," said Yee. "I am hopeful that we will garner the votes this year to finally pass this important measure."
The Vanguard will also honor the work of Deputy Public Defender Dean Johansson, recommended by his colleagues as the Vanguard Attorney of the Year for his work advocating for the rights of the accused and his strong defense of his clients, trying the most criminal defense trials last year in the Yolo County Public Defender's Office.
Frank Gonzalez is being honored as Activist of the Year for his work in West Sacramento on the gang injunction and working against police corruption.
Students United for Reform and Justice is an organization of students at UC Davis King Hall Law School who have come together to "collectively recognize and respond to the massive injustices that persist in the American criminal justice system."
On November 17, 2011, Students for United Reform and Justice brought two exonerees to the Law School - John Thompson and Don Diolosa. Thompson was convicted of murder and spent 14 years on death row before private investigators learned that prosecutors had failed to turn over evidence that would have cleared him at his robbery trial.
His convictions overturned, Thompson was awarded $14 million by a jury for the wrongful imprisonment, but the US Supreme Court overturned it in what some called "one of the most cruel Supreme Court decisions ever," with Justice Clarence Thomas ruling that the district attorney can't be responsible for the single act of a lone prosecutor. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was so bothered by the majority decision that she read her dissent from the bench for the first time that term.
Full list of Awards:
Vanguard Attorney of the Year: Deputy Public Defender Dean Johansson
---David M. Greenwald reporting
It is sad that Leland Yee, who is working hard on suppressing constitutional rights to bear arms, is awarded. Yes, his work on other issues may be important, but for me, as for many more California residents, my civil rights are very important. As we speak Senator Yee tries to push through his SB249 that is aimed to criminalize possession of trivial parts for semi-automatic rifles. You may not like these rifles, but they are still legal and protected by our Constitution. It is our civil right to keep them. Before that he was attacking video games only to be stopped by courts. Senator Yee works hard to significantly reduce, if not eliminate, civil rights that he doesn't like. He does not deserve the award!