Jerry Brown Pushing For Resumption of Death Penalty That He Has Spent His Life Opposing

Share:
Jerry-BrownAt a time when support for a death penalty is softening, and other states like North Carolina have joined the call for a moratorium on the death penalty, we see Attorney General Jerry Brown pushing hard for the death penalty to resume in California.

In 2006, a federal judge halted executions and ordered prison officials to overhaul lethal injection procedures.  The state adopted new regulations on August 29, 2010 but has not put the matter before US District Judge Jeremy Fogel.

 

A Riverside County Judge last month set an execution date of September 29 for Albert Greenwood Brown, who was convicted of abducting, raping and killing a 15-year-old girl on her way home from school in 1980.  Why the state feels compelled to rush to execute someone who has sat on death row for nearly 30 years is a curious question.

According to the Associated Press, California Deputy Attorney General Michael Quinn told Judge Fogel the new regulations authorize the state to execute Mr. Brown next week. 

Judge Fogel told the AP that he was concerned about the lack of time to decide an issue of this importance.

“There is no way any court can conduct an orderly review of constitutional claims in eight days,” he said.  Nonetheless, the judge said he would rule by Friday.

Left unanswered is why the State Attorney General’s Office is suddenly setting execution dates and pushing hard for the resumption of lethal injection.

But we can guess.  Polls released today show that Jerry Brown is locked in a tied race against his Republican opponent Meg Whitman.

The shocking fact is that Jerry Brown has been a lifelong and vocal opponent of the death penalty.  He vetoed the death penalty in 1977 and it was his appointees that were removed in 1986 for constantly overturning death penalty convictions.

However when he ran for AG in 2006, he told the voters he would uphold the law.  His campaign reminded the media of this on Tuesday.

“When Jerry Brown campaigned for Attorney General, he promised to uphold the law — and he has said the same thing as he has campaigned for governor,” said Sterling Clifford, his spokesman. “He has done that.”

Actually, he has gone above and beyond what the law would require, to the point where he is actively looking to restart the death penalty process that many believe is so flawed it ought to be scrapped.

From their perspective, Meg Whitman’s campaign jumped all over the former Governor’s apparently flip-flop.

“Even on matters of life and death, Jerry Brown is willing to play politics,” said Andrea Jones Rivera, Ms. Whitman’s spokeswoman. “Brown’s newfound support for the death penalty after three decades of opposing it is as preposterous as his newfound appreciation for fiscal conservatism. None of this squares with Jerry Brown’s record and must have his supporters scratching their heads.”

A Look at the Death Penalty

Clearly this is a political move by the Attorney General.  But it is probably needlessly so.

Meanwhile, I watch as study after study shows the flaws not only of the death penalty, but of the entire criminal justice system in terms of ineffective counsel, racial bias and disparities, and of course the cost of executing people.

I know a lot of people argue that the problem with the death penalty is that it takes too long, but it has to take a long time, otherwise we are going to end up executing a lot more innocent people than we already have.

I follow death penalty cases across the country, and there are two developments I am currently following.  There was a case in Ohio, I have mentioned previously, where the Governor commuted the death sentence to life based on the uncertainty that the individual committed the crime.

That apparently will not happen in a Virginia case, and did not happen in a case in Texas where the individual was likely innocent of committing any crime at all.

Famed novelist John Grisham wrote an Op-ed in the Washington Post on September 12, talking about the Virginia case of Teresa Lewis.  She is not innocent.  She told police and the judge of her involvement in two murders.

She was involved with two other men, whom she said she hired to kill her husband and her stepson in order to collect a $350,000 life insurance policy.  But here’s the kicker, she has an IQ of 70 – borderline for mental retardation.  She also has a “dependent personality disorder” and thus “complied with the demands of those” around her, “especially men.”

Writes Mr. Grisham, “Lewis’s lawyers likewise wanted no part of a jury trial. The evidence of their client’s guilt was overwhelming, and they felt strongly that, after hearing all the facts and seeing the color photos from the crime scene, any jury would be in a hanging mood. They advised Lewis to plead guilty and to take her chances with the trial judge who would determine her sentence. They believed this judge would give her life in prison because he had just sentenced [another defendant] Fuller to the same. Furthermore, Lewis had no criminal record and no history of violence. She had cooperated with the authorities. And no woman had received the death penalty in Virginia since 1912.”

But Ms. Lewis was sentenced to die.

Continues Mr. Grisham:

“Although much of this went unchallenged at Lewis’s sentencing hearing, it has since been challenged on appeal. Lawyers for Lewis have presented evidence that:

(1) She has an IQ of just above 70 — borderline retarded — and as such lacks the basic skills necessary to organize and lead a conspiracy to commit murder for hire;
(2) She has dependent personality disorder and therefore complied with the demands of those upon whom she relied, especially men;
(3) Because of a long list of physical ailments she had developed an addiction to pain medications, and this adversely affected her judgment; and
(4) She had not a single episode of violent behavior in the past.

