In 2016, California spoke loud and clear by rejecting an initiative to get rid of the death penalty.

More than 53% of voters decided that individuals who were sentenced to death should remain on death row. In the Assembly District I represent, which includes the Antelope Valley, 65% of voters supported leaving the death penalty as it is.

A separate ballot measure to reform the death penalty by stopping endless appeals and begin carrying out executions passed with strong support.

Voters trusted the judges and juries who sentenced the inmates. They believed that the monsters who commit the most heinous crimes imaginable deserve capital punishment.

The death penalty was created to improve public safety. Allowing death row inmates to linger behind bars for decades puts people at risk. Some inmates continue to direct crimes from inside of their cells. Converting death sentences into life in prison not only disregards the will of voters, but it puts our communities at risk when these offenders are able to keep running crime rings from behind bars.

Since 1978, California has carried out the death penalty on just 13 criminals. There are now more than 737 inmates sitting on death row. From kidnapping, raping, torturing, to even murdering their own family members, these are some of the most vicious criminals in the country.

These are criminals like David Rundle. With a history of sexual abuse and assault, he kidnapped three young women, bound and killed them and left their bodies in the woods.

They are like Curtis Price, who was released from prison only to begin a chain of violent robberies that ended with the murder of two homeowners.

They are like William Payton, who raped and killed the owner of the boarding house he lived in before attempting to murder a young boy and his mother by stabbing them with a butcher knife nearly 60 times.

Governor Newsom, unlike the majority of Californians, believes that those rapists, murderers, torturers, kidnappers and even cop killers should not be put to death.

Last month, he made the decision, against the will of California’s voters, to put an indefinite hold on the death penalty. In making that decision, Governor Newsom put his own personal beliefs above the people of California.

To show that victims of these horrendous crimes haven’t been forgotten, I introduced AB 580, which will give victims’ families’ a voice when the governor is considering a reprieve for a death row inmate.

The bill will increase the period of time the governor must take to consider an application to be removed from death row. It also allows the victim, or family of the victim, to share their story before the Board of Parole Hearings. The Board will then recommend to the governor whether or not the death row inmate deserves a reprieve.

I was elected to be the voice of the people. Based on his actions unilateral decision to end the death penalty, it seems that the same cannot be said for our governor. If he won’t listen to victims on his own accord, we need this bill to ensure their stories and concerns are heard

Governor Newsom might not want to listen to the voters, but the families of the victims are not forgotten. The voice of the people must be heard.  I was elected to be the voice of the people, and they have spoken loud and clear that California should preserve its death penalty.

Assemblyman Tom Lackey has represented Assembly District 36 since 2014. Prior to his work in the California State Legislature, he spent 28 years in the California Highway Patrol. A father of 2 and native of Boron, California, Assemblyman Lackey speaks on behalf of the needs of his constituents and the communities he has grown up in.

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