There were recent competing Daily Journal pieces about whether Governor Gavin Newsom should commute all California death sentences and whether the Supreme Court should approve the commutations for those condemned prisoners who have been convicted of multiple felonies. (See here and here.) The court has the state constitutional obligation to review gubernatorial clemencies for any person who has been “twice convicted of a felony.”

A year ago, David Carrillo and Brandon Stracener argued in the newspaper for blanket death penalty commutations. (See here.) Last week, they followed up with a response to the recent columns, reiterating their position.

The Supreme Court has said that its review of a governor’s request for clemency approval is a deferential one, “to determine whether the applicant’s claim has sufficient support that an act of executive clemency, should the Governor choose to grant it, would not represent an abuse of that power.” (Procedures for Considering Requests for Recommendations Concerning Applications for Pardon or Commutation (2018) 4 Cal.5th 897, 897; see here.)

Carrillo and Stracener say that, when a governor “avow[s] a belief that no capital inmate (no matter their number of felonies) should be killed by the state because killing as punishment is always wrong,” there is no abuse of power if “the governor is sincere about this broadly applicable moral conviction.” They assert that clemency “is a standardless grant of relief from punishment, on whatever moral, religious, or ethical grounds move a governor’s heart.”


“Clemency for death row felons would kill the will of the voters”

“Blanket commutations and twice-convicted felons”

“Commute them all”

The Supreme Court’s part in any possible commutation of all California death sentences

Governor Newsom’s death penalty actions shouldn’t affect the Supreme Court . . . yet

Claiming “racial discrimination infects the administration of California’s death penalty,” Governor submits amicus brief supporting defendant’s appeal

“Jerry Brown Has the Power to Save 740 Lives. He Should Use It.”

Despite prosecutors’ fears, still no evidence of mass (or any) death penalty commutations

Supreme Court explains its role in evaluating gubernatorial pardons and commutations