Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Will Californians kill capital punishment?

California voters will be asked on November 6 whether to put an end to capital punishment in the state.
On the ballot will be Proposition 34, which, if approved, would rewrite the state's sentencing law as follows:
San Quentin death chamber
'Every person guilty of murder in the first degree shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for life without the possibility of parole, or imprisonment in the state prison for a term of 25 years to life.'
What's missing from that amendment is the word "death," current found between "by" and "imprisonment" in the sentence above, appearing at Cal. Penal Code § 190(a).
Our frequent posts on capital punishment have treated various concerns – legality, morality, workability. The findings of this proposition focus on cost – costs overall, and the cost of diverting money away from better-spent safety spending.
Perhaps no surprise there, given that Proposition 34's sponsored by the son of a legislator who sponsored a vast expansion of death penalty eligibility in the state. Examples, from § 3 of the ballot proposition:
'The people of the State of California declare their purpose and intent in enacting the act to be as follows:
'1. To get more murderers and rapists off the streets and to protect our families.
'2. To save the taxpayers $1 billion in five years so those dollars can be invested in local law enforcement, our children's schools, and services for the elderly and disabled.
'3. To use some of the savings from replacing the death penalty to create the SAFE California Fund, to provide funding for local law enforcement, specifically police departments, sheriffs, and district attorney offices, to increase the rate at which homicide and rape cases are solved.
'5. To require that persons convicted of murder with special circumstances remain behind bars for the rest of their lives, with mandatory work in a high-security prison, and that money earned be used to help victims through the victim's compensation fund.
'7. To end a costly and ineffective practice and free up law enforcement resources to keep our families safe.
In the runup to the vote on Prop 34 – which would commute the sentences of the more than 725 persons now on death row at San Quentin to life in prison without possibility of parole – California Lawyer's published a fascinating article on the history that brought the state to this moment. Well worth a read.
How will Californians vote?
Not clear, but close.
Polls currently place abolition at a disadvantage: on September 25 the authoritative Field Poll found that 42% of Californians approved the measure, 45% opposed it, and 13% were undecided. A USC/Los Angeles Times poll reported the same week that the Prop 34 "was trailing 51% to 38%," but that it "became a statistical dead heat once respondents were told the measure would require convicted killers to work while in prison, direct their earnings to their victims and earmark $100 million for police to solve murders and rapes."
Time will tell if cost-cutting kills capital punishment in California.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

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. Also, without the death penalty, the lack of incentive to plead the case to avoid the death penalty will lead to more trial and related costs and appeals.

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.

Efforts are also being made 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. On 9/30/12, Brown passed the first step, signing a bill to allow 309 inmates with life sentences for murder to be paroled after serving as little as 15 years. Life without parole is meaningless. Remember Charles Manson and Sirhan Sirhan. Convicted killers get out and kill again, such as 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