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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…

California: Jury recommends death penalty for Charles “Chase” Merritt

Charles “Chase” Merritt
SAN BERNARDINO, June 25 — A Southern California jury yesterday recommended the death penalty for a man convicted this month of the 2010 sledgehammer killings of a family of four whose bodies were later found buried in the Mojave Desert, media reports said.

A San Bernardino County Superior Court jury found Charles “Chase” Merritt, 62, guilty on June 10 of four counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of a former business associate, Joseph McStay, and his family.

The same jury yesterday recommended Merritt receive the death penalty for the murder of McStay's wife, 43-year-old Summer, and their two sons, four-year-old Gianni and three-year-old Joseph Jr, CNN and other media reported.

The jury recommended a life prison sentence without parole for the murder of Joseph McStay, 40, according to media reports.

The deaths baffled detectives for years after the family was reported missing in February 2010 from their San Diego home.


Crosses are placed near the graves where the McStay family were buried
Their skeletal remains were unearthed in 2013 from shallow graves near Victorville, northeast of Los Angeles.

The four had been killed inside their home the day they were last heard from, and died of blunt-force trauma.

A rusty sledgehammer believed to be the murder weapon was recovered from the burial site, detectives testified at trial.

The slayings resulted from a financial dispute between McStay, who owned a business making decorative fountains, and Merritt, a welder who worked for McStay fabricating the custom pieces, authorities said.

“We're disappointed, but the fight does not stop,” Jacob Guerard, Merritt's attorney, told the Los Angeles Times.

Merritt is due back in court in September for sentencing.

California Governor Gavin Newsom has imposed a moratorium on the death penalty, but prosecutors across the state continue to try death penalty cases.

Source: Reuters, Staff, June 25, 2019


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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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