On  November 6th, 2012,  California voters will be presented with Proposition 34, which would end the state’s death penalty and instead require mandatory life sentences, without parole, for condemned inmates.

Specifically, Proposition 34 will:

  • Repeal the death penalty as maximum punishment for persons found guilty of murder and replace it with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
  • Apply retroactively to persons already sentenced to death. (725)
  • Require persons found guilty of murder to work while in prison, with their wages to be applied to any victim restitution fines or orders against them.
  • Create a $100 million fund to be distributed to law enforcement agencies to help solve more homicide and rape cases.

I have a friend who is dead set against this bill. He espouses the idea that death by injection as cruel and unusual punishment is “bull”. And, I agree. However, the people required to kill 725 people are civil servants who work for the system. The find it difficult to participate in killing another human being. Physicians find it difficult to administer death to a healthy person. Life in prison is by some estimates a harsher punishment than death. Over the years, I was  a supporter of the death penalty. The recent spate of people released from prison, and death row, across the country, found innocent of their crimes after yeas in prison, made me change my mind. Most of them were exonerated by DNA testing. The expense of the death penalty alone gives me pause. It costs more to follow the “safeguards” with appeals and extra legal maneuvering before a man is executed, a process that often takes years, than it is to keep him for life.  I think voters should approve Prop. 34, for all the reasons below:

The death penalty doesn’t work. It has been proven that it does not deter heinous crime, especially in the drug crazed world we now live in.

A crime carrying the death penalty isn’t qualified equally in communities around the state. It depends on a seated judge’s interpretation.  Juries are harder to seat when they are faced with the power to condemn a person to death which greatly adds to the cost of trials subject to the death penalty.

Proponents have spent years trying to speed up executions, including creating a Habeas Corpus Resource Center in 1998. And yet,  California has only executed 13 condemned murderers since 1992. More condemned men have died while waiting on death row than have been executed.

Supporters say California could institute laws for speedy executions as they do in Texas. But we’d do so risking the same kind of legal errors and unequal application that has tarnished Texas’ judicial system. Killing innocent people, does not go down well, nor should it happen.

Ending the death penalty would save California courts $50 million annually for appellate litigation according to Legislative Annalists.  My friend claims that is because attorneys  pad their fees and take advantage of the governments deep pockets. If that is true, more the reason to do without the death penalty. There is no doubt that money would be saved because in all respects, death penalty cases are much more expensive to put to trial.

And, in California, looming is an expensive upgrade to the death row at San Quentin.

Altogether, ending the death penalty would save California about $100 million in the first few years, and about $130 million in subsequent years, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office.

Under Proposition 34, the same prisoners  would be given jobs in prison, unless they posed too great a risk to be with the general population. Like other murderers, these inmates would have their pay deducted for any debts they owe to victims of crime.

Supporters of the death penalty say it is an affront to the families of victims to see these murderer’s live while their loved one died by those same hands. But how long must they wait when the system is not working? And, what guilt would they feel if the convicted man were executed and another inmate confessed to that crime sometime down the line, which has happened? Or, if DNA evidence proved him innocent after the execution?

How can we as humans, claim we abhor violence and then engage in it?

Manson, a heinous killer, is still in prison and routinely comes before a parole board and repeatedly, and endlessly (he complains) will be turned down. Prop. 34 would do away with those expensive hearings that come up every so many years, and the attorneys who represent them in these hearings. There are monsters in society and living with no hope of parole can allow the prisoner to accept his situation and engage in work that provides some small restitution to victims. It is simply more humane.

The Sacramento Bee made this point: If California were to implement life sentences with no possibility of parole, high-profile murderers such as Ramirez and Rhoades would no longer get the attention they crave and often receive on San Quentin’s death row.They’d live out their lonely days behind bars and die in relative obscurity. That would be a just end, and one that we all could count on.

I would add to that. No murderer should be allowed to make money on the sensationalism of his crime by publishing a book. He can write it, but he cannot publish it.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

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  1. The 729 on death row murdered at least 1,279 people, with 230 children. 43 were police officers. 211 were raped, 319 were robbed, 66 were killed in execution style, and 47 were tortured. 11 murdered other inmates.

