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San Quentin State Prison. (Photo: cdcr.ca.gov)

Is Gov. Newsom’s Closure of San Quentin Abuse of Executive Authority?

In 2016 California voters rejected a ballot initiative to repeal the death penalty, and voted to expedite executions of inmates on death row

By Katy Grimes, February 1, 2022 2:39 pm

California Gov. Gavin Newsom defied the state’s voters within 6 weeks of being sworn in January 2019. He said during his campaign he would abide by the will of California voters who in 2016 rejected Proposition 66, a ballot initiative that would have repealed the death penalty, and instead voted to expedite the executions of the inmates currently sitting on death row. Newsom supported the initiative to repeal.

Gov. Newsom announced in March 2019 he was granting reprieves for all death penalty murderers on California’s death row, calling the death penalty “ineffective, irreversible and immoral.” He then signed an executive order putting a moratorium on the executions of the 737 inmates currently incarcerated on California’s death row.

With Newsom’s announcement a political friend said, “Another 737 just went down.”

“We cannot advance the death penalty in an effort to soften the blow of what happens to these victims,” Newsom said. “If someone kills, we do not kill. We’re better than that.”

The Globe reported that California voters have voted to uphold the death penalty eleven times since 1972. “The Governor’s decision to grant a blanket reprieve to prevent executions is an abuse of power and a slap in the face of the families of murder victims,” Criminal Justice Legal Foundation Legal Director Kent Scheidegger said at the time.

While initially Newsom’s current decision appears to be an abuse of power, Article V, Section 1 of the California Constitution gives the Governor supreme executive power.

“The supreme executive power of this State is vested in the Governor. The Governor shall see that the law is faithfully executed.”

However, it does say “The Governor shall see that the law is faithfully executed.” What about the will of the voters who voted to uphold the death penalty, and for expedited executions of those on death row? Is this abuse of executive authority?

“This is just another example of Governor Newsom acting as a one-man legislature, ignoring the will of the voters who enacted reforms to the death penalty which were upheld by the Supreme Court (Briggs v. Brown),” Attorney Kathleen Mastagni Storm told the Globe Tuesday. “In a democracy these kinds of issues should be left to the people, not the whims of one man. The State and Federal Constitutions place limits on executive authority. Historically challenges to executive authority are not common. However, Newsom’s use of his executive authority has already faced several challenges. We are hopeful and expect that there will be more challenges to his belief he has broad sweeping authority. This is a political calculus, the outcome of which is uncertain as public safety falls further and further into jeopardy. Proposition 66 was intended to speed up the death penalty process, not be used as a loophole to transfer death row inmates to different housing units and provide them more amenities. Mixing death row inmates into general population also raises serious safety concerns within the facilities, both for the inmates and correctional staff. This is an end around to repeal the death penalty that denies the voters their rights.”

The Associated Press just reported Newsom’s proposed budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 seeks $1.5 million to find new uses for the vacant condemned housing at San Quentin. The money would be used to hire a consultant to “develop options for (the) space focused on creating a positive, healing environment to provide increased rehabilitative, educational and health care opportunities.”

As James Lacy reported for the Globe in August 2021, Governor Newsom accepted more than $700,000 from two major law firms to both create and defend his Executive Order repealing death penalty rules and dismantling the death chamber at San Quentin.

“Rather than relying on the Attorney General’s office, Newsom has received extensive free ‘behested’ legal services, including $405,000 in legal services from the private law firm of Boies Schiller Flexner, to help him craft his ‘moratorium,’ as well as an additional $305,385 from the law firm of O’Melveny and Myers to defend the alleged faulty Order in court, according to public disclosures,” Lacy said. “While the Los Angeles-based O’Melveny and Myers has represented Newsom pro bono in the legal challenge to the Executive Order, it has also received at least $600,000 in state funds representing the Newsom Administration in other cases.”

“Californians remain generally supportive of the death penalty law according to the most probative recent polling of the issue,” Lacy continued. “Early in June, the national polling firm of McLaughlin and Associates found 49% of Californians would vote No if a constitutional amendment to abolish the death penalty is placed on the ballot in 2022 by the Legislature, while 43.8% would vote Yes. When voters are informed of issues that would be raised during a campaign to repeal the death penalty, opposition to repeal increases to a majority of 53.3% of voters saying No to abolishing California’s death penalty law, and support drops to just 40.5%.

See poll results: https://usjf.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/CA-Statewide-Executive-Summary-6-8-21-1.pdf.

California hasn’t executed anyone since 2006 when Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor.

Of the 171 condemned California death row inmates who have died since 1978, there have been 15 total executions, and 156 non-execution deaths.

