In unilaterally giving reprieves to the 737 murderers on California’s death row, Gov. Gavin Newsom is further delaying the wishes of the majority of California’s residents. In recent years, California voters rejected two initiatives to overturn the death penalty, while passing one initiative to expedite the appeals of sentences of execution. Newsom said today, “It has discriminated against defendants who are mentally ill, black and brown, or can’t afford expensive legal representation.” Rather than a broad sweep, he could have dealt with any hint of injustice by examining each case giving reprieves where discrimination existed.
I’m just trying to grasp how the relatives of the victims will comprehend a possible slight to perpetrators who so tragically impacted their lives.
Indeed, during last year’s campaign for governor, a Newsom spokesperson said that, while he was personally opposed to the death penalty, “he recognizes that California voters have spoken on the issue and, if elected governor, he’d respect the will of the electorate by following and implementing the law.” Now that he has won that office, he’s knowingly defying the electorate.
Orange County, in particular, has suffered the horrors of the murders committed by some of the worst of these killers. One who Newsom has now taken off the Green Mile is Randy Kraft, also known as the Scorecard Killer, the Southern California Strangler and the Freeway Killer. According to the Los Angeles Times summary, “Kraft killed 16 young men between 1972 and 1983, sexually mutilating some of them and leaving their bodies by the roadside. Six of the men were Marines. Most of the victims had been drugged with alcohol and prescription relaxants. Kraft was discovered when he was pulled over for drunk driving and officers found a dead man in the passenger seat.” Executing Kraft would give the families of his victims at least some measure of justice deemed appropriate by a jury of his peers.
Another aspect is the convicted killers come from the state’s counties whose elected District Attorneys spent $1 million or more to obtain each of these death sentences. It costs that much to obtain the death penalty, versus life in prison. Therefore, the counties have spent some $737 million to respect current law and the wishes of the constituents of the elected District Attorneys.
I believe the Governor owes these counties $737 million in reimbursements, plus interest, which could double the cost.
Finally, if there are innocent people on death row, Newsom should propose in his budget an amount of money to advance a quick appeals process for all of them. If any are proven innocent, then let’s get them out of prison as soon as possible. For the rest, expedite the execution instead of dragging it on for years or decades.
I hope that legislators recognize this betrayal to a majority of their constituents and do something to correct the governor’s improper actions.