Today's San Francisco Chronicle publishes the editorial, "Yes on Prop. 34, death penalty repeal."
California's death penalty has not satisfied anyone since it was reinstated 35 years ago. Those who are morally opposed to capital punishment decry the 13 lives taken by the state. Those who believe the death penalty brings justice and closure are frustrated that the average time between sentence and execution is 25 years.
"I have concluded that it is dysfunctional and cannot be fixed," said Gil Garcetti, former Los Angeles district attorney who supports capital punishment but argues that the way it is imposed in California is "a colossal waste of money."
Garcetti has become a leading spokesperson for Proposition 34, which would reduce the maximum penalty for murder to life without the possibility of parole.
Taxpayers have spent about $4 billion in expenses related to California's capital cases since its reinstatement - working out to more than $300 million for each execution, according to a 2011 analysis by federal judge Arthur Alarcón and Loyola Law School professor Paula M. Mitchell. They called the state's death-penalty system "a debacle" - with its costs expected to reach $9 billion by 2030.
Donald Heller, an attorney who authored a 1978 ballot initiative that greatly expanded the definition of capital crimes, has become a prominent advocate for repealing the death penalty. Heller said he wrote the measure to meet constitutional muster - which it did - without analyzing its fiscal impact.
KPBS-TV reports, "Supporters Of Prop 34 Say Death Penalty Is Broken And Can’t Be Fixed." It's by Tom Fudge.
People who support and oppose the death penalty seem to agree on one thing. Capital punishment in California is dysfunctional and brings little in the way of justice to victim’s families.
But they disagree on whether it can or should be fixed.
The debate over the death penalty took center stage in Sacramento yesterday as supporters and opponents debated Proposition 34, which would repeal the death penalty in California. A joint State Senate/Assembly committee heard testimony from opponents and supporters of the proposition, which will be on the November ballot.
The death penalty has been the law in California since being reinstated in 1978. Brian Brown, with the office of state legislative analyst, told the joint committee that since 1978 about 900 people have been condemned to death in the state. But only 14 have actually been executed.
Gil Garcetti, the former Los Angeles District Attorney, called the California death penalty an expensive farce.
"The system is broken,” he said. “It's dysfunctional and, underlying this, it cannot be fixed."
"Death penalty debate fuels emotional divide," by Timm Herdt in the Ventura County Star.
Speaking at a legislative hearing on Proposition 34, the Nov. 6 ballot measure that asks Californians to abolish the death penalty, representatives of the state sheriffs' and district attorneys' associations argued Tuesday that state taxpayers should double down on a system that costs $130 million a year.
Proponents say that cost is excessive to support a system that former Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti described as "broken, dysfunctional and cannot be fixed." Since the death penalty was reinstituted in California in 1978, it has resulted in 13 executions, while 89 condemned inmates have died in prison from other causes and the population of death row has swollen to 729.
"We have spent more than $4 billion on the death penalty to date," said Jeanne Woodford, the former San Quentin warden who now is executive director of Death Penalty Focus, a group that opposes capital punishment. "Ultimately, we are sacrificing true public safety measures to fund the death penalty that is so broken. The money to prevent violence is not there — it's on death row."
Proposition 34 asks voters to replace a sentence of death with a one of life in prison without possibility of parole as the most severe punishment that can be levied on those convicted of first-degree murder that includes special circumstances, such as the killing of a police officer or one that is carried out for financial gain. It also would require that those currently serving a death sentence be resentenced to life without possibility of parole.
Tuesday's hearing, which state law requires lawmakers to hold to examine every ballot initiative, featured emotional testimony on both sides of the issue from families of murder victims.
The Marin Independent Journal columnist Dick Spotswood writes, "Time for Californians to end death penalty 'charade'."
CALIFORNIANS face a conundrum when it comes to felons sentenced to death for capital crimes. The death penalty remains on the books, but no one is ever executed.
In November's election, voters face Proposition 34, an initiative to abolish the death penalty and replace it with a sentence of life in prison without parole.
For practical, if not moral reasons, it's time for voters to end the charade and abolish capital punishment.
Of the Golden State's 58 counties, Marin has the most intimate relationship with the gas chamber. Due to an anomaly in California's constitution, all executions must take place at San Quentin.
Earlier coverage of Prop. 34, the SAFE California ballot initiative, begins at the link. More on Prop. 34 at SAFE Caliornia.
Judge Arthur L. Alarcón and law professor Paula M. Mitchell's latest Loyola Los Angeles Law Review article is, "Costs of Capital Punishment in California: Will Voters Choose Reform this November?" It's available in Adobe .pdf format at the link. You can also view the abstract.
Last year, Judge Alarcon and Mitchell wrote, "Executing the Will of the Voters: A Roadmap to Mend or End the California Legislature's Multi-Billion-Dollar Death Penalty Debacle," also for the Loyola Los Angeles Law Review. Coverage of the earlier Alarcon-Mitchell law review article is at the link.