There was a lot of hoopla when California Governor Gavin Newsom signed his executive order that stopped executions in the Golden State. For details, check out our earlier discussion, which includes a link to the full text of Governor Newsom’s order.
Thing is, as a recent article in the Sacramento Bee points out, things haven’t changed as the Governor expected — or as many argued would be the result of his Moratorium. The Moratorium is not saving the state any money; it’s not impacting the budget as expected. “Gavin Newsom’s death penalty moratorium isn’t saving California money. Here’s why,” by Sophia Bollag, published by the Sacramento Bee on July 22, 2019.
Wassup? It’s those prosecutors.
Prosecutorial Power to Seek the Death Penalty
As we’ve discussed periodically here, the initial decision on whether or not to proceed in seeking capital punishment lies solely with the prosecutor’s office. See:
- Here’s One Way to Stop the Death Penalty: Have the Prosecutor Take It Off the Table
- California’s Dennis Cyrus Trial and the Role of the Prosecutor in a Death Penalty Case
- Today, State Prosecutors Took Death Penalty Off the Table in Orlando’s Jason Rodriguez Case.
The governor has the power to issue his executive order, but he does not have the ability to stop attorneys representing the State of California from seeking the death penalty in new trials. And, of course, budget-wise there is still the burden of paying for indigent defense in capital appeals.
Do Prosecutors Have Equal Power to Decline Seeking Death?
Of course, things can go the other way, as well. Consider how Florida state attorney Aramis Ayala declined to pursue the death penalty in the Markeith Loyd matter. (For details, read “Motion to Have State Attorney Aramis Ayala Testify in Markeith Loyd Death Penalty Trial Regarding Mitigating Circumstances.”)
Just as prosecutors can file their Notice of Intent to Seek the Death Penalty in a pending prosecution, they can also decline to do so. It is their call.
But do they have pressure placed upon them to go forward, asking for capital punishment, regardless of their discretionary power here? One has to wonder, and to consider what Ms. Ayala might have to say on the subject. Read, “Lenamon Defense Witness, State Attorney Aramis Ayala, Announces She Will Not Run Again for State Attorney.”