Today is California Governor Gavin Newsom's birthday. It is also World Day Against the Death Penalty. In honor of both, Witness to Innocence death row exonerees have a message for the Governor.
“My name is Juan Roberto Melendez. I’m the number 99 person in the nation to be exonerated and released from death row for a crime I did not commit. I spent 17 years, 8 months, and 1 day on death row. I personally thank you for calling a moratorium in California, it is the first step for abolition. Thank you, thank you so much.”
“My name is Damon Thibodeaux. I spent 15 years on Louisiana’s death for a crime I did not commit. As a former California resident, Governor Newsom, I want to thank you for taking the first step, and I hope you take the next step and abolish this archaic practice that serves no purpose in our society. Thank you, Sir.”
“My name is Ralph Wright. I’m Florida’s 27th death row exoneree. Governor, having been a member of the criminal justice community as a law enforcement officer, I want to thank you for taking the first step and setting the example for the rest of the nation and the world that we CAN do the right thing.”
“I am Kwame Kamau Ajamu, President and Chair of Witness to Innocence. I spent 28 years of my life in prison, 3 years on death row, for a crime I did not commit. My case is 39 years in the making before exoneration. I want to say to you, Governor Newsom, thank you so much.”
Today, on World Day Against the Death Penalty, we thank you, Governor Newsom, for remembering our stories when you told the nation “we’ve created a system that allows for innocent people to be put to death. We don't think that -- we know that. We’re putting a stop to that by halting the death penalty in California.”
We honor you for your unwavering stance that “the intentional killing of another person is wrong" and for declaring "as governor, I will not oversee the execution of any individual.”
We stand with you, and we wish you a very happy birthday.