Her lawyers have also argued that Shallenberger, who committed suicide behind bars in 2006, masterminded the murders. They have pointed to evidence that he had an IQ of 113 and was known to be intelligent and manipulative.”

But to no avail.  The Governor has declined clemency.  And the Supreme Court only garnered two votes to stop the execution, Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor.

Meanwhile, the outcome of the Texas case is worse.  This is a story that we reported on earlier this month, but there are new developments.

Cameron Todd Willingham was executed for the arson murders of his children, despite evidence that there was no arson and thus no crime.  Governor Perry of Texas actually had the evidence before him that Mr. Willingham may have been innocent, but allowed him to be put to death anyway.

The Houston Chronicle in July published an article reporting on the Texas Forensic Science Commission’s report.  “In a report prepared last year for the commission, fire expert Craig Beyler said the original investigation was so seriously flawed that the finding of arson can’t be supported. He said the investigation didn’t adhere to the fire investigation standards in place at the time, or to current standards.”

It was expected that a Texas Forensic Science Commission would clear the investigator of professional misconduct – but that has not happened.

According to the AP, “A Texas panel on Friday declined to clear fire investigators of professional misconduct for determining that arson caused a 1991 fire that killed three girls and led to the conviction and execution of their father.”

“Instead, the Texas Forensic Science Commission planned to meet in November to question fire experts about the professional standards used by arson investigators in the early 1990s. The commissioners are withholding judgment on whether investigators were wrong to say arson caused the blaze,” the story continues.

“That decision came over the fierce objections of the commission chairman, John Bradley, who was appointed last year by Gov. Rick Perry. Bradley urged his colleagues to determine the investigators acted appropriately, and at one point he raised his voice and accused the commissioners of shirking their duties,” they report.

“Bradley pushed his colleagues to reach a consensus. He argued that either there was insufficient evidence to determine professional misconduct or there was no misconduct, and therefore investigators met the standards of their day,” they conclude.  “But the panel disagreed, saying there appeared to be evidence that the Corsicana Fire Department and the state fire marshal’s office were not following the standards from the early 1990s.”

So, here you have a person who was executed.  There was some evidence, even at the time of execution, that the fire investigation was flawed and did not follow existing standards.  The Governor of Texas knew about this at the time of the execution, but let it happen.

If there was no arson, there was no crime.  And so it seems an innocent man was put to death in Texas.

Meanwhile Jerry Brown, whose political career is about to be decided in November, is pushing to re-start a hugely flawed process that he has opposed all of his life.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

Share:

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Related posts

12 thoughts on “Jerry Brown Pushing For Resumption of Death Penalty That He Has Spent His Life Opposing”

  1. Dr. Wu

    This is very sad. The death penalty is indeed cruel in that it is applied unevenly and often unjustly and its becoming more unusual (at least in Europe).

    Maybe Jerry should join John McCain in the “I’ll say anything to get elected” club.

    What is sadder still is that many of us will hold our noses and vote for Jerry as the lesser of two evils.

    What could be even sadder? We may soon long for the good old days when Arnie was governor.

  2. davisite2

    Meg Whitman is leading, although not by much, in all the polls and Jerry Brown, for good or ill, has dominated the name- recognition factor so far. With the upcoming TV debates and Whitman’s flood of TV ads, this will undoubtedly shift to Whitman’s advantage. The TV debate in Fresno should be particularly interesting when Brown is pressed to explain why he feels obligated to follow CA law with regard to the death penalty as our Attorney General but not to defend Ca constitution’s Prop 8 before Judge Walker when it was declared valid by the CA Supreme Court and there had yet to be any legal finding that it was unconstitutional under Federal law. This will certainly be an issue in the Central Valley debate where a Central Valley County is currently arguing that they have been “harmed” by Judge Walker’s ruling and be permitted to have standing to appeal before the 9th District Court since Brown refused to fulfill his duty as the CA voter’s chief lawyer.

  3. davisite2

    It appears that Jerry Brown has morphed into a replica of “slick Willy” Clinton. Remember when candidate Bill Clinton rushed to execute a retarded man in Arkansas to demonstrate his death penalty “credentials”?

  4. E Roberts Musser

    The death penalty issue is just too important to be politicized. I just can’t even imagine how horrifying it must feel to walk to your doom to be executed, knowing you did not commit the crime you were convicted of. I know it is not necessary to prove the motive for a killing to find guilt, but what possible motive did the father in Texas have to burn to death his own children if you know DPD? Were the parents in the middle of a divorce/breakup? Texas is known for being tough when it comes to carrying out the death penalty – isn’t it the state that carries out the death penalty the most frequently of all 50 states?

