Assemblyman Tom Lackey | AB 580: Justice for Victims, Families

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Last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom ignored the will of the very people who elected him to office. The governor decided to put a temporary halt on the death penalty and has placed a hold on the 737 inmates sentenced to death row. It seems that while a few of us acknowledge the responsibility of being elected to serve as a voice for the people, the governor feels no such calling.

Sandi Nieves is one of the 737 murderers who caught a break from the governor. Nieves, from Santa Clarita, was sentenced to death in 2000 for murdering her four daughters to spite her ex-husbands. The mother of five set her home on fire in an attempted murder-suicide. She survived, along with her 14-year-old son. Her four other children died in the blaze. 

This is one woman on a long list sentenced to death by California’s courts. One individual of 737 inmates who the governor decided should not pay for the unspeakable crimes they have committed. 

In 2016, California voters had the opportunity to vote on a repeal of the death penalty with Proposition 62. California rejected the idea with 53 percent of the vote. The results made it clear that for inmates on death row, the punishment does fit the crimes. 

Opponents of the death penalty claim that inmates sentenced to life without parole will spend the rest of their lives reflecting on their crimes. 

Being sent away to “think about what they’ve done” might be an appropriate punishment for a middle-schooler who breaks curfew, but criminals who rape, torture and kill deserve the most serious punishment possible. 

From my experience in law enforcement, time behind bars is no deterrent to the worst offenders. Some continue to plot crimes and conspire with associates outside of the prison system to carry them out. Even scarier are the monsters who feel no remorse for the pain they’ve caused. They enjoy it. Allowing them the satisfaction of reliving their crimes, day after day, for years, is an insult to their victims.  

I’ve introduced a bill (Assembly Bill 580) to ensure justice for victims and their families by giving them a voice in the process of removing a criminal from death row. It will require the governor to take at least 30 days to review an application for removal from death row and give families the opportunity to speak about why someone should not get a reprieve. 

Nothing can heal the pain of losing someone in a violent crime. Nothing will bring back a loved one who has been lost at the hands of a monster. 

But there is nothing more unjust than taking someone who has caused so much grief and pain off of death row. AB 580 will make sure that victims and their families are not forgotten. 

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 two and native of Boron, he speaks on behalf of the needs of his constituents and the communities in which he has grown up. 

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