If Dorner didn’t die (and is later caught), we can be sure that one or more district attorneys will seek to have him executed. And thus the nation would be forced to confront one of the biggest fiascoes in the American legal system—the death penalty in California.
It’s possible for reasonable people to hold differing opinions on the death penalty. (Over the years, I’ve had several different ones myself.) But what’s going on in California represents the worst of all worlds—a massively expensive Potemkin operation in which hundreds of people are sentenced to death and no one is ever executed.
There are several reasons that the system in California has ground to a halt. The 1978 voter initiative that restored the death penalty sent all appeals directly to the California Supreme Court, bypassing the intermediate appeals courts. This has created a huge backlog at the state’s highest court. Moreover, challenges to the method of execution have led to a de facto moratorium on executions since 2006. That impasse continues.
The root of the problem, in California and elsewhere, is that, as the Supreme Court has often said, death is different. The finality of capital punishment requires special safeguards against errors in the judicial process. But if a state takes those safeguards seriously, as California does, the process can become never-ending. Death-row exonerations, through DNA evidence and other means, have provoked even greater scrutiny of the cases of those who remain. And the state’s oxymoronical quest to kill people in a humane fashion turns out to be difficult indeed. All of this leads to delay.
Earlier coverage from California begins at the link.