  5. wesley506

    On Oct. 28, 1980, Albert Greenwood Brown grabbed 15 yr old Susan Jordan as she was walking to school on Victoria Avenue in Riverside. The defendant dragged the teen into an orange grove, where he stripped her of her clothing, raped her and strangled her with one of her own shoelaces. Brown called the girl’s mother at home later that day and taunted her, saying, “You will never see your daughter again,” according to Chief Assistant District Attorney Bill Mitchell. Albert Brown had been previously convicted of raping a 14-year-old girl almost exactly three years earlier. He pleaded guilty to that assault and was sentenced to four years in state prison, but was paroled after barely serving half his term. He murdered Susan four months later. Brown has never denied that he committed any of the crimes that he was charged with.

    The only tragedy in this case is Brown has had 30 comfortable years on death row where he has had a private cell with a view of the bay, private visitation privileges, unlimited legal visits, a hot breakfast and dinner served to him in his cell by the guards, access to a recreation yard that is not shared with the general population inmates, and private television and radio privileges where he does not have to be concerned with what other inmates want to watch.

    The last thing Albert Brown or any other death row inmates wants is to have their sentence commuted because if they were put in a general population prison yard, every other inmate in that yard would be doing everything they could to kill them. There is honor among inmates, and those that prey on children and women are at the very bottom of humanity, and do not deserve to live

  6. Don Shor

    davisite: “Meg Whitman is leading, although not by much, in all the polls…”
    Not anymore.

    “…and Jerry Brown, for good or ill, has dominated the name- recognition factor so far.”
    On the contrary, after spending over $100 million of her own money, all she has accomplished is to drive both of their negatives up.

    “With the upcoming TV debates and Whitman’s flood of TV ads, this will undoubtedly shift to Whitman’s advantage.”
    I doubt it. I think she has peaked. For a Republican to win in California, she/he usually has to be ahead by a few points at this point of the race. She is a very unappealing candidate, and he is a known quantity. I am now willing to bet that Brown will win.

  7. davisite2

    Don… Here’s a poll from 13 hr. ago:
    ” Whitman leads Brown 41-38 in Los Angeles County, where there are far more Democrats than Republicans.”

    This election for CA governor will be determined by TURNOUT. Jerry Brown has increasingly alienated Democratic voters while mobilizing against him the Republicans and those Democrats and Independents who voted for Prop 8 to defend the traditional definition of “marriage”. His failure to fulfill his duty as AG to defend our CA constitution was a major blunder as the definition of marriage is a passionate “hot-button” issue for the overwhelming majority of Black and Latino, historically Democratic voters. The pundits attributed this demographic to pushing Prop 8 “over the top” and the above LA County poll with its large Black and Latino, usually Democratic population looks like bad news for Brown.

  8. E Roberts Musser

    wesley506: “The last thing Albert Brown or any other death row inmates wants is to have their sentence commuted because if they were put in a general population prison yard, every other inmate in that yard would be doing everything they could to kill them. There is honor among inmates, and those that prey on children and women are at the very bottom of humanity, and do not deserve to live”

    Excellent argument against death penalty…

  9. wesley506

    [quote]wesley506: “The last thing Albert Brown or any other death row inmates wants is to have their sentence commuted because if they were put in a general population prison yard, every other inmate in that yard would be doing everything they could to kill them. There is honor among inmates, and those that prey on children and women are at the very bottom of humanity, and do not deserve to live”

    Excellent argument against death penalty… [/quote]

    I might be in theory…however CDCR has created “special needs” yards where all the predators can request to be housed. There they will be safe among all the other “special needs” predators who also see nothing wrong with preying on children and others who cannot defend themselves.

  10. davisite2

    “Maybe Jerry should join John McCain in the “I’ll say anything to get elected” club.”

    It’s one thing to SAY anything to get elected. It’s quite another to DO anything to get elected.

  11. joe grey

    A human tragedy with Jerry Brown as the star. I am old enough to remember a younger and more hopeful Jerry Brown. Now what’s left of him is tragic. I have been saying he looks like a cadaver. Now he wants to create one!

    what a shame. “Give the people bread and circuses.”

  12. jimt

    Does anyone know of stats for what % of those executed were exonerated after death; and also stats on what % of those convicted of murder (and not necessarily executed) have been exonerated? From these stats; might be able to work estimates of what % of those executed have been innocent. There must have been studies on this.
    Seems the question is what % of death row people that are innocent is acceptable; since it is impossible to be perfect and ensure 0% (though we should try)–my guess is that a very low % would be acceptable to most citizens (including me).
    Or maybe additional legal criteria beyond “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” is needed for death penalty
    (something like “guilty beyond any doubt!!”, which is approximated for some multi-witness or monitored crimes).

    For many people, there are worse things than death, such as utter degradation and loss of honor (that old-fashioned, obsolete notion) and self-respect–there are some criminals (a minority, admittedly) who want to atone for their crimes, or set an example for others, thru their own death. What about those few who ask for the death penalty; are we sympathetic to their request?

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for