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Q&A: Patrisse Cullors in conversation with incumbent Los Angeles DA, Jackie Lacey

Tuesday, October 20, 2020
Patrisse Cullors,  for Prism Reports and Co-Founder of Black Lives Matter

Ahead of the election for Los Angeles district attorney, I sat down with both candidates to learn more about where they stand on the issues and how they see the role of the DA. In this conversation, I spoke with Jackie Lacey, the current district attorney for Los Angeles County. Read more about the race here, and read my interview with candidate George Gascon here.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Patrisse Cullors: Thank you for taking the time to have this conversation with me, DA Lacey. I am very excited to be able to talk to you and know your thoughts on the race and your role as a DA as we are just weeks away from this election. 

Jackie Lacey: I appreciate the opportunity to talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’m looking forward to your questions.

Cullors: So, the first question is super generic, but I would love your candid thoughts. What does a district attorney do and what is their role in advancing justice and equity? Why has this race, in your opinion, been called the second most important race in the country next to the presidency?

Lacey: Most people don’t realize what we do. That’s the biggest problem in educating voters. Most people won’t come in contact with the criminal justice system and in some respects, that’s a good thing, but in some respects, it’s a bad thing because the only thing they hear about is maybe after a case is filed or is not filed. So, as a DA, I see our role as seeking justice, more so than anything. Cases come into us, police reports come into us, and it’s our job as experts in the law to determine whether a crime was committed and whether this is the right person who committed the crime and is filing the case the right thing to do. All of those things are sort of a checklist in your mind; you have to look at all of those things and make a determination.

In terms of the district attorney of LA County, I really see myself and anyone who has this job as a trendsetter, as a leader, and that goes into why this is the second most important race [in the country]. People come from all over the United States and all over the world to study what we do, how we do it, and why we do what we do. In turn, we send people throughout the world to train them on areas that might be foreign. So, for instance, I sent a team of people to Uganda in 2019 because we were asked to come and teach prosecutors how to plea bargain. There, you stay in jail or prison for long periods of time. And so, we’re to be the leaders. As the head of that office, you’re supposed to influence the criminal justice system, and you’re supposed to do it in a careful way where you can never forget the victims, right, because our role is to think about the victims and their rights.

Cullors: Thank you for that. The second question I have for you is, what are your top three policy priorities or reforms you would implement as soon as you’re reelected here in one of the largest counties in the U.S.? The more specific for readers, the better.

Lacey: Okay, so the first thing I know that’s going to happen is the voters will decide whether to repeal SB 10, bail reform. So, I’m already thinking ahead. What will that look like? Should we just go ahead and do bail reform, the way we’ve been doing it the last few months, if Prop. 25 ends up repealing SB 10? If not, then we’ve got to really get in gear and figure out what risk assessment tool we’re going to use from here on out. So that’s the first thing I’ll be thinking about if reelected.

The second thing is, they’re closing down what used to be called DJJ, the state juvenile justice system, and they’re going to shift the incoming juveniles who would have gone to the state facility to the county. So I’ll be thinking about how can we pivot because we’ve been doing juvenile justice a certain way for the last eight years, but we’ll need to pivot and think about how to get more services because the juveniles we’re talking about at the state level are going to be people who are charged with more serious crimes and will be in need of more serious services. I know the county is hurting. They don’t have a lot of money, probation has been criticized, and probation will have the responsibility for that. So, I really want to focus in on what we can do differently for the juvenile population that we’re going to suddenly have in this county for a very short period of time. Up until now, I’ve paid more attention to adults and mental health, but as you know, the onset of mental health can come way before the age of 18, so I’ll be thinking about starting a new committee to study juvenile justice and mental health with the goal being: How do we prevent people from even getting involved in the justice system? How do we prevent them from getting involved in the first place, but also how do we prepare these juveniles that we have so that they can safely reenter society and not go back to whatever lead them to come into the juvenile justice system?

I hope to publish an update on the blueprint for change. A lot still needs to be done, but I want to see if we need to adjust those goals. What I’ve learned from this campaign, Patrisse, is that campaigning is actually very healthy for you because in the DAs office, you tend to listen to people who are on staff. But when you’re out campaigning, you get advice and opinions from people outside of the office. And so I really want to form a very thoughtful blue ribbon commission to look at how we’ve been doing things in the DAs office and provide some advice and suggestions for what we could do differently, how we could do better in terms of the recidivism rates, what can we do about the police shootings, [examine] why are these cases so problematic, is there a different model [for addressing them]?

Those would be the top three things, then also dealing with having less people to work with because of the budget. We were already down about 200 people in terms of staff, and we really don’t see our hiring freeze being lifted anytime soon.

Cullors: Got it. That’s super helpful. The next question is one that really comes out of the current movement at both the local and national level around the prosecution of law enforcement. As you know, police killings aren’t specific to Los Angeles, but it’s an issue that has been lifted up pretty profoundly by not just BLM LA, but lots of organizers and lots of concerned people about why law enforcement is seemingly unable to be prosecuted for acts of violence in the community.

For me, this question is absolutely pointed at you, but it’s not a question to make you feel defensive. I really want to hear you be reflective, because I think it’s going to be helpful for voters. There’s been 622 documented killings at the hands of law enforcement and there has been only one filed case, one charge, in your years as DA. How do you think that that can be shifted? Is that a place of importance for you? How do we justify that many killings and not as many prosecutions? I am curious from a journalist’s perspective, but also from a human being perspective, what limits you from being able to prosecute law enforcement who kills, and if you’re reelected, is there room to have a different shape around prosecution of law enforcement?

Lacey: This too, obviously, is extremely important to me on many different levels. I live with this issue, day in and day out. From the minute I got in, though I have never had any experience trying [these cases], I knew from sitting in on meetings, how—and I’m not sure if this is the right term—how emotionally invested you must be in looking at these cases, because you know that not only is the public looking at you, but the people you lead are putting on the case. And they’re telling you what happened and they’re going through the law and they’re telling you what the legal analysis is and the emotional analysis in your heart is, “These people didn’t have to die. If I had been there, this is what I would have done. Couldn’t they have just let the person go? How could you make a mistake and think that that was a weapon?”

Those kinds of things all go through your mind, and as an elected prosecutor your life flashes before you because you realize that no matter what call you make, your job is in jeopardy in each and every case. On top of that, you’re very much aware that there are people in the room who are prosecutors who are looking up to you and wondering, what are you going to do? Will you make the political call and save yourself, or will you follow the law? And will you follow the law automatically, or are you pissed off about what you’re seeing? And so, our numbers, I had them counted up. There were 341 people who have died by officer-involved shootings, and then we have another 20 to 30 who have died either of drug overdose, or asphyxiation, or suicide, and those are contested.

I’m going to meet with a family this week and it’s probably the toughest meeting I’m going to have because they don’t believe their daughter committed suicide in police custody, and yet my evidence shows that she did. And rather than convince them, I’m just gonna listen to their pain because if something happened to my daughter, I think I’d want to die. So, the issue, as I see it is right in the code. It allows police officers to use deadly force and nowhere in the code does it say that unless it says you need to defend yourself as a civilian. So, there’s a different law for police officers, and then the way our system is set up, they do their own internal affairs investigation and that most of the time the interviews are taped. I would say 99% of the time you listen to them [and] some of them are good. Some are not so good because they’re leading and suggestive, but you’re stuck with their investigation of their own.

Early on when we started hearing these interviews, I suggested to law enforcement, “Hey, why don’t you have the sheriff do the LAPD, and the LAPD do the sheriff this year?” because the sheriff does do some investigations of independent agencies. They were very resistant to that, and what I got from the chief and from the sheriff at the time were, “Well, we do things our own way. We handle our investigations our own way. Ours are different.” And it’s true. They are different. So I think if there was a standardized independent investigation, with [a] set out protocol [and] best practices—do you show the officer the body camera video first, or do you get the statement first?—things along those lines, I think would really help.

The other thing is in certain cases where the community has a lot of interest in a case because the person is unarmed or appeared not to be armed, the AG ought to be able to step in and take some of those cases. Not that I’m saying I can’t be biased, but perceptions become my reality. So, there are those things. Those two things. And then I also think, training. Every, every police officer in every department should be trained on de-escalating a situation—and we’ve done that. We’ve trained about 2,000 first responders and we have seen the officer-involved shootings go down when they receive this training because the training is so different from the training they’re getting right now, Patrisse. Right now they’re being trained command and control, and clearly, when you have someone in an altered state [due to] either mental health or substance abuse, sometimes just backing off a little bit, giving a little bit more time, the person will start to cycle through and calm down as opposed to trying to control someone. So those are the simple changes I think should be made: one, an independent investigative force [where the] AG takes over some of the more problematic cases, and mandatory de-escalation training for everybody who carries a gun.

Cullors: Thank you so much for that. I want to ask two more questions for you and would love to hear about what policies and our laws are you most proud of helping to pass or help get signed into law, either at the state legislature at the local level, to improve the lives of children and working families and LA County.

