Execution & Clemency in California

What is a clemency hearing?

A clemency hearing happens when the inmate asks the Governor to grant clemency or stop the execution. The Governor does not have to give the inmate a clemency hearing. The Governor may instead deny or grant clemency without a hearing.

What happens at the clemency hearing?

The prisoner, his lawyer, family, doctors, psychiatrist and others may speak on behalf of the inmate. Opponents of the death penalty may also speak against the execution.

If the District Attorney (DA) does not think the prisoner should get clemency, the DA will present statements from investigators and the victim’s family and friends saying why the execution should take place.

If there is a clemency hearing, a recommendation will be made to the Governor who will then decide whether or not to grant clemency. If clemency is denied, the execution process will continue.

Can I go to the clemency hearing?

Yes. The clemency hearing is open to the public. If you want to go, call your DA’s office first.

If you prefer not to go, you can send the DA a video taped statement, or a written statement that someone else can read for you.

Can I speak at the clemency hearing?

Yes. You may give a “Victim Impact Statement.” But, the number of people who give statements and how long each person can speak may be limited.

What should I say in my statement?

Your statement should say how the loss of your loved one has affected you and your family. If you need help, ask your DA.

Will the prisoner’s family be there?

Maybe. The prisoner can ask up to 5 relatives or friends and 2 ministers to be at the execution.

Will I be alone?

No. An OVS advocate for the Attorney General’s Office will be there the whole evening to help and support you. Trained counselors will be there, too.

You also can bring another support person, like a friend or relative. But, they can’t go into the execution area.

If you want to bring a support person, tell the OVS at least 2 weeks before the execution. They will ask you for your support person’s name, date of birth, and state issued identification number.

Are there special rules I have to follow at the prison?

Yes. You must bring a state issued photo ID. You will have to go through a metal detector and the officers may search you.

You CANNOT bring:

  • cameras or tape recorders,
  • cell phones or pagers,
  • alcohol or drugs, or
  • weapons of any kind.The prison may not let you in if you have been convicted of a felony in the past or if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The prison can refuse entrance to anyone.

What should I wear?

Dress comfortably and conservatively. You cannot wear:

  • cut-off pants or shorts,
  • tank tops,
  • see-through clothing, or
  • clothes made from denim or blue jean material.

Can the execution be delayed?

Yes. If a judge makes an order called a “stay of execution,” a Court will delay the execution and then decide if it can take place.

There can be a stay of execution at any time – even just a few minutes before the execution. This uncertainty may be very difficult for you.

OVS will tell you about anything that happens that may affect the execution.

Will the media be there?

Yes. The media will be at the prison and in the execution witness area.

Members of the media usually stand at the back of the execution area. The victims’ relatives usually sit near the front.

Do I have to talk to the media?

No. But, you can if you want to. Please let the OVS know so we can help you make arrangements
to speak to the media or give them your written statement.

If you need help writing a statement, please call us.

Will there be protestors at the prison?

Often people who are opposed to the death penalty hold demonstrations when there is an execution at the prison.

This may be very hard on you. We will do our best to keep the demonstrators away from you.

What if I have other questions?

Call us, or write us at:

Office of the Attorney General Office of Victims’ Services
1300 I Street
P.O. Box 944255

Sacramento, CA 95814
Tel: (877) 433-9069 toll free!

e-mail: victimservices@doj.ca.gov

from California Courts

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