Newsom defied voters to suspend death penalty, SB-94 may release murderers early | Lashaun Turner | NewsBreak Original
The bill would apply to individuals who were convicted of their crimes before June 5, 1990, and who have served at least 20 years in custody.
Senate Bill 94 (SB-94) Recall and resentencing: special circumstances
SB-94 is a bill that is making its way through the California State Senate. The bill would allow individuals who were sentenced to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole for a conviction, in which one or more special circumstances were found to be true, to petition for recall and resentencing.
Special circumstances are aggravating factors that can be considered by a judge when sentencing a defendant. In California special circumstances can include murder for financial gain, murder during a kidnapping, and murder of a peace officer for example.
SB-94 provides that the resentencing court may in the interest of justice and regardless of whether the original sentence was imposed after a trial or plea agreement, do the following:
1) Modify the petitioner’s sentence to impose a lesser sentence and apply any changes in law that reduce sentences or provide for judicial discretion.
2) Vacate the petitioner’s conviction and impose judgment on a necessarily included
lesser offense, wither or not that offense was charged in the original pleading, and then resentence the petitioner to a lesser sentence.
Proponents of SB-94 argue the bill would have benefits, including:
- It would give individuals who were sentenced to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole a second chance to prove that they are not a danger to society.
- It would reduce the number of people in prison for life without the possibility of parole.
- It would save taxpayers money.
SB-94 challenges include:
- It is opposed by law enforcement groups, who argue that it would make communities less safe.
- It is opposed by some victims’ families, who believe that the individuals who were convicted of their loved ones’ murders should never be released from prison.
Newsom defied voters to suspend death penalty
The California Constitution gives the governor the power to grant clemency, which includes the power to commute a death sentence to life in prison. In 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom used this power to issue an executive order placing a moratorium on executions in California.
The order also called for pulling California’s lethal injection protocols and shutting down the execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison. Governor Newsom, by using his executive orders, managed to effectively thwart the democratic process and will of the voters.
The people of California did not vote to end the death penalty. In the 2016 elections Proposition 62, which would have repealed the death penalty and replaced it with life in prison without the possibility of parole, was defeated by a margin of 53% to 47%.
Proposition 66, which would have streamlined the death penalty process and made it easier to execute death row inmates, was approved by a margin of 51% to 49%. This was the second time in four years that California voters had rejected a measure to abolish the death penalty. In 2012, Proposition 34 was defeated by a margin of 52% to 48%.
Newsom’s plan to move inmates out of San Quentin to other prisons began in March, and the governor intends to reimagine San Quentin into a rehabilitation and education center. Additionally, Governor Newsom plans to close more prisons around the state between 2023–2025 including Chuckawalla Valley State Prison in Riverside County.
If SB-94 passes the Senate, it will then go to the California State Assembly. If it is passed by the Assembly, it will go to the Governor of California for his signature.