What they’re saying about Gavin Newsom’s death penalty moratorium

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an an executive order Wednesday granting reprieves to all 737 Californians awaiting executions, saying the death penalty is “ineffective, irreversible and immoral.”

Reaction from those on both sides of the issue was swift:

Abdi Soltani, Norma Chávez Peterson, Hector Villagra, executive directors, ACLU of California:

“Governor Newsom’s ... announcement marks a watershed moment in the fight for racial equity and equal justice for all. We commend Governor Newsom for exercising leadership and acknowledging that California’s death penalty is biased and broken beyond repair.”

“For decades now, California has propped up a costly, flawed death penalty system that has failed to deliver on its promise of justice and puts the lives of innocent people at risk.”

“There is no doubt that the death penalty is rooted in this country’s legacy of racism. A moratorium on executions in California is a significant step toward ensuring our state’s justice system is fair, racially equitable and truly just.”

Michele Hanisee, president, Association of Deputy District Attorneys:

“The voters of the State of California support the death penalty. That is powerfully demonstrated by their approval of Proposition 66 in 2016 to ensure the death penalty is implemented, and their rejection of measures to end the death penalty in 2016 and 2006.

Governor Newsom, who supported the failed initiative to end the death penalty in 2006, is usurping the express will of California voters and substituting his personal preferences via this hasty and ill-considered moratorium on the death penalty.”

Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco:

“I applaud Governor Newsom for his courageous decision to a stop to all executions in California. The death penalty doesn’t make our communities safer, is immoral, and has huge racial disparities. It is time to end capital punishment in our state.”

President Donald Trump:

“Defying voters, the Governor of California will halt all death penalty executions of 737 stone cold killers. Friends and families of the always forgotten VICTIMS are not thrilled, and neither am I!”

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla:

“I commend Governor Newsom for his courage in ordering a moratorium on the death penalty. As difficult as this decision must have been, it is smart and just.”

“States that adopt a death penalty see no significant reduction in their murder rate and states that repeat a death penalty see no increase in their homicide rate. Put simply, there is no statistical evidence of a public safety benefit of a death penalty.”

“However, there is ample evidence of the inequities that tarnish our justice system - wrongful convictions and sentencing that disproportionally reserve harsher punishments for African Americans, Latinos, the poor, and those with mental disabilities - and nowhere is this injustice more consequential than for those on death row.”

Kent Scheidegger, legal director, Criminal Justice Legal Foundation:

“The people have voted for the death penalty eleven times since 1972, including three times in the last seven years.”

“The Governor’s decision to grant a blanket reprieve to prevent executions is an abuse of power and a slap in the face of the families of murder victims.”

“With the strong possibility that the delay of executions of the state’s worst murderers was about to end, the Governor has decided to thwart the will of the people and the judgment of over 700 juries to prevent the enforcement of the law.”

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris:

“This is an important day for justice and for the state of California. I applaud Governor Newsom for his decision to place a moratorium on the death penalty. As a career law enforcement official, I have opposed the death penalty because it is immoral, discriminatory, ineffective, and a gross misuse of taxpayer dollars.”

Former Senate Republican Leader Pat Bates, R-Laguna Niguel:

“I’m disappointed that today’s action undermines the will of California’s voters who spoke clearly in 2016 to reaffirm the death penalty.”

“The announcement benefits people like Randy Kraft who butchered at least 16 young men and Scott Peterson who was convicted of murdering his wife and their unborn child. It sends the terrible message that the taking of innocent life will not be punished to the fullest extent of the law.”

“Handing out unearned reprieves will only add to the pain felt by many of the victims’ relatives.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

“Governor Newsom’s courageous decision to announce a moratorium on the death penalty in California is a momentous step for justice that honors the Constitution’s 8th Amendment protect against cruel and unusual punishment.”

“Under Governor Newsom’s leadership, California is honoring our duty to pursue justice. We must continue to confront the ways in which our criminal justice system falls short of our Constitution and our bedrock American commitment to equal justice under law.”

Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale:

“Governor Newsom just demonstrated his first questionable action to be a leader for all Californians by putting his own views above the will of the people. In 2016, Californians spoke loud and clear by rejecting a plan to repeal the death penalty by a decisive margin. It’s disappointing that Governor Newsom would go back on his promise to honor the voters’ choice.

“It’s not just voters that Governor Newsom is ignoring, but murder victims and their families as well. What do you say to someone who’s finding out from a press conference that their loved-one’s killer won’t face justice?

“Death row inmates are not ordinary criminals. They are kidnappers. They are cop-killers. They are rapists who murdered their victims. These are the monsters Governor Newsom is protecting.”

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount:

“What the Governor does today – and what California does today – is courageous and civilized and more than a grand gesture. It is a momentous achievement. When our state resumed executions 27 years ago next month, we stepped backwards into a dark past of settling scores. An eye for an eye is not justice.”

“In a decision six decades ago, Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote, “The Amendment must draw its meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.”

The state I love and the government for which I am a leader now take a step that reveals that evolution and marks our maturity. I commend Governor Gavin Newsom for this decision, putting California on the same path as other civilized governments of the world.”

Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Tehama:

“Victims who survive the horrific murder of child or a parent or a spouse suffer a pain that never completely goes away. When the murderer is convicted and sentenced to death, family members experience a basic sense of justice.”

“Governor Newsom callously disregards the anguish of these families and rips from them any sense of justice, victimizing them all over again.”

“The Governor’s action today brings back the pain and agony they have been forced to endure.”

“This executive order is an affront to our system of justice.”

Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego:

“Personally, I commend Governor Newsom for having the courage and the conviction to take this important step.”

“While there is no way I can put myself in the shoes of every victim’s family, from my own personal story of losing my older brother to murder a decade ago, I wouldn’t - and couldn’t - support the death penalty even in that situation.”

“This is an important first step in what will certainly be a long process but it is the right thing to do. I stand ready to work with the Governor to put an end to the death penalty in California, once and for all.”

Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund:

“Governor Newsom’s imposition of a moratorium on the death penalty is a bold and important step towards confronting the truth about capital punishment in the United States. We have long known that capital punishment in California—as well as across the nation—is infected with racial bias and administered arbitrarily without the deterrent effects claimed by its proponents.”

Assemblymember Ash Kalra, D-San Jose:

“I am incredibly proud of the courage shown by our Governor, Gavin Newsom. This announcement of the moratorium on California’s death penalty is morally right and has been a long time coming. The death penalty is an outdated, cruel and inhumane form of corporal punishment that has no place in society today. It is an irreversible act that is used to implement a form of punishment rendered through a process that is vulnerable to bias and prejudice.

“It is not a deterrent and not reflective of society’s values of forgiveness, rehabilitation and justice. In many respects it is an act of pure vengeance; one that is a product of violence, not a solution to it.”

Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles:

“Bold leadership takes guts, and Governor Newsom isn’t squeamish about doing the right thing in calling for this moratorium,” Santiago said. “The death penalty is an irrevocable punishment, and can’t continue to operate in a criminal justice system where innocent people have been put on Death Row. We can hold the lawless accountable for their crimes without spilling the blood of the blameless, and the Governor’s action today is how we move forward.”

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