We’re glad the Associated Press rewrote completely Paul Elias’s original story on Jerry Brown and the death penalty that they released on Tuesday because the first version was (how can we say this gently?) just plain bullshit.
Brown has not, as the AP originally wrote, had “a change of heart” on capital punishment. He’s still personally opposed to the death penalty; and, as Attorney General in a state that has the death penalty, he and his office are still seeking to enforce it.
The alleged news hook for the original, bum story was that Brown’s “name is now affixed at the top of new lethal injection procedures that California officials want to use to execute six inmates in the coming months at the San Quentin State Prison death chamber.”
Only problem: this is nothing new. Brown’s AG’s office has been arguing for several years to uphold California’s death penalty, which was put on hold in 2006 by U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel of San Jose, until the state could demonstrate that lethal injection procedures did not cause condemned prisoners to suffer cruel and unusual punishment.
“My office has been arguing these cases all along,” Brown said Monday. “We’re in the forefront on this.” Brown’s office contends that new procedures now in place will ensure that lethal injection will not be cruel and unusual punishment.
But that didn’t stop the AP from putting out a story that said: “Attorney General Jerry Brown and his lawyers are demanding that executions resume in California as soon as next week in a push that marks a significant change of heart for the former outspoken death penalty opponent.”
Which would be explosive stuff, considering the long political history of Brown and his father, the late Governor Pat Brown, on the volatile issue. Except…it’s not.
However, the original, heavy breathing AP yarn did give Meg Whitman who (like Elias, at least in this case) doesn’t let the facts stand in the way of a good story, an opening to let loose one of her campaign’s typical clumsily written, overbearing and over-reaching rants.
“Even on matters of life and death, Jerry Brown is willing to play politics. Brown’s newfound support for the death penalty after three decades of opposing it is as preposterous as his newfound appreciation for fiscal conservatism. None of this squares with Jerry Brown’s record and must have his supporters scratching their heads.”
To which, Brown’s flack, Sterling Clifford, replied: that she was the only one scratching her head:
“For Meg Whitman, who is on record at the Sacramento Bee editorial board discussing the death penalty as a cost-saving measure, to accuse someone else of playing politics with the death penalty is not something she should be doing.”
Brown’s office is seeking to use new guidelines for lethal injection to carry out the sentence on Albert Greenwood Brown next Wednesday. Albert Brown was convicted in 1980 of abducting, raping and murdering a 15-year-old Riverside County girl on her way to school.
What’s new about Brown’s position? Nothing.
“The Attorney General’s office is doing its job. The Attorney General is doing his job, which is to uphold the laws of the state of California,” said Clifford. “He’s personally opposed to it but will enforce the law.”
In other words, no change of heart. No change of anything – at least not since 1977, when Brown vowed to uphold the law after his veto of a death penalty bill was overridden by the Legislature.
How or why the AP story got dramatically rewritten, we don’t know. But we expect Brown’s head exploded when he read the original and someone went postal on the AP. Which may or may not be a capital offense.
Polls you can ignore (or not): Public Policy Polling, a left-leaning polling outfit, has a new survey showing Brown ahead of Whitman 47-42% among likely voters after being up 46-40% two months ago. This robocall poll has 630 alleged likely voters with a margin of error of plus or minus about 4%. Most interesting finding – if the sample is any good, which we can’t confirm – Brown’s favorable is 42% positive and 45% negative while Whitman’s – after spending $120 million or so on TV – is 35% positive and 49% negative. Ouch.
Meanwhile Pulse Opinion Research, a Rasmussen offshoot, did a poll for Fox News of an alleged 1,000 likely voters (margin of error plus or minus about 3%) that shows Brown and Whitman tied at 45% each – a shift in Brown’s favor from 49-43% for Whitman on Sept. 11. Take it with a grain of salt.
As well you should give only passing credence to the finding that Barbara Boxer and Carly Fiorina are tied at 46% for Fiorina and 47% for Boxer – a small change from the 46-44% in Boxer’s favor in September.
Attention direct mail vendors: Worst idea in the history of your business.