tv [untitled] May 31, 2011 4:00pm-4:30pm PDT
>> ladies and gentleman. at 4:a.m., edward earl johnson was executed in the gas chamber -- with the sentence of the second court, and i'll be glad to entertain any questions that you may have. >> he indicated his innocence, and he regretted the situation and he felt no ill will towards anyone. and he was thankful that the
always comes down to the morality of it all. >> let's start with questions for the panelists. george, thank you for being here. i know that we welcome and appreciate you being here. the remarks that you made, this has caused concerns for many opponents of the death penalty to have celebrated the fact that san francisco moved away from this and did this rather convincingly, and i want to put the question out there. are you in favor of the death penalty? >> the answer, this is no.
but it is important to recognize the role that i play. i think it would be inappropriate for me to say, categorically -- if you look at this, clearly, and understandably, when she was rewarded, there are other death penalty incidents. we know that the death penalty -- 60% of everyone on death row in the state today is a minority, either african- american or latino. and this brings no closure to the victims.
the victims go through an emotional roller coaster. i have met with the victims of -- families of victims of homicides. more recently we realized the cost of supporting the death penalty. a fire stand -- understand all the factors that speak against the death penalty -- i have spent to a great deal of time against -- with people who are against the death penalty. they believe that this is an area that many are talking about reforming, and much like three strikes. i understand the process is ongoing, and certainly a process we entertain discussing. it would be inappropriate for me to say, categorically, i would
never consider this. we have a system implemented by my predecessor, with the patter out -- panel of senior attorneys to look at cases, and in the have recommendations that come to me. i have had my first case that was presented to me and this was rejected. i have other cases coming up, without the formal presentation, these are cases that do not warrant the death penalty. it is important to recognize my role with the state of a lot today. >> you said that the only thing that would allow for you to come out against the death penalty is a change in the law, and would you join the efforts to repeal the death penalty? >> as a matter of fact, we have
talked about this. the other thing to understand, in san francisco, the political answer would be to say that i am against the death penalty. i would not be sitting here today. >> i feel that the complexities of the issue require that a look at this in a more thoughtful way. i now believe that this is the right tool. early on, i described this as an imperfect tool. this was quoted afterward as me saying that this was perfect. i don't think that this is necessarily an efficient way of dealing with a very serious
crime. but i am the chief law- enforcement officer of the county. >> let me ask you this. you were in prison for 14 years in the state of louisiana, 18 years including the time he fought for retrial. there was withheld evidence that would have resulted in a different outcome. if this was shared with your attorney at the time you were arrested. do you believe that on this district attorney can impose rules were implemented rules in their office to make certain that this evidence is turned over to make the likelihood of a miscarriage of justice less likely or even impossible? >> -- to me, it is impossible
that he could guarantee the safety. we just heard a bunch of police officers, with the corruption that has gone at the police departments, and in the city councils. for a district attorney to say that he feels comfortable with saying he should execute the right man -- he cannot cash that check because there is too much he cannot control. he cannot even control the police officer who is corrupt, and there is too much going with the picture -- this would not even be a question. >> you have worked on accountability and trying to address the issues of miss identification, and these are things you are doing to try to make the criminal justice system
more fair. but if i understand you, you understand that this is an imperfect system. >> one thing that we understand -- this is the power of the district attorney's office to pursue the conviction. he has the right to the judge and the trial, but by the same token, i have never heard the district attorney say -- did he ever prosecute a police officer for perjury. did he ever prosecute? and any other office persecutes -- prosecute. continue to do that. did they ever prosecute anyone as a prosecutor for of seen
things were bad things. when you try to put accountability together, you look at the whole picture and was going on in the trial. where is most of the misconduct happening. it becomes important. who is up to, so unless we can put accountability not just with the district attorney, he needs to have accountability. we need to find out who will be responsible for the prosecutors that go wild, and how do we deal with this? does the defendant get a chance to make that claim? what happened? nothing.
