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Governor Suspends Use Of Death Penalty In California; Cites Moral Reasons And Support Of Citizenry

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Gov. Gavin Newsom announced his decision to suspend capital punishment in California Wednesday, saying the system has been a failure and granting a reprieve for the 737 people currently on Death Row.

State Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, praised Newsom’s decision and said she “deeply respected” the governor’s moral courage in making the decision.

“Our criminal justice system is based on the bedrock principle that no person should ever be wrongfully convicted,” she wrote. “And yet such wrongful convictions happen. Just last year, Vicente Benavides Figueroa was released from California’s Death Row after being behind bars for 25 years for a crime he did not commit. Unfortunately, he was not alone. Since 1976, more than 160 Death Row inmates nationwide, including five in California, have been exonerated.”

Detractors have long argued that the death penalty undermines the constitutional right to equal protection under the law because it can put the life of an innocent person at risk. Newsom said that possibility was a burden he could not live with.

Newsom said the execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison will be dismantled. Under the terms of his moratorium, no inmate currently held on Death Row will be released and no sentence or conviction will be altered.

29 COMMENTS

  1. Charles Manson comes to mind. How did that work for CA? The far left has destroyed this state, especially when it comes to crime. I remember when CA was tough on crime. Three strikes, etc.

    Oh, well. With endless appeals death row inmates sit on death row forever, and are more likely to die of natural causes.

    As far as those exonerated, are they really innocent or did they fail to leave their DNA behind?

  2. Darryl Kemp – 1978 Lafayette Reservoir comes to mind as well. Kemp was given the death penalty three times.
    Thanks for nothing soft on crime liberals.

  3. I can’t even imagine signing the order that sent an innocent person to death. Apparently either can our governor.

  4. I support a death penalty with a fair, thorough and time-limited appeals process. Since the political realities in CA preclude that, I prefer scrapping the death penalty altogether (even though it pains me to acknowledge that this is exactly the victory/stragegy that opponents have been striving for). The status quo dysfunction costs too much money and fails to deliver meaningful incremental deterence of retribution versus life without parole. Let the dealth-penalty foes in CA move elsewhere and throw their monkey wrenches into the justice systems of other states.

  5. The support of citizenry? In 2016, CA voters voted to retain capital punishment and shorten the appeals process. We should follow the process we voted for. And you wonder why people don’t bother to vote?

  6. Killing someone who kills someone to prove that killing is bad never made much sense to me.

    • The reasoning behind the death penalty is to see to it that he (or she) never gets out of prison to kill again. Had Darryl Kemp not been let out (death penalty overturned – 1972) he wouldn’t have killed the wife and mother at the Lafayette Reservoir – 1978.

      CA is a liberal state, but yet CA voters voted to retain capital punishment and speed up the appeals process.

      80 percent of Republicans, 68 percent Independents and 54 percent of Democrats support the death penalty.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends up on the CA ballot. Again.

      Out of curiosity, I googled stories about those who were “exonerated.” One guy was let out of prison for killing his wife. He later murdered his girlfriend. Do you really think he was “innocent” of killing his wife?

      Exonerated doesn’t mean innocent.

    • Brendan, I agree that the logic in your strawman caricature makes no sense. The intent of the death penalty is not to “prove that killing is bad.” It is to serve as a deterent to future potential murders and to mete out just retribution to the most heinous and dangerous murderers. Of course, there is a argument to be made that the risks of bias and error outweigh the benefits.

  7. I think it’s pathetic that some people are more concerned about the rights of people like Charles Manson and Richard Allen Davis than justice for victims and their families.

    So the far left doesn’t want the death penalty for the most “heinous and dangerous murderers” but they’re okay with abortion?

    I read his office is receiving thousands of phone calls from angry death penalty supporters. Newsome is making Brown look conservative.

    If people don’t want to be “killed in someone’s name” perhaps they should have thought of that before they killed innocent people.

  8. I agree Teresa. It am continually surprised that we have not evolved past this barbaric practice. Reflects poorly on our collective emotional intelligence.

  9. Darryl Kemp was charged in 2003 with murder and an allegation that the killing occurred during a sexual assault in the slaying of Armida Wiltsey. Wiltsey was attacked while jogging at the Lafayette reservoir. Four months earlier, Kemp had been released from San Quentin where he was on death row for two rapes and a murder in Southern CA in the 1950s.

