A jury recommendation of the death penalty for the man convicted of murdering two Palm Springs police officers is just one step in a long process ahead.
John Felix’s death penalty verdict means relief for the families of officers Jose “Gil” Vega and Lesley Zerebny, but they’re concerned that because of a statewide moratorium placed on executions by Governor Gavin Newsom, Felix’s death sentence may never be carried out.
“When (the verdict) came back the death penalty, I was extremely happy about that,” said David Kling, Lesley Zerebny’s father. “What we got (Thursday) was justice and I am so happy!”
But as he and Palm Springs Police Chief Bryan Reyes pointed out, their dark days are not done yet.
“The family’s going to have to face this process for decades to come,” Chief Reyes said.
“In california if someone’s given the death penalty, it’s mandatory, two appeals — mandatory, to make sure they got all the details right,” said Matt Zerebny, Lesley Zerebny’s father-in-law.
Felix is the latest addition to a growing list of more than 700 backlogged death row inmates.
They say Governor Newsom’s executive order halting executions exacerbates that process for them.
“To give a blanket statement that everybody gets a pass — is he lazy? Does he not have the time to look at the details?” asked Zerebny.
Some Vega family members are strong believers in capital punishment. But Vega’s oldest brother, Jose Vega, didn’t want to take a stance.
“I’m a doctor so I was trained to save lives, so I never really gave an opinion on the death penalty,” Vega said.
“My opinion? I think (Newsom) is a coward,” Zerebny said. “He should have gone through the effort to try to find out what he could do to ease the suffering of these 744 families that have been horifically traumatized, who live in hell every day.