Atlanta attorney and National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers President Drew Findling applauded California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s moratorium on the death penalty Wednesday.
“Today’s action by California Governor Gavin Newsom is yet another welcome and significant step in the march toward nationwide abolition of the death penalty,” Findling said in a news release from NACDL.
“Time and again, the death penalty, as much of America’s criminal justice system, has been demonstrated to be racist, discriminatory, ineffective, expensive, and a stain on this nation,” Findling said.
Findling is a nationally-known criminal defense lawyer, representing a long list of celebrity clients centered around Atlanta’s music industry. He has represented rappers and reality television stars in criminal matters.
Findling took on President Donald Trump in Newsom’s defense. Trump tweeted: “Defying voters, the Governor of California will halt all death penalty executions of 737 stone cold killers. Friends and families of the always forgotten VICTIMS are not thrilled, and neither am I!”
Findling said, “Never mind the retrograde rhetoric emanating from a certain corner of American leadership these days, the death penalty is absolutely terrible criminal justice policy, and provably so. And it is just plain wrong, as recognized by the basic human rights standards of the vast majority of nations around the world.”
Newsom said Wednesday that those 737 people currently on death row in California make up one-quarter of the country’s death row population. He said California has the largest death row in the Western Hemisphere. The governor said the death penalty is unevenly and unfairly applied to people of color, people with mental disabilities and people who cannot afford costly legal representation. More than 6 in 10 people on California’s death row are people of color. A 2005 study found that those convicted of killing whites were more than three times as likely to be sentenced to death as those convicted of killing blacks, and more than four times as likely as those convicted of killing Latinos, according to Newsom.
Newsom said innocent people have been sentenced to death in California and that, since 1973, 164 condemned prisoners nationwide, including five in California, have been freed from death row after they were found to have been wrongfully convicted.
California has spent $5 billion since 1978 on a death penalty system that has executed 13 people, Newsom said. Three states—Oregon, Colorado and Pennsylvania—have governor-imposed moratoria on the death penalty, he said. In 2018, the Washington State Supreme Court struck down the death penalty as unconstitutional and “racially biased.”
“The intentional killing of another person is wrong and as governor, I will not oversee the execution of any individual,” Newsom said. “Our death penalty system has been, by all measures, a failure. It has discriminated against defendants who are mentally ill, black and brown, or can’t afford expensive legal representation. It has provided no public safety benefit or value as a deterrent. It has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars. Most of all, the death penalty is absolute. It’s irreversible and irreparable in the event of human error.”