‘You Are a Murderer, and That is Your Legacy’ Declares Mother to Her Son’s Killer

By Sophia Barberini

SACRAMENTO – Judge Michael A. Savage of Sacramento County Superior Court sentenced Damien Todd to 16 years in state prison for voluntary manslaughter after the mother of the victim declared to Todd, “You are a murderer, and that is your legacy.”

Last Friday morning, court convened for the sentencing hearing of Todd, who pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter after he shot a man in the chest on March 30, 2020, and “left him to die.”

Given the defendant’s plea of no contest, defense attorney Thomas Clinkenbeard and Deputy District Attorney Brad Ng agreed to a “stipulated term of 16 years in state prison.”

Before imposing his sentence, Judge Savage heard victim impact statements from the defendant’s sister-in-law and mother.

The victim’s sister-in-law addressed the court stating, “Sadly, like [the victim], in his final moments, our family is suffering from a gaping hole in our heart that will never be repaired.”

Attempting to explain the horrifying nature of the crime, the victim’s sister-in-law illustrated, “[The victim] died laying in the street, alone. He was only 30 years old. His death changed my life in more ways than one, and I have lost the ability to be the person I was before his death.”

The victim’s sister-in-law noted her family “assumed this case would go to trial,” and that, “with the plea deal, [she] is left feeling that justice has not been served,” added her disappointment the defendant’s “character will not be assassinated in court for the people to see, feel, and hear as it should be.”

In an attempt to explain the grief experienced by her family, the victim’s sister-in-law addressed the defendant directly.

“You left him to die as you casually walked to your car and drove away. Your senseless act has devastated our family. You have caused substantial pain in more lives than one. You will forever be known as a murderer to our family. You do not deserve the privilege of being a free man ever again.”

The victim’s sister-in-law concluded, “Our family will never recover.”

The victim’s mother also addressed the court, directing most of her victim impact statement directly to Judge Savage and the defendant.

She grievously expressed to the court, “I had to learn that my son died by himself, without any of his loved ones. I am filled with so much sadness, anger, and rage because of the decisions of a complete stranger.”

Attempting to convey to Judge Savage the gravity of his power, she declared to him, “You need to understand, please, the importance of your voice being the last voice of justice, earthly justice, for families of victims that have been murdered.”

Further, she explained to Judge Savage, “I know you have presided over murder cases for years and you have probably become somewhat jaded, but you need to understand the importance of your voice being the last voice that speaks for us, the family members of the slain.”

The victim’s mother also addressed the defendant directly, declaring, “You chose murder. You chose it. You are a murderer, and that is your legacy. You have left behind you a path of destruction. Don’t fool yourself, because you are not fooling me. I see you. You are a murderer.”

DDA Ng, reiterating the disappointment of the victim’s sister-in-law, expressed, “It was extremely difficult to resolve the case in the way we did.”

Further, he explained, “But based on the evidence, significantly the fact that the only eyewitnesses were the ages four and six and weren’t able to articulate the specifics of what occurred… it was a high likelihood that a jury would at best convict… of voluntary manslaughter.”

Judge Savage addressed the victim’s mother before imposing his sentence.

He articulated, “Ma’am, you’re correct. I, unfortunately, have seen way too many of these circumstances in my experience, but it’s not true that I have become totally jaded.”

He expressed, “As I listen to you discuss what this has done to your family, I am reminded again that there’s simply no way for a human court, and someone like myself, to begin to adequately address the gravity of a loss like this.

“There’s no penalty, even a death penalty if that were available, that would adequately address the amount of suffering that you have already gone through. I feel at these moments, always, so weak and inadequate, and completely impotent, to address what has happened here, and so I apologize for that,” he added.

Acknowledging the profound grief of the victim’s family, Judge Savage stated, “There is a reason why the penalties for murder, that is destroying another life, are the most powerful we have in our government, but even those are so weak and so inadequate to address this loss. Again, I wish I could do so much more.”

Explaining that “the crime did involve great violence and acts disclosing a high degree of cruelty, viciousness, or callousness as well as the other circumstances in aggravation,” Judge Savage declared that “the defendant’s aggregate term in state prison is 16 years.”

Sophia Barberini, from San Mateo, CA, is a fourth-year student at UC Berkeley. She is double majoring in Political Science and Legal Studies and hopes to pursue a career in law.

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