Four California district attorneys, Anne Marie Schubert, Michael Hestrin, Lisa Smittcamp and Gilbert Otero, have this notable new CNN commentary under the headline “California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s death penalty moratorium is a disgrace.” Here is how it gets started:
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s blanket moratorium on California’s death penalty is a slap in the face to crime victims and their families who have waited years for justice. With the stroke of his pen last month, Newsom single-handedly undermined our state’s democratic values and our criminal justice system.
Democracy embodies a government where the people hold the ruling power either directly or through elected representatives. In California, the people have exercised their power repeatedly in voting to keep the death penalty for the state’s most horrific killers. In fact, less than three years ago, California voters made this clear when they rejected an initiative, supported by Newsom, to abolish the death penalty and instead passed an initiative to ensure its fair and efficient implementation.
When Newsom campaigned for governor, he explicitly asserted that he would respect the will of the voters regarding the death penalty. So much for that promise. Instead, Newsom disregarded the voters in favor of his personal opinion and granted leniency to those facing the death penalty, including serial killers, cop killers, mass shooters, baby killers and sexual sadists.
In doing so, Newsom damaged the very fabric of our criminal justice system — trial by jury — where community members, not just one person in a position of power, make decisions affecting life and liberty. Newsom’s unilateral decision to ignore jury verdicts imposing the death penalty is not just an arbitrary exercise of power, it is a gross miscarriage of justice.
In support of his moratorium, Newsom also made broad sweeping statements, often cited by the American Civil Liberties Union and other death penalty opponents, including cautions about racism and claims that some on death row may be innocent. If Newsom has concerns about specific cases, he should examine those cases individually rather than granting mercy to everyone on death row. After all, Newsom has the powers of clemency and commutation as a remedy if he sees actual proof that someone was wrongfully convicted.
But looking at the facts of cases isn’t something Newsom seems to want to do. Why? It could be because the facts are so horrific that one cannot justify leniency to these killers.
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