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Newsom can grant reprieves, but other steps might face legal challenges, experts say

Maura Dolan, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

He said he expected litigation and would be prepared to join a fight against Newsom's action if it were legally feasible.

"Right now, it is so early," he said. "We are all trying to analyze where we are where we might be able to go."

Stanford law professor Robert Weisberg, an expert in criminal law, said Newsom obviously was carefully advised on the law. Weisberg said he doubted a challenge would succeed.

As governor, Newsom oversees the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which is in charge of executions, Weisberg noted. Newsom is merely directing employees not to perform one of their assigned tasks, Weisberg said.

"He is acting as the boss of CDCR," he said.

Santa Clara law professor emeritus Gerald F. Uelmen said it made no sense to challenge the withdrawal of the protocol.

"If he has a reprieve in place, the protocol is moot," said Uelmen, who ran a state commission several years that examined the administration of the death penalty.

The commission's report found the system was deeply dysfunctional and required a massive infusion of money.

Uelmen said Newsom might be able to get the Legislature to put another measure on the ballot to end capital punishment entirely.

 

Voters have narrowly rejected past measures to abolish it and narrowly supported Proposition 66.

"It is just a few holdout counties that are still using it," he said.

Scheidegger said death penalty advocates are not prepared to give up.

"I wouldn't say it is over yet," he said. "We have to decide what is feasible to do."

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