Why the Democrats are not our allies

By: Cameron Sturdevant

Gray Davis, the new Democratic governor of California, wants to continue the tradition of his Republican predecessor by executing Jay Siripongs on February 9 - the first man of color executed in California in 30 years.

Thus the election of Davis has not changed the perilous situation of the more than 510 people on death row in California.

This is not a surprising situation. During his campaign, Davis reiterated that he "is now and has always been in favor of the death penalty. There simply is no better way to deter and punish society's most heinous criminals."

Davis is likely to speed up the machinery of death. This is partly due to the fact that a new state agency created this year will provide 30 new attorneys to speed up the appeals process.

Combined with the restrictions on capital appeals put in place by President Clinton's 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, California death-row prisoners face a grim future unless activists fight.

Most times, politicians - even if they say they're against the death penalty - will not risk coming out on this issue. Candidates blame "public opinion" for their inability to take a stand.

While it is true that public opinion polls show that 71 percent are in favor of capital punishment, that doesn't tell the whole story.

What activists need to raise constantly is that public support for the death penalty slips dramatically when issues such as racial bias, innocence and non-deterrence are explained.

Abolitionists can't count on the Democrats to take a stand against the death penalty. We have to do it ourselves.