Fierce

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

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

Recommend this story by clicking the share button below!

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Kamala Harris Pledges That, If Elected, She and Joe Biden Would Decriminalize Marijuana Use

Things That Matter

Kamala Harris Pledges That, If Elected, She and Joe Biden Would Decriminalize Marijuana Use

On Monday, Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris vowed that a Biden-Harris administration would “decriminalize” the use of marijuana.

“Under a Biden-Harris administration, we will decriminalize the use of marijuana and automatically expunge all marijuana-use convictions, and end incarceration for drug use alone,” Harris said during a Facebook Live virtual round-table.

“We need to deal with the system, and there needs to be significant change in the design of the system,” she continued.

The decriminalization of marijuana would be a boon for cannabis-rights activists who have long said that marijuana’s potential health risks “pale in comparison” to the harm that criminalization has done to communities of color in America.

We’ve known for a while that the U.S.’s drug policies disproportionately affect people of color. While the stats suggest that Americans across all demographics use marijuana at roughly the same rate, Blacks and Latinos are more likely to be arrested and charged for possession.

For example, in New York City in 2017, the NYPD arrested 17,000 people for marijuana-related offenses. 86% of those were Black or Latino.

via Getty Images

Historically, politicians on both the left and the right haven’t done much to fix this disparity. Although both Republicans and Democrats were responsible for the largely ineffective “War On Drugs” policies of the ’90s that left a large number of people of color incarcerated, the Dems have recently changed their tune.

In the ’90s, there was an erroneous belief that marijuana was a “gateway” drug to harder, more destructive drugs, like crack-cocaine. Cracking down on marijuana possession was seen as a preventative tactic to keep people from trying crack.

The decriminalization of marijuana would be a marked change for Biden in particular who has held quite stringent anti-marijuana positions throughout his career.

“The school of thought was that we had to do everything we could to dissuade the use of crack cocaine,” Biden said in 2008 Senate hearing. “And so I am part of the problem that I have been trying to solve since then.”

This falls in line with what Senator Harris’s policy stances have been of late. She recently spear-headed a bill called the MORE Act that, if passed according to Politico, would “remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and erase some cannabis criminal records”.

It’s worth noting that there is a marked distinction between the decriminalization of marijuana vs its legalization.

via Getty Images

According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, decriminalization means “no arrest, prison time, or criminal record for the first-time possession of a small amount of marijuana for personal consumption”. In essence, a marijuana-related offense would be treated similarly to a traffic violation.

Legalization, on the other hand, would mean a federal policy that “supports a legally controlled market for marijuana, where consumers can buy marijuana for personal use from a safe legal source.”

Whether it’s decriminalization or legalization, one thing’s for sure: the data shows that hyper-punitive laws towards cannabis possession has done the American people more harm than good. Especially in communities of color.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Joe Biden Speaks Alongside ‘Fearless Fighter’ Kamala Harris In First Appearance And Recalls Her Family’s Immigrant Story

Fierce

Joe Biden Speaks Alongside ‘Fearless Fighter’ Kamala Harris In First Appearance And Recalls Her Family’s Immigrant Story

Chip Somodevilla / Gettycc

After weeks of speculation and anticipation, presidential candidate Joe Biden announced on Tuesday that he has officially picked his running mate.

In a history-making announcement, Biden revealed that he had tapped California Sen. Kamala Harris to be his VP Pick.

“I have the great honor to announce that I’ve picked @KamalaHarris — a fearless fighter for the little guy, and one of the country’s finest public servants — as my running mate,” Biden announced in a tweet.

On Wednesday, Biden held his first campaign event alongside running mate Kamala Harris in Delaware.

During their speeches, the two candidates wore masks and kept their distance in keeping with COVID-19 standards.

Speaking about his VP pick, Biden described Harris as coming from an “America’s story.” Biden described Harris as “a child of immigrants” who “knows personally how immigrant families enrich our country as well as the challenges of what it means to grow up Black and Indian-American in the United States of America,” he explained. “And this morning, all across the nation, little girls woke up, especially little Black and brown girls that feel overlooked and undervalued in their communities, but today — today just maybe they’re seeing themselves for the first time in a new way as president and vice presidents.”

In a speech of her own, Harris emphasized the importance of family and urged citizens to vote.  “We need a mandate that proves that the past few years do not represent who we are or who we aspire to be,” she said. “Joe likes to say that character is on the ballot. And it’s true,” she explained. “I’ve had a lot of titles over my career and certainly vice president will be great. But ‘Momala’ will always be the one that means the most.”

Harris’s nomination makes her the first Black and first Indian-American woman on either major party’s presidential ticket.

Harris is a former prosecutor from California who challenged Biden in her own presidential bid last year. Her nomination makes her the fourth woman to appear on a major presidential ballot. Before her, Geraldine Ferraro ran as a Democratic vice presidential nominee in 1984. In 2008, Republican Sarah Palin ran as a vice presidential nominee, later in 2016, Hillary Clinton became the Democratic presidential nominee.

Biden’s choice was one that has long been in the works. In March of this year, he revealed that he would make a point to have a woman as his running mate and in July he announced that he had narrowed his picks down to four Black women.

Kamala Harris was elected to Congress in 2016.

This has been Harris’ first term as a senator. Before, she served as the California attorney general. During her time as AG, Harris formed a lasting friendship with Biden’s late son Beau who was attorney general at the time in Delaware. Writing about Beau’s death, in her memoir The Truths We Hold, Harris recalled that “there were periods when I was taking the heat when Beau and I talked every day, sometimes multiple times a day,” she wrote in her memoir. “We had each other’s backs.”

Biden’s son Beau died in 2015 from brain cancer. Harris attended his funeral.

During his announcement, Biden mentioned Harris’ friendship with his son.

“I watched as they took on the big banks, lifted up working people, and protected women and kids from abuse,” Biden tweeted. “I was proud then, and I’m proud now to have her as my partner in this campaign.”

So far, it seems there are quite a bit of Harris x Biden supporters.

Fans were quick to give their support and applaud her candidacy.

In a tweet acknowledging her nomination, Harris wrote “@JoeBiden can unify the American people because he’s spent his life fighting for us. And as president, he’ll build an America that lives up to our ideals. I’m honored to join him as our party’s nominee for Vice President, and do what it takes to make him our Commander-in-Chief.”

Here’s to 2020 y’all. Get ready to make history.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com