The Sunday Sacramento Bee published Editorial page editor Stuart Leavenworth's "Why we changed stand on death penalty."
Yet there have been times when The Bee has stopped and taken a U-turn, reversing a longstanding editorial position. One of the biggest came last week, when we ended the editorial board's long-standing support for California's death penalty.
We didn't make this change lightly. It came after years of debate and discussion that preceded the current makeup of the editorial board. It came after many months of research and meetings with legal scholars and groups on both sides of the death penalty debate.
The position we took – that the death penalty is unworkable and unfixable in California – was crafted with several considerations in mind. We wanted to respect those Californians – and previous members of the editorial board – who believe that executions are a just punishment for convicted murderers who commit the most horrible of crimes.
But we also wanted to make a forceful argument that there is no way in California to carry out that punishment swiftly, equitably and in accordance with our laws and constitution. As we stated in the first installment of our editorials, "The death penalty in California has become an illusion, and we need to end the fiction – the sooner the better."
The SacBee also published four other views, "Responses from experts: Should death penalty be scrapped?." It includes, "YES: Jesus taught us to forgive, not to exact vengeance," by Kathi McShane; "NO: Capital punishment needs to be mended, not ended," by Kent Scheidegger; "YES: For victims, human costs of this legal beast are too high," by Ron Briggs, and; "NO: We must act based on one of our seminal values: Justice," by Rod Pacheco.
Today's San Francisco Chronicle reports, "Death penalty ban seeks to answer doubts," by Bob Egelko.
It's the nightmare of capital punishment, for supporters and opponents alike - an innocent person condemned to death and executed.
As Californians prepare to vote in November on Proposition 34, which would reduce all death sentences to life in prison without parole, both sides on the issue agree that the state has never executed a prisoner who was later proved to be innocent.
Still, doubts persist about the guilt of an inmate who was put to death in 1998. And five men sentenced to death under current California law were later cleared of the murder charges that put them on Death Row.
California has the nation's largest Death Row, with more than 720 inmates. Of the 13 who have been put to death since 1992, when executions resumed after a 25-year halt, little doubt was ever raised about the guilt of 12 of them. But one man, Thomas Thompson, was executed for a killing he may not have committed.
Thompson was convicted of raping and fatally stabbing Ginger Fleischli in 1981 in the Laguna Beach (Orange County) apartment he shared with Fleischli's ex-boyfriend, David Leitch.
Both men were tried separately. The prosecutor in Thompson's trial argued that Thompson had been alone with Fleischli and had the sole motive for killing her. Later, at Leitch's trial, the same prosecutor argued that Leitch had been there and had ordered Thompson to kill Fleischli.
Leitch was convicted of second-degree murder. At a 1995 parole hearing, he said he had seen Thompson and Fleischli having apparently consensual sex that night. If jurors had heard that testimony and believed it, they could not have convicted Thompson of the capital charge of rape-murder, and because rape was the alleged motive for Fleischli's murder, they might have cleared him altogether.
Jurors also weren't told that two inmates who said Thompson had admitted the murder were informants with questionable records.
The Orange County Register reports, "O.C.'s 'hanging judge' dies at 87." It's by Larry Welborn.
He was Orange County's highest-profile, toughest and most quotable judge, and he sentenced more killers – nine – to death than any other local jurist.
In retirement, he came out against the death penalty, not for humane reasons but as a waste of taxpayer money.
Former Superior Court Judge Donald McCartin, 87, died Saturday near his retirement home in Bass Lake in Madera County.
His judicial career, colorful demeanor and critical assessment of the justice system were the subjects of a 2005 book titled "Perfect Justice," written by local true-crime author Don Lasseter and published by Seven Locks Press. It was subtitled, "a legendary judge's passionate defense of the ultimate criminal penalty."
Earlier coverage of Judge McCartin and his eventual opposition to capital punishment at the link.