Newsom moratorium reignites death penalty debate

The execution equipment at San Quentin State Prison is being dismantled, the same day California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a moratorium on the death penalty. With more than 700 inmate who were awaiting to be executed, California has the largest death row in the nation. 

The decision has certainly re-ignited the debate over the death penalty. 

Marc Klaas said Newsom told him personally on Tuesday that he would be declaring the moratorium for as long as he is governor. 

"A little of me died," said Klaas, a death penalty supporter. "It was a blow to the solar plexus. I hope he is proud he is advocating for pure evil incarnate in our society." 

Klaas is a strong advocate for capital punishment. In 1993 his then 12-year-old daughter, Polly Klaas, was kidnapped from her home in Petaluma and murdered. A jury convicted career criminal Richard Allen Davis and gave him the death penalty. He is still on death row. 

"He took my daughter's life in the most brutal way. The just punishment is the sentence that was handed down," Klaas said. 

At the San Francisco Public Defender's office, attorneys applauded Newsom's decision. 

"The data shows it doesn't work, It is discriminatory, it costs tons of money and innocent people are convicted," said Eric Quandt, the SF Deputy Public Defender. He said he saw his own brother face the death penalty in Fresno County. His sentence was later reduced to robbery after it was determined he wasn't involved in the homicide. He is now out of prison. 

"For family members to have to sit there for nine months and wait to see if their family member could be executed is crazy," said Jacque Wilson with the public defender's office.

As recently as 2016, California voters approved Proposition 66, the measure that streamlines death penalty cases, shortening the appeals process. 

The president of the California Association of Deputy District Attorneys, which fought for Prop. 66 said, " The voters of the State of California support the death penalty. Gov. Newsom is usurping the expressed will of California voters." 

If prosecutors aren't seeking the death penalty, you can have fairer trials, fairer jurors and the case can progress in an expedient way. Putting death on the table changes everything," said Quandt. 

But Newsom stuck to his plan and said, ""I believe in justice. I believe there are crimes so heinous people should spend the rest of their lives in prison. I have deep empathy for victims of crimes and I believe in justice." 

Newsom's decision does not abolish the death penalty in California, but it does end executions for as long as Newsom is governor.