this is his witness. >> can you tell me this story that you told me? you showed me a photograph of a magazine that had on its cover, the dish attorney who had prosecuted you in your case. >> he prosecuted at least eight of us. he was called most of the prosecutor in the united states. he was posing with a miniature electric chair. and this had several african- americans on this. i was in the middle and in this picture, six of us are there. one of us is still awaiting trial. he was given and it -- the
release of sentence. he was a winter of $14 million lawsuit against this man. in this matter -- is also passing this returning to help me out. what would you do? >> thank you for the chance to respond. one reason i accepted this appointment was because i believe that there are a lot of problems with the criminal justice system, i think that this is to be reformed in many ways. we have problems with prosecution misconduct, problems with police misconduct and i believe that we have wrongly incarcerated a number of people in many communities and this is something i have worked on for many years. one thing i have done, and i was appointed to it -- i have been
known to say that one of the things i say in my office -- we have the structural integrity unit, and the evidence and the credibility of the witnesses, this is presented to make certain that we have the transparent and fair trial. i am aware of the misconduct, and i think that this is a shared responsibility. when i was in the loss angeles police department, i was one of those who was asked to look at the breakdowns in the aftermath of this incident. this was involving several gang officers, and it was determined that they have lied on police
reports. and this resulted in the conviction of some individuals. i was taught -- involved in the assessment of the breakdown. one thing that was very obvious to me -- there had been breakdowns in police leadership, but also in the whole criminal justice system. the prosecutors were too willing to hear a story that was not believable. there were members of the defense that did not do their job the way that they should have. and they should have been more circumspect about what was being presented. one of the main reasons i am here today, is because i have this very strong commitment to the reef formation of the system. any system that incarcerates people at the rate that we do in
our country and our state -- the implications that this has had in minority communities, 70 people -- 70% of the people that we incarcerate -- this is a system based on punitive measures. this indicates that we have to fix the system and that is why i am here today. we have to fix this. >> john ray is a direct question. if you are presented with evidence that the police officers have committed perjury, or if you have this attorney in your office who has hidden evidence in the pursuit of a conviction, will you take action against this? >> we are aware that we're looking at many cases -- with
the first homicide -- homicide conviction for this case that was over 20 years old at the office was working on for over one year. and we have the prosecutorial problems in this case. it appears that this was possibly prompted by the police. we believe that this evidence was material, and we decided to read prosecute the case. we have an integrity and it today, and we're looking at a series of cases and convictions. the answer is that i will hold those individuals accountable, and if there is a case to be prosecuted i would do so. as far as the prosecutor is concerned, if i find that he withheld information
intentionally, we will assess a fee should be prosecuted. if we have police officers committing perjury, we will review these cases. we have a number of cases that have been presented, and we're trying to assess the actual occurrence on the basis. the only way the system can work well as if we all play by the rules. >> i agree. >> i want to get the other panelists into the conversation. >> in my particular case, each one of us was put on death row. and right now, you have 135 people have been exonerated from death row. what would be the charge? at of the 138 who were
prosecuted, 45 or 40-45 of them was for prosecution misconduct. i am just wondering, since he said that he would prosecute, he would prosecute on what level? >> i do not know the facts behind those cases. >> this is a person who was innocent, but they withheld the evidence to prosecute him on death row. well with the deficit -- will they be charged with? >> we would look for a level of intent and knowledge of the prosecutor had at the time and we would make an assessment. >> with a charge them for murder? >> attempted murder? >> i do not know that there would be an answer i could give to you. i do not know the circumstances. >> just one more simple question.
>> i have a question. you mentioned that there were 40 instances of people who were exonerated because of misconduct by prosecutors. have any of those people been prosecuted? the district attorney has been prosecuted? >> their work -- there was one in louisiana, roger jordan. >> let me try to get the other panelists into the conversation. you were a former warden of san quentin. i wonder if you could share with us your experience at having actually conducted executions? you saw the word from mississippi said that this had a personal effect on him and i wonder if you can address the issue that comes up with the victim's family often get satisfaction of some kind --
some relief because of the person that they understand has committed the crime and they are finally put to death. can you remark on this? >> let me say, i agree with everything that they have talked about. i cannot really speak for the families of the victims, only what i have observed to the execution process. this has an impact on everyone who is involved, including the staff. and of course the inmates' families. and the people who show up to watch this. and the whole show of people who are there for this. you cannot walk away from this without having been impacted. i want to talk about the war and has said, that these executions have been 7-10 years after the crime and we're not executing
the same person. in california, everyone who has been executed has been 20 years after the crime and you are not executing the same person. people do change. from my observation of the victims' family members, and nothing that there is anything that execution can do for them. i think they come there with high hopes that they will somehow feel better, and that they will somehow be able to close this event, and you just -- it just does not happen. these are horrifying crimes. my heart goes out -- out to the victims' families. >> would you say that the instances -- instances of the executions, or any of these meritorious? did you see someone put to death that he thought was innocent? >> not in the cases that i dealt
with. the things i oversaw, and guilt or innocence was not a question. in one case, it was the intention and not whether they were innocent or guilty of the crime. >> nevertheless, you arrive with the same feelings that the man from mississippi talked about, having gone through this process. >> i arrive at the same conclusion. i started at san quentin in 1978, after graduating. i went there, a small number of us had college degrees. the old guard would say, everyone will tell you that they're innocent. and in my 26 years, i never had anyone say that they were innocent. including the jewish chaplains clerk.
