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Kamala Harris’ Decision To Pass On Death Penalty For Gang Member Who Killed A Latino Officer Casts Shadow On Her Campaign

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When Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) announced her candidacy for presidency in January, Democrats were conflicted. Some celebrated the possibility of our first female president of color. Others, however, were concerned about her complicated history around progressive issues in California, particularly on the death penalty.

Throughout Harris’ career, she has staunchly spoken out against capital punishment. In 2003, when she ran for San Francisco district attorney, she promised not to impose the death penalty. She won the seat, and the following year, then four months into the gig, she kept her promise in a case that has followed her into her bid for president.

A young Latino officer, Isaac Espinoza, was shot and killed by a gang member while on the job. As progressive as California is, it was unusual at the time to not seek the death penalty in cases where men in badges were the victims. But Harris held tight to her convictions, announcing in a press conference before Espinoza was buried that she would seek life without the possibility of parole, not the death penalty, for the suspect.

The San Francisco Police Officers Association was stunned, vocally lambasting Harris’ decision and never endorsing the candidate in any future election. Renata Espinoza, the widow of the late officer, was also upset.

“I felt like she had just taken something from us,” Espinoza told CNN in a recent interview. “She had just taken justice from us. From Isaac. She was only thinking of herself. I couldn’t understand why. I was in disbelief that she had gone on and already made her decision to not seek the death penalty for my husband.”

Losing the support of top Democrats in her state as well as most powerful law enforcement groups, Harris’ future in electoral politics seemed shaky at the time, but she insisted then, and today, that she “did what I believed was the right thing to do.”

That’s why it’s so confounding to Californians, both on the left and the right of the political aisle, that four years later, then state attorney general, Harris upheld the death penalty in Calfornia. In July 2014, a federal judge ruled that California’s death penalty system was unconstitutional because nearly half of the inmates on death row had been waiting for more than 19 years, uncertain of their future. The judge said the delay and confusion “violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.” His ruling, however, was appealed, as some believed it would open petitions for other inmates across the state and country. Ultimately, it fell on Harris to decide to let the opinion stand or appeal it. In a surprise to everyone, she chose the latter, refuting the judge’s language that the system for capital punishment is “arbitrary or random.” Ultimately, a politician who had built a career, and had it threatened, by her stance against the death penalty had the power to ban it in California and, instead, chose to uphold it.

For Espinoza, the appeal was a slap in the face. “It feels like, why are you changing your mind now? Why couldn’t you change your mind back then and put your feelings aside,” she said, noting that she was speaking up today “for voters to have a full picture of the candidate and her humanity.”

Despite criticism and confusion from Democrats and Republicans alike, Harris has insisted that her take on the matter has never shifted.

“I’ve been [opposed] my entire life and still am, for very good reasons,” Harris recently told Rachel Maddow.

She added: “We are talking about a system that creates a final punishment without any requirement that there be DNA to prove it … It is a system where it has been fundamentally proven to be applied to African American and Latino men and poor men disproportionately for the same kind of crime.”

The issue, which has followed her career as a district attorney, attorney general and senator, will undoubtedly shadow her into her presidential bid as well.

Read: Rosario Dawson’s Relationship With Cory Booker Could Give Us Our First US Primera Dama

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A Gun-Loving Bro Came For Kamala Harris On ‘Jimmy Fallon’ And She Wasn’t Having Any Of It

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A Gun-Loving Bro Came For Kamala Harris On ‘Jimmy Fallon’ And She Wasn’t Having Any Of It

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Kamala Harris appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, where she slow-jammed the news and dunked on a gun-loving college bro. The audience was made entirely of college students who, during one segment, got to ask Harris a question. When someone tried to challenge Harris’ position on gun control, she was happy to set him straight on the matter.

While the United States does not have the most gun violence of any nation, it has the most gun violence of any developed nation, and honestly, it isn’t faring too well when compared to developing countries. 

“The United States has the 28th-highest rate of deaths from gun violence in the world: 4.43 deaths per 100,000 people in 2017 — far greater than what is seen in other wealthy countries,” according to NPR. “And the national rate of gun violence in the U.S. is higher than in many low-income countries.” 

That time a college student tried to come for Kamala Harris

During a segment, Senator Harris and Fallon took questions from an audience of college students. A bro from Fordham University named Andrew tried to come for Senator Harris’ wig. Now, regardless of how you feel about her, one thing is objectively true about Harris — she is a no-nonsense, cunning prosecutor who can think quick on her feet. I would not try her. 

“Do you believe in the mandatory buyback of quote, unquote, ‘assault weapons,’ and whether or not you do, how does that idea not go against, fundamentally, the Second Amendment?” Andrew asked.

It was at this moment that I began to fear for Andrew’s life. Harris was happy to state her position. 

“Great question, I do believe that we need to do buybacks, and I’ll tell you why,” Harris said. “Let’s be clear about what assault weapons are, they have been designed to kill a lot of human beings quickly, they are weapons of war, with no place on the streets of a civil society, I’ve seen assault weapons kill babies and police officers.”

Harris said she plans to take executive action regarding gun control if elected President and if congress fails to ban the importation of assault weapons, pass universal background check requirements, and mandatory buybacks. 

Harris dunks on bro using his own experiences

Then Harris led Andrew through a little mental exercise by reminding him of what country he lives in — the one where mass shootings are a regular occurrence, you know that one. 

“How many of you guys, as college students, had to have a drill during high school or middle school or elementary school or even in college were you learning about how you need to hide in the closet or crouch in a corner in the event that there’s a mass shooter roaming the hallways of your school?” Harris asked.

