Kern district attorney slams governor’s decision to commute sentence of convicted murderer

Crime Watch

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Gov. Gavin Newsom’s commutation of the sentence of convicted murderer Steven Bradley was “a drastically misguided effort” made over the objections of the Kern County District Attorney’s office, prosecutors said Tuesday.

“Governor Newsom’s clemency order, issued amidst a public health emergency, intentionally glosses over Bradley’s crimes in a drastically misguided effort to justify his potential release,” District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer said in a news release. “The Kern County District Attorney’s Office will continue to strongly oppose any possibility of parole for this convicted killer.”

The commutation of Bradley’s sentence does not immediately grant his release, prosecutors said, but it gives Bradley an opportunity at release in future parole hearings by reducing his life without parole sentence to 32 years to life in prison.

Bradley was found guilty in 1998 of first-degree murder with special circumstances and robbery in the killing of gas station attendant Claude Baker.

The DA’s office provided the following summary of the crime:

Around 2:30 a.m. on Sept. 7, 1987, Bradley drove to a Shell station at 2600 White Lane. He worked at a Shell station across town and knew Baker, whom he robbed. During the robbery, Bradley motioned two customers to walk toward him, and produced a shotgun, causing the two customers and Baker to begin running away.

Bradley chased down Baker and shot him with the shotgun in the back from five feet away. Baker, wounded and disabled, continued to try and run. Bradley approached Baker while he was on the ground in the center divider and fired a second blast from the shotgun at point-blank range, killing him. He then went back to the gas station and emptied the cash register.

Bradley fled in his vehicle, leading officers on a chase exceeding speeds of 100 mph. It ended with him turning in a cul-de-sac, accelerating and ramming two police cars at 40 mph, causing major damage to all three vehicles.

Officers pulled the shotgun out of Bradley’s lap while he was still in the driver’s seat. Bradley resisted arrest and tried both pulling a 10-inch knife from under his leg and grabbing one of the officers’ guns. Officers subdued him and took him into custody, later finding a handgun hidden under a blanket on Bradley’s passenger seat.

Following his arrest, Bradley told police, “I had to…he knows me,” in reference to killing Baker.

Witnesses and jurors from the case, as well as surviving family members of Claude Baker, are asked to call the District Attorney’s office at 661-868-2340 for information regarding participation in future parole hearings.

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