i think 17 or 18 years -- he wasn't tolerated. santa then you learn that many more innocent people have been found around the country, and this really should cause all of us to rethink in criminal justice what we think that we know. there is science out there that is not known to us that will prove that we have been wrong about many things. the death penalty is still final. this man is trying to struggle with the fact that he probably executed an innocent person. we should not ask this of anyone in our society. [applause] >> i want to say one other thing. how have your former colleagues handled your conversion on this issue? has this been greeted with support? >> i have received much
support, and nothing that has been negative. having spent 30 years in criminal justice, it is interesting to me that within the members of the criminal- justice field, people who are involved in this, is there a difference with the views in many different issues. many people are against putting 17 year old kids inside of the state prisons, giving life without the possibility of parole. there is this public face that law enforcement puts on these issues and it appears that we all have to speak with the same voice. i hope that myself and the warden in the movie and other people across the country to talk about these issues are going to break this. everyone of these issues that we deal with, if this is three strikes were sending the it to prison without a lot -- without the possibility of parole, this
deserves a lot of debate. law enforcement should speak from their own personal point of view, more than they do today. >> you are the policy director on the death penalty for the aclu in northern california. can you share with us how the efforts are happening in the united states and whether there is a healthy effort in the state of california? >> this is a great time to work on the issue of the death penalty. every day we get closer and closer to ending the death penalty in california and across the country and indeed, across the world. several states have into the death penalty in the last four years. most recently, the state of illinois into the death penalty in march of this year. [applause] we are now at the time when 16 states, puerto rico and the district of columbia do not have
the death penalty. many more states are addressing this issue, connecticut and montana, colorado, kansas, these are all states that have had bills in their legislature to into the death penalty that have moved through least one house in some cases, both houses. connecticut passed a bill a couple of years ago to end the death penalty that was vetoed by the then republican governor who is no longer in office. this is for states in four years and we expect more on the way. >> this deserves applause. >> we're making progress in california. the statue was enacted by the voters and it will take the voters working together to into the death penalty in california. this is a very daunting task. although the initial process
gave people a voice in politics, this has turned into a situation where money has a voice in politics. this is going to be a challenge to raise the funds that we need to actually mount an initiative campaign with the death penalty, but we're getting closer and closer every day. the people of california are ready to end the death penalty. a couple of weeks ago we were able to do a poll on the question of the governor converting all of these 713 death sentences to life without possibility of parole, and a change would save the city california $1 billion in five years. 63% of the voters support this idea across the entire state. every region of the state had a majority of support. a majority of republicans and democratic voters support this idea. 63%, ready for the governor to
take everyone off of death row. this is an important change from where we used to be on this issue, because for a very long time, politicians have been afraid to talk about reasons for ending the death penalty and this has been seen -- been seen as an issue that would run political careers, as the former district attorney has shown, the death penalty is no longer of liability and the voters are ready for candidates who will say that we need smart criminal- justice policy, to keep the community safe and that will hold the offenders accountable, and that really meet the needs of all of california. the governor took a positive for step by canceling the project to build a new death row. in his statement, the governor said that this is unconscionable, to spend money on death row inmates as we cut
funding for the disabled. it is unconscionable to spend $1 on the death penalty at all when we are cutting a vital services in the state. if we cut the death penalty and save $1 billion, this money would be much better used on law enforcement and education. we need to keep working together to get this message to the governor, to ask him right now to take action to convert all of these death sentences. and we will build momentum and the support that we need to actually put this on the ballot and into the death penalty in california. this goes down to where we started this conversation, whether this attorney would pursue the death penalty. the d.a. should not be asked to change between life -- choose between life and death. we are the
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