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Will Mass Reprieve Backfire on Newsom?

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"Gov. Gavin Newsom's blanket reprieve for those on death row is another headline-grabbing gesture--and it could backfire." With that statement, the daily email from CalMatters introduces this column by veteran California political observer Dan Walters.

Although his opposition to capital punishment was no secret, Newsom on several occasions had pledged to honor those two votes.

In a 2016 interview with the Modesto Bee's editorial board, Newsom said he would "be accountable to the will of the voters" if elected governor. "I would not get my personal opinions in the way of the public's right to make a determination of where they want to take us."

While campaigning last year, Newsom said that while he was fervently opposed to the death penalty, he didn't "want to get ahead of the will of the voters" and wanted to "give the voters a chance to reconsider."

So last week's action was definitely a flip-flop. He justified it by saying, "The will of the voters is also entrusted in me on the basis of my constitutional right" as governor to grant a reprieve to condemned prisoners.
That's not much of a justification, as I have noted before.
"I've had to process this in a way I didn't frankly anticipate .... A few months ago, it was an abstract question," he told reporters. "Now, it's a very real question," he added, citing legal maneuvers over the state's current mode of execution, lethal injection.
The "legal maneuvers" are Ninth Circuit cases 18-16547 and 19-70232, filed by my DA friends and me, respectively. We could not only see the light at the end of the tunnel, we were drawing close. That is evidently why Newsom thought he had to act. The foot-dragging strategy that previous Gov. Brown had used so successfully was coming to an end. And Newsom didn't anticipate that? That's odd. Walters continues:

There is a very cogent argument to be made against capital punishment, even on non-moralistic grounds. It makes little sense to continue sending killers to death row if the state is to continue what has been a de facto moratorium on executions. None has been performed since 2006, two governors ago.
But that's a big "if." The "legal maneuvers" noted in the previous paragraph made that "if" iffy.

However, despite its being a very blue state, California voters have twice declared their support for capital punishment and it's somewhat unseemly for a governor to, in effect, thumb his nose at them, especially after pledging not to do so.
Right. Except for the "somewhat," but I won't quibble.

Newsom has set himself apart from Brown on several high-profile issues, and this is another. His gay marriage gesture in 2004 turned out to be a political plus, especially after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed. Morality aside, this is another political gamble.
Let's hope he rolls snake eyes this time.

1 Comment

The voters need to start a RECALL.
Thanks for all your hard work at CJLF!!
Ed Bond

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