District Attorney reduces sentence of last SF man on death row

Clifford Stanley Bolden resentenced to life in prison, will be eligible for parole when he is 79

District Attorney Chesa Boudin has agreed to reduce the death sentence of Clifford Stanley Bolden, the last person from San Francisco on California’s death row.

Boudin announced today that his office has agreed to re-sentence Bolden to a 47 years-to-life sentence. Under the agreement, Bolden, who is incarcerated in San Quentin State Prison, will forgo any further legal challenges.

“In recent years, an increasing number of Americans—and San Franciscans—have come to recognize that the death penalty is not only undeniably cruel and inconsistent with the values of a humane society, but also fails to deter or prevent crime,” Boudin said in a statement. “My office has not sought and will not seek the death penalty, and I am pleased that we have been able to ensure that no one previously sentenced in San Francisco will remain on death row either.”

According to the District Attorney’s Office, Bolden has already served more than 34 years in prison for robbing and fatally stabbing Henry Michael Pedersen in 1986.

That year on Sept. 9, Pedersen was found dead in his bathtub by his neighbor, with cuts that formed an “L”-shaped wound around the left side of his chest, according to court documents. By identifying fingerprints at the crime scene, police arrested Bolden just two days after the victim’s body was discovered.

Officers found that Bolden had a double-edged knife in a black sheath strapped to his leg, concealed by his pants and socks. The blood stain on the knife matched with the victim’s blood sample, according to court records. The victim’s brother also identified various items including the camera and binoculars found in Bolden’s apartment as those he had given to the victim.

A jury convicted Bolden of first-degree murder and robbery. After finding him guilty, the jury returned a penalty verdict of death in 1991.

Officials have now decided to re-sentence Bolden for various reasons. For one, Gov. Gavin Newsom placed a moratorium on the death penalty to reduce costs. And officials say that reducing a death sentence to a life in prison saves up to $90,000 annually.

The jury that sentenced him to death was also unaware that Bolden had schizophrenia when he committed his crime, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Court records show that Bolden was bullied by others during childhood and rejected by his father due to his stutter. His father was an alcoholic, and Bolden would witness his father beating his mother.

He was a veteran of the Marine Corps and while training for combat, he suffered a knee injury. After being assigned to a desk job, his behavior deteriorated rapidly and he was discharged from the Marine Corps.

In 1979, he was aquitted of the murder of Ronald Jenkins and pleaded guilty to killing Ernest Cole with a machete, according to reporting by the San Francisco Examiner. In 1984, he made a short-lived escape from Folsom Prison that lasted 90 minutes. Five months after he was released from prison in 1986, police arrested Bolden for the fatal knifing of Pedersen, who was a 46 year-old accountant.

He was also accused of attempting to escape from San Francisco County jail in 1987 while awaiting trial for Pedersen’s murder.

Bolden will be eligible for parole when he is 79.

Nancy Haydt, executive director of the nonprofit Death Penalty Focus said in a statement:“Settlements, like this one, will ensure that criminal defendants serve significant prison sentences but have an opportunity to rehabilitate and re-enter society as reformed persons.”


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