    It took him FOUR MONTHS to murder again. That’s why most Americans support the death penalty.

  10. Strange to cite Charles Manson, a man who was put in prison for life and was never able to harm another person again. Instead, going to one example where a bad thing happened to justify potentially murdering someone for a crime they didn’t commit. Life in prison satisfies the “protect the people from further harm”. No need to murder the person. We’re the only western democracy that still does it, which ought to give anyone pause. Good for Governor Newsom. We’re just as safe today as we were yesterday.

    • Well, on other news sites (Claycord, ECT) the comments are against this decision. This site is far left, or they’re the ones speaking out.

      A crime they didn’t commit? Kemp was let out because the death penalty was overturned in 1972, not because he was innocent. All death row inmates were given life with the possibility of parole, and some were let out – including Kemp.

      I was a teenager in Lamorinda in 1978 – I remember the slaying of Armida Wiltsey like it was yesterday. Explain it to the Wiltsey family, who lost a wife and mother because the death penalty was overturned, and Kemp was paroled for a murder HE COMMITTED.

      If CA would overturn the death penalty and give life without the possibility of parole, it would make sense. But to parole former death row inmates who’ve committed murder is INSANE.

      As far as siting Charles Manson, he and other Manson family members had parole hearings. A total waste of taxpayer money, and there was always the possibility they’d be paroled.

      Explain why former death row inmates are given life with the possibility of parole. It makes NO SENSE, and when CA overturns the death penalty, the people “aren’t protected from further harm.” They’re sometimes paroled, and we’re ALL at risk.

      The far left thinks everyone is a victim, except the people who really are victims – crime victims and their families.

      • I’m opposed to the death penalty and agree with Governor Newsom’s decision. I don’t believe having the state kill its killers is any deterrent and at best offers only temporary gratification to the families of the victims. Maybe. It is painfully obvious that putting people to death has not stopped murderers from murdering others.

        • I don’t believe it’s a deterrent either. I don’t think there is any deterrent to any crime. People commit crimes (including murder) because they want to, and because they can.

          I believe in the death penalty because it’s the only way of seeing to it that they’re never let of prison to kill again. Gratification has nothing to do with it either.

          CA voters (as liberal as CA is) voted in 2012 and 2016 to retain the death penalty, and in 2016 to speed up the appeals process. Newsom is not giving the voters what they voted on. He says this is “personal.”

          Personal? Try sitting down with the family of Laci Peterson, Polly Klass or Armida Wiltsey. He’ll hear some “personal stories.”

          When CA overturned the death penalty in 1972, it was voted on in Nov. 1972 to reinstate the death penalty. It will be back on the ballot when Newsom is gone.

  11. Not a more effective deterrent than life in prison. No one is weighing that tradeoff before acting. If premeditated they don’t expect to get caught. If impulsive they haven’t weighed the consequences. And clearly it lumps USA with the world’s worst. Rendition torture and Old Testament eye for an eye. USA! USA! USA!
    Not in my name!

  12. “But this is how extreme the Democratic Party has become: open celebration on the lethal injection of the unborn, while simultaneously protecting rapists and murderers from lethal injection. At least we now know whom Democrats think are the most dangerous among us. Innocent children who haven’t exited their mother’s womb.”

    Thankfully, only 20 percent of Americans are liberals. Sadly, too many of them live in CA and have ruined this state with their soft on crime stance.

    • No tgoing to rise to this because we’ve already had the relatives over to instruct us on the benefits of a Trump dictatorship but I’m just going to say we’re registered Independents in this house and that’s for a reason. I’ve never seen a more diabolical set of hypocrites than the Republican party in their current form — and they don’t care one teeny bit for children once they are out of the womb. You can put me down as Independent, anti murder and anti death penalty. This country needs to show others the way again not return us to the dark ages. As for criminals if they do the crime they need to do the time. Period.

      • My husband and I are registered Independents, and former Democrats. I’ve never been a Republican. I’m a moderate, but have right leaning opinions when it comes to crime.

        I’m not a Trump supporter (I voted for Clinton) so quit “assuming” you know my political leanings.

