Sunday's Sacramento Bee carries, "The Conversation: Capital punishment: The ultimate debate." It's datelined Huntsville, Texas and is written by Dan Morain, Senior editor.
At 6:22 p.m. Wednesday, 10 minutes after the deadly intravenous drip began, cop killer George Rivas became the 479th person executed in Texas since the state resumed executions three decades ago.
On the following day, California capital punishment opponents delivered nearly 800,000 signatures to election officials to place a new initiative on the November ballot to abolish state-sanctioned killing.
The death penalty in Texas and California couldn't be more different. It has become part of the fabric of Texas. In California, it is a concept. The number of prisoners theoretically condemned to death stands at 724. But California has executed only 13 people, beginning with Robert Alton Harris, who died in the San Quentin gas chamber on April 21, 1992.
California's system has become so ponderous that the past two state Supreme Court chief justices, both appointed by Republicans, have called it dysfunctional and suggested that if it can't be fixed, it ought to be scrapped. Even in Texas, the death penalty is not all that simple, as Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins makes clear.
On the day of Rivas' execution, Watkins arrived early at the red brick prison here known as The Walls. He had multiple reasons for taking the three-hour drive from Dallas to Huntsville. Watkins had never seen an execution and wanted to fully understand the system he must help to enforce.
"Weighing the death penalty," is the Santa Cruz Sentinel editorial.
It would be yet another example of making public policy through initiative, but the drive to place a state death penalty referendum on the November ballot is long overdue.
Backers of the initiative say they have already collected 800,000 signatures, far more than the 504,760 valid signatures required to make the ballot.
If the initiative does make it, as is likely, it will mark the third time in 40 years voters will be asked to decide whether California should have the death penalty. The SAFE California Act would replace the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole.
No matter your opinion on the ultimate morality of capital punishment, the way it has come down has been a travesty in this state. It would be one thing if the death penalty was effectively carried out, but under no stretch of the imagination has this happened.
We're under no illusion voters will automatically just end the death penalty. History teaches otherwise. In 1972, after the state Supreme Court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional, more than two-thirds of voters overrode the decision. Then, in 1978, 71 percent of voters approved an expanded death penalty law passed by legislators over Gov. Jerry Brown's veto.
Earlier coverage from California begins at the link.