By Luke Thomas
May 19, 2011
San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón revealed yesterday he is personally opposed to the death penalty.
“I am personally against the death penalty,” Gascón, who is seeking election at large in November, told FCJ, “but I cannot say categorically that I will not follow the law of the State.”
Gascón made the comment yesterday following his appearance at the 2011 Justice Summit organized by Public Defender Jeff Adachi where he was one of four panelists discussing the future of the death penalty.
Sixteen states have so far abolished the death penalty.
Sitting beside Gascón on the panel was former death-row inmate John T. Thompson who spent 14 years in Louisiana’s notorious Angola prison before being exonerated of his 1985 conviction for murder.
Thompson made several pleas to Gascón during the discussion asking him to reconsider his position on the death penalty.
“I ask that you reconsider your position on the death penalty and to join in the fight to abolish the death penalty,” Thompson said looking at Gascón, adding that the criminal justice system is tainted by racism and over zealous prosecutors more interested in conviction rates than justice. Thompson’s conviction and death sentence was overturned when it was discovered exculpatory evidence was deliberately withheld at trial.
Gascón made headlines in January shortly after his swearing in by former Mayor Gavin Newsom when he told reporters he is “not philosophically opposed to the death penalty.”
His comment yesterday appears to be a softening of his public position on the death penalty in a city where it is estimated 20 to 30 percent of voters are opposed to State-sanctioned murder.