In Los Angeles, a jury is hearing testimony in the long-awaited trial of a man accused of stabbing to death two women in their homes at night. The gruesomeness of the killings earned the suspect the tabloid-style moniker of The Hollywood Ripper. Prosecutors are seeking a death sentence. In Sacramento, they want the death penalty for Joseph James DeAngelo, the accused Golden State Killer, who terrorized communities up and down the state in the 1970s and ’80s before an arrest was made last year with the help of a genealogy website. Several other capital cases are underway in California, although Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a moratorium in March on executions in the state, which has more death row inmates than anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere, the New York Times reports.
As liberal as California voters are generally, in 2016 they rejected a ballot measure that would have abolished capital punishment, and approved another one to fast-track executions. For now, the moratorium amounts to temporary reprieves for the 737 men and women on California’s death row, which will last for the duration of Newsom’s time as governor. “The district attorneys of the state of California took an oath to uphold and follow the law,” said Michele Hanisee of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys in Los Angeles County. “I think the governor probably did too, but he doesn’t care.” New death sentences in California have declined; 2018 was a record low, with five. Public support for capital punishment has dropped substantially since the 1990s, show polling data from Gallup. California has not executed anyone since 2006. Capital punishment backers say the penalty should remain an option for prosecutors and juries in the most heinous of crimes, including some cases under way in California.