Ron Matthias, a retired California senior assistant attorney general who specialized in homicide appeals, writes in a column appearing in several newspapers about the original writ petition filed in the Supreme Court in April (Office of the State Public Defender v. Bonta) that claims the State’s death penalty system, because it is “administered in a racially discriminatory manner,” violates the State Constitution’s equal protection provisions. He asserts it’s important for the court to consider oppositions filed by two county district attorneys, not just the response of Rob Bonta, the state’s Attorney General and the lone respondent named in the petition.

Matthias praises the Riverside and San Bernardino district attorneys for defending capital punishment in California when Bonta has thus far not done so. He also gives Bonta credit for, unlike the petitioners, not objecting to the DAs’ participation. “Denying the prosecutors a direct voice, as the challengers demand, would do both the public and the court a great disservice,” he says.

The column concludes, “The challengers understandably prefer Bonta as their sole ‘opponent’ who might never offer more resistance than the Washington Generals put up against the Harlem Globetrotters. But litigation isn’t staged entertainment and high-quality judging can’t happen without forceful and committed advocacy. That’s why litigants don’t get to pick their opponent’s lawyers, and why the supreme court must allow the district attorneys to defend California’s death penalty law with the commitment and dedication the public deserves.”


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