Gov. Gavin Newsom has vetoed a law approved by the people. He will sign an executive order putting a moratorium on the death penalty while he is governor despite voters expressing support for the death penalty in passing Proposition 66 in 2016 while a second initiative on that ballot to abolish the death penalty was defeated.

Weight should be given to Newsom’s point that a number of death row occupants are eventually released because they were wrongly convicted. But there are clear cases of murderers who committed the most heinous crimes. The argument of justice in those cases still holds. It is the ultimate penalty for the ultimate, gruesome crime against victims and their loved ones.

The governor’s action has to be viewed in the larger context not of his personal opposition to the death penalty but as his duty as an elected official to uphold the law. The people have clearly spoken and it is the responsibility of the chief executive of the state to execute the laws.

Michele Hanisee, President of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, issued a statement on the governor’s decision that reads in part, “Governor Newsom, who supported the failed initiative to end the death penalty in 2012, is usurping the express will of California voters and substituting his personal preferences via this hasty and ill-considered moratorium on the death penalty.”

Ours is a government of the people. If a single individual who temporarily holds the reins of power, even in the highly controversial and oft debated issue of the death penalty, can override that basic concept of government by the people then a severe crack appears in the foundation of the democracy.