Executing injustice

Newsom ends death penalty in California through executive order


Annalise Freimarck, Managing Editor

Justice is a fickle thing. It’s slippery and forever shifting, something that is different to everyone. It’s hard to pin down.

In an attempt to give justice to those falsely accused of heinous crimes and address the millions in taxes that are wasted each year on punishments that are not doled out, California governor Gavin Newsom has decided to grant clemency to the 737 inmates on death row in California, and suspended any additional executions for the remainder of his governorship.

This is something that the justice system has needed for a long time. The system that death row uses is not only ineffective and costly to maintain, it often unfairly targets minority groups and wrongfully convicts innocent civilians.

The justice system alone is inherently racially biased. People of color, especially black people, are disproportionately arrested and statistically face higher charges than people not of color. This leads to mass incarceration rates rising exponentially, with African Americans making up 34% of the prison population in 2014.This racial bias extends all the way to the death penalty, with 42% of the population on death row being black.

This racial disparity leads to a prejudiced legal system, which can be incredibly harmful to populations of people of color, making the current version of the death penalty system unacceptable and in need of revisiting.

Furthermore, false convictions happen way too often. Pressure to confess from authorities and false evidence all lead to innocent people confessing to horrendous crimes that they did not commit.

In fact, since 1989, more than 2,400 inmates on death row have been exonerated for crimes that they did not commit; according to Newsweek, in the United State’s history of executions, 144 have been exonerated after death, making up 1.6 percent of all executions. In contrast, the innocence rate is estimated to be 4.1 percent, more than double the rate of proven innocent executions, which insinuates that many more who are innocent and executed are slipping through the legal cracks.

For example, Jesse Tafero was falsely sentenced to the death penalty after he was wrongfully convicted of killing two Florida highway patrol officers. He was then killed through the use of the electric chair, which failed three times, and caught his head on fire.

This is not to say that the death penalty should not be revisited. Those who commit horrific acts deserve to receive just as harsh of a punishment as the crime that they committed. However, the solution right now is to halt the death penalty, to fix the errors that the justice system has committed, and reassess the meaning of justice in the U.S.

No more innocent people deserve to die. No more people of color deserve to unfairly be put through the legal ringer. Thus, Newsom has made the right call in deciding to stop the death penalty, but he also needs to revisit the problems within the system to reinstate a death penalty system that only executes those who are truly guilty in a quick and humane manner.