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Recent 2023-2024 California Opinion Articles

Mar 5, 2024

Note that several of these articles may be behind News Organizations’ firewalls and available only to subscribers.

California Supreme Court upholds life-without-parole sentences for adults 25 and under

San Francisco Chronicle
By Bob Egelko
March 4, 2024

In a 5-2 decision, the court upheld a state law that allows life-without-parole sentences for multiple murders or those committed during a rape or robbery or as a gang member. 

“This conclusion does not turn on this court’s judgments about what constitutes sound sentencing policy,” Justice Leondra Kruger wrote in the majority opinion. “It turns on the deference we owe to the policy choices made through the democratic process by the people of California and their elected…..

Read full article at San Francisco Chronicle web site

Judge tosses special circumstances in Antioch gang murder case impugned by police racism


by Nate Gartrell
February 2, 2024

After months of anticipation, a Contra Costa judge has decided on a landmark issue involving police racism and a new California law, dismissing special-circumstances enhancements against four people accused of murder in Antioch.

In an order issued Monday, Judge David Goldstein dismissed all special-circumstances enhancements against co-defendants Eric Windom, Terryon Pugh, Keyshawn McGee, and Trent Allen, taking away life without the possibility of parole as a potential outcome. Goldstein did not explain his decision in writing, but is expected to speak about it at a court hearing on Friday.

Goldstein’s decision marks the third time in California history that Contra Costa County has been the subject of a landmark decision over a law enforcement violation of the Racial Justice Act. Goldstein has previously dismissed gang charges in this same case after finding prosecutors’ gang filing practices were racist, and another judge threw out murder convictions against two people in a separate case after finding the prosecutor used “racially coded language” during the trial.

Goldstein’s decision closes an issue that has been litigated for months, as four defense attorneys and the Contra Costa District Attorney’s office gave opposing arguments on how to handle the four-defendant murder case in light of rampant racism by Antioch police investigators. The four were arrested in 2021 and charged with murder and attempted murder, along with allegations they committed the crimes to benefit an Oakland-based gang.

But in early 2022, the FBI and Contra Costa DA began investigating more than a dozen Antioch and Pittsburg cops for alleged crimes, which led to a second, parallel scandal: After seizing a number of officers’ phones, investigators found dozens of Antioch cops had exchanged racist, sexist, and homophobic text messages, with numerous communications referencing their jobs and people they were investigating, including the defendants in this case.

Read full article at San Jose Mercury News web site

Opinion: Newsom should solve two problems at once: Close prisons and cut spending

LA Times Editorial Board
June 22, 2023

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to rebrand San Quentin Prison was a flop, but he knows he needs to use his power to transform the incarceration system.

California stands at a pivotal moment as Gov. Gavin Newsom confronts a looming deadline to sign the state budget into law by July 1. Democrats are still haggling behind the scenes about many priorities, so it’s not too late to make the right calls. California’s daunting $32-billion deficit presents another opportunity to do something the state needed to do anyway: curb out-of-control spending on our state’s sprawling prison system.

Read full Opinion article at the LATimes web site

Skyrocketing prison spending in California is no mystery. CCPOA pulls strings in Sacramento.

OC Register Editorial Board
Published January 23, 2024

Over the last decade, California’s prison population has fallen 25%, according to CalMatters. Yet at the same time, the cost to imprison a single person has surged 90% to $132,860 per year.

What’s behind that obscene cost is probably no surprise to anyone who even just sometimes glances at these Opinion pages.

The California Correctional Peace Officers Association, the union which represents prison guards, has worked members of both parties to extract from public coffers obscene and utterly unjustified amounts of money.

As noted by CalMatters, the union “last summer negotiated a contract with successive 3% raises and other perks that will cost the state roughly $1 billion over the next three years.” That followed another round of giveaways from the state to the CCPOA.

Each time, Republicans and Democrats in the state Assembly and state Senate have united to give the CCPOA what it wants no matter the direct cost and no matter the opportunity cost.

The reason is simple. The CCPOA pours lots of money into our elections and spends lots of money taking out those it doesn’t like.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has been in the pocket of the CCPOA from the very beginning. The CCPOA endorsed his run for governor in 2018, poured lots of money into his inauguration fund, spent heavily to defeat the recall in 2021 and most recently has reported pouring money into supporting the governor’s wasteful pet project Proposition 1.

The CCPOA regularly endorses and spends in support and opposition to candidates for state legislative races. That’s why, when it comes time for CCPOA contracts to be voted on, there is only minimal opposition, even when the contract is obviously flawed.

Most state lawmakers are either direct beneficiaries of CCPOA support, fear the consequences of pushing back against wasteful CCPOA contracts or simply lack the will to say “No.”

The net result is that California now spends billions more than it should to appease a politically and financially powerful public sector union. That’s billions less for crime prevention, parks, schools, addressing homelessness.

Turning this around will require principled leadership. Unfortunately, we see no signs of this in California.

Read this opinion article at Orange County Register web site