Opinion

Malcolm Lucas passes, and the death penalty is back before us

Good morning. On behalf of The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board, welcome to The Take, your opinion-politics newsletter. Please sign up for it here.

We’re saddened by former Chief Justice Malcolm M. Lucas’ passing and send condolences to his family, including his son and our friend California State Librarian Greg Lucas, who was with him Wednesday. I met the judge when he was on the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, and became reacquainted in 1984 when Gov. George Deukmejian appointed him to the California Supreme Court. Justice Lucas had the ideal temperament to be a judge, and was the definition of gracious.

Taking note

Former Chief Justice Ron George recalled the time when his predecessor, the normally reserved Malcolm M. Lucas, showed his romantic side in a speech to decidedly unromantic group, the State Bar, describing his marriage to Fiorenza Courtright Lucas by saying: “She fell like rain upon a parched earth.”

Lucas, who died on Wednesday at 89, retired to spend more time with his second wife, as the L.A. Times’ Maura Dolan wrote in 1995.

“He was a true gentlemen, who worked to have collegiality on the court,” George told me. “He had strong views but was never an ideologue.”

George recalled the all-night-and-early-morning vigil the seven justices of the California Supreme Court held in April 1992, when Robert Alton Harris was executed. Lucas noted that Stanley Mosk, who at age 79 was the senior justice, checked his watch. Lucas, gentleman that he was, asked Mosk whether he wanted to go home; he could keep in touch by phone.

Mosk would have none of it. But he was wondering whether to cancel his a 6 a.m. tennis date. Harris was executed shortly before dawn, as I described 24 years ago. Lucas and five of the justices left their chambers in San Francisco, bleary-eyed and hoping to sleep.

Mosk headed off to his club to play a few sets.

Take a number: 78

The Sacramento Bee’s Phillip Reese reports that 78 people issued permits by Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones were later arrested and had their permits revoked. The nature of the crimes raises the question whether anyone is safer as a result of Jones’ liberal policy of granting gun permits to Sacramento County residents who seek them.

Our take

Editorial: Governing is going to be hard enough for whoever wins this nasty presidential election. Donald Trump, in particular, needs to stop implying the election is ‘rigged’.

Joe Mathews: Vin Scully shows us the right way into retirement.

Obie Anthony: Police and prosecutors must be held accountable for wrongful convictions.

Their take

L.A. Times: Proposition 60 would, in effect, make every Californian a potential condom cop by both mandating condom use in porn productions, and creating a private right of action that any resident who spots a violation in a pornographic film shot in the state could sue. We agree.

San Diego Union-Tribune: Much remains unclear about the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man in El Cajon on Tuesday. But the release of a single still image from a cellphone video of Alfred Olango’s deadly encounter with police shows him posing as if he has a gun and pointing toward officers. The public needs to see the entire video, not be pushed to judgment.

Miami Herald: Colombians face a profound dilemma this weekend: the yearning for peace after decades of unceasing bloodshed, and the equally deep longing for justice to ensure that those who committed war crimes are called to account.

Raleigh News & Observer: Now add California to the list of places and people not doing business in North Carolina because of the disastrous HB2.

Chicago Tribune: Later this fall, Chicago will unveil its “Vision Zero” plan, a blueprint for reaching a point of no traffic deaths or serious injuries. Several other U.S. cities have embarked on their own Vision Zero plans, an idea that began in Sweden in the 1990s on the premise that every traffic death can be avoided. We hope Hizzoner-elect Darrell Steinberg takes notice.

Syndicates’ take

E.J. Dionne Jr.: Donald Trump’s suburban problem – and the GOP’s.

Dana Milbank: Donald Trump is too much of a wacko bird to be an albatross.

Leonard Pitts Jr.: “Just listen to what you heard.”

Thomas L. Friedman: Donald Trump? How could we?

And finally

Attorney Don Heller wrote the 1978 initiative that rewrote California’s death penalty statute. Heller soon turned against capital punishment and since has become a prominent Sacramento defense attorney.

Please come to The Sacramento Bee, 21st and Q Street, tonight at 6 to hear Heller and Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert discuss Propositions 62 and 66 on the Nov. 8 ballot to variously abolish or speed up capital punishment. I’ll moderate.

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