The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

September 24, 2010
Jerry Brown is not sure how to reduce death row population

If he becomes governor again, Attorney General Jerry Brown said he would have no ready prescription for reducing California's ever-growing population of condemned inmates.

There are 700-plus inmates on death row.

Asked whether the population will continue to grow, Brown said today:

"Unless we can up with some proposals. Do you have ideas? These cases are very difficult. Courts are very careful. I haven't seen too many proposals other than to hire more lawyers and give more money for investigators."

Meg Whitman, Brown's Republican opponent, didn't have much of a solution either, as we noted in this item.

In an appearance before The Bee's editorial board, Brown seemed unaware that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is proposing to build a new death row at San Quentin for $500 million.

Brown is a lifelong death penalty opponent who as governor in 1977 vetoed legislation carried by a Long Beach legislator, George Deukmejian, to reinstate capital punishment after courts had struck down California's death penalty laws.

The Legislature overrode Brown's veto, and voters approved a death penalty initiative in 1978.

Since capital punishment was reinstated, 13 inmates have been executed in California. Many more have died of suicide, drug overdose and natural causes. The longest serving death row inmate arrived at San Quentin at the end of Brown's first term as governor in 1978.

Brown noted that despite his personal views, he is committed to carrying out the death penalty law.

He made his comments in response to questions by The Bee's editorial board, while his deputies were appearing in federal court in an effort to carry out the execution of Albert Greenwood Brown.

Albert Brown is scheduled to be put to death at San Quentin State Prison a minute past midnight on Wednesday, as this article details

Albert Brown has been on death row since Jerry Brown's second term, March 1982.  He was convicted of murdering and raping a 15-year-old gir in Riverside. The 30-year anniversary of the murder will arrive this Oct. 28. His execution would be the first in almost five years in California.

September 20, 2010
Meg Whitman would put brakes on a new death row, maybe

Meg Whitman is a death penalty supporter, like Ronald Reagan and most other politicians who have come before her.

Like the others, she is at a loss for how to deal with the issue, specifically what to do about the California death row and its 700-plus condemned inmates.

Appearing before The Bee's editorial board today, Whitman did say she would "like" to find an alternative to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to construct a new death row, at a cost of up to $500 million, although she repeated that California likely will need to build new prisons to relieve overcrowding.

"If we're going to abide by three strikes, if we are going to abide by the death penalty, if we're going to maintain a tough law and order climate here, the truth is over time, we are probably going to have to build more prisons. I would like to not build a death row prison."

The state is seeking bids for the new death row. Bid opening is set for mid-October. Here's a Bee editorial on the proposed new death row.

Attorney General Jerry Brown, scheduled to appear before our editorial board later this week, was the last California governor who opposed the death penalty. Every governor since Brown has vowed to enforce capital punishment.

The result: 13 inmates executed, and 75 others who died of suicide, drug overdoses or natural causes. One who was sentenced here and Missouri was put to death in the Show Me state. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation compiled this list of death row deaths.

Whitman lamented the process by which inmates have "appeal after appeal after appeal after appeal." Here's a video clip of her talking about the issue.

"We have to enforce the death penalty. Specifically, I don't actually know the answer to this. Basically, we have got to sort of say, 'You can't appeal and appeal and appeal and appeal.'

"There has to be some change in the process by which death row inmates live on for 20, 30 odd years on death row. I think we have to take that up."

Whether they support capital punishment or not, governors long have found there is not much they can do about the appellate process. Indeed, Gov. Reagan appointed California Supreme Court Chief Justice Donald Wright who wrote the 1972 opinion striking down capital punishment, as this obituary recounted.

As Reagan and many other chief executives learned, judges handle cases as they see fit. That's especially true for federal judges in whose courts many death row appeals currently languish.


About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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