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SCR-38 Capital punishment.(2019-2020)

Current Version: 04/08/19 - Introduced         Compare Versions information image



Senate Concurrent Resolution
No. 38

Introduced by Senator Jones
(Coauthors: Senators Moorlach, Morrell, Nielsen, and Stone)

April 08, 2019

Relative to capital punishment.


SCR 38, as introduced, Jones. Capital punishment.
This measure would condemn the actions of the Governor in granting a blanket reprieve to death row inmates and would urge the Attorney General to take all necessary actions to enforce the death penalty.
Fiscal Committee: YES  

WHEREAS, California voters have consistently and repeatedly supported the death penalty as punishment for the most heinous crimes committed in our state; and
WHEREAS, The death penalty is the ultimate deterrent of future criminal acts by the sentenced person; and
WHEREAS, Persons sentenced to death in California are afforded the most extensive appeals process of any state; and
WHEREAS, After exhausting their appeals through the state courts, persons in California sentenced to death then have the right to utilize the appeals process through the federal courts; and
WHEREAS, The California Office of State Public Defender (OSPD) is entirely focused on representing death row inmates in matters before the California State Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court; and
WHEREAS, The OSPD has stated that “the work of the office is often at the cutting edge of criminal law. We have appeared in the California Supreme Court and represent men and women on death row in the United States Supreme Court in a half dozen cases where certiorari review was granted. We have been responsible for major developments in the areas of capital litigation, due process, right to counsel, confessions, jury selection, search and seizure, sentencing and many other issues”; and
WHEREAS, The OSPD has also stated that it “draws its lawyers from many colleges, universities and law schools. The attorneys come from a wide variety of backgrounds: fresh out of law school, from county and federal public defender offices, appellate court staffs, other public interest agencies and groups, and the private sector. State Public Defender alumni include three state court judges, the directors and many of the staff members of the California Appellate Projects, the Central California Appellate Project and First District Appellate Project, as well as many prominent attorneys in the private criminal defense and civil bars”; and
WHEREAS, With such renowned representation provided by the OSPD, persons sentenced to death in California clearly do not suffer from inadequate representation throughout their state or federal appeals process; and
WHEREAS, There has never been a case of a prisoner executed in California later being proved factually innocent; and
WHEREAS, Governor Gavin Newsom, during his campaign, made multiple public commitments to California voters that he would enforce the state’s death penalty law; and
WHEREAS, For example, then-candidate Newson told the Modesto Bee, “if ever I was in a position to actually be accountable, I would be accountable to the will of the voters. I would not [put] my personal opinions in the way of the public’s right to make a determination of where they want to take us, as [it] relates to the death penalty”; and
WHEREAS, Then-candidate Newsom also expressed his commitment to enforce the death penalty to the San Francisco Chronicle, which stated, “during the 2018 campaign, his spokesman Dan Newman told the San Francisco Chronicle that 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’”; and
WHEREAS, Despite these apparent promises, Governor Newsom later admitted to the Sacramento Bee that “before he took office, discussing the death penalty was an ‘intellectual’ exercise”; and
WHEREAS, Section 1 of Article V of the California Constitution requires that: “The Governor shall see that the law is faithfully executed”; and
WHEREAS, The death penalty is properly enacted statutory law in California; and
WHEREAS, The oath of office taken by the Governor ends with the commitment “that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter”; and
WHEREAS, Enforcing the death penalty is one of the duties of the Governor; and
WHEREAS, None of California’s previous 39 governors has ever tried to institute a blanket reprieve of all the inmates on death row; and
WHEREAS, Subdivision (a) of Section 8 of Article V of the California Constitution provides that “subject to application procedures provided by statute, the Governor, on conditions the Governor deems proper, may grant a reprieve, pardon, and commutation, after sentence except in case of impeachment. The Governor shall report to the Legislature each reprieve, pardon, and commutation granted, stating the pertinent facts and the reasons for granting it”; and
WHEREAS, Governor Newsom’s Executive Order No. N-09-19, which granted reprieve, appears to have violated this constitutional provision; and
WHEREAS, There is no record that each of the 737 inmates on death row applied to Governor Newsom for a reprieve; and
WHEREAS, Governor Newsom did not report to the Legislature each reprieve nor state the pertinent facts and reasons for granting it; and
WHEREAS, Governor Newsom instead chose not to review the pertinent facts of the cases of the 737 death row inmates before issuing his blanket reprieve; and
WHEREAS, The San Francisco Chronicle reported that “no sooner did Gov. Gavin Newsom declare a moratorium on the death penalty in California than he was on a plane to the East Coast for a series of national media appearances, including stops at CBS, NPR and MSNBC,” revealing the political motivations of the governor’s actions; and
WHEREAS, Governor Newsom appears more concerned about building a national following than executing the duties of his office; and
WHEREAS, The usually left-leaning Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton wrote that “Newsom previously promised to carry out capital punishment even though he opposed it . . . Gov. Gavin Newsom is developing a bad habit: ignoring the will of the voters”; and
WHEREAS, Skelton further opined that “this could be a dangerous trend for the new governor. If a powerful elected official were perceived as two-faced with his word and dismissive of the voters’ desires, he’d be headed for the political cliff. The voters would become even more cynical and mistrustful of government, making it harder for politicians to gain public support for major projects and policy changes”; and
WHEREAS, Most Californians do not have the luxury of taxpayer-funded, round-the-clock security and, depending on police response times, often must fend for themselves when criminals like those 737 inmated on death row come after them; and
WHEREAS, Governor Newsom has had full-time, taxpayer-financed security teams guarding him and his family for the last 15 years; and
WHEREAS, The usually left-leaning Sacramento Bee columnist Marcos Breton wrote, “remember the victims? They received only passing mention from the governor after he announced his reprieve and, quite frankly, this is a weakness in the progressive movement – the inability to acknowledge that some convicted death row inmates really are guilty, some really did commit heinous acts. Some really aren’t worthy of sanctification for the purposes of making anti-death penalty arguments”; and
WHEREAS, The Modesto Bee Editorial Board accurately summed up the situation, stating, “the governor’s lack of principle, and failure to keep his promise is a slap in the face to survivors of heinous murders. They include loved ones of Laci Peterson and countless folks near and far who were devastated at her 2002 murder, and that of her unborn son”; now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the Senate of the State of California, the Assembly thereof concurring, That the California Legislature condemns Governor Newsom’s disregard of Californians and usurping of their rights with his unconstitutional blanket reprieve of all 737 inmates on death row; and be it further
Resolved, That the California Legislature requests the California Attorney General to follow California law and continue taking all necessary actions to enforce the death penalty; and be it further
Resolved, That the California Legislature requests the United States Department of Justice, whenever appropriate and possible, to take jurisdiction of any pending California criminal cases in which the defendant, if convicted under federal law, could be subject to the federal death penalty; and be it further
Resolved, That the Secretary of the Senate transmit copies of this resolution to the Attorney General of California, to the Attorney General of the United States, and to the author for appropriate distribution.