Newsom halts death penalty throughout California

FREDERIC J. BROWN

Addison Soule, News Editor

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California Governor Gavin Newsom (Democrat), ran on the idea of changing certain aspects of the California government, and has done exactly so.

Newsom signed an Executive Order that called for a moratorium (freeze) on executions for all California inmates on death row.  According to a Survey USA poll, 60 percent of Californians still support the death penalty, while only 24 percent of California residents strongly oppose capital punishment, and the rest uncertain.

The death penalty is a hushed topic, with many disagreements over various aspects of the practice, including whether or not it is moral.

In Michigan, the death penalty is non existent, and the maximum punishment for a crime is a lifetime sentence in prison. Still, certain Michiganders uphold the belief that the death penalty is just.

Capital punishment is a concept that can be difficult to grasp; it is not often discussed and can be confusing, or easily misinterpreted. It is apparent that 54 percent of  Americans support some form of capital punishment, according to pewresearch.org.

A  minority of states has outlawed capital punishment entirely, including Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Washington, North Dakota, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Iowa, Illinois, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, Hawaii, Minnesota, and New Jersey. Four states including California, have Governor imposed moratoriums,(Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Oregon as well).

Newsom essentially pardoned the 737 death row inmates in California, the best way that he could. While the legislation that was passed does indeed abolish the death penalty in the state, these convicts are still set to life in prison.

Newsom did this because he saw the struggles of possibly innocent people, the people that had fought hard in the appellate court, but came to exhaust all appeals.

“I know people think eye for eye, but if you rape, we don’t rape,” he said. “And I think if someone kills, we don’t kill. We’re better than that.” Newsom continued, “I cannot sign off on executing hundreds and hundreds of human beings, knowing — knowing — that among them will be innocent human beings,” said Newsom.

 

Not everyone agrees with the Governor’s moratorium on lethal injection. Sen. Jim Nielsen (CA), in fact, strongly opposes Newsom’s stance. He said, “this executive order is an affront to our system of justice.” Senate Republican Leader Emeritus Patricia Bates agrees with Sen. Nielsen, and was quoted saying that “handing out unearned reprieves will only add to the pain felt by many of the victims’ [of the death row inmates] relatives.” It appears that more people may disagree with Newsom’s new policy than agree.  

Melissa Melendez of the California State Assembly  said that, “the Governor clearly does not represent the majority of people in this state who want to see justice served for these heinous crimes.” While these three represent a majority of Americans beliefs, with just under 54 percent of Americans supporting, 39 percent of people still believe that it is immoral to condemn anyone to their death, according to a 2018 Pew poll, done by the Death Penalty Information Center. “ “Some crimes are so heinous and inherently wrong that they demand strict penalties – up to and including life sentences or even death. Most Americans recognize this principle as just…Indeed, other recent investigations, using a variety of samples and statistical methods, consistently demonstrate a strong link between executions and reduced murder rates…, said David Muhlhausen PhD.

In short, “capital punishment does, in fact, save lives” said Muhlhausen. Muhlhausen points to the use of the death penalty, resulted in less crimes that were murderous. “Regardless of future benefits, we justify punishment because it’s deserved. Let the punishment fit the crime…,” said Robert Blecker, Professor of Law at New York Law School. Blecker believes that if someone committed a murder, the just punishment for that crime should be death.

“Those in support of abolishing the death penalty point to the possibility of an innocent person being executed. The innocent can take solace in knowing that a unanimous jury of 12 citizens must render the death verdict after an exhaustive trial where the accused murderer is represented by two highly competent attorneys and overseen by an independent judge who ensures a fair trial,” said Deputy District Attorney for the County of Los Angeles, Michele Hanisee. She points out all of the whistles and bells that one must go through before being put on death row.

 

Newsom has called the system “racist,” realizing that a majority of the convicts on death row are African Americans. In 2014, African Americans constituted 34 percent (total of 2.8 million) of the incarcerated population in the United States (out of 6.8 million). It is also true that a black person is 5 times more likely to be arrested than a white person for the same crime. A white woman has a 50% better chance of being let off the hook for the same crime. Nationwide, African American children represent 32% of children who are arrested, 42 percent of children who are detained, and 52 percent of children whose cases are judicially waived to criminal court(NAACP).  

African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately 32 percent of the US population, yet they make up 56 percent of all incarcerated people in 2015. If African Americans and Hispanics were arrested and imprisoned at the same rate as white people, then the entire prison population would decrease 40 percent. According to the website of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The fact that more black people are incarcerated per capita than that of any other race shows racial injustices in our modern day society. People of color even commit less of certain crimes. At 17 million, white drug use is nearly four fold the reported 4 million African American drug use in these United States.

Yet, Americans remain divided on the topic, the question arises, “Is the death penalty just?”

Capital punishment comes in many forms, whether or not it is moral is purely an opinion. It may be viewed as an unnecessary part of the nation’s criminal justice system, as it is by Governor Newsom. But more than 50 percent of Americans still view the death penalty as a necessary evil, in order to eradicate murderous crimes.