Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation removing the word “lynching” from a state law that makes it a crime to seize a person from police custody, his office said Thursday, after the statute was used to prosecute activists trying to free each other during protests.
The bill comes after prosecutors in Sacramento this year accused a 20-year-old biracial woman of “lynching” following a protest of police force in the deaths of unarmed black people, then dropped the charge – leaving her to face an accusation of resisting arrest.
The Democratic governor’s action only changes the definition of the crime of taking a person from police custody. The crime itself remains a felony.
Senate Bill 629, by Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, passed both houses of the Legislature without dissent. Brown signed the legislation without comment.
The state’s “lynching” law, as drafted in 1933, was intended to protect people in police custody, many of them black, from violent mobs. According to a legislative analysis, Mitchell argued that the current use of the law was “contrary to what the vast majority of people understand the crime of lynching to entail.”