13 were Executed in California
1 was Executed in Missouri
1 was Executed in Virginia
108 died of natural causes
30 were suicides
15 “other” deaths
3 “pending”

In 2019, Newsom said the system has wasted “billions of taxpayer dollars.” However, Newsom was Lt. Gov. for eight years, and with Gov. Jerry Brown’s long history of opposing the death penalty, neither ever proposed actual reforms to the death penalty process. Currently, once a criminal is convicted to death row, he is granted three automatic appeals, which take decades. Most death row inmates die of old age rather than being put to death for their crimes.

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16 thoughts on “Is Gov. Newsom’s Closure of San Quentin Abuse of Executive Authority?

  1. Sounds like some donor wants their hands on that expensive land San Quentin sits on, so Newsom is all about getting the donations. With Newsom its not about the people, its about Himself first, second and third.

    Victims are 5th class obstacles that newsom can jump over

  2. Zuckbucks pay off?
    Let’s see if it becomes the new headquarters for Meta.

    Too bad Newsom doesn’t show the same reverence for pre-born life.

  3. Approx 364 abortions per day are performed in California… and he’s all righteous about sanctity of life for murderers? So let’s just move death row inmates to general population all around the state, and you don’t think they’ll kill again. Maybe that’s what he’s gunning for. Clown World

  4. He truly detests the people he serves. He’ll never suffer the consequences of his policy making. We blew the recall but have a re-do in November.

  5. I have to agree with Orwellianism. It’s about the money.
    Who out there will take this dictator to court to stop him ?
    This man gets to do what ever he wishes???
    Where are the defenders, the fighters for the California Constitution???

  6. Go ahead and empty it. We will need all the cells for Newsom and his criminal cronies in both parties. The corrupt, evil covid death squad is going to be locked down for a very long time.

  7. You voted him into office and had the opportunity to recall him but didn’t. Stop whining. You all knew what he was like.

    1. I live in TX, so I do not have the rights to those priceless tools of authority to vote CA Despots out of office.
      What I AM IS: A surviving Victim of Ca Inmate #K60603 /aka Matthew Ryan McCullough, the Brutally Heinous Man Who partnered with My EX-wife & helped facilitate the interstate kidnapping of My 3yr old Daughter in early 1996.
      Due to the neglectful nature of the DA with jurisdiction, who didn’t even alert any other Govt agencies when the crime was reported to Him in person, Matthew hid My Baby Girl, Ashley for 11 months until He decided to beat Her mercilessly for 2 days until She suffered a 4in skull fracture, which ended Her Life & the sickening torture She was forced to suffer at His whim.
      Due to Gov. Newsom’s abusive manipulation of offender laws without proper public notice or forums/votes, this child slayer gets early release because of the new youthful offender technicality, being under 26yrs old during conviction (HE WAS 25yrs 9months old).
      With no agency which has dealt with Him in CA deemed to have proper jurisdiction for some reason, 2 PEOPLE are facing NO Punishment for a kidnapping which resulted in a horrible murder of a 4yr old child! MY CHIID!
      After 25yrs of Hellish mental suffering & endless therapy, My Newsom sponsored nightmare is secured by the State Seal of CA , a legal promise that things are calendar scheduled to get MUCH WORSE!

  8. An abuse of authority or just another in a string of egregious abuses. It doesn’t seem to really matter at this point does it. Feeling more than a little worn out and disgusted by the state of affairs going on its THIRD calendar year.

  9. If we had an honest election, Gruesome would be thrown out of office in November. But I have no doubt he will be re-elected. California taxpayers are nothing more than an ATM for the corruptocrats, without any voice.

  10. Can ‘we the people’ do a class action lawsuit against Gavin Newsom?
    This will cause harm to us and our children.
    Plus – Isn’t there a moratorium on evictions right now?
    Gavin Newsom already has drawn up the blueprints for the
    healing center that he wants to build on top of Death Rows graveyard.
    That never ends well.
    He ignores the will of the people and the courts decisions.
    Why should he be allowed to toss money into prisons when schools are closing due to a lack of funding?
    He needs to have his salary cut.
    H needs to be forced to live under his own policies

  11. Sheriffs have a constitutional duty to arrest any politician that breaks the law, Constitution, bill of rights.
    Considering Gavi sold the sovereignty of California to China, Soros, Klaus Schwab WEF . That in and of itself is treasonous.

    Arrest Gavin now, along with Pelosi, Waters, Wiener, the whole lot that are funded by Globalist NGOS . They are not representing the populace, they are doing the bidding of their leaders. Destroying Calif. Period.

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