Press Room

Press Room

Governor Newson’s 10/26/2020 Press Release

 Governor Gavin Newsom today filed an amicus brief in People v. McDaniel, a case before the California Supreme Court that involves issues of racial bias in jury deliberation and sentencing decisions. This filing marks the first time in California history that a sitting governor has filed an amicus brief calling attention to the unfair and uneven application of the death penalty, noting the state’s bedrock responsibility to ensure equal justice under the law applies to all people no matter their race. The brief argues that capital cases should require unanimity in the jury’s penalty verdict and proof beyond a reasonable doubt of disputed aggravating evidence.

“Amid our nationwide reckoning on racism and historical injustice, the State of California is continuing to address the failings in our criminal justice system. California’s capital punishment scheme is now, and always has been, infected by racism,” said Governor Newsom. “Since its inception, the American death penalty has been disproportionately applied, first, to enslaved Africans and African Americans, and, later to free Black people. With this filing, we make clear that all Californians deserve the same right to a jury trial that is fair, and that it is a matter of life and death.”

The Governor’s brief discusses the historical and current mechanisms that lead to the unequal application of capital punishment to people of color, especially Black and Latinx Californians. It then explains how this context, including the legacy of racial terror and subjugation, leads to significant racial disparities in capital prosecutions and sentencing based on the race of defendants and on the race of victims. It describes how people of color are excluded from juries and how their voices are diluted or silenced when they do serve on juries. Since jurors of color often have different experiences and perceptions of the justice system than white jurors and often are less likely to support death verdicts than their white counterparts, the lack of a unanimity or beyond a reasonable doubt requirement compounds racial discrimination and disparities in the death penalty. The brief argues that requiring unanimity in jury determinations and the application of the beyond a reasonable doubt standard to the ultimate penalty determination is necessary to protect against the pernicious influence of racial bias in jury selection and decision-making.

Today’s filing builds on Governor Newsom’s longstanding opposition to the death penalty and actions to end its practice statewide. In March 2019, Governor Newsom issued a moratorium on the death penalty and closed the execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison. The Governor has also taken steps to address systemic racism in policing and the criminal justice system, including signing AB 2542, which will prohibit the use of race, ethnicity or national origin to seek or obtain convictions or impose sentences; and AB 3070, which aims to eliminate discrimination in jury selection.

Governor Brown’s 1/07/2020 Press Release

Governor Brown Announces Appointments – Mary McComb, 62, of Davis, has been reappointed state public defender in the Office of the State Public Defender, where she has served as state public defender since 2016. McComb held several positions in the Office of the State Public Defender from 1992 to 2015, including supervising deputy state public defender and deputy state public defender. She was an associate attorney at Kelman Loria from 1990 to 1991. McComb was an attorney at the Community Law Center from 1987 to 1990 and a teacher at Commonwealth High School from 1983 to 1984. McComb is a member of California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, the California Public Defenders Association and the California Appellate Defense Counsel. She earned a Juris Doctor degree from Stanford Law School. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $186,389. McComb is a Democrat.

05/17/2021 – OSPD welcomes the Executive Director of OSPD’s new Indigent Defense Improvement Division

The Office of the State Public Defender (OSPD) is happy to announce and welcome Galit Lipa as the Executive Director of the Indigent Defense Improvement Division (IDID) for OSPD.  The IDID is a new division, created in response to OSPD’s new legislative mandate to assist trial counsel for indigent defendants in the areas of training and technical assistance for the purpose of improving indigent defense.  As Executive Director, Ms. Lipa will create new programs to implement that mission, have general management responsibilities, and be part of OSPD’s executive management team. She will also assist OSPD with its grant responsibilities.

Ms. Lipa joins OSPD from the Public Welfare Foundation in Washington D.C. While at Public Welfare Foundation, she worked to identify and support organizations, initiatives and campaigns promoting meaningful criminal and youth justice reform across the country. She managed a portfolio of over $8 million which she used to fund policy advocacy, community organizing, leadership development, and pilot projects.  Through her efforts she brought early financial support to several organizations seeking to improve public defense, including Sixth Amendment Center, Defender Impact Initiative, and Zealous.  She has previous experience at the Public Defender Service in Washington D.C., the Contra Costa Public Defender and at Stanford Law School, where she established and ran the misdemeanor law clinic.

She begins her new position with OSPD on May 17, 2021.  For inquiries please contact Denise.Armendariz@ospd.ca.gov