Lacey: I’m cycling through all the stuff in my mind that we’ve been involved in. I think I’m most proud of the laws that we have passed in order to make it easy for people to get conservatorships, because most of the time I hear from family members and it’s heartbreaking. They have adults who don’t necessarily want to accept that they have a mental health issue. So, they’ve been really small, almost barely noticeable, but important laws, like for instance, conservatorships used to stop if you got arrested—the process would just stop. And so, we changed the law—because it didn’t make sense—so that it would continue on. Also, if you were on parole or probation, you couldn’t get mental health services money for treatment. So, we got that changed. I think those things help. I think the toughest one that we were involved in is changing registration laws. I still take heat from [that] because it’s misunderstood. It used to be if you were convicted of statutory rape you had to register for the rest of your life and first of all, that hurt the person who may not have been what we call a true child predator, but also it flooded law enforcement with a lot of registrations that were unnecessary. If we really want to keep track of those who are the true predators, [it’s difficult] if you’re flooding that database. That was hard because I had a lot of legislators abandon me. They were afraid of sponsoring that law or voting for that law. I’m proud of it because it was a risk. I feel like if you’re going to be courageous, you need to take a risk. That’s the right thing that you can end up losing your job over.

Cullors: That’s right and thank you for going through that. My last question is about the role of police associations. We know that police associations have been under heavy scrutiny in the last several months from the George Floyd protests and uprisings, and people are really looking at what police associations are doing or what they’re about. Some people are even calling for police associations to be moved out of unions. We know that your campaign is very much backed by police associations with lots of dollars, and I want to know how can you hold law enforcement accountable if they’re also very much supporting and backing you? Do you see a conflict there, or do you not? What’s your opinion, what are your thoughts on this?

Lacey: I think the way to best explain it is to use a case that was very unpopular. We actually charged the LAPD officer, Mary O’Callaghan, with abuse of a woman by the name of Alesia Thomas. In my mind, I am an independent thinker. I’m an African American woman from the Crenshaw district. I present professional, but if I need to bring out the angry Black woman, I can do that. I can set people straight and I can tell people this is my decision. And I remember when we charged her and we didn’t charge her with a death, but we charged her with abuse because the coroner’s report said Miss Thomas died from an overdose, but I took a lot of flack the first time I went to the police and I was shocked. I thought, I’m just doing my job. I’m making the call and I did. Some of the union representatives did confront me and during the meeting, and I told them [to] look at the tape. The evidence is there. We did the right thing and it was tough, no question about it. The police, the PPL members were unhappy with me. They told me that, but they did not change my decision.

I wish there could be a documentary showing what goes into these cases, because the rule [is that] we don’t have police and police unions in the room. It’s my prosecutors, my investigators, and we are methodically going through this evidence. There are times we think we want to prosecute, but the evidence is just not there. I agree with police officers all the time on cases and it’s hard to tell you this, but I am an independent person. And trust me, I know. I know how to make up my own mind. I’m the lawyer in the room and I don’t have any problems saying look, I went to law school and I’m looking at this, and it’s just not fair.

There have been cases where I may not have had the union upset, but I’ve had a police chief who wanted me to do something and I tell them no. It’s not going to happen.

Right now, in terms of money, the only thing people can give me now is $1,500. And $1,500 is a lot, believe me. I do a lot of phone calling and asking people for money, but I maintain my own independence. I remember in the Gabriel Fernandez case when we had to charge those social workers, and we ultimately ended up losing that case. I was going to lose the SEIU. Largest union in the country, very powerful, a lot of money. But I had a dead kid and I had some social workers who changed the scores [and] that eight-year-old in there to die. And you know what? My attitude is, okay, because I’m going to do what’s right, even if it means I pay for it later. And I am paying for it. I often say the minute you get this job, as a DA you’re making people unhappy. You’re angering people. People either want you to file a case or they’re mad at you because you didn’t file, and you just have to have that independent streak where you say this is what I’m going to do.

Cullors: That case still haunts me. I think about the Gabriel Fernandez [case] and I think about that child every day. Literally, that’s it. So, as a mom of a four-year-old, I could not wrap my head around it. And so, those complicated moments for someone in your position to try to figure out: Who do you protect? He’s gone, so who gets held accountable? I know that there’s a documentary, I think you were in it. I wanted to watch it, but it was too infuriating, but super helpful to hear.

Lacey: No, I was gonna say I made myself watch it because I figure if that child suffered then I can suffer [through watching it] because we need to learn whatever we need to learn. We need to figure it out so that eight-year-olds, six-year-olds, ten-year-olds aren’t dying like that.

Cullors: Are there any last things that you want to say before we close out?

Lacey: Normally during campaign season, you know, you throw in barbs and digs at your opponent, [but] this doesn’t seem like the right forum for it. I just want people to understand that the woman you see is the woman you get. I believe in reform, but I also believe in safety. I grew up in a neighborhood where we just didn’t think the police cared about our community because they just didn’t show up on time or just didn’t seem to work the cases. I believe that my experience and my background have uniquely prepared me to continue to keep some stability in that DA’s office because I would hate for it to be taken over by someone who puts themselves before the needs of the community. That’s my closing argument.

Patrisse Cullors is a co-founder of Black Lives Matter and a senior fellow at Prism. Follow her on Twitter @OsopePatrisse.

Prism is a BIPOC-led nonprofit news outlet that centers the people, places and issues currently underreported by our national media. Through our original reporting, analysis, and commentary, we challenge dominant, toxic narratives perpetuated by the mainstream press and work to build a full and accurate record of what’s happening in our democracy. Follow us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

Q&A: Patrisse Cullors in conversation with Los Angeles DA candidate, George Gascon

Patrisse Cullors for Prism Reports
Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Patrisse Cullors: Thank you so much for taking the time, George! Let’s get right into it. My first question to you is: What does a district attorney do? What is their role in advancing justice and equity, and why has this race been called the second most important race in the country next to the presidency?

George Gascón: The question [of] what is the role of the DA? I think, is central not only to this phase, but to the movement to reimagine the criminal justice system, because the DA is a major factor in how the criminal justice system operates. Starting with the very basics, the district attorney is someone that gets to review all the work that the police officers do in terms of arrest, and it’s up to the district attorney and his or her policies to determine whether the cases are going to the prosecuted or not. If they’re going to be prosecuted, [the DA decides] whether [the charge is] going to be murder, whether incarceration is going to be something on the table, what level of incarceration even up to and including the death penalty.

Take the LA District Attorney’s Office. We know that the death penalty is always on the table and it’s exercised quite regularly. [Deciding] whether you treat children as kids or prosecute them as adults—again, this is a major role of the district attorney. Then in the area of police accountability, whether you’re going to hold police and other public officials accountable to the law. In LA County, we see a major gap there with over 600 police killings [and] a single prosecution, even including about 12 unarmed men of color that have been killed by police and having even the chief of police asking for prosecution—which is very, very uncharacteristic—and still having the DA refuse.

Then you get into the area of policymaking and working with the state and local legislators. District attorneys are very influential actors in how the laws are shaped that either provide funding relief for people or increase the size of the criminal justice system. So,, and you have policymaking.

The prosecutor plays a major role in environmental justice. So, you take LA County, which is one of the most polluted counties in the country—we have uncapped fossil fuel wells, we have unlawful dumping of hazardous materials, we’ve had gas leaks. Often, people don’t realize that actually the DA could play a major role in protecting our community in this area. Our current district attorney in LA has not done so. Then you talk about consumer law—holding corporations [and] landlords accountable to ensure that they’re playing fairly, that they’re treating their customers and the public appropriately is a major role of the district attorney. You’ve seen the current district attorney not being very present in this conversation of white-collar prosecutions, holding corporate leaders accountable.

There’re so many other layers to the work, and prosecutors in this country have been the major drivers behind mass incarceration and sustaining the systemic racism that is so deeply embedded into the criminal justice system. So [the office of DA has] an operational influence [through] the bully pulpit, sometimes by just not taking action.

Cullors: The big question from the community here in Los Angeles around the deaths that have happened at the hands of law enforcement is this: If you were to be elected, would you be willing to reopen any of the cases and file charges against officers?

Gascón: Yes. We’ve already taken several steps to do this. As part of my campaign, we have a group of civil rights lawyers who are helping our campaign go about reviewing prior incidents of police use of force where there are major questions as to the legitimacy of that force. What I have publicly committed myself to doing is two things: No. 1 is [that] if there were cases that require additional review on potential evaluation for prosecution, that I would be appointing special prosecutors to those for now. What is a special prosecutor? The special prosecutor will be an attorney who is not associated with the office [of the district attorney].

I will be looking for people with civil rights [experience] and high levels of experience in prosecuting complex cases of murder, and I will be allowing them to take the lead in charging those cases or reviewing those cases. They will have the complete authority of my office, but they will be working independently from me. And why am I doing this? I’m doing this because I recognize that regardless of how hard I try, as the elected district attorney many members of the community are going to feel that there is not enough separation or independence between my office and the police and the work that needs to be done. So, No. 1, my commitment is to assign special prosecutors as a temporary solution to the current situation.

No. 2, and what I believe to be the more sustainable long-term solution, is [to] work with other stakeholders in the system to get our legislative members in Sacramento to create enabling legislation that would allow counties to create a separate “office of special prosecutors,” if you will, that will be independent from the district attorney’s office, independent from the police or anyone else, [and] that will be tasked with investigating police shootings [to] determine whether the shooting was lawful or not. If they determine that a shooting was unlawful, [the office would then] proceed independently to prosecute the case.

Cullors: So specifically, that’s exactly what we need—we need to know how you’re going to be showing up, what the specific process will be. I think that response is super helpful for people who’ve just been trying to figure out how to deal with the harms and violence against their family members and not seeing any kind of accountability. I have another question: For three years now, Jackie Lacey has been avoiding a public meeting with Black Lives Matter. I know that you’re not her, but the nature of this position means that you will do things that the community sees as unjust. How do you see yourself being held accountable, and will you commit to always have public meetings with the community when requested? And what does that look like to you?

