Author of California's Death Penalty Law Pleased with Governor's Moratorium

The Sacramento attorney who authored California's death penalty law is now speaking out in favor of Governor Newsom's moratorium on capital punishment in the state.

Don Heller wrote the Briggs Initiative, which broadly expanded the types of murder eligible for the death penalty. Now an opponent of the 1978 ballot initiative he authored, Briggs says he's "delighted" to learn of the Governor's decision.

“He had the intestinal fortitude to back away from a position he’d taken during the campaign, assess things and decide he did not want to sign a death warrant,” said Heller.

He now calls the Briggs Initiative "a colossal failure," saying it has condemned more than those who’ve committed egregious crimes and the $5 billion that’s been spent executing 13 people in the last forty years doesn't make economic sense.

“That money could be used for much better and more important things, “Heller explained. “Giving people the education to make something of their life - to step away from stepping into a lifetime of crime."

Heller says while he's not an advocate for inmates and people need to be punished for their crimes, he's also concerned about the potential for executing the innocent.

He calls Governor Newsom's decision an example of what John Kennedy probably would have added to his "Profiles in Courage."

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