Inland Empire families call for reversal on moratorium on death penalty

Family members of Inland Empire murder victims are demanding Gov. Gavin Newsom reverse his moratorium on the death penalty, saying they won't have justice until those killers receive the penalty of death as per their sentences.

They made their plea in front of the Victims Memorial Wall in downtown Riverside.

"There are people that have been sitting on death row since 1980," said Joe Bonaminio, whose son Ryan Bonaminio, a police officer, was murdered near Fairmount Park in Riverside in 2010.

"When is justice going to be served?"

Bonaminio was joined by other family members of two other murder victims, all of whose killers were sentenced to death. Family members were joined by the district attorneys of both Riverside and Orange counties.

"This action by the governor is frankly intolerable," said Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin, who brought up three recent decisions by California voters in favor of the death penalty.

"One man, based on his own opinion, subverted the will of the entire state," said Hestrin. "We can't allow that."

There are currently 737 inmates on California's death row.

"Today in California we have 23 cases ready to go where the appeals have been exhausted," said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer, calling upon the governor to follow the law. "The governor made a blanket decision to violate the constitutional rights of the crime victims."

Newsom's office sent Eyewitness News a statement that read:

"As he said when he announced the decision, the Governor decided he couldn't continue a system that discriminates against defendants who are mentally ill, of color, or can't afford expensive legal representation. And he couldn't continue a system where innocent people have been sentenced to death.

"164 death row inmates nationally - including 5 in California -- were later exonerated for their crimes after being sentenced to death, and the National Academy of Sciences estimates that 1 out of every 25 people sentenced to death in America are wrongfully convicted."

The statement went on to include the governor's condolences to the families of the murder victims.

"These families deserve our state's respect. The governor sought out and heard from many survivor families as he was making his decision on the death penalty. Some supported the death penalty while others strongly believed the state shouldn't take another life in the name of their loved one."

But Gerri Bonaminio, Ryan Bonaminio's mother, said she's yet to hear from Newsom. She said she wrote him a letter not long after he announced the moratorium on the death penalty.

"I stated to him what my son went through, how he was brutally murdered," said Bonaminio, who said she included with the letter a picture they took with then-Lt. Governor Newsom in 2011, when he honored their son with a plaque.

"I sent him a picture of that, and of my son, and I told him how he let California down. I hoped he would listen to me. I have to this day not received any reply whatsoever."
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