Gascón: I’m going to start backwards here and say very simply and unequivocally that yes, I am committed to having regular conversation with all stakeholders within the community—including Black Lives Matter—and to having an open-door policy. I often hear the current district attorney saying, “Well, I’m not going to talk to you until you stop protesting,” but as an elected official you cannot precondition your meetings with a community.

I quite frankly expect that there will be times when people are going to be protesting outside of my office, and then they’re going to come up the elevator and have a conversation with me. That’s the way the system is supposed to work. Now, how am I going to do this—in a very formalized way? If I get elected, my goal is to actually embed in the transition a broad spectrum of representation from the various segments of our community so that the community actually begins to take hold of how the district attorney’s office is going to serve the community. [I believe in] the concept of “whole governing,” which means bringing in stakeholders and elected and selected officials all together to ensure that the government is a representation of the community that is served, [and that] all of the procedures that we follow are based on collaboration and mutual conversations. So, this really has to start from the foundation of the development of the new administration if I were to be elected.

One of the very first things that I would be doing is working with stakeholders, including members of Black Lives Matter as well as others, because we have to cover the entire political spectrum as well. [We want] to make sure that people have a meaningful place at the table when decisions are being made about policies and procedures. It doesn’t mean that every moment everybody’s going to agree, obviously. Precisely because I find it very important to have a full spectrum of ideas, by definition that will mean that there will be disagreement. But based on my experience, I know that the ultimate decisions are much better when you have this broad base of opinions that come together, and people come to some level of consensus. I believe that it becomes a better-informed decision.

Cullors: Thank you. Next question: What are your top three policy priorities or reforms you would implement as soon as you’re elected here in the largest county in the United States?

Gascón: Well, there are multiple but since you narrowed it to three, I am going to say the first thing is that we will stop all death penalty prosecutions immediately. All cases on the “death track” will be taken out of that track and will be reevaluated for other options. I will immediately stop prosecuting children as adults. I know that there are many kids that are currently being prosecuted adults and I will immediately start a complete reevaluation of the structure of the office so that we start on deemphasizing that very punitive manner in which the office currently functions, and become a more restorative practice—and that will have a whole cascade of other things that will include, as I mentioned before, starting by creating transitional teams that will have civil rights lawyers looking at police use of force. But I would say that if you want to start at the very top of the peak: ending the death penalty, ending the prosecution of juveniles as adults, [and] immediately taking this top to bottom reevaluation of the practices of the office, reducing incarceration, increasing community safety.

Cullors: You are a former law enforcement officer. Why should voters see you as a better alternative than Lacey?

Gascón: I think that voters should support me instead of Lacey precisely because of my background. History matters. There is a lot of rhetoric that becomes a staple of political campaigning, but the reality is that you should not be allowed to reinvent yourself in the last 30 seconds of the campaign. I ask people to look at my record, whether you’re talking about prosecuting death penalty cases, [or] whether you’re talking about prosecuting children.

So, whether you’re talking about reducing incarceration, reform efforts, or reduction in violent crime, compare that to the current Los Angeles DA—on every one of those points, you’re going to see complete differences.

I understand that Miss Lacey now is trying to reinvent herself at the last moment, but the reality is that regardless of what she says, violent crime in LA County has gone up by 30% during her administration, [according to] Department of Justice (DOJ) numbers. You will also see, based on DOJ files that violent crime in San Francisco County during my time in office was proportionately reduced. So, the first thing you have to say here is that you have two administrations, one saw a 30% increase in violent crime, the other one saw reduction.

The next thing is to look at incarceration level, because most people associate enforcement and incarceration with safety—it is a mistaken assumption, but let’s take it there. LA incarcerated at four times the rate of San Francisco. Again, that data is there on open sources.

So you have a county that incarcerates at four times the rate, which tells you that you are not onl,y criminalizing a higher number of people and families and communities, but you have to look at the return on your investment. If you wanted to follow the logic of many law enforcement people, you would anticipate that somehow that created more safety, but it didn’t.

Then I want you to look at things like how children are treated. And again, you will see that District Attorney Lacey just recently joined the Ventura district attorney to ask the California Supreme Court to allow a 14-year-old or 15-year-old to be prosecuted as an adult. Compare that and see what we did in San Francisco. When I was a district attorney, not only didn’t we prosecute kids as adults, but we actually went to a full restorative justice model for serious crimes. We took misdemeanors out of the criminal justice system when it came to kids. And actually, our juvenile crime proportionally went down more than LA. You can talk about police accountability and see who was the only district attorney that stood up, working with members of the Assembly, to create a wall to reduce the threshold as to when a police officer can use deadly force. You will see again [that] Jackie Lacey was on the opposite side of the aisle. I’m only citing a few—I can work on and on and on.

Cullors: Of course.

Gascón: The realities of the differences are great, and they are there for everyone to see. If you want to, stay away from the information from either campaign and just go to the actual sources that have this information in there, [like] the Department of Justice and newspaper articles.

Cullors: There are three different policies that are centered around the budgets of the police and the city, the county, and the national government. A few we are in support of are the Care First budget of Los Angeles County, the People’s Budget in the city, and the BREATHE Act, which is a piece of federal legislation that many of us in the Movement for Black Lives worked on and have been pushing for Congress to pass. Do you support these policies?

Gascón: Yes. So, starting with the last one, the BREATHE Act, and the answer is yes, I am in support. I’m also supporting Proposition J, which is the county measure that would take 10% away from law enforcement entities within the county and move that money to community-based services. 10% should be the floor, just the beginning of the conversation. I believe that as we continue to develop alternatives to incarceration, alternatives to a law enforcement solution to problems like mental health and dispute resolution in our community and substance abuse and so many other things that we currently use law enforcement as the answer for, the reduction in the law enforcement budget and the shifting of the funding for those other services should be measurable and should be continuing.

I don’t believe that we should ever get rid of policing or prosecutors or jails or prisons, but I do believe that the scope of the work for policing, prosecutors, jails, and prisons should be substantially reduced, and when it is used, it should be used in a very different way than we currently use it. So, I would round out my answer by saying that I’m a strong supporter of restructuring and reimagining the entire criminal justice system. Just because we’ve always done it a certain way, doesn’t mean that we have to be continuing to do it. I believe in continuous exploration, of this reimagining of how we do the work, and part of that begins with doing what we’re doing in LA County by taking proposition J. I call it the down payment on the journey of reimagining our system.

Cullors: Thank you so much, George. Do you have any last thoughts you would like to share?

Gascón: I think one of the areas that was underlying in this entire conversation is that this is a historic election. Both The New York Times and the LA Times have called the race for LA DA the second most important race in the country in 2020, and the reason for that is because LA County has such an outsize influence not only what happens within LA County, but what happens in the rest of the state and the nation. Just to give you one minor piece of information, there are approximately 700 people on death row in California. It’s the largest death row in the country. A third of those come from LA County, 50% of that group have documented mental health problems; almost all of them are men of color. And if you were to amortize a single execution in the state of California today, meaning how much it would cost, it would be about $300 million. Just think about how much education, how many mental health services, how much public health we can buy with $300 million.

This race will matter. In big and small ways, elections always matter, and I believe in many ways this is a fight for the soul of our country and our community. I hope that even those members of our community who often are not accustomed to voting understand just how important it is. I thank everyone and I really, really appreciate the support.

Patrisse Cullors is a co-founder of Black Lives Matter and a senior fellow at Prism. Follow her on Twitter @OsopePatrisse.

Prism is a BIPOC-led nonprofit news outlet that centers the people, places and issues currently underreported by our national media. Through our original reporting, analysis, and commentary, we challenge dominant, toxic narratives perpetuated by the mainstream press and work to build a full and accurate record of what’s happening in our democracy. Follow us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

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Editorial: District Attorney’s death penalty decision is welcome news

California’s governor, DAs should see the light and launch a new initiative to abolish capital punishment

Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen’s surprising announcement Wednesday that his office will no longer seek the death penalty is welcome news. So are his reforms designed to achieve greater fairness and racial justice following the police killing of George Floyd.

Rosen says that he has become disillusioned with the death penalty. That’s understandable. We have argued for two decades that capital punishment is barbaric, costly, unfairly applied and does not prevent crime any more effectively than the prospect of life in prison.

His decision reflects California’s slowly changing attitude toward capital punishment. We hope it inspires other district attorneys and prompts a statewide initiative to repeal California’s death penalty.

Gavin Newsom should lead that effort. The governor made clear while campaigning in 2018 that he opposed the death penalty but would respect the will of the voters, who in 2016 narrowly rejected a ballot measure to stop executions.

The governor said that he wanted to lead a conversation on repealing it. That never happened. Instead, in 2019 he thumbed his nose at voters and suspended the death penalty. Now, in the midst of a raging pandemic, isn’t the time to start a death penalty debate. But it needs to be a priority when normalcy returns to California.

Rosen’s office has sought the death penalty only four times since he became district attorney in 2011. In two of the cases he rescinded the charge and in the other two juries rejected the death penalty either through acquittal or at sentencing.

Since 1978, the state has spent more than $4 billion on just 13 executions. California’s district attorneys are much more likely to seek the death penalty for Black defendants than white. And juries in California are much more likely to recommend a death sentence for a Black defendant.

