LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon — who has issued a directive against seeking the death penalty against defendants in murder cases being prosecuted in the county — is among more than 100 people to call Friday on President Joe Biden to commute the sentences of all federal death row inmates.
Gascon joined the letter’s author, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell, in urging the president to “begin your administration with an act of mercy that would carry our nation closer toward justice.”
Gascon is among seven district attorneys, commonwealth attorneys and state’s attorneys who signed the letter, which calls a death sentence “both flawed and irrevocable” and “an instrument of racial bias, disproportionately taking the lives of Black and brown people.”
Others in support of the request included Los Angeles County Public Defender Ricardo D. Garcia, Los Angeles County Alternate Public Defender Erika Anzoategui, Riverside County Public Defender Steven L. Harmon, San Diego County Public Defender Randy Mize. The letter, which comes days after three federal death row inmates were executed in the waning days of then-President Donald Trump’s administration, noted that President Barack Obama had halted federal executions but did not commute the sentences of federal death row inmates.
Gascon — who had written Wednesday in a tweet that it was “past time” to abolish the death penalty and that the justice reform movement had gained an ally in the White House — was sworn into office last month after positioning himself as a reformer during the runoff election against Jackie Lacey, who served as the county’s chief prosecutor for eight years. He immediately issued a series of directives, including one that says that “a sentence of death is never an appropriate resolution in any case.”
Gascon has come under fire from some family members of victims over the directives, with some supporting a planned effort to try to recall him.