San Luis Obispo County

SLO DA: Newsom's death penalty moratorium leaves victims wondering "what about us"

SLO DA Newsoms death penalty...

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - Swift reaction continues to pour in, on both sides of the aisle, after Governor Gavin Newsom granted reprieves to all 737 Californians awaiting executions.

Now, Central Coast District Attorneys are weighing in.

“I’d want to say, Governor, the peoples’ will 11 times since 1972 has been to support the death penalty,” said San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow. 

Troubled and saddened by Governor Gavin Newsom’s halt on executions, Dow says the death penalty moratorium doesn’t seem to take into account the impact this will have on victims and their families.

“Miss Einert told me today that this was like ripping the scab off of a very old wound,” said Dow. 

Dow recently spoke with the grandmother of Richard Benson’s victims. 

Benson was 38-years-old when he molested, tortured, and killed Laura Camargo and her three children: Sterling, 23 months; Shawna, 3; and Stephanie, 4; in January 1986.

“This victim wants to ask the Governor, what would he do if this was his two-year-old, three-year-old and four-year-old brutally murdered. Would he had made that same decision,” said Dow. 

Benson is one of three SLO County death row inmates, along with Rex Krebbs and Michael Whisenhunt.

Michael Whisenhunt was convicted in 1996 for torturing and murdering his girlfriend’s 18 or 19-month old baby.

Rex Krebs was convicted in 2001 of kidnapping, torturing and killing 20-year-old college students Aundria Crawford and Rachel Newhouse.

“I don’t want the victims to get forgotten. “It seems like in this discussion about the death penalty, there’s all this focus on the impact to that defendant and his life being taken away,” said Dow. 

Dow says Newsom’s executive order will not have an immediate impact on the cases he has and the death penalty is still a legal option in California - when appropriate and if the facts warrant it.

“I don’t think it will change the way we prosecute cases, unless the legislature or the people ultimately repeal the death penalty and until then will continue to march on,” said Dow. 

While SLO’s DA stands in opposition, Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley remains more neutral, she issued the following statement to us:

“I received a personal call from the Governor’s law enforcement liaison, Wayne yesterday explaining the Governors decision. I appreciated receiving that call I also understand that it is within the Governors purview  to decide to no longer sign death warrants and still within my purview to decide when to change Special Circumstance Murder charges where the Defendant is death eligible”

Dow says when a representative or the president takes an action that subverts the will of the people, they should do so cautiously and if the community is disturbed by Newsom’s decision they should let him know that. 

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