Of course, Andrew’s hand went up along with everyone else’s. Shooter drills are the new normal for American students.

“Look at that, look at that. And here’s the thing, it terrorized you. It is traumatizing. I don’t want that any of our children should have to sit in class when you should be paying attention to what’s happening in the front of the classroom, letting your mind open up to the wonders of science, math or our, or whatever, and instead have to be worried about who’s going to come banging through the door carrying some kind of weapon,” Harris said. 

Leaders need to lead on gun violence

“Leaders need to lead on this issue. So I’m telling you, when elected, if Congress fails to act, I will give them 100 days to get a bill on my desk for signature, if they do not do what I will put in place, by executive action, a comprehensive background check requirement and a ban on the assault weapons and importations of assault weapons in our country,” Harris said, finishing her speech with. “I’m done.” 

Andrew was no longer standing, the crushing weight of being owned on national television seemed to have taken the wind out of him. He didn’t need to take several seats just the one to realize the audience, who was roaring with applause at Harris, did not share his ignorant beliefs. 

Support for gun control is at an all-time high

It should be said that most Americans don’t share Andrew’s beliefs. Gun control has overwhelming bipartisan support. People are pretty against themselves randomly being killed by gun violence, which makes sense. So while it is the GOP preventing legislation from passing, it is not for a lack of support from Republican constituents! This is why Democrats, Republicans, and Independents should be demanding that the Republican Senate pass legislation — oh wait, we all have been for years they just don’t care if we live or die as long as those donations from the National Rifle Association keep coming in. 

Presidential Hopeful Kamala Harris Wants To Invest $1 Billion To Test The Shameful Backlog Of Rape Kits In The US

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Presidential Hopeful Kamala Harris Wants To Invest $1 Billion To Test The Shameful Backlog Of Rape Kits In The US

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Ahead of her scheduled appearance on the Rachel Maddow show, Kamala Harris made a huge announcement on Thursday. The 2020 Democratic presidential nominee and former District Attorney said that if she wins the White House, she wants to invest $1 billion to eliminate the rape kit backlog nationwide. 

Kamala Harris’ plan is the “first of its kind of a 2020 Democratic candidate, the California Democrat’s plan would invest the money into states, allowing them to close their rape kit backlogs and prevent further buildups, within her first term” if elected into the Oval Office, according to CNN

The 2020 Democratic presidential nominee tweeted that her plan to close the nationwide rape kit backlog “would cost about $2 million less each year than what taxpayers have spent on Trump’s golf trips.” 

According to CNN, “the campaign linked this rollout to the news of Jeffrey Epstein, the billionaire indicted this week on charges of sex trafficking and sexually assaulting teenage girls.” Earlier this week, when news broke, Harris also called for U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta –– who served as Miami U.S. Attorney and cut the plea deal for Epstein –– to resign. 

“It’s time we had someone in the White House who is committed to fighting for survivors, not protecting predators,” she tweeted.  

According to END THE BACKLOG, a national non-profit organization founded by actress and activist Mariska Hargitay with the mission to transform society’s response to sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, “every 92 seconds, someone is assaulted in the United States.” 

END THE BACKLOG also reports that it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of rape kits sit untested in the police department and crime lab storage facilities across the country. This is what’s known as the rape kit backlog. But since most jurisdictions do not have systems in place for counting or tracking rape kits tested, END THE BACKLOG says “we cannot be sure of the total number of untested rape kits nationwide.” 

Rape kits are used by medical professionals to collect evidence while they examine survivors of sexual assault. The DNA extracted from rape kits is a useful tool to solve and prevent sexual assault crimes as well. Refinery29 reports that in the past decade, “about 225,000 known untested rape kits have been uncovered.” 

And while a growing number of states across the U.S. are fighting toward ending the backlog, there’s more work to be done. Since it costs an average $1,000 to $1,500 to test one rape kit, Harris’ plan to invest $1 billion to end rape kit backlog nationwide would hopefully make a powerful difference.  

In a statement to CNN, Harris said, “The federal government can and should prioritize justice for survivors of sex abuse, assault, and rape. As California’s Attorney General, I committed resources and attention to clearing a backlog of 1,300 untested rape kits at state-run labs, and we got it done within my first year in office. We need the same focus at the nationwide level to pursue justice and help hold predators accountable.” 

She also took to Instagram to announce her proposal of investing $1 billion to end rape kit backlog nationwide. In her caption, she wrote:

“In the last decade, roughly 225,000 untested rape kits have been uncovered. Too many survivors aren’t getting the justice they deserve. As president, I will close the nationwide rape kit backlog by the end of my first term.” 

According to USA Today, Harris’ proposal “states would receive additional funding for testing if they conduct an annual count and report of untested rape kits. The plan also would require law enforcement agencies to submit rape kits ‘within a short time frame,’ update victims who want to know about the status of testing of their rape kits and would increase the availability of rape kits for law enforcement, particularly in remote and rural areas.”  

CNN also interviewed RAINN President Scott Berkowitz said that Harris’ new proposal “would do wonders for ongoing efforts.”

“The backlog has been a huge and ongoing problem, we’ve been making progress on it over time, but having that large of a federal commitment would do wonders for testing the rest of the cases that haven’t been tested yet,” he said. 

“From the survivors’ standpoints, these kits are the result of really long, really unpleasant rape examinations where soon after the assaults, they are poked and prodded and they gather everything from the victim’s body and the clothing. It’s the last thing anyone wants to go through and to put yourself that and not have evidence even tested is a terrible statement and demoralizing,” he adds. 

Many women on social media were also open about how necessary and overdue this investment on the rape kit backlog would be.