Release Date:  March 13, 2019
Contact:  Michael Rushford
(916) 446-0345

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With his announcement that he is granting sentencing reprieves for all death penalty eligible murderers on California’s death row, Governor Gavin Newsom has substituted his own opinion for the repeated decisions of the state’s voters, according to the Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation.

“The people have voted for the death penalty eleven times since 1972, including three times in the last seven years,” said Foundation Legal Director Kent Scheidegger. “The Governor’s decision to grant a blanket reprieve to prevent executions is an abuse of power and a slap in the face of the families of murder victims,” he added.

There are currently 24 murderers on the state’s death row who have exhausted all appeals and are currently eligible for execution. The only obstacle is a series of stays of execution issued by the Federal District Court in San Francisco since 2006. The stays should have been lifted and the case dismissed when California adopted a new protocol with the method of execution previously approved by the court. But without an Attorney General or a Governor willing to challenge the stays in a higher court, they have remained in place to prevent any executions.

In January, on behalf of the families of five murder victims, the Foundation filed a Petition for Writ of Mandamus in the Ninth Circuit to lift the stays and prevent the district court from granting any more unless and until the challengers make a case against the new protocol that meets the standard for stays set by the Supreme Court.

“With the strong possibility that the delay of executions of the state’s worst murderers was about to end, the Governor has decided to thwart the will of the people and the judgment of over 700 juries to prevent the enforcement of the law,” said Scheidegger.

The Foundation’s petition is available here:

CJLF Legal Director Kent Scheidegger is available for comment at (916) 446-0345.