Should we abolish the death penalty in California? (Now with POLL.)




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CA Lethal injection

With the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 split vote on refusing to “stay” the execution of convicted killer Humberto Garcia, even after president Obama interceded, the state of Texas carried out the execution of this illegal resident who raped and murdered a 16 year old girl in 1994.

Mr. Garcia has lived in the US since he was two years old. His attorney’s had 15 years after his conviction in which to address any legal failure relating to contact with the Mexican Consulate regarding any International Treaty obligations on his behalf. Let’s not overlook the 16 year old girl whom he brutally raped and murdered.

At this point I will not open the door discussing the trial of Casey Anthony in Orlando that just concluded with a not guilty verdict.

While this Texas execution is fresh I am aware of a current effort in the California legislature to abolish our death penalty. (D) Senator Loni Hancock has introduced SB 900. Bill link follows below.

Looking out my rear view mirror I read that Prop 7, approved by voters on November 7, 1978 “provided for the imposition of the death penalty for murder in the first degree if certain special circumstances are proved.”

Reading from SB 490’s Legislative Counsel’s Digest it states “This bill would abolish the death penalty, and provide instead for imprisonment in the state prison for life without the possibility of parole.”

How many of us remember CA Chief Justice Rose Bird? The 25th Chief Justice of the CA Supreme Court, Rose Elizabeth Bird, was appointed by non other than governor Jerry Brown in 1977 . At the time she was the first woman member of the CA Supreme Court. She is most famous for having voted to overturn the death penalty 61 times in all 61 cases being decided. Chief Justice Bird was defeated in the 1986 election due in part to her failure to carry out the wishes of the jury in those cases.

As I read the proposed bill text I must question some of the facts as presented. i.e. Californians have spent more than $4 billion on capital punishment since it was reinstated in 1978, or about $308 million for each of the 13 executions carried out since reinstatement. Without Rose Bird perhaps we might have had a larger number of executions carried out which would have reduced the average cost per execution.

It is reported that for those on death row we spend an additional $90,000 each per year.
With inmates awaiting their executions for upwards of 25 years perhaps we need to accelerate the appeal process. Flipping the coin should we keep them in prison cells for life, rather than carrying out executions in a reasonable timeframe, that cost differential will surely change.
Note: As of Jan 1, 2010 we had 697 prisoners on death row in our state.

SB 490. Reading from “SEC.7. (b) In any case where a defendant or inmate was sentenced to death prior to the date of the enactment of this act, upon voter approval of this act, the sentence of each defendant or inmate shall automatically be converted to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole under the terms and conditions of this act.”
Therefore, should this bill make it to the governors desk and be chartered criminals who have murdered peace officers or firemen, witnesses, prosecutors, judges or former judges, or elected and appointed officials who are killed in performing their duties, will not be subject to execution.

OK readers. It’s your turn. Should we retain or eliminate the death penalty in our state?

About Larry Gilbert