In addition to no longer seeking the death penalty, Rosen is instituting a Public and Law Enforcement Integrity Team to provide additional oversight of police officer conduct in the county. The team will supplement police departments’ internal affairs units and, in San Jose and Palo Alto, the independent police auditor’s office.

“We want to weed out bad officers who shouldn’t be (on the streets) and help good officers become even better officers,” said Rosen.

The district attorney’s office will also rewrite its charging formula, a change that will impact thousands of cases every year. The aim is to stop trying to incarcerate someone for as long as possible. Instead, Rosen is writing new rules to hold defendants accountable in a way that is fair and equitable for all racial and ethnic groups.

Additional steps may be necessary. But the new approach represents a solid step toward achieving racial justice in Santa Clara County.



Man Who Saved Three Prison Guards Executed by Tennessee

February 21, 2020.  The State of Tennessee executed Nicholas Sutton, 58, by electrocution last night after Governor Bill Lee denied a clemency application supported by correction staff, victims’ family members, many of the original jurors, and those whose lives Mr. Sutton has saved.

“Nick Sutton has gone from a life-taker to a life-saver,” former federal district court judge Kevin Sharp wrote in Mr. Sutton’s clemency application. No fewer than seven former and current Tennessee correction officials supported clemency for Mr. Sutton, whom they described as “an honest, kind, and trustworthy man who has used his time in prison to better himself and show that change is possible.” One wrote that Mr. Sutton’s “efforts at self-improvement and willingness to embrace change are an inspiration.”  (For the rest of the story click here.)


Just Mercy is a powerful argument against the death penalty

The film — based on Bryan Stevenson’s book and starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx — is flawed but vital.


Since 1976, for every nine Americans executed by the state, one is exonerated and released from death row — a margin of error that should terrify us all. (And yet, after years of decline, American support for the death penalty ticked up in 2018.)

That’s precisely what Just Mercy, a true story that will set your sense of injustice ablaze, aims to change.


Death Penalty Juror Describes the Effects of Condemning a Man to Death on Her

Click here for radio interview on NPR

Click here for Lindy Lou Isonhood’s TED Talk.

Participating on a death penalty jury has significant negative effects on jurors. It is not healthy for people to participate in the death of other people, no matter how guilty they are.


Ask San Mateo County DA Steve Wagstaffe to honor the moratorium on the death penalty

In the light of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order to halt the death penalty in California.

We, the voters of San Mateo County, request that you honor Gov. Newsom’s moratorium on the death penalty.  We specifically request that you immediately pledge that your office will no longer seek the death penalty in any criminal case brought in Santa Clara County.
To read the petition and sign it, go here.


Freed after 26 years on San Quentin’s death row, farmworker files suit for false imprisonment

LOS ANGELES (KABC) — False testimony sent farmworker Vicente Benevides to death row.


Now he has filed a federal lawsuit against officials who imprisoned him.


“I continue suffering from the injustice I lived through and the pain I must carry for the rest of my life,” said Benevides through a Spanish translator.

Benevides was arrested at age 41 and spent nearly 26 years at San Quentin. for the rest of the story, click here.


New Data Show County’s Death Sentences Characterized by Racial Bias, Unfit Lawyers

June 18, 2019

LOS ANGELES — The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Southern California released a white paper today revealing first-of-its-kind data around Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s record as it relates to the death penalty.

DA Lacey was first elected to her seat in December of 2012. Since then, 22 people have been sentenced to death. Key findings from the report include:

  • All of the 22 defendants sentenced to death are people of color — 13 were Latinx, eight were Black and one was Asian. Not a single white defendant has been sentenced to death during DA Lacey’s tenure, although there were white defendants who were eligible for the punishment.
  • Race of the victim also played a major role in determining who received a death sentence — just 12 percent of homicide victims in LA County each year are white, but 36 percent of the cases that led to a death sentence during DA Lacey’s tenure had at least one white victim.
  • These defendants were represented by unfit lawyers — nine of the 22 defendants sentenced to die were represented by lawyers who were previously or subsequently disbarred, suspended, or charged with misconduct. A tenth had a lawyer who repeatedly fell asleep through his trial.
  • LA County has produced more death sentences than any other county in the country — over the past five years, LA has also produced more death sentences per capita than any large county in Texas, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington, or Georgia. From 2014 to 2018, only LA and Riverside Counties in California and Maricopa County in Arizona sentenced more than 10 people to death in a given year. Of the 723 people currently under a sentence of death in California, nearly a third (31 percent) are from Los Angeles.

“LA County is an example of everything wrong with the death penalty,” said Cassandra Stubbs, director of the Capital Punishment Project at the ACLU. “Abysmal defense lawyering, geographic disparities, and racial bias are the legacy of its unfair and discriminatory use of the death penalty. LA is one of the largest drivers of death sentences nationwide, despite the repeated rejection of the death penalty at the ballot box by LA voters. DA Lacey should take a step forward for racial justice and help end America’s failed experiment with the death penalty by announcing she will no longer tolerate death penalty cases under her watch.”

In March 2019, California Governor Newsom issued a moratorium on the death penalty, effectively halting all executions while he’s governor. Despite that, DA Lacey continues to sentence people to death.

“California is at a moment of reckoning with respect to the death penalty,” said Jessica Farris, director of criminal justice at the ACLU SoCal. “Governor Newsom’s moratorium on state-sanctioned killing reinforces what Angelenos have repeatedly expressed at the ballot boxes — the discriminatory and unfair death penalty has no place in a just California. Despite the moratorium and opposition from the DA’s constituents, Lacey’s office continues to seek the death penalty in the face of unmistakable evidence that the practice disproportionately affects Black and brown people and people without access to quality counsel. DA Lacey holds the power to immediately end death sentences in LA County. We hope she will.”

Read the report:


Santa Clara Residents Petition DA Jeff Rosen to Honor the Death Penalty Moratorium

Join other Santa Clara residents in signing the petition asking Santa Clara DA Jeff Rosen in Honoring Governor Newsom’s moratorium on California’s death penalty. To sign, click here.


When We Kill: Everything you think you know about the death penalty is wrong

By Nicholas Kristof, Opinion Columnist, The New York Times

“I hereby sentence you to death.”

The words of Judge Clifford B. Shepard filled the courtroom in Jacksonville, Fla., on Oct. 27, 1976. Shepard was sentencing Clifford Williams Jr., whom a jury had just found guilty of entering a woman’s house with a spare key entrusted to him and then shooting her dead from the foot of her bed.

It was a bizarre verdict, for forensics showed that the shots had been fired from outside the house — through the window, breaking the glass and piercing curtains and a screen. Moreover, at the time of the shooting Williams had been attending a birthday party, an alibi confirmed by many in attendance.

That didn’t matter, for Williams was an indigent black man with a public defender who didn’t call a single witness. The jury didn’t realize that he had an alibi or that the bullets had come from outside the house.

Read the rest of this article here.



A request from Sister Helen Prejean, January  2019

Dear Friend of Prisoners,

I have an invitation for you that may change your life. It surely did change mine.

Would you consider becoming a pen pal to one of the 744 men and women condemned to die in California? Whether or not your correspondence with a prisoner dramatically affects your life -busy as I know it must be – one thing’s for sure: it certainly will bring color, hope, and dignity to the thirsty, hungry soul in the locked cage who receives your freely-offered letter. I say it will bring dignity, because, coming as it does so unexpectedly, it will convey to the caged recipient as nothing else can: that whatever they may have done in the past, someone in this world recognizes that they are a human being by caring enough to write them a personal letter.

Imagine the sheer gift of your letter arriving with their name written on it -no, it’s not a mistake, that’s their name on the envelope, all right – delivered right into their hands like a shaft of light breaking into a drab, gray day-like-every-other-prison-day. A personal letter.

For me, somebody recognizes that I’m human. It’s addressed to me.

Back in 1982 I got an invitation to write a man on Louisiana’s death row – Patrick Sonnier – and the relationship that grew out of that correspondence changed my life, challenged it, enriched it, and deepened it forever. The point is that every soul deemed not worthy to live, who occupies a cramped cell in San Quentin (men prisoners) or in Chowchilla (women prisoners) is a human being with human rights, who does not deserve to be tortured and killed. And to add to the torture, waiting for death in a small cell for years and years – slogging against the gravitational pull of despair– alone, so alone.

If you do decide to correspond with a death row prisoner, do not be surprised if there is not an immediate response. Years of imprisonment can paralyze a soul. If this happens, I urge you not to give up. When I first wrote to Patrick I imaged myself being like a lighthouse, steadily sending him little beams of light, even if he didn’t respond. From the beginning, learn the prison rules about correspondence and follow them exactly. If you don’t, it’s the prisoner who suffers.

Finally, what counts the most is fidelity. What prisoners Do Not Need is a flurry of letters in the beginning and a promise of undying friendship – then……. Nothing. Better to commit to a minimum plan, perhaps a letter a month, and stick to it, no matter what. Postcards from beautiful places are welcome, especially since prisoners are so sensory deprived.

Godspeed as you open your heart and your life to human beings who happen to be prisoners.

May they be a gift in your life as surely as you will be in theirs.

From the heart,

Sister Helen Prejean

To learn more about this opportunity, please join San Diegans Against the Death Penalty for an information session. Enjoy light refreshments, meet past and current penpals, and learn how you can make a difference.

When: Thursday, January 31, 2019, either 11:30 am-1:00 pm or 7:00-8:30 pm

Where: Diocesan Pastoral Center at 3888 Paducah Drive, San Diego


NOTE: If you cannot attend the information session in San Diego, but are interested in writing to a death row inmate, e-mail for more information.



