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October 30, 2012

Three former California Govs (but not the Terminator) advocate against terminating the death penalty

As reported in this Reuters article, which is headlined "Trio of former California governors seeks to preserve death penalty," some former chief executives of the Golden State are speaking out about the state's death penalty ballot initiative. Here are the details:

A trio of former California governors urged voters on Tuesday to preserve the death penalty in the state by defeating a ballot initiative seeking to abolish capital punishment on cost grounds, and a recent poll showed the measure gaining support but falling short of passing.

The initiative, if passed by voters next week, would automatically commute the sentences of 725 death row inmates in California, which has nearly a quarter of the nation's condemned prisoners but has executed none in the last six years.

"Prop. 34 is a horrible injustice," said former Democratic Governor Gray Davis, referring to the ballot proposition.  "Like a giant eraser, it would wipe out the death penalty convictions of 700 killers on death row."

Those convicts are responsible for killing 200 children and 43 police officers, said Davis, who was governor from 1999 to 2003 and who was joined in opposing death penalty repeal by former Republican governors Pete Wilson and George Deukmejian.  "Don't let the bad guys on death row win," Davis said.  The governors were joined at a Los Angeles hotel by relatives of murder victims, prosecutors and police officers.

California Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, and his Republican predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, have been silent on the initiative.

The push by the former governors follows a poll of 1,504 registered voters released on Friday by USC Dornsife and the Los Angeles Times that showed support for repeal at 42 percent, with 45 percent opposed.  The poll had a margin of error of 2.9 percent.  Those numbers represented a much narrower gap than in a September survey by the same group that showed the pro-repeal side at 38 percent compared to 51 percent who wanted to keep the death penalty.

October 30, 2012 at 09:09 PM | Permalink


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Back in the day, I always worried about Gray Davis. He was one of the few prominent Dem elected officials who viscerally got it when it came to punishing criminals. I always thought that would make him seem more moderate to a national electorate.

Posted by: federalist | Oct 30, 2012 11:01:37 PM

We genuinely pro-capital punishment Democrats are out there even if our voices don't get heard as much as they ought to be. Plenty of people, like myself, can be as liberal as you like about single-payer health care, gay marriage, gun control, unions, greater regulation of Wall Street, raising the minimum wage, etc., while still believing that there is absolutely no forgiving or explaining away aggravated murder and that the death penalty should be, at the very least, an option in punishing it.

On a side note, a lot of us libs are also against illegal immigration and are none too pleased about the President's decree that the law not be fully enforced.

Posted by: alpino | Oct 31, 2012 4:38:42 AM

alpino, I trust you noted that I wrote prominent elected Dems.

My guess is that you;re not exactly thrilled with the Obama free pass to John Corzine.

Posted by: federalist | Oct 31, 2012 7:27:58 AM

I definitely noted that you had written "prominent elected Democrats." However, I just wish we otherwise liberal but tough-on-crime types had a proper standard bearer.

Actually, I'm not sure what free pass you're talking about with Corzine and Obama. A quick scan of the Wikipedia article didn't help me. Anyway, as a general principle, I'm against pardons brought about through insider status in cases where there isn't some utterly blatant, gross injustice. The Marc Rich case comes to mind.

Posted by: alpino | Oct 31, 2012 1:23:06 PM

Come on California voters. Morality aside, maintenance of the death penalty in your state is no longer economically feasible.

Posted by: Switch Back | Oct 31, 2012 1:46:05 PM

/ "California Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, and his Republican predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, have been silent on the initiative." /

Unsurprisingly, the two of the five who are known potheads are silent…perchance high as well.

Posted by: Adamakis | Oct 31, 2012 1:50:34 PM

Switch Back --

"Come on California voters. Morality aside, maintenance of the death penalty in your state is no longer economically feasible."

I am compelled to agree that the only way the death penalty gets tanked is by putting morality aside.


Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 1, 2012 12:19:40 PM

Gray Davis was on Laurence O'Donnell's show to help him deal with the convoluted ballot measures & noted his opposition to this provision, noting that if it was prospective that he might feel differently (though he might have said that to make the host feel better).

Reference is made to the pro-death penalty Democrats that often do not get much play. The federal death penalty was expanded in recent decades. This required Democratic votes. The President supports the death penalty in certain cases, including in at least one eliminated by SCOTUS (Kennedy v. LA). I'm not sure how silent this wing of the party is. I think the Ron Paul anti-death penalty wing of the Republican Party is much less vocal.

I duly note Bill Otis' (et. al.) opposition to the "morality" of many Catholics (I cite them since today's a holy day for them; I could cite another religious or moral tradition). It's fine, since I disagree with the 'morality' of the Church's stance (or the leadership, who have spoken against the death penalty as applied in the U.S.) on various things too.

BTW, "win" here means staying in prison which is basically is what happens anyway since 13 people were executed of these worse of the worst since the 1970s. It will take a major mass of executions, which would make Texas look like a wanker, to put much of change in these numbers. So, I though I'm sympathetic to the measure (though applying it prospectively would be reasonable as a a matter of pragmatic policy), I'm cynical as to the great emotion provided here. Either way.

Until CA really actually seriously executes people in any real numbers, the DP there will be largely symbolic. A few people will be executed while comparably horribles will not be. I'm not a big fan of government by initiative anyhow. If they want to end the d.p., legislative action would be best.

Posted by: Joe | Nov 1, 2012 2:45:19 PM

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