OAKLAND, Calif. — The San Francisco Bay Area’s legal community is abuzz over a death-penalty appeal that claims a respected late Jewish judge advised a prosecutor to exclude Jews from a jury because, since the Holocaust, “no Jew would vote to send a defendant to the gas chamber.”
Former Alameda County prosecutor Jack Quatman, now in private practice in Whitefish, Mont., gave a six-page declaration in which he claimed the late Alameda County Superior Court Judge Stanley P. Golde urged him to reject Jews from a jury that would consider the fate of Fred Freeman, a man who ultimately was convicted for the 1984 shooting murder of a Berkeley bar patron. Freeman has been on death row at California’s San Quentin State Prison ever since.
“Judge Golde called me into chambers and asked rhetorically, ‘Quatman, what are you doing?’” Quatman related in his declaration. “When I asked what the problem was, he said I had not challenged a prospective juror who was Jewish. Judge Golde was a very plainspoken man who was not shy about expressing his opinion. He said I could not have a Jew on the jury, and asked me if I was aware that when Adolph Eichman [sic] was apprehended after World War II there was a major controversy in Israel over whether he should be executed.”
Quatman’s declaration is part of Freeman’s habeas corpus petition to California’s Supreme Court, which upheld his sentence in 1994, but now is being asked to reconsider based on these new facts. Prosecutors claim that these aren’t facts at all, just a desperate attempt to avoid lethal injection — at the cost of a deceased jurist’s reputation.
“Judge Golde was extremely well respected here, very well respected in the Jewish community, and the sad part is, obviously, that things are being said about him after his death so that he’s not in a position to defend himself,” Alameda County District Attorney Thomas Orloff said. “That’s what we’re going to be doing.”
Orloff’s office is working with the California Attorney General’s Office to keep Freeman on death row and, in doing so, remove the tarnish from Golde’s name. The state Supreme Court has appointed a special referee to hold a March 22 evidentiary hearing on whether Quatman’s allegations are true.
Born and raised in St. Louis, Golde was the only child of Russian and Lithuanian immigrants who strove against poverty and antisemitism toward a law degree from the University of California at Berkeley. He made a name for himself as a criminal defense attorney, representing targets of Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s, and Berkeley Free Speech activists after a 1964 campus sit-in.
He was named to the bench in 1973 by then-governor Ronald Reagan on the advice of his good friend, former Alameda County prosecutor Edwin Meese. Despite finding capital punishment morally repugnant, he upheld California’s law and pronounced many death sentences in his quarter-century on the bench. Although he occasionally took some heat from appellate courts — particularly for deviating from the language of state-mandated jury instructions — he was regarded as a dean among local jurists. He died of stomach cancer in 1998, at age 70.
The California Habeas Corpus Resource Center now represents Freeman, the convicted man in whose defense Quatman gave his declaration; senior counsel Shelley Sandusky said the center is a state-funded agency, and as such can’t comment on pending litigation. Deputy Attorney General Morris Lenk, representing the state, referred questions to Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Morris Jacobson, with whom he’s working against Freeman’s petition.
“As to Mr. Quatman’s allegations, both specifically as to what occurred in the Freeman case and in general as to our policy in this office at that time, it appears that there is not a basis in fact… and Mr. Quatman’s credibility is suspect,” Jacobson told the Forward, declining to comment further.
Legal community sources speaking on condition of anonymity say Quatman was demoted in the early 1990s after referring to a female subordinate by a vulgar term, and his mid-1990s campaign for a local judge’s seat was derailed by this and other revelations about his practices. People say he left town embittered toward the DA’s office in general and toward Orloff in particular, and that his declaration in Freeman’s appeal — though it undermines a case he himself tried — is a manifestation of this grudge.
Quatman did not return the Forward’s calls seeking comment.
“It makes no sense to me whatsoever,” said retired Alameda County Assistant District Attorney James Anderson, who led his office’s death-penalty team and is among California’s most experienced capital prosecutors. Anderson said he knew both Golde and Quatman well, and although he always knew that Quatman bore some ill will toward Orloff, “to take the anger to this level is beyond my comprehension,” he told the Forward.
Anderson said that Golde mentored prosecutors and defense counsel alike, and simply never would have done anything contrary to the law and his own high ethical standards. “Judge Golde was the top of the food chain when it came to trial courts, and it’s painful to see his honor, reputation, and character assassinated so many years after his passing,” he said.
Senior U.S. District Judge D. Lowell Jensen, Golde’s law-school classmate and life-long friend, provided his own written declaration in response to Quatman’s.
“As for the allegation that Judge Golde colluded with, or advised and encouraged, a prosecutor to engage in misconduct in his courtroom in the trial of a capital case, this accusation is, in my opinion, totally false,” wrote the federal judge and former district attorney. “It is simply inconceivable that Stanley Golde would throw over a lifetime of devotion to the law and to its ethical practice in an attempt to achieve the wrongful conviction and wrongful imposition of a death penalty for a defendant on trial in his courtroom.”
Golde was a congregant at Oakland’s Temple Sinai, where Rabbi Steven Chester remembers him fondly. “He was very, very well versed in Judaism, read a lot of Jewish books and commentary,” Chester said, recalling how on his sickbed, Golde wanted to discuss his latest readings on Judaism. “One of the real loves of his life was his Jewish self and his Jewish knowledge. He took it beyond just being proud; he really applied Judaism to his life.”
One of Golde’s sons is a longtime prosecutor in Orloff’s office.
“As a prosecutor, I’m not going to respond to this stuff — it’ll play out in whatever way its going to play out,” Matthew Golde said. “But as a son, I can tell you it’s absolutely untrue. He was a man of tremendous integrity, tremendous intellectual capacity, compassion, humanity… and it’s outrageous that he is being attacked this way. It’s very hurtful.”