Death penalty issue enters governor's race

San Quentin's death row
September 21, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Executions in California could begin again as early as next week for prisoners on San Quentin's death row. A federal judge is considering lifting his ban on executions in the state. He heard arguments from both sides on Tuesday, but some are questioning the timing of all this.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman held a fundraiser in Burlingame. She talked about jobs, education, and her opponent. She's accusing Democratic candidate Jerry Brown of using the death penalty a political pawn.

The fate of death row inmates will be decided on the 5th floor of the federal courthouse in San Jose. That's where attorneys for the state and condemned inmates Michael Morales and Albert Brown are pleading their cases.

The attorney general's office wants executions to resume on the 29th, with the death of convicted murderer and rapist Albert.

"To go ahead and push these execution dates, I think is unfair not just to the condemned inmates, but to those people who really want to know what's happening with the process," says defense attorney John Grele.

The state claims the process has changed just as federal Judge Jeremy Fogel ordered when he halted executions in 2006.

Now, the execution rooms are bigger and staff is better trained, but defense attorneys don't buy it.

"They seem to have the same procedure with the same people doing it. And we already have gone down this road, we've already have seen what this means and that's why Mr. Brown deserves a stay," says Grele.

Jerry is also pushing for capital punishment to be reinstated, even though he opposed it when he served as governor in the seventies. Tuesday, Jerry's spokesperson said this isn't about personal views.

In a statement, the Brown campaign said, "As governor, he pledged to uphold the law; as attorney general, he pledged to uphold the law; and he will continue to do so when he is governor next year."

"Candidates can be bought and Jerry Brown has been bought and paid for," says Whitman.

At a fundraiser in Burlingame, Whitman would not comment on the death penalty, but did release this statement about Jerry's stance on the issue. It said, "Even on matters of life and death, Jerry Brown is willing to play politics. None of this squares with Jerry Brown's record and must have his supporters scratching their heads."

Meantime, the federal judge in charge of the case is trying to keep things focused. He wants the state to let him know by Wednesday, if the drugs used in the execution can go down from the current three to one. He's expected to make a final ruling on Friday.


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