San Mateo District Attorney needs a clear stance on the death penalty | June 17, 2022 | Almanac | Almanac Online |

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Viewpoint - June 17, 2022

San Mateo District Attorney needs a clear stance on the death penalty

by Henry Organ

The nation is under siege by medical pandemic and civic pandemonium. San Mateo is not excepted. The medical pandemic is greatly affected by the discipline of the citizenry, or lack thereof. In the civic pandemonium are mass murders, and how they are addressed, criminally and legislatively.

There has been, and continues to be, mass murders of individuals across the nation. The victims and survivors are of different age groups, races, religions, cultures and genders. As criminal prosecutions are formed by offices of the district attorney, of interest will be if the death penalty without the possibility of parole will be sought where it is legal.

Enter San Mateo County and its office of the district attorney. The current elected official of this office is Stephen Wagstaffe. He ran unopposed in the June 7 election, and is therefore presumed to return to this position for another term. Winning reelection positions him well to note his enlightenment toward not seeking this penalty henceforth, since it is optional and not obligatory.

Mr. Wagstaffe has stated that he has had a difficult time not considering the death penalty in such cases as mass murders, serial killers and those who take the lives of law enforcers. I hope he considers cases in light of his ethical standards — especially in states where the death penalty is optional, as in California. Mr. Wagstaffe's prior actions do reflect these ethical standards, and is asked to declare publicly now that he will no longer seek this penalty. It is most appropriate now, absent of the emotions a particular case might have on decision-making.

Equally important, Mr. Wagstaffe should say why he is making this decision. This statement would be a mark of leadership, to encourage district attorneys' offices throughout the state to follow his example. It would be a small, but meaningful step in moving the state and nation away from increased hostility with and toward civility.

Henry Organ is a Menlo Park resident and 50-year resident of San Mateo County.

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