    The arguments in support of Pro. 34, the ballot measure to abolish the death penalty, are exaggerated at best and, in most cases, misleading and false.

    No “savings.” Alleged savings ignore increased life-time medical costs for aging inmates and require decreased security levels and housing 2-3 inmates per cell rather than one. Rather than spending 23 hours/day in their cell, inmates will be required to work. These changes will lead to increased violence for other inmates and guards and prove unworkable for these killers.

    No “accountability.” Max earnings for any inmate would amount to $383/year (assuming 100% of earnings went to victims), divided by number of qualifying victims. Hardly accounts for murdering a loved one.

    No “full enforcement” as 729 inmates do not receive penalty given them by jurors. Also, for the 34,000 inmates serving life sentences, there will be NO increased penalty for killing a guard or another inmate. They’re already serving a life sentence.

    Liberals are also trying to get rid of life sentences. (Human Rights Watch, Old Behind Bars, 2012.) This would lead to possible paroles for not only the 729 on death row, but the 34,000 others serving life sentences. Remember Charles Manson, Sirhan Sirhan, Darryl Thomas Kemp, Kenneth Allen McDuff, and Bennie Demps?

    Arguments of innocence bogus. Can’t identify one innocent person executed in CA. Can’t
    identify one person on CA’s death row who has exhausted his appeals and has a plausible claim of innocence. See

    • 2gadabout

      Think about this: Some victims of crime are not interested in revenge. Revenge doesn’t make a dead person come alive. Punishment doesn’t either. I’m aware there are incorrigible monsters in prisons. The tools jailers have to keep those sociopaths from committing more crimes are pretty effective. Just today, a prisoner from Louisiana was released from death row on DNA evidence. Also, think about this: most crimes that have DNA evidence are sex crimes, rape, murder. There are others in jail for crimes they didn’t commit without DNA to exonerate them.
      No, an inmate doesn’t earn enough to make a dent in restitution to a victim. There is a principal of dignity and pride here that acknowledges humanity, asking for forgiveness; and hoping to be able to forgive himself for the horrible thing he has done. It is something human that can’t be measured in bucks.
      Prisons keep a shocking number of people from working and providing for their families and paying taxes. Once they have a record, they rarely ever get another decent job. It is stacked against them. Again, words from a Captain in the Sheriff’s Department who recognized, we actually condemn a man for life for a burglary.
      How can a society expect to have civil people come out of prison, or how can a punishment system expect to rehabilitate criminals when we treat them inhumanely, lock them up and throw away the key. Especially when everyone knows the system is not just, it is a rabbit hole where people are treated like human refuse. The system isn’t working. The death penalty does not deter crime. And, again, yes, aging criminals are a huge expense and the human rights watch is right to get old people who are no longer a danger to anyone out from behind prison walls where we taxpayers don’t have to pay their medical bills. Human Rights Watch is not interested in getting people on death row released. We have 5% of the world’s population but 24 % of the worlds prisoners. Something is very much out of kilter. And killing people while we find out what works best, doesn’t seem to me to be the answer. People of color are especially targeted, profiled, whatever you want to call it, and unfairly treated by police. I come from a law enforcement family and I recently had a retired Sheriff’s Officer tell me, “…the whole Oakland Police Department was just one big Ku Klux Klan. Is it any wonder black people are mistrusting, have records and spend so much time in jail, away from their families. They were victimized by the very people who were supposed to protect them.”

  2. Randy

    Good arguments—very persuasive—especially the financial savings.

  3. I am a European citizen and we do not have death penalty. I have some friends who actually support it but I am totally against it. I understand victims’ families want to see killers dead, but aren’t their emotions affecting their good judgment? They are blaming the killer for killing, so is it logical and right to punish him/her with a death sentence? This matter is delicate, but as you said, innocent people have died, and with death penalty we’re turning several citizens into killers because someone has to lead the process – someone has to condemn to death, someone has to support, someone produces the letal injection, and someone has to kill. People can whether choose to go for revenge or be rational and be as ethical as possible. I stand for ethics.

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