At a hearing of the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice held in Los Angeles, the mother of a murder victim testified about why she believed the death penalty does not serve victims’ needs. Aba Gayle’s daughter, Catherine Blount, was a teenager when she was murdered in 1980 by Douglas Mickey. At first, Gayle told the Commission, “The district attorney assured me that the execution of the man responsible for Catherine’s murder would help me heal, and for many years I believed him.” But in 1988, Gayle changed her mind and now no longer wants the defendant to be executed. Mickey’s death sentence was overturned in 2006 due to the ineffectiveness of his defense lawyer, but the D.A. is still seeking the death penalty against him.

During the hearing on how to address the problems in the death penalty system, prosecutors stated that they need quicker appeals and would like to amend California’s Constitution to transfer initial reviews of death penalty cases to state appeals courts. Defense attorneys stated that transferring initial reviews would only make the process more cumbersome, and suggested that the state shorten the list of crimes that qualify for the death penalty instead.

With 669 inmates, California has the largest death row population in the country, and it can take as long as two decades for some inmates to complete their appeal.

Gayle testified about her experiences with the death penalty at the hearings, including her requests to the D.A. “I told him I would be satisfied with a life sentence,” she said. “I did not want state-sanctioned murder to tarnish the life of my beautiful child.”
(“Lawyers divided on death penalty system,” by Henry Weinstein, Los Angeles Times, February 21, 2008). See Victims and New Voices.