A campaign to halt California executions temporarily died yesterday when Democrats in the state legislature grew concerned that the issue could tag the party’s candidates as soft on crime, the Los Angeles Times reports. The measure, which would have established a moratorium while a special commission studied the fairness of California’s death penalty, had received much attention during the effort last year to stop the execution of Stanley Tookie Williams. The co-founder of the Los Angeles Crips gang died by lethal injection on Dec. 13 for committing four murders.
Supporters of the moratorium, which could have lasted through 2008, didn’t have enough votes to get it through the 80-member Assembly. Backers of the death penalty had called the idea unnecessary, insisting that California’s appeals process had spared the state from executing the innocent. The bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Paul Koretz, said Democrats were concerned about the Republicans’ eagerness to use the issue in elections. , as well as a fear that it might become a topic for Democratic Assembly members in primary races in June. Koretz said he hoped to revive the idea later this year if he can round up enough support. Republican Assemblyman Todd Spitzer said the Democrats were becoming more insecure about their stands on criminal justice issues. Democrats this month have killed GOP proposals for harsher punishments for sex offenders and child pornographers. California has executed 13 people since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978, including Clarence Ray Allen, who was put to death Tuesday. There are 646 others on death row; four might be scheduled to die in 2006, which would be an unusually high number for the state.