Bay Area

Family members of Bay Area murder victims react to Newsom's moratorium on executions

BERKELEY (KRON) -- Gov. Gavin Newsom put a moratorium on executions in California on Wednesday -- and called for the immediate closure of the execution chamber at San Quentin.

"Once I was able to process what he had said, I died a little bit,” said Marc Klaas, the father of 12-year-old Polly Klaas, who was kidnapped from her Petaluma home in October of 1991.

The girl’s body was found two months later.

Marc Klaas says he’s disappointed by the governor's decision.

"We have to remember that the individuals on death row are responsible for the deaths of more than 1,000 police officers, babies, children, women [and] that these are the spree killers, that these are the serial killers,” he said.

But not all families of murder victims disagree with the order.

"He was a very sweet soul. He didn't hold malice toward people,” said Judy Kerr, the sister of Bob Kerr, who was murdered in 2003.

Authorities never found the person responsible for his death -- and the case is now cold. Judy Kerr is one of many survivors of murder victims against the death penalty.

"It doesn’t serve the needs of victims families. It doesn’t serve my needs as a survivor of a homicide victim,” she said. “I’m just glad that Gov. Newsom has had the courage to go ahead and take this step."

Despite the opinions people may have on the decision -- UC Berkeley law professor Elisabeth Semel says the governor has the constitutional power to grant reprieves.

"There’s certain areas where the governor’s powers are very clear and when it comes to executions, it is clear from the constitution that the governor has the power to issue reprieves and that he has said he will do,” Semel said.

Steve Wagstaffe, San Mateo County district attorney, questions how the governor’s decision compares to the opinions of the public.

"This decision by the governor flies in the face of what the voters have done. I guess he’s decided his personal views outweigh that of the public,” the district attorney said.



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