A Letter to Gov. Jerry Brown from Sister Helen Prejean

Dear Governor Brown,

As I see it, the question of whether or not you will use your power as governor to commute death sentences is soul terrain, moral ground, conscience ground, not simply political or legal ground.  That’s because the practice of condemning conscious, imaginative human beings to death, which entails confining them in a restricted space for years on end and then killing them or holding them in death cells indefinitely, is always and inherently the practice of torture.  It is the most fundamental violation of people’s dignity and human rights.

Waiting until the citizens of California end the death penalty through a ballot initiative may, indeed, be a legal solution, but, as you are well aware, legal solutions are not always moralsolutions. As Thomas Merton put it:

            In the end when we destroy the world, it will be legal.

This is what leads me to write you once again to urge you to transcend politics and legalities and to make the bold moral decision that is within your power as governor to make: end the torture of the 700 plus human beings on California’s death row by commuting their sentences of death to life imprisonment.. Make no mistake, Governor Brown, human beings, endowed with consciousness and imagination, who are condemned to death and spend long years on death row, are victims of torture. ”Subjected to extreme mental or physical assault while rendered defenseless” is the definition of torture by the U.N Universal Declaration of Human Rights and by Amnesty International. And for over thirty years by accompanying people on death row as their spiritual advisor, I’ve seen this torture close-up, including the suffering of men and women on California’s death row.

You are governor in a state that practices torture, Governor Brown. I believe this is the deepest moral question facing you: will you allow the torture of human beings on death row to continue after you leave office if you refuse to commute the death sentences? 

How many years will it take before the citizens of California finally end the death penalty through a ballot initiative?  Will your conscience permit you to take refuge in a legal or political justification for refusing to use your power to stop the torture of the women and men on your state’s death row, knowing full well that you had the power to stop it?   

As yet, neither the U.S. Supreme Court nor Congress can bring itself to acknowledge the torture inherent in the death penalty, but I am sure that in your Christ- conscience you recognize it.   Just as, well in advance of the Court and Congress, you have had the keen moral sense to recognize our national failure to deal with climate change and the human rights of immigrants at our borders- and had the moral courage to take bold steps to deal squarely with these blatant moral failures.

I pray to see you go down in history as the person who used his authority to empty death row and stop the torture of the human beings confined there.

Be bold, Governor Brown. Be Christ. Be Gandhi. Be your deepest, truest self, which, like Bethlehem’s star, you so clearly manifested in your words to Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition in 1992:

“There is a moral dimension to politics where the line of tactics, and compromise, and mere pragmatism has to stop. And the commitment to integrity, and life, and the values we know hold a civilized country together – that has to be maintained.”

As your sister in Christ I am praying mightily for you.

From the heart,

Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ.


Pope Francis Declares Death Penalty Unacceptable in All Cases

ROME — Pope Francis has declared the death penalty wrong in all cases, a definitive change in church teaching that is likely to challenge Catholic politicians, judges and officials who have argued that their church was not entirely opposed to capital punishment.




Most California governor candidates oppose the death penalty–but may have to preside over executions


Jan 10, 2018

by Carol Zimmermann, Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court sent a death-row case back to the lower courts Jan. 8 in a summary ruling.

Help fund independent Catholic journalism. Donate now.

In a 6-3 vote, the high court ordered the federal appeals court based in Atlanta to examine claims that a juror in the case of death-row inmate Keith Tharpe voted for the death sentence because Tharpe is black.

The U.S. Supreme Court had already halted Tharpe’s scheduled execution the night it was initially scheduled in September. Now the court is giving Tharpe — convicted of killing Jacquelin Freeman, his sister-in-law, 27 years ago — another chance to have a court hear his claims of racial bias on his sentencing.

Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote the dissent and was joined by Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, said the court’s unsigned opinion demonstrated “ceremonial hand-wringing” and he predicted Tharpe would lose his appeal. For the rest of the article, click here.

For death penalty abolitionists, 2017 offered a series of surprises, beginning with the results of the 2016 November elections.

California, Nebraska and Oklahoma all had referendums to abolish the death penalty during the election. In each of the states, residents defeated the measures.

Those defeats provided anti-death-penalty advocates with a “wake-up call,” according to Karen Clifton, executive director of Catholic Mobilizing Network. Clifton told NCR that she felt the passing of the referendums would have been a “natural trajectory,” reflecting early poll results. For complete article, click here.

Capital Punishment Deserves a Quick Death


Mass for Victims of Violence

There will be a Mass for victims of violence this Wednesday, October 25, 2017, at 7 pm. It will be held at St. John the Baptist Church, 279 South Main Street, Milpitas, CA 95035.


Pope Francis: The death penalty is contrary to the Gospel

America, The Jesuit Review, Gerald, O’Connell, October 11, 2017

Pope Francis declared today that the death penalty is “contrary to the Gospel.” He said that “however grave the crime that may be committed, the death penalty is inadmissible because it attacks the inviolability and the dignity of the person.”  For complete article, click here.


Rally October 7th, Lytton Plaza, Palo Alto

Please join South Bay Activists to mark World Day Against the Death Penalty

With 750 persons on Death Row and the passage of PROP 66, California is at risk of rivaling Texas in fast tracking executions

Where: Lytton Plaza Palo Alto, corner of University and Emerson

When: October 7th from 2 to 4 PM


Professor Ellen Kreitzberg, Professor of Law and Director for Social Justice and Public Service, Santa Clara University

Gerard McGuire, Board of Directors, California People of Faith Working Against the Death Penalty


Bob De Mattei, California People of Faith


Terry McCaffrey
Amnesty International
California People of Faith
Working Against the Death Penalty
Cell: 408-515-0341


Supreme Court Stays Death Sentence of Keith Tharpe

September 26, 2017

The U.S. Supreme Court stayed the death sentence today of Keith Tharpe, a black man who was on death row for over 25 years despite the fact that one of his white jurors later recounted the case using slurs when referring to black people and said that “because a black person doesn’t have a soul, giving one the death penalty was no big deal.” Tharpe was scheduled to be executed this evening.

Affidavits signed by the former juror and Tharpe’s legal team attesting to the fact that juror racism influenced his trial were deemed inadmissible by state courts. Full story at


California man sentenced to life in killing of ex-wife, seven others at hair salon

Washington Post, September 22, 2017

A California man was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for killing his ex-wife and seven others in a 2011 shooting rampage at the hair salon where she worked.

Scott Dekraai, a 47-year-old former tugboat operator, received eight consecutive life terms in a courtroom packed with victims’ relatives who wore buttons and shirts printed with photos of those killed. Many sobbed and spoke of their devastating loss. Others told Dekraai they hoped he would rot in prison.  For entire story go to:


Northern California CPF Meeting, Tuesday September 19th in Sunnyvale

Currently there are 728 men in San Quentin and 21 women in Chowchilla awaiting execution.  18 persons have completed all their appeals and could be executed within a year. It is time to put our faith into action and acting on our sense of compassion and our belief in the sanctity of life to join the campaign to end the death penalty in California.

Please join us for the next meeting of California People of Faith Working Against the Death Penalty on Tuesday September 19th  from 5:30 to 7:00 PM at  the Youth Room of the Parish Center, Resurrection Parish, located at 1395 Hollenbeck Avenue , Sunnyvale, CA 94087.  The agenda will be:


  • Reflection
  • Review the minutes of the July 11th CPF meeting
  • Review the California Supreme Court decision on Prop 66 and Call to Action to end   executions
  • Summary of Board of Directors meeting September 11th, 2017
  • Announcing “The National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty”.  Catholic Mobilizing Network
  • Speaking activities and Speakers Bureau
  • Curriculum of the death penalty
  •  Upcoming events
  • Service for Victims of Violence October 25th, 2017 at 7 PM St. John the Baptist  Church,  350 South Abel Street, Milpitas, CA 95035, with Bishop McGrath presiding.
  • Outreach: Faith Formation Conference, November 3rd and 4th.
  • Outreach: Religious Education Congress March 16 – 18, 2018
  • Wrongful Convictions Day October 2, 2017
  • World Day Against the Death Penalty 10-10-17. Rally 2 PM October 7th, Lytton Plaza, Palo Alto, CA
  • Plan for diversification of CPF Board of Directors
  • Online resource materials: California People of Faith website:

Directions: From HWY 85 South, exit on Fremont Ave., make a left onto Fremont Ave.  and then make a right turn on Hollenbeck Ave.  The church is on your right.

I am looking forward to seeing you at the meeting.

Terry McCaffrey
Tel: 650-324-7517
Cell: 408-515-0341


Mass for Victims in Milpitas

There will be a Mass for victims on October 25, 2017 at 7:00 pm at St. John the Baptist Church in Milpitas. Bishop McGrath will preside.

For more information please contact Sr, Maryann Cantlon at:

Cantlon, Maryann <>


18 Inmates to Get Execution Dates After California Supreme Court Ruling

By Bob Egelko
Updated 1:10 pm, Saturday, August 26, 201

The clock is ticking again on executions in California.

The state Supreme Court’s ruling Thursday, upholding much of a prosecution-backed initiative seeking to speed up the death penalty process, cleared the way for the prison system to approve new rules for lethal injections for the first time in more than a decade. If a federal judge finds the procedures constitutional, execution dates could be set within a year for 18 prisoners, including four from the Bay Area, whose final appeals of their death sentences have been rejected. (For complete story, click here or on headline.)


