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Davis to Parole Killer in ’82 Case

Times Staff Writer

Gov. Gray Davis has agreed to parole a Stockton man who killed his best friend with a baseball bat during a cocaine binge more than 20 years ago, a spokesman announced Saturday.

Davis said Richard Kemp, 42, deserves to be freed because he has accepted responsibility for the murder, maintained an impressive record behind bars and has been judged safe for release by prison psychiatrists.

“Mr. Kemp committed a shockingly brutal crime,” Davis said, “in which he bludgeoned his longtime friend to death with a baseball bat while under the influence of drugs.”

But Kemp quit using drugs immediately after the killing, Davis added in a prepared statement, and has strong family support that is likely to help him stay clean. Of all the parole cases he has reviewed, the governor said, Kemp has a prison record that is “second to none.”

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Kemp becomes the fifth convicted murderer paroled by Davis, out of more than 200 whose cases he reviewed after the inmates involved were recommended for release by the governor-appointed Board of Prison Terms. The others freed by Davis were three battered women imprisoned in the killings of their abusive partners and a 71-year-old Stockton man who killed a neighborhood vandal.

Critics note that Davis’ record is far stricter than that of his Republican predecessor, Pete Wilson, who freed more than two dozen murderers in his last three years in office. They say many deserving convicts are rejected. The governor says he reviews each case on its merits and that very few of those who are eligible measure up.

Kemp was convicted of second-degree murder in the killing of Larry Proctor on Oct. 14, 1982. Then 22, Kemp went to Proctor’s Stockton home while high on cocaine during a $3,000 drug binge.

He asked Proctor for a loan to purchase more drugs, but his friend refused, picking up a baseball bat and telling Kemp to leave, the governor’s statement said. Instead, Kemp grabbed the bat and struck Proctor on the head numerous times, causing skull fractures and other injuries that killed the man.

While Davis said “the horror of the crime can never be diminished,” he noted that prison psychiatrists believe it stemmed from Kemp’s substance abuse and that it stands out “as an anomaly in the rest of his life.”

The governor said he was swayed by the fact that Kemp quit using drugs after the crime, has attended Narcotics Anonymous meetings continually while in prison, and has a job offer in Stockton counseling delinquent boys about the risks of drugs.

Davis added that he expects the influence of Kemp’s mother, who works as a substance-abuse counselor in a local school district, and supporters in his church and neighborhood will help the parolee stay clean.

At his parole hearing last year, Kemp made much the same prediction: “They’ve all vowed that if they see me slipping back, they’ll pull me up, which is something I didn’t have before.”

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While incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison, Kemp has earned an associate in arts degree and two vocational certificates. He has worked as a choir director, teachers aide and chapel clerk behind bars and has a file bulging with laudatory appraisals from employees and prison counselors.

Davis also noted that Kemp co-founded a group called IMPACT, or Incarcerated Men Putting Away Childish Things. With branches at several penitentiaries, the group holds workshops to help felons -- especially those who are fathers -- maintain and improve ties with their families.

An official with the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency said Kemp probably will be released Tuesday. He plans to live with his mother in Stockton.


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