President Trump blasted Gov. Gavin Newsom for “defying voters” in a proposed executive order to halt the death penalty in California.
The president tweeted Wednesday that he was “not thrilled” with the Democratic governor, who has already backed climate change policies and supports gun control measures and is now planning to issue an executive order that would put a stop to the death penalty in the Golden State while he is in charge.
“Defying voters, the Governor of California will halt all death penalty executions of 737 stone cold killers,” Trump tweeted. “Friends and families of the always forgotten VICTIMS are not thrilled, and neither am I!”
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 13, 2019
Newsom’s order suspending the death penalty will grant a temporary reprieve to more than 700 death row inmates as San Quentin State Prison’s execution chamber will be temporarily shuttered. But the newly elected governor is making the move despite California voters’ clear support – more than once – for the death penalty in their state.
“I do not believe that a civilized society can claim to be a leader in the world as long as its government continues to sanction the premeditated and discriminatory execution of its people,” Newsom said in a statement.
“In short, the death penalty is inconsistent with our bedrock values and strikes at the very heart of what it means to be a Californian,” he said, calling the system a “failure.”
“It has discriminated against defendants who are mentally ill, black and brown, or can’t afford expensive legal representation. It has provided no public safety benefit or value as a deterrent. It has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars,” the Democrat added.
But Californians have made it clear where they stand on the issue, voting twice against attempts to repeal it.
Newsom’s executive order completely goes against voters’ wishes throughout the state. Over the last five years, two different attempts have been made to repeal the death penalty. Both times, voters objected.
The other issue in pay is the constitutionality of the governor’s executive order. Capital punishment is considered a legal penalty in the State of California. The California State Supreme Court initially outlawed the death penalty in People v. Anderson in 1972. Shortly thereafter voters amended the State Constitution to make the death penalty legal.
One conservative group supported the governor’s move “because the death penalty violates our beliefs in limited government, fiscal responsibility, and the value of life.”
“It is rife with errors and racial bias,” the national manager of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, Hannah Cox, said in a statement. “The number of men and women on death row who suffer from severe mental illness or impairment is shocking. Capital punishment is a failure and big government at its worst, wasting millions of dollars that could be used to solve cold cases and to make communities safer.”
But others, like Trump, see Newsom’s executive order as an abuse of power.
“The voters of the State of California support the death penalty,” Michele Hanisee, president of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, said. “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. Gov. Newsom… is usurping the express will of California voters.”
According to The Los Angeles Times:
Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the pro-death penalty Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, called Newsom’s actions “an abuse of power.” Although Newsom has the constitutional authority to grant reprieves to condemned inmates, he does not have the power to order the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to shutter the death chamber or halt efforts to establish a lethal injection protocol, Scheidegger said.
California law requires corrections officials to maintain the ability to carry out executions, he added.
“He’s following in the footsteps of other governors who abused this power because they were frustrated by a law that they just personally disagreed with,” Scheidegger said.
According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, 13 people have been executed in California since the death penalty was reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976 with 79 inmates on death row dying of natural causes and another 26 who died by suicide in that time period. Newsom’s order will affect 737 people in California facing the death penalty – about 25 percent of the nation’s total.
“The intentional killing of another person is wrong,” Newsom said. “And as governor, I will not oversee the execution of any individual.”
But not long ago, as lieutenant governor, Newsom indicated he would respect the decision of voters.
A spokesman for then-Lt. Gov. Newsom, Dan Newman, noted his opposition to capital punishment but said Newsom “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.”
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