Sacramento, CA – A controversial decision by California parole officials to grant release to convicted child killer Patrick Goodman has triggered outrage and calls for intervention by Governor Gavin Newsom. Goodman was sentenced in 2002 to 25 years to life for brutally beating his girlfriend’s 3-year-old son Elijah Sanderson to death in 2000.
The horrific details of the case, including evidence that Goodman swung Elijah repeatedly by the wrist into a wall, have led critics to condemn the parole board’s decision last month. They urge Newsom to block Goodman’s release, arguing he poses an ongoing danger to public safety.
This is the most heinous crime there is – it’s on a child,” said former San Francisco police officer Britt Elmore, adding Goodman targeted “the most innocent victim” possible. Elmore wants Newsom to not only reverse the parole grant, but review whether parole board members are qualified for their jobs.
The district attorney’s office in San Francisco, where Goodman was tried and convicted, strongly opposed his parole at a December 14 hearing. “I hope that one day I will be able to show Elijah’s family, society and everyone who got caught in the ripple effect of my actions, that I’m no longer the monster that I used to be,” Goodman told commissioners, according to a transcript.
But after 15 minutes of deliberation, commissioners Michele Minor and Dane Blake decided Goodman “does not currently pose an unreasonable risk to public safety.” This contradicted an earlier decision in May 2022 denying Goodman parole for at least three more years.
Victim Advocates Say Goodman Still Poses Danger
Victim advocates strongly dispute the parole board’s conclusion on Goodman’s danger to society. “Someone who will murder a child has the capability to murder anyone,” said Jonathan Hatami, a former LA prosecutor of child abuse cases. “Child murderers pose a serious danger to our community. Period.”
Hatami argues the calculated, intentional torture and killing of a helpless 3-year-old proves Goodman’s capacity for further violence. “If you will murder a child, someone who is the most vulnerable in our society, you are a danger to our entire community,” he said.
The district attorney’s office in 2002 said Goodman’s life sentence “was done in that the killer of this little child will spend the rest of his life in prison.” Whether he now goes free rests solely in Governor Newsom’s hands.
Previous Parole Controversies Under Scrutiny
This latest decision has increased scrutiny over California’s parole process, which has caused controversy before in high-profile murder cases. Critics say the board too often ignores objections from victim families and prosecutors to allow violent felons back into communities.
Recent examples include the notorious Manson family killer Leslie Van Houten, granted parole in 2020, and Sirhan Sirhan, the assassin of Robert F. Kennedy, granted parole last year. Newsom blocked Van Houten’s release but did not challenge Sirhan’s, despite heavy pressure.
With Goodman’s case, the questions over public safety threats and qualifications of parole commissioners are even more heated given the extreme violence against a helpless child. Critics say if such crimes don’t warrant continuing incarceration, the parole system is irrevocably broken.
Rehabilitation Claims Met With Skepticism
In granting parole, commissioners said Goodman had taken responsibility for the murder and worked to rehabilitate himself in prison. They cited his participation in self-help programs, lack of other violence, and ” growth and increased maturity.”
But victim advocates and those familiar with the horrific evidence in Elijah’s murder remain skeptical that Goodman has truly reformed after such a short time locked up. They worry the parole board gave undue weight to his good behavior in confinement and are willing to give violent criminals second chances too easily.
“It’s a biased system that cares more about criminals than public safety,” said Elmore, who predicts a public uproar if Goodman is freed. Hatami agreed: “The parole board has lost all common sense when it comes to releasing violent criminals.”
All eyes are now on Governor Newsom to see if he will act to reverse the decision. With only a month to review the case and make a ruling, the pressure is building on Newsom to prioritize public safety over parole board recommendations.
While believes in rehabilitation, Newsom faces outrage if Goodman is freed so soon given the depravity of his crime. Victims’ rights groups urge Newsom to stand with them rather than violent offenders like Goodman.
Newsom’s decision will carry major implications, either boosting or damaging public confidence in California’s parole system. For now, the fate of hardened child killer Patrick Goodman hangs in the balance.