Local faith leaders gathered in front of the L.A. District Attorney’s Office on Nov. 21, to urge D.A. Jackie Lacey to stop seeking death sentences.
The delegation included Pastor Edward Anderson of McCarty Memorial Christian Church, Elder Joe Paul of the City of Refuge, Rector Mike Kinman of All Saints Church in Pasadena, Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels of Beth Shir Shalom and Pastor Larry Foy of Interfaith Movement 4 Human Integrity/Justice Not Jails.
The group also delivered a letter, signed by more than 110 local faith leaders, that noted that Los Angeles is just one of two counties nationwide to sentence more than 20 people to death in the last seven years. The letter also lamented stark racial disparities, stating that “between 2013 and the present, every person sentenced to death in Los Angeles County was a person of color,” which covers Lacey’s two terms in office.
The letter also brings attention to the fact that a majority of voters from Los Angeles County supported an initiative to repeal the death penalty in 2016, and that a March 2019 poll by the Public Poliicy Institute of California showed that nearly two-thirds of L.A. County residents prefer a sentence other than the death penalty.
Among the signers of the letter are Pastor William Smart, president/CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California; Father Gregory Boyle of Homeboy Industries, Bishop John Harvey Taylor of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and representatives of more than 12 denominations.
“Our best selves tell us that ‘there but for the grace of God’ and that, in the end, there is no distance, really, between us and them. However, for far too long, faith leaders have stood by as discriminatory death penalty practices have been used as a weapon against communities of color, the intellectually disabled, the mentally ill, and the poor,” said Boyle. “As a result, L.A. County has the largest death row population of any county in the country.”
Kinman said, “The death penalty is immoral, unjust, and irreversible. In a county where the top prosecutor recently stated that ‘the pursuit of justice is not perfect’ and that her office doesn’t always get it right, the fact that DA Lacey continues to pursue death sentences is unacceptable. The people of Los Angeles have voted against the death penalty, Governor Newsom has issued a moratorium on the death penalty, now is the time for faith leaders across the country to join the fight for life.”
Comess-Daniels added, “The rabbis of the Talmud made it nearly impossible for them to convict anyone of a capital offense.They always erred on the side of their own human fallibility, not trusting themselves to execute someone by mistake.”
“Imposing and executing the death penalty is nothing short of murder itself, for it is the killing of a human being in the name of justice,” insisted Foy.