Assemblyman Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale) is livid that Gov. Gavin Newsom prioritized death row killers in his recent reprieve on the 737 killers on death row, over the actual victims and families of victims. “The people on death row are not the victims,” Lackey said in an interview. “They are not who the state should be working to protect. They have abused, they have raped, they have kidnapped, they have tortured, and some of them have even murdered their own children.”
“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.”
Lackey authored AB 580 to empower the families of victims by including them in the process. “It shows them that their loved ones have not been forgotten,” Lackey said.
“The people the governor is working to protect are people like serial killer Robert Rhoades, who kidnapped, raped and tortured eight-year old Michael Lyons before stabbing him 70 times,” Lackey said. “The people on death row are not the victims.” Rhoades was known as the Texas trucker who kept a traveling torture chamber in the cab of his rig, “a dungeon-like compartment” hidden completely from view, where he is believed to have kept his victims alive for months before killing them.
AB 580 would require the applicant of a commutation of a sentence of death to serve written notice on the district attorney 30 days before the Governor acts upon it, and require notice of an application for commutation of a sentence of death to be given to a requesting family member of the victim at least 25 days before the Governor acts on it..
The bill would also require the Governor to ensure the victim’s family has been provided with notice before acting upon the application, and would allow a family member of a victim to request a public hearing before the board regarding the proposed commutation. The bill would require the board to submit its recommendation to the Governor within 30 days of the hearing.
The bill would prohibit a commutation of a sentence of death from taking effect until the board has submitted its recommendation to the Governor or 30 days after the hearing, whichever is earlier.
“The governor is sympathetic with the least eligible of that compassion,” Lackey said. “Victims have no voice. District Attorneys try to help them. But these special circumstances involve heinous requirements: torture, poison, multiple murders, murder of law enforcement, and worse.”
In 2016, California voters rejected 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. When Prop. 66 was passed, it was intended to be a remedy to the most heinous criminals sitting on death row for 30 years, with endless appeals delaying justice and costing taxpayers hundreds of millions – and to ensure no innocent person was executed. Opponents sued, taking the case to the California Supreme Court, which upheld voters’ decision, but watered down a part of the initiative. The Court stated that provisions requiring the state to speed up the death penalty appeals process were directive, rather than mandatory.