        For the record, I’m also pro-choice. But I don’t pretend that I won’t “end life” like hypocritical liberals who refuse to give the needle to people like Manson, Richard Allen Davis, Richard Ramirez, Scott Peterson, etc. but yet they’re the strongest pro-choice advocates.

        We clear?

  13. I find myself conflicted. In theory, I support the DP, but not in practice. If it truly was a deterrent, as it was created to be, it has not worked. I’m fine with holding guilt people accountable, and if death is the punishment, then so be it. That being said, time and time again, people who were given the DP, turned out to be innocent. One innocent person dying is one too many. The criminal justice system disproportionately effects the poor. If every defendant had access to the same level of defense and appeals, I’d be more supportive of it in practice. in my opinion, crime is not deterred by the introduction of new laws. It is deterred by enforcing the existing ones. Quite a conundrum.

    • Hey, Melissa, yes. First, thanks for using “conundrum.” Second, we agree – there are definitely no easy answers and ultimately, lives are at stake. The thought of an innocent person executed by the state always gives us shivers, and we have come upon crime scenes where the violence exhibited toward the victim made us – removed as we were – clench our fists and ache for vengeance. But, ultimately, that’s what it is – revenge. We’re not sure if we would want the state exacting that revenge in our name, others may feel differently. We have long said that a possible alternative would be to offer the opportunity for revenge to the family, husband, wife, relative of the victim. The people most affected. Then afford them the opportunity to exact their justice, up to and including the death of the perpetrator should they so choose. We feel many would demur from such an offer – and the accused could then enter the system for a lifetime behind bars, which would be no fun by any stretch of the imagination. Still barbaric, and we would like to think we are better than such an approach, but it’s the closest approximation of “justice” we can think of.

  14. So anti-death penalty supporters are concerned about the “innocent” being given the death penalty. What about INNOCENT people being killed by murderers who were convicted of murder and let out of prison because the death penalty was overturned (Kemp) and he killed again at the Lafayette reservoir. Or the man who was “exonerated” for killing his wife, let out of prison and then killed his girlfriend – another innocent victim. Who would be alive today if he hadn’t been let out.

    Most Americans support the death penalty, regardless of political party. It’s not revenge. It’s the only way to see to it he (or she) is never let out to kill again.

    There is no such thing as life in prison without possibility of parole in CA. This state paroles former death row inmates, and they kill again. I doubt Kemp is the only one.

    I hope and pray former death row inmates don’t come into contact with my family and friends.

    Lastly, poor people and people of color are given the death penalty more often. They also commit a higher percentage of crimes. Do the math. And if you kill a white person, you’re 3 times more likely to be given the death penalty. White people are more to kill other white people. and you don’t here white men complaining.

    And for those who don’t know (or care) why the death penalty was overturned in CA in 1972. CA vrs. Anderson. Mr. Anderson was a black man who shot and killed an employee at a pawn shop in the Gas Lamp Quarter (downtown San Diego). He said “he didn’t like or trust white people.” He was paroled about 6 years later.

    Was that really a good reason to overturn the death penalty? He admitted to not liking or trusting white people. Is that a reason to shoot a white man?

    • Danielle. You do realize most of the liberal / far left comments here was made by the same few individuals right? They’re just trolling.

  15. I’m just getting this out of my system. One last post, and I’m done.

    Since 1978 when CA voters reinstated the death penalty, five men on death row have been exonerated.

    Ernest “Shuyaa” Graham, convicted in 1976 for the killing of a correctional officer, was acquitted in 1981 because the court found that prosecutors “improperly used their peremptory challenges to exclude prospective jurors who were black.”

    Tracy Lee Jones was convicted in 1982 for the murder of Carolyn Grayson in Merced County. In 1996, the Supreme Court ordered he receive a re-trial because he received an “incompetent defense from his attorney.” The prosecution later dropped the charges and Jones was set free.

    So Graham was set free because he’s black, and no blacks were on the jury. And Graham was set free because his attorney wasn’t good enough. I’m sure the reasons for the other three are just as pathetic.

    I hope anti-death supporters realize “why” people are being exonerated. It has NOTHING TO DO WITH BEING INNOCENT.

    CA voters have voted eight times in favor of the death penalty. Will their be a ninth?

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