The widow and two daughters of a man who was kidnapped, robbed and murdered three decades ago urged a judge Wednesday to reject a request by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office to vacate his killer’s death sentence and resentence him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
“I have lived 30 years in the peace that the state of California gave to me,” Fred Rose’s widow, Sharon, told Superior Court Judge William Ryan. “I have also lived 30 years without Fred. Every second of my life — both practically and emotionally — has been affected by that.”
She said anything short of denying the request to resentence former Palmdale resident Scott Forrest Collins “would be to victimize my family again,” and urged the judge to “please take into account my wish that the request for resentencing not be granted.”
One of the victim’s daughters, Heather Scott, told the judge that her father was taken from his three children when they were 14, 12 and 10, saying that Collins “took a few hundred dollars and my dad’s life so he could buy beer and party.”
“Judge and jury decisions today matter. How can we ever rely on our system of justice if we allow a few people to overturn what were lawfully meant to be permanent sentences? What’s to say Collins won’t again be resentenced to something even less in the future?” she asked. “Our family unanimously wishes that Scott Collins’ current sentence stand and not be reduced.”
In a written statement read in court on her behalf, another of the victim’s daughters, Amy Rose, said, “Having my father killed as a teenager was horrifying. One of the only comforts I’ve carried with me over the years was knowing that the man responsible for murdering Dad was given the appropriate sentence for the crime he committed.
“Over the last few months, knowing that his sentence could be changed has caused me many sleepless nights,” she added.
The judge — who noted that he wasn’t going to immediately decide on the request by the District Attorney’s Office — is set to hear July 19 from attorneys on the case.
Collins, now 51, was sentenced to death in 1996 for the kidnapping, robbery and murder of Rose, a 42-year-old father of three who failed to return to his job at a Lancaster construction business after a lunch break. He was found lying next to railroad tracks in North Hollywood with a gunshot wound to the head on Jan. 23, 1992, and died the next day after being taken off life support, according to a May 2010 ruling from the California Supreme Court upholding his death sentence.
Earlier that day, the victim’s ATM card had been used to withdraw $200 from a Northridge bank and his gas station credit card was used to buy gas in North Hollywood the night of the shooting.
Collins — who had previously been convicted of armed robbery, assaults and possession of narcotics — was found guilty of first-degree murder, robbery and kidnapping. Jurors also found true the special circumstance allegations of murder during a kidnapping and murder during a robbery, along with an allegation that he personally used a firearm during the commission of the crimes.
The same jury that found Collins guilty of Rose’s slaying recommended that he be sentenced to death, but then-Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Leon Kaplan granted the defense’s motion for a new penalty phase based on alleged juror misconduct and then recused himself from presiding over further proceedings in the case.
An appellate court reversed the trial court’s decision and reinstated the jury’s verdict recommending that Collins be sentenced to death. The death sentence was imposed about three years later by Judge Howard Schwab.
In its 2010 ruling upholding Collins’ death sentence, Associate Justice Carol Corrigan noted that Collins claimed he took Rose’s 1983 gray Oldsmobile Cutlass after seeing it parked on the side of Sierra Highway with the keys inside.
In a court filing in February, Deputy District Attorney Shelan Joseph wrote that Collins “was only 21 years old at the time of the offense and he experienced hardship as a child, including the death of his father.”
Joseph’s filing noted that the defendant’s learning disabilities were “never adequately treated in school” and that he has engaged in “educational and work opportunities” since being moved to California Correctional Institution at Tehachapi under a voluntary program that allows condemned inmates with good behavior to transfer off death row. She described him as a “model prisoner.”
Former Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley and former Deputy District Attorney Kathleen Cady, who are representing the victim’s family, wrote in a court filing in February that “any objective review of the case and procedural history would lead one to come to the conclusion that the people’s recommendation for resentencing is a result of (District Attorney George) Gascón’s policy that a sentence of death is never an appropriate resolution in any case and working backwards to have the ends justify the means.
“When the evidence suggests that the District Attorney’s Office and the defense are in collusion, the court is the final and only gate keeper to ensure that justice is done and victims’ rights are upheld,” Cooley and Cady — who are both involved in an attempt to recall Gascón — wrote in their filing.
Last December, Gascón’s office noted that death sentences are no longer being sought in murder cases in Los Angeles County and said post-conviction death penalty cases were being reviewed to determine if there is a meritorious legal reason to vacate an inmate’s death sentence or to resentence them in the interest of justice, saying that five people had already been resentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.