“Gavin Newsom’s real ambition is not California’s governor seat,” University of San Francisco political science professor James Taylor told the San Francisco Chronicle, “it’s the presidency of the United States.” In similar style, Tad Friend of the New Yorker touts Newsom’s Bobby Kennedy look, as “Newsom seeks to embody Kennedy’s grainy glamour, to provide moral clarity in a bewildering hour.” For their part, Californians are now bewildered by the governor’s benevolence to the state’s worst criminals.
As the Sacramento Bee reported, Gov. Newsom “plans to sign an executive order Wednesday morning granting reprieves to all 737 Californians awaiting executions.” The governor’s action comes “three years after California voters rejected an initiative to end the death penalty, instead passing a measure to speed up executions.”
Newsom claims the death penalty system has “discriminated against mentally ill defendants and people of color,” while not making the state safer and wasting “billions of taxpayer dollars.”
According to the Bee, the governor’s moratorium invites a “vitriolic” response from death penalty proponents and “some of the families of murder victims in the state.” The piece cites no family members of those murdered by recipients of the governor’s reprieve.
The initial story of the San Jose Mercury News was in effect a press release for Newsom, citing Natasha Minsker of the ACLU, the state’s major criminals’ lobby, that Newsom was showing “bold leadership.” The piece also failed to name or quote any relatives of murder victims.
As those victims could point out, Newsom is not a judge, and in fact the former San Francisco mayor and Lieutenant Governor is not even an attorney. Newsom was not present at any of the murderer’s trials and has produced no new exculpatory evidence of any kind in any of the cases. Even so, Newsom charges that the “death penalty system” is discriminatory toward “people of color.”
As it happens, the criminal justice system does not try any suspects based on skin shade or ethnicity. All suspects are tried only according to the proportion in which they commit crimes. And in crime, as in all areas of life, statistical disparities are the rule, not the exception. Every one of the 737 murderers Newsom reprieved was duly tried, convicted, and had exhausted all available appeals.
So the massive reprieve for murderers effectively trashes the police, detectives, and district attorneys who gained the convictions, and the judges who upheld them. The reprieve also disrespects the voters who in 2016 rejected Proposition 62, which would have eliminated the death penalty, and approved, Proposition 66, which speeded up the process for executions. Most of all, the mass reprieve abuses the families of those murdered by the beneficiaries of Newsom’s largesse.
Those are some of the most vicious killers in state history, including Richard Allen Davis, who kidnapped and killed Polly Klaas, only 12 years old, and serial killer Joseph Naso, who murdered six women. Also gaining a reprieve was “Tool Box Killer” Lawrence Bittaker, who raped and killing five teenage girls in 1979 after torturing them with pliers and screwdrivers. These cases grabbed media attention but death-row inmate Luis Bracamontes somehow escaped notice.
In 2014 in Sacramento, the false-documented Mexican national, a previously deported criminal, gunned down police officers Danny Oliver and Michael Davis. During his trial, Bracamontes said “I wish I had killed more of the motherfuckers.” The Mexican then called African American witness Anthony Holmes, whom he had shot during an attempted carjacking, a “nigger.” Then the Mexican shouted “black lives don’t matter” at African American family members, including Danny Oliver’s wife Susan.
This racist murderer got the death penalty and now resides on San Quentin’s death row, where like more than 700 others he got the good news of governor Gavin Newsom’s reprieve. It took many Californians by surprise but others saw it coming. As it happens, Gavin Newsom is an acolyte of another anti-death-penalty ideologue, former governor and three-time presidential candidate Jerry Brown.
Brown’s choice for Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court was his former campaign chauffer Rose Bird, only 40 years old and without judicial experience. In 10 years as California’s Chief Justice, Bird heard 64 capital cases and never voted to uphold a death sentence. The criminal included Theodore Frank, duly convicted of kidnaping, torturing, raping, murdering and mutilating two-year-old Amy Sue Seitz in 1978.
On November 4, 1986, by a two-to-one margin voters booted Bird, the only chief justice in state history to be removed by a vote of the people. Voters also ousted justices Cruz Reynoso and Joseph Grodin, both Jerry Brown appointees, who sided with Bird on the death-penalty cases.
In 2001, Theodore Frank died of a heart attack in prison. Previously deported Mexican Juan Corona murdered and mutilated 25 Americans, never got a death sentence, and died on March 4 at the age of 85. In California, murderers can kill as many people as they want and keep their own lives, even if they get a death sentence.
A future governor might reverse Newsom’s order, so voters might get a chance to push back against the pro-criminal governor. In the meantime, any Californian could be forgiven for believing that all 737 convicted murderers should be strapped onto Old Sparky and turned up to eleven.