Random Letters — Gov. Gavin Newsom Ending Death Penalty; Ricardo Garcia Support Death Penalty; Archbishop Gomez on Death Penalty; Pier 400 Automation

  • 03/25/2019
  • Reporters Desk

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statement on ending the death Penalty

Today, we took historic action to stop the death penalty in California.

We cannot be a moral leader in the world if our government sanctions discriminatory and premeditated executions. It’s ineffective, irreversible, and immoral.

This issue strikes at the very values that California stands for. It’s not just the matter of ending another person’s life — the death penalty is more likely to be carried out against people of color, the mentally ill, and those who are unable to pay for adequate legal representation.

California has the largest death row in the country with 737 condemned inmates and more than 2/3rds are people of color. Studies show those convicted of killing whites are far more likely to be sentenced to death than killers of black or brown people.

Executions don’t keep us safe, and it’s a waste of taxpayer dollars. California alone has spent more than $5 billion to place and keep inmates on death row.

The National Academy of Sciences has found that 1 in 25 people sentenced to death is likely innocent. And since 1973, there have been 164 people sentenced to death who were later exonerated. In the case of human error, the death penalty will always be final and irreparable.

The death penalty runs counter to our fundamental understanding of human rights and values. As governor, I cannot and will not oversee the execution of anyone.

But I also want this to be clear: no one on death row is getting out of prison, and no one will avoid swift and severe punishment from our state for committing violent crimes.

In recent years, our state and our nation have wrestled with what we stand for and who we are. We can no longer allow the death penalty to be a part of what defines us. That begins in California.

Gavin Newsom, Governor California

Public Defender Ricardo Garcia Supports Death Penalty Moratorium

The Los Angeles County Public Defender strongly supports Gov. Gavin Newsom’s moratorium on executions in California, a historic step for criminal justice reform in California. The governor’s decision brings California closer to ending the death penalty, a deeply flawed and racially biased system that fails to improve public safety.

Only last year, Vincente Benavides, a man who had spent 25 years on death row in California, was exonerated. Mr. Benavides had always maintained his innocence, and he had no criminal record or history of violence. An innocent man could have been executed. This is only one reason why the moratorium is so important.

California leads the way in criminal justice reform from juvenile sentencing to ending the war on drugs. It is time to lead on ending the death penalty. It is time for California to eliminate any chance of executing an innocent person, and it is time we stop spending over $150 million a year on a system that treats people differently based on race and income.

We cannot fully address the racial and income bias that plagues criminal justice without addressing the role that the death penalty plays in devaluing the lives of people of color and the poor, and Gov. Newsom is moving in the right direction by stopping executions.

Ricardo Garcia, LA County Public Defender

Archbishop Gomez on Death Penalty Moratorium

For many years now, my brother Catholic bishops and I have been calling for an end to the death penalty, not only in California but throughout the United States. So, this is a good day for California and a good day for our country.

There are important public policy reasons for ending the death penalty.

It does not deter violent crime and it does not bring true justice or healing to victims of violent crime. And sadly, judicial execution has always been a punishment imposed far more often on African Americans, Hispanics and the poor in our society.

But the most important reasons for ending the death penalty are moral.

Every human life is precious and sacred in the eyes of God and every person has a dignity that comes from God. This is true for the innocent and it is true for the guilty. It is true even for those who commit grave evil and are convicted of the most cruel and violent crimes.

The death penalty violates the condemned person’s dignity and deprives that person of the chance to change his or her heart and be rehabilitated through the mercy of God.

With advances in law enforcement and criminal justice, we do not need to execute criminals to keep our society safe or prevent violent offenders from committing further violence.

So, ending the death penalty is a step forward. But it is only a first step.

We need to continue to address the inequities in our criminal justice system, to improve conditions in our prisons, and to provide alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent crimes. We need to keep looking for new ways to rehabilitate offenders so they can be restored to society and lead productive and dignified lives. Much more needs to be done in California to address social conditions that give rise to crime and violence in our communities.

Today, it is also important to remember the victims of violent crime and their loved ones. We entrust them to the Father of mercies and commit ourselves to helping them to find healing and peace. We should also give thanks for the sacrifice and commitment of police and law enforcement officials who put their lives on the line every day to keep our communities safe.

Let us continue to work for the redemption of every person, including those who have committed grave crimes. Let us continue to seek a society where every human life is welcomed and considered sacred, and where people have what they need to lead a life that is worthy of the human person, who is loved by God.

Archbishop José H. Gomez, Los Angeles

Pier 400 Automation

In your latest issue, you bemoan the loss of high paying middle class jobs, the rise of artificial intelligence robotics and plans to automate the AP Maersk terminal on Pier 400, while also mentioning that the ports are the region’s largest source of pollution (“In Search of Another Solution: Tourism, automation, and the quest to replace lost jobs,” Random Lengths, March 7 to 20, 2019, p. 6).

In raising the spectre of environmentalism, I wonder how the environmental footprint of the humans working at Pier 400 (including their cars, houses, electric and water demands, food needs, recreational needs, etc.) would compare to the environmental footprint of AI robots doing the same jobs? Is that a path you really want to tread? You may end up concluding that your readers should cease to procreate in order to save the planet.

Ralph Ortolano, San Pedro

Dear Ralph,

I think you are making this out to be a false division between good jobs versus a clean environment, as it has been proven that we can have both. Over the past two decades the two ports have made some significant strides in cleaning up the pollution of both air and water in the San Pedro Bay, without a significant loss of union jobs. This has been done while increasing the amount of cargo containers transiting through these harbors. To date the automation hasn’t proven itself to be as efficient as human labor running old or newer technology but how much more efficiency would be gained by using cleantech with human hands?

Clearly the APM Maersk move is geared to simply reduce labor costs using the veil of clean-tech advances for increasing their bottom line profits. This is the same kind of race to the bottom that we’ve seen before with trickle-down economics and global trade competition.

Thanks for writing,

James Preston Allen, Publisher

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