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Santa Clara DA will no longer seek death penalty

The office of Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen will no longer seek the death penalty, Rosen announced in a press conference last week.

Along with a slew of other social justice reforms that include ending cash bail and eliminating the criminal records of those who are eligible and have completed probation, the Los Altos resident said July 22 that he will not pursue “society’s most drastic and devastating law enforcement punishment,” which he noted disproportionately affects defendants of color.

“These cases use up massive public resources, and cruelly drag on for years with endless appeals that give no finality to the victims’ families,” Rosen said. “There is the tragic but real risk of wrongful conviction.”

Rosen said he had supported the death penalty in the past when he viewed crimes through the lens of the victims and their families.

“But,” he added, “I also trusted that as a society we could ensure the fundamental fairness of the legal process for all people. With every exoneration, with every story of racial injustice, it becomes clear to me that this is not the world we live in. In the past weeks, I’ve tried to look at this issue through the lens of race and equity. There is simply too much systemic racism and unfairness in our entire society, which is then reflected in our criminal justice system. One cannot ignore it.”

The killing of George Floyd has led to changes across the country, community and Rosen’s office, the district attorney said.

“Over time, my views have evolved.” Rosen said. “Facts and circumstances have changed. I’m evolving and trying to make the best decisions.”

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