Next Bay Area CPF Meeting

Currently there are 728 men in San Quentin and 21 women in Chowchilla awaiting execution.  It is time to put our faith into action and acting on our sense of compassion and our belief in the sanctity of life to join the campaign to end the death penalty in California.

Please join us for the next meeting of California People of Faith Working Against the Death Penalty, Tuesday, July 11th  from 5:30 to 7:00 PM at  the Youth Room of the Parish Center, Resurrection Parish, located at 725 Cascade Drive, Sunnyvale, CA 94087.


  • Reflection
  • Review the minutes of the May 30th meeting
  • Update on PROP 66 and Department of Corrections Execution Protocol
  • Announcing “The National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty.”  Catholic  Mobilizing Network
  • Service for Victims of Violence October 25, 2017, 7 PM, St. John the Baptist Church,  350 South Abel Street, Milpitas, CA 95035.  Bishop McGrath presiding.
  • Outreach: Faith Formation Conference, November 3rd and 4th.
  • Outreach: Religious Education Congress March 16 – 18, 2018
  • Speakers Bureau
  • Curriculum of the death penalty
  • Next CPF Board of Directors meeting, September 11th, Chancery Office
  • Plan for diversification of CPF Board of Directors
  • Discussion: outreach activities to end the death penalty
    • Wrongful Convictions Day October 2, 2017
    • World Day Against the Death Penalty 10-10-17
  • Online resource materials: California People of Faith website:

Directions: From HWY 85 South, exit on Fremont Ave and make a left towards Sunnyvale, take a right on South Mary Ave, and a left on  Cascade Drive.

I am looking forward to seeing you at the meeting.

Terry McCaffrey
Tel: 650-324-7517
Cell: 408-515-0341


Bishops among first signatories to pledge to end death penalty

  • Bishops sign pledges to end the death penalty at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops building in Washington May 9. (CNS/Tyler Orsburn)

(click here for the rest of the article)


Pope Francis calls for world ‘free of the death penalty’

Pope Francis calls for world ‘free of the death penalty’

Pope Francis greets a prisoner as he visits Cereso prison in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Feb. 17. (CNS/Paul Haring)

In a message to a world conference against the death penalty in Oslo, Norway, Pope Francis says capital punishment “contradicts God’s plan for individuals and society, and his merciful justice” and says that growing opposition to the practice is a “sign of hope.”

(for the rest of the article, click here)


SundayReview | OP-ED COLUMNIST

On Death Row, but Is He Innocent?


Death penalty in California: State Supreme Court holds high-stakes hearing Tuesday

Last years’ Proposition 66 sets five-year deadlines for capital punishment appeals.  The Mercury News, Tuesday, June 6, 2017, page B1.


No death penalty in Sierra slaying

Teen’s family disappointed but expert says verdict not surprising without body.    The Mercury News, Tuesday, June 6, 2017, page A1.


YES on 62 Interfaith Prayer Service

On Wednesday, October 19, 6-7 pm, a YES on 62 Interfaith Prayer Service will be celebrated at Trinity Cathedral, 81 North 2nd Street, San Jose. Join with Christians, Hindus, Jains Jews, Zoroastrians, Muslims, Sikhs, Quakers and others in an Interfaith Prayer Service for Prop 62, to raise our voices in support of abolishing the death penalty in California. Put YOUR faith in action!

If you would like to help publicize the service, you can download a flyer here. If you have questions, please contact Father Jon Pedigo at


Speaker: Death penalty ‘ultimate insult to human dignity’

Anti-death-penalty activist and actor Mike Farrell opened up the Archdiocese of San Francisco’s Reentry Conference and Resource Fair on October 1, telling his audience why he considers the death penalty “the ultimate insult to human dignity.” Mr. Farrell also participated in a panel discussion on the death penalty and specifically on the two initiatives on California’s November ballot: Proposition 62, which would repeal the death penalty and replace it with life without parole, and Proposition 66, which purports to “fix” the death penalty and speed up the process.

The panelists from left to right are: David Crawford, Outreach & Education Director, Death Penalty Focus; Elaine Donlin Sensei, Ordained Buddhist Priest; Beth Weinberger, Coordinator, Anti-Death Penalty Action Group, Kehilla Community Synagogue; Susan Swope, Advocate for Death Penalty Abolition; Mike Farrell, and Moderator, Terry McCaffrey, President, California People of Faith Working Against the Death Penalty.
The panelists from left to right are: David Crawford, Outreach & Education Director, Death Penalty Focus; Elaine Donlin Sensei, Ordained Buddhist Priest; Beth Weinberger, Coordinator, Anti-Death Penalty Action Group, Kehilla Community Synagogue; Susan Swope, Advocate for Death Penalty Abolition; Mike Farrell, and Moderator, Terry McCaffrey, President, California People of Faith Working Against the Death Penalty.

For the full story, see the Catholic San Francisco of October 6, 2016, page 1. 


Life Matters: The Death Penalty

Proposition 62 is an initiative that, if approved by the voters, would repeal the death penalty for persons found guilty of murder and would replace it with life imprisonment without possibility of parole. the Bishops of California have agreed to support Proposition 62 and oppose Proposition 66 (which would speed up death penalty appeals).


California Bishops Announce Support for Prop 62 to End the Use of the Death Penalty

July 14, 2016  California Bishops Statements

All Life Is Sacred – Innocent or Flawed

Bishops Also Oppose Prop 66 to Speed up Executions

SACRAMENTO, CA – During this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we, the Catholic Bishops of California support Proposition 62 which would end the use of the death penalty in California.  Our commitment to halt the practice of capital punishment is rooted both in the Catholic faith and our pastoral experience.


Mercury News editorial: Abolish the death penalty; Vote yes on Proposition 62

Mercury News Editorial

Posted: 07/15/2016 10:00 AM PDT | Updated: 5 Days Ago

The lethal injection facility at San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

The lethal injection facility at San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

California’s death penalty has been a failure on every level.

Capital punishment is barbaric, unfairly applied and does not prevent crime any more effectively than the prospect of life in prison. Since 1978, the state has spent more than $4 billion on just 13 executions: Imagine if, instead, the money had been spent on education, on rehabilitating young offenders or on catching more murderers, rapists and other violent criminals. (to continue reading, click here)


CPF Members Attend DPF Awards Dinner–May 12, 2016


The Death Penalty Focus 25th Annual Awards Dinner was held at the Beverly Hills Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles on May 12th, 2016. The event was very well attended–a real tour de force. It featured Sir. Richard Branson, Mike Farrell, Joan Baez, Dolores Huerta and Jackson Browne. The event was hosted by Matt Cherry, Executive Director of Death Penalty Focus.


The program recognized a long list of deceased death penalty abolitionists, which included our dedicated CPF member, Kay Bandell. May she Rest in Peace.


Magdaleno Rose-Avila, with Witness to Innocence, introduced about 14 Exonorees, who had been convicted for crimes that they did not commit. The list included Franky Carrillo (20 years in prison), Albert Woodfox (43 years in solitary confinement), Alfred Dewayne Brown, Obie Anthony (16 years in prison), John Thompson (18 years in prison 14 years on death row), Gary Tyler (sentenced to death at 16, 42 years in prison) and Juan Melendez (18 years on death row). Witness to Innocence empowers Death Row Exonorees to work toward abolishing the Death Penalty.

Keynote Speaker Sir Richard Branson

Richard Branson shared his views on the death penalty. He said that he always believed that the death penalty is cruel, barbaric and inhumane. He noted that the death penalty is an issue that affects everyone.

It is a violation of human rights that has no place in a civilized society. He said we all have a duty to work for its abolition across the world. Over the years, he has used his voice, and his resources, to take a stand against the death penalty in the US and elsewhere. Some countries – like Saudi-Arabia, Iran, China and Pakistan – continue to execute people at an alarming rate, with convictions that often follow legal proceedings that violate every standard of fairness and human decency.

Richard Branson’s support for the Justice That Works Campaign will be key.

Mike Farrell

Mike Farrell heads up the Justice That Works Campaign.   “I believe that no one should be executed, guilty or innocent. There are appropriate sanctions that protect society and punish wrongdoers without forcing us to stoop to the level of the least among us at his or her worst moment.”

Being a life-long opponent of the death penalty, Mike Farrell has debated and spoken about this issue on many occasions across the country.

Clearly not everyone shares his views on the death penalty. Some believe it is appropriate under certain circumstances for the state to take a life. Those who hold to that view, though, “must not only examine the issue on an abstract moral or philosophical plane, but should look carefully at the reality of what a death penalty system truly means in a society such as ours – what it does, who it impacts, who it serves – and what our moral obligation is with regard to the mistakes it makes.”

An alternative to the death penalty that Farrell believes appropriate is Life Imprisonment Without the Possibility of Parole. This means exactly what it says. Life imprisonment without ever having the chance to get out.

Dolores Huerta

Dolores Huerta has been a longtime fierce advocate for farm workers, immigration and women’s rights, and an opponent of the death penalty. She was awarded the Norman Felton and Denise Aubuchon Humanitarian Award presented by Magdaleno Rose-Avila.

