.- Echoing the call earlier this week from Baltimore Archbishops Keeler, Most Reverend Stephen Blaire, Bishop of Stockton and President of the California Catholic Conference, released the following statement yesterday expressing strong support for an end to the death penalty in California and affirming the recent statement by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death. With California having scheduled three inmate executions over the next three months,
"The California Catholic Conference of Bishops strongly supports an end to the death penalty and affirms the statement from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death, which was issued earlier this month.
"As Catholic bishops, we teach and preach the Gospel vision of a 'culture of life.' We believe that we are created in God's image, which compels us to teach a consistent ethic of life and obligates us to preach that the use of the death penalty does not protect human life nor promote human dignity.
This call came after Virginia's state governor has spared the life of a convicted killer who would have been the 1000th person executed in the US since the Supreme Court allowed capital punishment to resume in 1976.
Robin Lovitt's death sentence was commuted to life in prison without parole, a little more than 24 hours before he was to be executed by injection on Wednesday night, local time, for stabbing a man to death with a pair of scissors during a 1998 pool-hall robbery.
In granting clemency, Governor Mark R. Warner - a possible 2008 Democrat presidential candidate - noted that evidence from the trial had been improperly destroyed, depriving the defence of the opportunity to subject the material to the latest in DNA testing.
"The commonwealth must ensure that every time this ultimate sanction is carried out, it is done fairly," Mr Warner said.
He had never before granted clemency to a death-row inmate during his four years as governor. During that time, 11 men had been executed. Virginia is one of the most active death-penalty states, having executed 94 people since 1976.
The 1000th execution is now expected to be on Friday in North Carolina, where Kenneth Lee Boyd is set to die for killing his estranged wife and her father.
The American Bishops had renewed their wish to see an end to the Death penalty in a document published during their fall meeting in October.