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February 18: Abolishing Capital Punishment

February 18, 2013

Stanley Mosk, the longest-sitting justice on the California Supreme Court in history, joined five other justices to abolish capital punishment in the state on this date in 1972. In People v. Anderson, the Court found the death penalty unconstitutional and commuted the sentences of all death row inmates to life imprisonment. The following November, however, voters in the state restored capital punishment by referendum, and after a nationwide moratorium on executions precipitated by the U.S. Supreme Court, the California death penalty was reinstated in 1978. Mosk had been elected state Attorney General in 1958 and served for six years, establishing divisions for civil rights, consumer rights, constitutional rights, and anti-trust work. He was appointed to the Court in 1964 and then won several elections, remaining on the bench until his death in 2001. California executed 709 people between 1778 and 1972, and added 13 more to the list after 1978.

"Unfortunately morality appears to be a waning rule of conduct today, almost an endangered species, in this uneasy and tortured society of ours: a society in which sadism and violence are highly visible and often accepted commodities, a society in which guns are freely available and energy is scarce, a society in which reason is suspect and emotion is king. Thus with a feeling of futility I recognize the melancholy truth that the anticipated dawn of enlightenment does not seem destined to appear soon.” —Stanley Mosk

JEWDAYO ROCKS! Regina Spektor, born in Moscow on this date in 1980. To see her play her wonderful "On the Radio," click below.