Jackson Browne

Jackson Browne, a longtime Human Rights activist, advocate on behalf of the environment and opponent of the death penalty was awarded the Justice in the Media and Arts Award, which was presented by Joan Baez

Matt Cherry

Matt Cherry deserves a lot credit for having forged a powerful coalition for the Justice That Works Campaign. In his remarks to the audience he noted that support for ending the death penalty now stands at 60%. He said that over 600K signatures were submitted to the Attorney General for validation. Only 300K signatures are required to qualify for the ballot.   He said that $4 million has been spent for the signature gathering. For a successful campaign we need to raise $10 million.

With the resources that have been established, we are well positioned to end the death penalty in California.   However, now that the pro-death penalty initiative appears to have submitted enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, we need a united front to meet the challenges that lie ahead.

California People of Faith

California People of Faith Working Against the Death Penalty has endorsed the Justice That Works Ballot Initiative. The Awards Dinner was well attended by CPF Members (see attached photo).

Terry McCaffrey
May 20, 2016


Pope Calls for Worldwide Abolition of Death Penalty
Sunday, February, 21, 2016

Pope Francis on Sunday called for the worldwide abolition of the death penalty, saying the commandment, “You shall not kill” was absolute and equally valid for the guilty as for the innocent. (Click on link above for full story.)


CDCR Extends Written Comment Period on Administration of the Death Penalty

If you have not already commented, the CDCR has extended its public comment period on their proposed guidelines for administering the death penalty in California to April 6, 2016. Written comments should be directed to:

Timothy M. Lockwood
Chief, Regulation and Policy Management Branch
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
P.O. Box 942883
Sacramento, CA 94283-0001

They may be submitted by telephone to (916) 445-2269, by fax at (916) 324-6075, or by e-mail at If Mr. Lockwood is unavailable, inquires should be directed to Joshua Jugum at (916) 445-2228.

Here is a Lethal Injection Fact Sheet and sample letter.


Los Angeles Chaplain Questions New Death Penalty Protocols

January 28, 2016

The hearing held by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) last Friday, was the opportunity for the public to voice their concerns over the new death penalty protocols put forth by the CDCR.

The main areas of concern at the public hearing were how the drugs would be acquired, role of chaplains/spiritual advisors, projected costs of executions, counseling for staff and missing documentation on the research compiled by CDCR.

Speaking on behalf of the California Catholic Bishops was Father George Horan. He is the former co-director of Restorative Justice for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and now is the Founder and Chair of Healing Hearts, Restoring Hope. Fr. Horan is currently a volunteer chaplain at the Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles.

He decried the fact that the spiritual advisers who attended to condemned inmates must leave three hours before an execution is carried out and noted that in accordance with the Catholic faith and canon law, confessions cannot be conducted by phone.

He stressed that the new protocols should offer more counseling to staff everyone who witnesses an execution. Fr. Horan said that he could not imagine what these officers go through watching these inmates die and that when witnesses are brought in to watch executions, new victims are created. He recounted the story of one officer so hardened by his work on Death Row, that he was eventually diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“To me, it just seems insane that we invite people to witness executions,” Horan said. “Gang members don’t do that.”

You can still voice your opposition to these protocols. The deadline for public comment was extended until Feb. 22.

To read the new protocols, click here

– See more at:


Field Poll: Californians Split on the Death Penalty

In an ongoing shift in public opinion about the death penalty in California, the number of state voters who favor doing away with capital punishment has grown to virtually the same size as those seeking to speed up the execution process, according to a new poll.

Read more here: Californians Split on Death Penalty



I am very excited to announce the launch of the Justice That Works Act of 2016, a ballot initiative to replace California’s dysfunctional and costly death penalty system.


This initiative will re-sentence the nearly 750 people currently on death row in our state to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Life in prison will replace the death penalty as the ultimate punishment for first degree murder in California.

The initiative will also put them to work: all the death row inmates re-sentenced to life, and anyone else sentenced to life without parole, will be required to work in prison and to pay most of their wages as restitution to their victims’ families. On top of all this, the initiative will save us $150 million every year according to the state’s own estimate.

You may recall that in 2012 Proposition 34 came within two percentage points of replacing the death penalty. In the course of that campaign, much was learned and accomplished. Now, standing on the shoulders of that effort, we are in a great position to win that missing two percent of the vote.

Since 2012, public support for the death penalty in California has fallen by double digits as more people recoil at the botched executions, miscarriages of justice, and exorbitant costs of this broken system. In that same time, the nationwide trend against capital punishment has continued – Maryland and Nebraska have both replaced the death penalty and four other states have imposed moratoriums.

It is imperative that we capitalize on all this positive momentum and win at the ballot box next year. Since the death penalty was reinstated in California in 1978, at least $5 billion has been spent to sentence more than 900 people to death, 13 of whom have been executed. If you do the math, you’ll see that works out to about $385 million per execution.

California has by far the largest death row in the nation, with one quarter of all of America’s condemned inmates here, and we continue to sentence far more people to death than any other state. It is time for California to quit leading the western world in death sentences and instead lead the movement to replace the death penalty with justice that works.

We are already gathering signatures; please watch for us as you shop. We will need 365,880 signatures by May to ensure qualification for the November ballot. In the meantime, the campaign is ramping up and we will need your help in order to win. If you are interested in helping the campaign in any way, big or small, please click here and tell us how. 

We will certainly need financial support in order to fully fund our campaign budget and I would deeply appreciate your consideration of making a donation now or setting up a recurring monthly contribution today. Please click here for more details. 

With your help, we will wake up on November 9, 2016, having closed the largest death row in the western world. Between now and then, there is a lot that must be done and I look forward to working with you to accomplish that goal.

My best to you,

Mike Farrell
Proponent, Justice That Works Act of 2016
President, Taxpayers for Sentencing Reform

PS. For more information, please visit our website: and don’t forget to follow the campaign on Twitter and like us on Facebook.



Take Action on the Department of Corrections New Lethal Injection Protocol

The Department of Corrections has issued new regulations for a one-drug lethal injection protocol. This protocol provides for the use of one of the following drugs for the execution: Amobarbital, Secobarbital, Pentobarbital, or Thiopental.   Amobarbital and Secobarbital have never been used for lethal injection.

The following are ways that you can help:

E-mail or mail comments to:

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
Regulation and Policy Management Branch
P.O. Box 942883
Sacramento, CA 94283-0001

Written comments must be received by January 22, 2016 at 5 pm. Here is a Lethal Injection Fact Sheet and sample letter.

Public Hearing will be held on January 22, 2016 from 10 am to 3 pm in the Auditorium
Department of Health Services
East End Complex
1500 Capitol Avenue
Sacramento, CA 95814.

How you can get involved and help!

  • Share the online action alerts below via email and your social networks. Encourage your networks to help by issuing a comment and objecting to the regulations.
  • Distribute post cards at a community event or church (email to receive a package in the mail)
  • Submit a comment on behalf of your organization, group, church, etc. If you are interested in submitting a comment on behalf of your organization, let me know by emailing me directly at I can help you outline a comment that contains a lengthier objection to the regulations.
  • Send an email blast to your organization or group email list. We can help you create your own action alert, or you can simply link to the DPF/ petition below. If you are interested in this, please email me at and we will help you set one up.


 1) Factsheet about proposed lethal injection regulation, the public comment process and sample comment

Attached is a factsheet and a sample comment that we have drafted that includes 8 substantive objections to the proposed regulations.  This tool provides helpful information about the process. Also, I have created a landing page on the ACLU website with more information.

2) Online Action Alerts

Death Penalty Focus/Care2 Petition

Available at:

This is a fantastic online tool that automatically generates and emails a comment to the CDCR when a user signs the petition. It has already generated over 9,000 comments! Thanks to David from DPF for setting this up. Please share this far and wide!

ACLU Action Alert

Available at:

This is an online action that generates and emails a comment to the CDCR. This will allow users to add in a personal message to their comment.

 Others coming soon! As the comment period progresses, we hope to have online action alerts from Credo and I will send those around once they are live.

3) Snail Mail Postcards

We have printed out post cards in English and Spanish that contain different combinations of objections to the regulations. Volunteers around the state have been sent packets of postcards and will be distributing them in their local communities. If you would like a package of postcards, please let Tessa know by emailing her at:


Lawyering for the People: Kevin Cooper, the Death Penalty & Mass Incarceration
A panel presented by the San Francisco Law School & UC Hastings Chapters of the National Lawyers Guild
When: Friday, November 6, 2015
Where: UC Hastings College of Law, Room A, 198 McAllister Street, San Francisco, CA
Time: 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Please join our esteemed panel for a discussion of the legal issues surrounding the wrongful conviction of Kevin Cooper, the death penalty and mass incarceration of People of Color.

In 1983, Kevin Cooper was convicted and sentenced to death row for the killing of a family of four in Chino Hills, San Bernardino County. He has maintained his innocence since his arrest. Mr. Cooper was scheduled to be executed in 2004, but was granted a stay of execution by the 9th Circuit. On May 11, 2009, his petition for habeas corpus was denied en banc, upon which five judges of the 9th Circuit dissented, stating that they believed he was innocent based on evidence tampering by the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department.


KEVIN COOPER–Mr. Cooper will be participating on the panel from San Quentin.

AMIR VARICK AMMA, Organizer, All of Us or None–Mr. Amma is a survivor of New York State’s draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws, and was wrongfully sentenced to 25 years to life. After serving over 19 years, Mr. Amma was released from prison and earned his BA in Social Work from Lehman College. Mr. Amma has over 20 years of experience as a community activist for such organizations as ComAlert, the Drug Policy Alliance, and Samaritan Village out of NY.

