The top prosecutors for Orange and Riverside counties Thursday joined relatives of murder victims whose killers are on California’s Death Row, calling on Gov. Gavin Newsom to immediately end his “intolerable” moratorium on executions and honor the will of the people.
“With the stroke of a pen, the governor made a blanket decision to violate the constitutional rights of crime victims, as expressed in Marsy’s Law,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said. “He did it because he’s a chicken. If he had followed the process under clemency review, he would have met with each of the victims’ families and heard them, as well as defense attorneys, before making a decision (on granting clemency to a condemned inmate).
“But he was a chicken because he didn’t want to hear the facts or know about the sadistic behavior of the individuals who engaged in these horrific murders.”
Spitzer and Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin stood with murder victims’ relatives in front of the Victims’ Memorial Wall outside the D.A.’s office in downtown Riverside.
Since Newsom announced the moratorium on March 13, Spitzer and Hestrin have been vocally criticizing it in a “Victims of Murder Justice Tour,” which was most recently in Sacramento and is bound for San Diego next.
Governor’s spokesman Brian Ferguson told City News Service that Newsom believes “survivor families … deserve our state’s respect.” But he remains convinced that the criminal justice system “discriminates against defendants who are mentally ill, of color, or can’t afford expensive legal representation.”
For those reasons, and his concern over the possibility that a “wrongfully convicted” person may receive capital punishment, the governor believes executions should not occur, according to Ferguson.
Spitzer and Hestrin emphasized that death penalty cases are the most intensely vetted, at the trial and appellate court levels, leaving minimal margin for mistakes.
“These cases are reviewed six ways to Sunday, from every direction,” Spitzer said. “The whole world scrutinizes these cases, and the best lawyers are appointed to the inmates on appeal.”
Twenty-three Death Row inmates have exhausted their appeals and are awaiting execution.
“They are ripe and ready,” Spitzer said. “It is unconscionable for the governor not to follow the law. His arguments are fallacious.”
There are 737 individuals on Death Row at San Quentin State Prison, according to the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation. Thirteen people have been executed since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978.
In 2016, California voters rejected Proposition 62, which called for repealing the death penalty. Voters also approved Proposition 66, which called for limiting death penalty appeals processes, which can drag on for several decades.
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