Gavin Newsom Doesn't Care about Crime Victims
On March 13, California governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order granting a reprieve to all 737 convicted murderers awaiting execution in the Golden State. The death penalty, Newsom said, has discriminated against mentally ill defendants and people of color.
The San Francisco Democrat also contended that the death penalty has not made the state safer and has wasted billions of dollars. Gov. Newsom also cited the possibility that an innocent person could be sentenced to death, and that gives Californians something to ponder.
All 737 reprieved death-row inmates had been found guilty of murder by a jury of their peers, beyond any reasonable doubt. The convicted murderers had also exhausted all the possibilities of the appeal process, which in the California criminal justice system is quite extensive.
Gavin Newsom is not an attorney and not a judge. The governor did not attend the trials and produced no new exculpatory evidence in any of the cases. Those awaiting execution include Richard Allen Davis, who kidnapped and killed twelve-year-old Polly Klaas, and “Tool Box Killer” Lawrence Bittaker, who raped and killed five teen girls in 1979 after torturing them with pliers and screwdrivers.
Newsom’s reprieve also included Luis Bracamontes, a previously deported Mexican national who in Sacramento in 2014 gunned down police officers Danny Oliver and Michael Davis. At his trial, Bracamontes used the N-word for witness Anthony Holmes, whom he shot during an attempted carjacking.
Bracamontes also said he wished he had killed “more of the m-fers,” that is, police officers. The murderer also shouted “black lives don’t matter”at African-American family members of the victims, including Danny Oliver’s wife Susan.
The governor solved the problem by giving a reprieve to all 737 murderers, whose victims were far more numerous. Californians could be forgiven for believing that the governor can’t sort out guilt and innocence, and doesn’t give a rip about crime victims. His other reasons for the reprieve are also bogus.
Criminal suspects are only arrested and tried in the proportion in which they commit crimes. Statistical disparities are the rule, not the exception, and the courts do not pursue cases based on racial or ethnic quotas.
In 2016, Californians approved Proposition 66, which sped up the process for executions and rejected Proposition 62, which would have eliminated the death penalty. By ignoring both, Gov. Newsom elevates himself above the law, in the style of Jerry Brown’s Chief Justice Rose Bird.
She heard 64 capital cases and never voted to uphold a death sentence. Bird overturned the death sentence of Theodore Frank, convicted of torturing, raping, and murdering two-year-old Amy Sue Seitz in 1978.
Theodore Frank died in prison of a heart attack in 2001. Perhaps the state’s most prolific murderer, Juan Corona, passed away at 85 on March 4, outliving fellow Corcoran inmate Charles Manson.
The previously deported Corona was twice convicted of murdering and mutilating 25 victims, possibly more, but he never received the death penalty. And the life sentences for the serial killer came with possibility of parole.
According to California’s Legislative Analyst, it costs $81,203 to house a prison inmate for one year. Convicted murder Corona, in prison since 1973, rang up quite a bill for California taxpayers, with no complaint from Gavin Newsom.
In the Golden State, murderers can kill as many victims as they want and keep their own lives. If the murderers draw a death sentence, Governor Gavin Newsom has their back.
Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Oakland-based Independent Institute