BICKA BARLOW, Law Office of Bicka Barlow–
Prior to establishing her private law practice specializing in forensic DNA evidence, Ms. Barlow was the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office sole DNA Attorney for 8 years, and Research Attorney for the San Francisco Superior Court. She received her BS in Genetics from UC Berkeley, MS in Genetics and Developmental Biology from Cornell University, and JD from the University of San Francisco School of Law.

NORMAN C. HILE, Senior Counsel, Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe–
Mr. Hile has represented Mr. Cooper since 2003. Mr. Hile served on the Ninth Circuit Advisory Board from 2007 to 2011, and as Chair of the Judicial Advisory Board, Eastern District of California from 1998 to 2000. He received his BA from Yale University and JD from Columbia University.

CAROLE SELIGMAN, Kevin Cooper Defense Committee–
Ms. Seligman is a retired elementary school teacher, parent and grandparent, is a member of the Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, the co-editor of Socialist Viewpoint magazine, and the office manager at Prison Radio.

For additional information, please contact San Francisco Law School NLG Representative Tarina Yasmoothr at


San Francisco Event Features Distributing Pizza to the Poor and Sister Helen Prejean–October 10, 2015

Prejean Event Poster10-10-15


Pope Francis’ Address to September 24, 2015 Joint Session of Congress

Pope Francis made an impassioned plea Thursday for the U.S. to abolish the death penalty in his address to Congress.

The pope has long been an opponent of capital punishment and has also spoken out against life imprisonment.

“I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes,” he said.

Bishops and priests in the U.S. recently called for the death penalty to be abolished, a push Francis said he supports, mainly because a “just” punishment should “never” forget “hope.”

Here are his full comments below:

“The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development. This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes. Recently my brother bishops here in the United States renewed their call for the abolition of the death penalty. Not only do I support them, but I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.”

In the U.S., capital punishment remains legal in 31 states, and as of July 2015, 3,002 inmates were awaiting execution across the country.


California Defends Its Review Process in Appeal to Preserve the Death Penalty

A federal appeals panel on Monday heard the state’s argument against a 2014 ruling that could bring a reprieve to all the inmates on death row in California.


California death-penalty delays put on trial

By Howard Mintz

In a case that may be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, a federal appeals court on Monday will review a ruling last year declaring California’s ‘dysfunctional’ death penalty law unconstitutional because of systemic delays in a state with more than a quarter of the nation’s condemned inmates.  2015-8-31 6:56:00 A.M.


Pope Francis meets with Buddhist leaders: “these small gestures are seeds of peace”2015-06-24

A dialogue between Catholic and Buddhist religious and social action leaders began today at the Vatican. Pope Francis stopped by the meeting, and Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran gave a welcoming address.

“We have been engaged in discussing how to collaborate together in a world of divisions.”

The Pope then made some brief remarks that were translated to English as he spoke.

“It is a visit of fraternity, of dialogue, and of friendship. And this is good. This is healthy. And in these moments, which are wounded by war and hatred, these small gestures are seeds of peace and fraternity. I thank you for this and may God bless you.”

As he went to greet everyone, Pope Francis was overwhelmed with gifts: from different kinds of artwork to books.

The 46 participants all live in America. They came from New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Berkeley, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.

“Your Holiness, thank you for your leadership.”

While receiving gifts, the Pope also gave blessings.

And the Pope himself received a Buddhist blessing.

“Holy Father, this is a Buddhist blessing.”

In the past, dialogues between the two religious groups focused on mutual understanding. However, in this meeting, the focus is on how they can work together to address social problems.

Pope Francis clearly enjoyed the event, as he was beaming on his way out of the meeting.

The dialogue will take place from June 23rd to 27th. It is being hosted by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Rev. Alan Senauke, of California People of Faith Working Against the Death Penalty, was part of the delegation. His remarks on the meeting follow below.


Rev. Alan Senauke on his meeting with Pope Francis. June 24, 2015

Our dialogue group of about fifty had a wonderful audience with Pope Francis yesterday. He met each one of us with presence and warmth, taking a moment to touch and to listen. A true human, deeply ordinary in the best sense of the word. I was privileged to be there and to hand Pope Francis a letter from California People of Faith Working Against the Death Penalty asking him to speak out against the madness of capital punishment in California and everywhere…more later.

Senauke-Pope-Francis picture


Opportunity for Matching Funds

One of our members has committed $500 in matching funds. Whatever you contribute will be matched up to $500. This is a great time to contribute to our efforts to end the death penalty in California and in the United States.  All contributions are fully deductible.


Letter from Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, U.S. Apostolic Nuncio

May 14, 2015



The Death Penalty Ends in Nebraska®ion=opinion-c-col-left-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-left-region&_r=1


Why death penalty is dying a slow death

—George F. Will, San Jose Mercury News, Thursday, May 21, 2015, page A17


Marty Stroud, Prosecutor Who Put Innocent Man on Death Row: ‘Whole System Is Fatally Flawed’

Huffington Post Crime, April 1, 2015


Pope: Death Penalty Represents ‘Failure,’ Fosters Vengeance

—Frances D’Emilio, Associated press, March 20, 2015


Editorial: Catholic publications call for end to capital punishment


New Organization Formed to Oppose the Death Penalty


Mission Statement:  We, Clergy Against State Executions, (brothers and sisters) come together to empower California’s diverse faith communities to end the death penalty through advocacy, education and prayer.


Pope Francis calls for the end of the death penalty as well as the practice of sentencing people to life without possibility of parole, “the hidden death penalty.”!!!


Rally at California Supreme Court

On October 10th, 2014 the San Francisco Bay Area CPF Chapter led a rally at the Supreme Court Building in San Francisco, California. This group focussed on the injustice of executing the mentally ill.

20141010-_DM30283-SF demo
20141010-_48A0074-SF demo

World Day Against the Death Penalty

On October 5th, 2014, the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of CPF observed WORLD DAY AGAINST THE DEATH PENALTY by hosting a demonstration on Lytton Plaza in Palo Alto California. Speakers included Father River Damien Sims, Rick Walker, an exoneree released from San Quentin’s death row, Mary Kay Raftery, mother of a murder victim (pictured below) and Gerard McGuire with California People of Faith.

Chris Lundin and the Raging Grannies provided musical entertainment. For more pictures, see Local Chapter Action page.

Mother of murder victim.
  • An Evening of Prayer for Victims of Violence in San Jose–The Catholic community of San Jose invites you to an evening of prayer for victims of violence and those left to remember them with Bishop McGrath on Wednesday September 30, 2015, 7:30pm at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph at 80 South Market Street, San Jose. SJVictims’EventFLYER 9-30-2015
  • California’s historic opportunity to end the death penalty , by John Dear S.J., National Catholic Reporter, October 2, 2012
  • LaDoris H. Cordell: I’ll always remember the man I wrongfully sentenced to prison, By LaDoris H. Cordell Special to the Mercury News, June 13, 2012
  • Bishop Richard Garcia speaks about unanimity of bishops of California in support of SAFE California Initiative and how death penalty is pro-life issue, video from 2012 Los Angeles Religious Education Congress
  • Very Rev. Brendan McGuire gives testimony before Santa Clara County Human Relations Commission, audio, April 2012
  • Death penalty is not justice, by Cirilo Flores, U~T San Diego, June 9, 2012
  • California’s death penalty law: It simply does not work, by Ron Briggs, Los Angeles Times, Februrary 12, 2012
    Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, one of the high court’s more conservative members, says the death penalty is no longer working for the state. Read Full Article.
  • On August 10, 2011, the California Supreme Court directed the Santa Clara County Superior Court to hold a hearing to consider the evidence that David is mentally retarded. If the court finds him to be retarded, he would be resentenced to life without parole. The case has not yet been assigned to a superior court judge, and the schedule for the proceedings in the superior court has not yet been set. There will be many procedural steps before the case will be ready for a hearing. The case will be decided by a judge alone, without a jury. Lawyers in the San Francisco office of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, a large international law firm, have taken on David’s case pro bono.
  • The pretense of lethal injection as a peaceful and painless way to execute prisoners is unraveling, and this may change the face of the death penalty in the United States. Read Full Article.
  • Hon. Donald McCartin, LA Times, March 25, 2011
    I presided over 10 murder cases in which I sentenced the convicted men to die. As a result, I became known as “the hanging judge of Orange County,” an appellation that, I will confess, I accepted with some pride.
    Full Text
  • Rev. Salvatore J. Cordileone, March 24, 2011
    At an event sponsored by California People of Faith Bishop Cordileone of Oakland spoke at Queen of Apostles Church in San Jose on a Consistent Ethic of Life, speaking of the “seamless garment” philosophy, which holds that such issues as abortion, capital punishment, militarism, euthanasia, social justice, and economic injustice all demand a consistent application of moral principles that value the sacredness of human life.
    Full Text of the Bishop’s Speech
  • March 9, 2011
    The governor’s action makes Illinois the 16th state to abolish the death penalty.
    Statement from Pat Quinn
    More than 1,000 activists and experts attending this week’s Fourth World Congress Against the Death Penalty in this Swiss city are building a network of cooperation to support local organisations campaigning for human rights in countries that retain capital punishment…
    Full text
  • 10 reasons to oppose the death penalty Over 1,000 state prisoners are on death row in America today. A Justice Department official recently said that many of them are exhausting their appeals and that we may soon “witness executions at a rate approaching the more than three per week that prevailed during the 1930’s.” The rest of the article can be found here.

  • Photos from CPF Actions & Event
  • Weekend of Faith 2008