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October 6, 2010

Contrasting perspectives on the death penalty in California

In the wake of last week's capital craziness in California, the death penalty in the Golden State is being broadly discussed and debated.  For example, the Huffington Post has this new commentary by Byron Williams, an Oakland pastor and columnist, titled "California must Eliminate the Death Penalty." Meanwhile, as detailed in this local piece, the candidates for Attorney General in California are were discussing death penalty issues in a debate last night:

The two leading candidates to become Califonria's next attorney general mixed-it up in a debate Tuesday. There were no major gaffes between San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris and her counterpart in Los Angeles, Steve Cooley, but there is one major difference....

Cooley, a Republican, is quick to hammer the point that the two candidates are polar opposites on capital punishment. "My opponent absolutely, ideologically opposes the death penalty, which is the law in California; I support it," Cooley said.

Harris, a Democrat, says she will be able to set aside her own personal feelings, like many attorneys general before her. "The reality of it is I am personally opposed to the death penalty, I will follow the law; my position is the same as four of the last nine attorneys general," Harris said.

Cooley highlighted a San Francisco case where a known gang banger killed San Francisco Police Officer Issac Espinoza. Espinoza's widow, sister and mother sat in the audience to support Cooley. "Absolutely, since our son was killed in the line of duty with an AK-47 by a gang member," Espinoza's mother Carol Espinoza said.

As San Francisco D.A., Harris had to play to the city's liberal base. But statewide, voters are more moderate; 70 percent support the death penalty. Harris points out this race cannot center on just one issue. The attorney general's office handles very few death penalty cases....

In recent years, the death penalty has not been much of an issue, but with a new death chamber at San Quentin and a death row inmate who was days away from execution before the courts stepped in, this race is now getting a lot more attention.

October 6, 2010 at 08:35 AM | Permalink


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If two people were running for Chief Public Defender, would you vote for the candidate who said, "I believe in the death penalty, but I will put my beliefs," or for the candidate who said, "I am against the death penalty and will fight it tooth and nail in every case."


I don't think the voters will have a hard time figuring this one out.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 7, 2010 9:27:33 AM

"...but I will put ASIDE my beliefs..."

Sorry for the error.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 7, 2010 11:17:23 AM

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