Families of California murder victims had varied reactions to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s suspension of the death penalty, the Los Angeles Times reports. Cindy Rael’s daughter Brandi was shot to death and her body lit on fire in front of her children eight years ago. “I was pissed off,” said Rael. “This man brutally murdered my daughter and now he’s going to just get life in prison. I have to live with this every day of my life…. I am totally against [Newsom] doing away with it.” Another mother was grateful for Newsom’s decision. “What I say is, ‘Don’t murder someone in my name,’ it does nothing to benefit my daughter, it won’t bring anybody back,” said Aba Gayle. After years of living in rage and pain, she befriended the death row inmate who killed Catherine Blount in 1980.
The comments of victims’ family members were a reminder of how personal and polarizing the capital punishment issue has remained through the years. Lawmakers and civil rights and criminal justice reform groups have worked to change how the state deals with offenders, but the plight of death row inmates has garnered scant sympathy with voters, who in 2016 rejected a measure that would have halted executions in the state and passed one meant to speed them up. While Newsom and reformers argue that the death penalty is weighted with racial and other biases and has not been fairly applied, those in favor contend it is appropriate punishment for the worst crimes. “California just became a dictatorship today,” said Tami Alexander, wife of former NFL player Kermit Alexander, vocal proponents of the effort to fast track the death penalty. The couple has waited more than three decades for the execution of Tiequon Cox, who shot and killed her husband’s mother, sister and two nephews in 1984.