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California: With state executions on hold, death penalty foes rethink ballot strategy

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California advocates of abolishing the death penalty got a jolt of momentum in March, when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he would not allow any executions to take place while he was in office.
But after trying twice this decade to persuade voters to end capital punishment, they have no plans to go to the ballot again in 2020. Rather than seeking to build on Newsom’s temporary reprieve for Death Row inmates, activists are taking their own pause.
Grappling with the legacy of their two failed initiatives, advocates are reassessing their strategy and retooling their message. Natasha Minsker, a political consultant who has long been involved with abolition efforts, said the governor’s moratorium has given advocates the opportunity to do long-term planning.
“There’s this excitement and energy in our movement that we haven’t had in a long time,” Minsker said.
Newsom’s executive order caught many Californians by surprise. Although he supported the unsuccessful ballot measures to abolish t…

Society has no place for death penalty

THE death penalty has no place in modern society. It is the most abhorrent act available to man - the deliberate taking of a human life in the name of justice.

The absolute truth of these statements came to me on February 3, 1967, the day that Ronald Ryan was executed at Pentridge Prison - the last man to be hanged in Australia.

I was a witness to the execution.

Together with 11 other journalists, I watched as Ryan was led to the gallows in the centre of a catwalk spanning the first level of the D Division cell block.

I watched as the hangman looped the noose around his neck. I watched as the hood was pulled down over his face.

As the hangman leapt for the lever and the gallows crashed open, sending Ryan to his death at the end of the rope, I closed my eyes - it was too much to bear.

It was the most deliberate, callous and barbaric act I have ever witnessed.

The memory haunts me to this day - that I saw a man deliberately killed in the name of the law.

I walked into Pentridge that day with no clear views on capital punishment. The execution was the biggest story of the year and I had a job to do in reporting it.

I walked out of Pentridge determined to work in whatever way I could to try to have capital punishment abolished, and that work continues today.

The case of Leigh Robinson this week brings back so many memories from that dreadful day in 1967.

Robinson was found guilty this week of the execution-style murder of Melbourne mum Tracey Greenbury last year.

In the immediate post-Ryan era, Robinson was one of the recipients of the virtual mandatory commutation of death sentences by the Government until the death penalty was wiped from the Victorian statute books in the 1970s.

I feel deeply for Pam and Max Greenbury with the news that the killer of their daughter Tracey last year was convicted of murder 41 years ago.

Leigh Robinson should never have been released from prison after his conviction in 1968 for the murder of Valerie Ethel Dunn.

He was sentenced to death, later commuted to 30 years' jail. He was released after 15 years.

Surely this is not good enough in the 21st century.

The alternative to the death penalty must be severe, in my view.

That alternative should be life imprisonment. No parole. No dispensations. Deprivation of a convicted killer's freedom - for life.

It is wonderful to read reports that Pam and Max Greenbury are opposed to the death penalty despite the enormous trauma they have experienced.

They share the view that Robinson should be locked up in jail forever.

One hopes that if that happens, it will bring some comfort to them in their terrible loss.

The death penalty must never be allowed to return in Australia.

It is heartening to know that many countries around the world are abolishing it or moving towards abolition. Our Federal Government has a continuing role to help ensure that this movement continues.

The execution of Ronald Ryan was the most callous and brutal act I have ever witnessed. The details are etched indelibly in my memory. I still cannot talk about it without the horror and emotion almost overwhelming me.

I came away from Pentridge Prison in 1967 firmly opposed to capital punishment - simply because when I continue to ask myself time and again what that act achieved, I find only one answer: it achieved nothing.

By Brian Morley, Herald Sun, October 01, 2009

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