SACRAMENTO – Assemblyman Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale) has introduced a bill which would extend the review period before the Governor makes a decision to approve or deny an application for commutation of a death sentence.
The bill would also give the families of victims the opportunity to speak to why an inmate should not be let off of death row.
Assembly Bill 580 comes in response to Governor Gavin Newsom’s moratorium issued to halt the death sentences of 737 death row inmates.
“These people who are on death row have committed over 1,000 atrocities, hundreds involving rape and torturous behavior prior to the murder of their victims,” Lackey said. “These people are monsters. Many of the inmates on death row have even orchestrated murder and crime from within their cells. The families are expecting some semblance of justice, and now Governor Newsom is taking a position against the will of the people.”
AB 580 creates a more comprehensive review period for the Governor when a death row inmate applies for commutation. It extends the mandatory wait period for an inmate on death row from 10 days to 30 days. This is reminiscent of many of the transparency rules that the legislature is governed by when it comes to review timelines for the public to view a piece of legislation before it can be voted on.
“As Lieutenant Governor, Newsom promised to respect the decision of the voters on the death penalty and after his election as Governor swore an oath to enforce state law,” said Michael Rushford, a spokesman for the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation. “After just three months on the job, he broke both vows, placing his personal views above the will of the people and his obligation as Governor.”
The bill also affords victim’s families the opportunity to state their case one last time before the killer, rapist, or kidnapper of their loved one is removed from death row. It mandates that the Board of Parole Hearings provides a recommendation to the Governor to either approve or deny a commutation.
Ideally, the Board would take into account the testimony of the victim’s family, and the inmate’s reason for sentencing, behavior while serving time, and costs incurred by the state in either proposed path.