How we Decrease Death Row & Abolish the Death Penalty: A Conversation with the California Committee on Revision of the Penal Code
California has the largest death row in the Western Hemisphere, with close to 700 men and women in two separate prisons. And now, a California state commission, appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, is recommending that the state begin reducing that number and abolish its death penalty
What does this mean for the next steps of death penalty abolition activism and policy work in California? Join us on Monday, October 25, 2021, to learn more about what the report called for and what we can do in the near term to help reduce the size of our death row. DPF Interim Executive Director Maddy deLone will moderate a panel with Committee Chairperson Mike Romano, Committee Staff Attorney Rick Owen, and long-time criminal justice and policy advocate and consultant Natasha Minsker.
- Why the Committee concluded that death penalty abolition was necessary
- How California can begin to reduce the number of people death row in the short term
- What people can do at the local and statewide level to move us closer to abolition
Join us with your questions and concerns for what promises to be a lively and stimulating discussion about how we finally begin dismantling this cruel, racist, and barbaric punishment in California.
- Mike Romano
Michael Romano is the director and founder of the Three Strikes and Justice Advocacy Projects at Stanford Law School. Previously, he was director of the Stanford Criminal Defense Clinic. He currently teaches criminal justice policy and advanced criminal litigation and has published several scholarly and popular press articles on criminal law, sentencing policy, prisoner reentry and recidivism, and mental illness in the justice system. In 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom appointed Michael as chairperson of California’s new criminal law and policy reform committee, the California Committee on the Revision of the Penal Code. Michael has co-authored successful statewide ballot measures in California, and led impact litigation and traditional legislative campaigns, which together have resulted in reduced sentences for over 15,000 people convicted of nonviolent crimes, including over 7,000 people sentenced to life for minor offenses under the state’s “Three Strikes” recidivist sentencing law. Michael also founded the Ride Home prisoner reentry program, which has assisted formerly incarcerated inmates in 38 states and in 2015 partnered with the Obama administration and U.S. Dept. of Justice in support of the president’s executive clemency initiative. The work received numerous honors, including recognition by the White House as a “Champion of Change” in 2016. In addition, with assistance from his students, Michael represents incarcerated individuals in state and federal courts, winning the reversal of over 150 life sentences. Michael is also counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and has partnered with law enforcement and other leaders at all levels of local, state, and federal government. He has been named one of California’s top lawyers and his work has been profiled in several news outlets, including The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, The Economist, and the award-winning PBS feature documentary The Return. Michael graduated with honors from Stanford Law School and was a John Knight Fellow at Yale Law School. He clerked on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
- Rick Owen
Rick Owen is a Staff Attorney for the California Committee on Revision of the Penal Code, a new state entity that studies and make recommendations to the Governor and Legislature for improvements to California’s criminal legal system. Before joining the Committee, Rick spent eight years at the Alameda County Public Defender’s Office, where he represented hundreds of people accused of misdemeanor and felony offenses and was a supervisor for attorneys handling misdemeanor cases. Rick is a graduate of the University of San Francisco Law School, where he was awarded top advocate in the Intensive Advocacy Program, and the University of California, Davis. He grew up in Sacramento, California.
- Natasha Minsker
Natasha Minsker is an attorney and consultant focusing on criminal justice and political advocacy. Ms. Minsker spent 14 years at the ACLU, most recently serving as the Director of the ACLU of California Center for Advocacy & Policy, the office responsible for advancing the ACLU’s civil liberties and civil rights agenda in the State Capitol. She also served as the Associate Director of the ACLU of Northern California and prior to that, as the Director of the ACLU of California’s Death Penalty Policy Project. In that role, Ms. Minsker led the 2012 ballot initiative campaign to repeal the death penalty. Before her time at the ACLU, Ms. Minsker spent five years as an attorney at the Alameda County Public Defender’s Office, served as a staff attorney for the Judicial Council committee that drafted jury instructions for criminal cases, and clerked for Federal District Court Judge Martha Vázquez in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is a graduate of Stanford Law School and Cornell University. She grew up in Washington, D.C.