Don’t you just love it when a dyed-in-the-wool politician suddenly finds God and morality and goes off the deep end?!
It’s happened again, this time in the great state of California – a bastion of liberal politics; in fact, a state totally in the hands of, and under the control of, Democrats.
It’s no surprise, then, that the governor of that state can make a major decision as to how the criminal justice system will work – and he gets away with it. In fact, there are those who say the move will influence prisons across the country.
What am I talking about? It’s the decision and action taken by Governor Gavin Newsom last week. Newly elected, the man has halted the execution of every single one of the condemned inmates on California’s death row. There are 737 people there. It’s the largest death row in the country, and he’s put it out of business.
Why? Because he says so.
Because he says he is following his own conscience.
He says he cannot sign off on the executions of hundreds of people, knowing there may be some innocents among them.
Gavin Newsom has long been an opponent of the death penalty, and has said so during his career in public offices. But when he was elected governor, he took an oath to follow state law and the state Constitution which, by the way, permits executions.
I guess he lied. So much for taking an oath.
Among the reasons there are so many people on death row is not only because of the streak of horrendous crimes those people were found responsible for, but because the state simply has avoided executions for years due to a variety of challenges to the law.
In fact, the most recent execution was in 2006, under the governorship of Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican. Actually, there have been only 13 executions in the state since 1978.
In California, a death sentence has essentially meant life in prison with the rare possibility that your might be put to death, if in fact nature doesn’t kill you first, from old age.
That rare possibility occurred for Clarence Ray Allen, who was executed after 23 years in prison after his conviction and sentencing for murder charges.
It seems to me the delay in carrying out the death sentence is cruel and inhuman punishment, something California remains guilty of but which continues because politicians don’t have the courage to carry out the will of the people.
In 2016, voters approved Proposition 66 to speed up the process, but it has been dutifully ignored by the powers that be.
So when Newsom moved ahead with his overreach, no one was totally surprised, since he had laid the groundwork over the years. His move also orders the immediate shut-down and dismantling of the new and unused death chamber at San Quentin Prison, and he also stopped the development of a legally acceptable lethal-injection drug.
In his public statement, Newsom said the death penalty is not a deterrent, wastes money and doesn’t allow for human error.
He also said, “The intentional killing of another person is wrong and as governor I will not oversee the execution of any individual.”
Uh, Gavin, can we talk about abortion? Oh, I’m sorry.
He added, “In short, the death penalty is inconsistent with our bedrock values and strikes at the very heart of what it means to be a Californian.”
What’s legally interesting is that no California governor has the authority to change the state death-penalty law. It was enacted by a vote of the people in 1978 and can only be repealed at the ballot box.
For someone who claims to be so concerned with “right and wrong” and “morality,” Gavin Newsom is pretty cavalier about which laws he will follow and which he will ignore.
No doubt his move will please many of those on death row – or what was death row – but what about the families of the victims of the crimes that got them sentenced?
How would you feel if the killer/rapist of your wife, husband, son, daughter or other family member suddenly got their sentence drastically changed because of a whim of the governor?
When he heard of Newsom’s plan, Marc Klaas – whose 12-year-old daughter Polly was murdered in 1993 – said: “A little bit of me died.”
I remember that case. I was on the air that night, doing talk radio in San Francisco as the details of her kidnapping and murder were revealed. It was a horror.
Mr. Klass said Newsom invited some family members of some death row inmate victims to Sacramento tell them his decision the day before he announced it publically.
Klass told the East Bay Times: “It’s Trumpian to me, that you can disregard the will of the people and the law of the land and make some kind of executive decision based on your own personal philosophy.”
Not all agreed with him and were glad for Newsom’s decision; but those who did minced no words: According to Assemblyman Tom Lackey: “These are monsters. The families are expecting some semblance of justice and now the governor is taking a position against the will of the people and using unilateral authority that he criticizes our president of using.”
I know the usual comeback to those who support the death penalty is the challenge, “Would you pull the switch?”
I’ve had that thrown at me many times over the years.
I always have a simple answer: “Yes.”