September 21, 2012 http://www.vcstar.com
Proposition 34 on the Nov. 6 ballot would repeal the death penalty in California and replace it with life imprisonment without possibility of parole.
The Star recommends a yes vote.
The policy change would save the state and counties more than $1 billion during the next 10 years, and the savings would be larger in the future, according to the state’s independent, nonpartisan Legislative Analyst.
On an annual basis, the savings would start at around $100 million in each of the first few years and grow to roughly $130 million a year, the Legislative Analyst estimated. Also, Proposition 34 would provide a total of $100 million over the next four years for law enforcement agencies to investigate homicide and rape cases.
For the initiative to pass, it must be approved by a majority of voters. Californians on each side of the death-penalty debate hold strong opinions and understandably so.
The Star has traditionally opposed capital punishment believing that it is unevenly administered and disproportionately applied to minorities. DNA evidence, which has resulted in death-row inmates being exonerated, also proves that mistakes can be made.
In reality, few of those sentenced to death are executed. Since 1978, when the current death-penalty law was enacted, about 900 people have been sentenced to death in California. Fourteen of them were executed.
Six times as many — a total of 83 convicts — died before they could be executed.
Meanwhile, as of July, 725 criminals were in state prison with death sentences, at considerable cost to taxpayers. (If Proposition 34 passes, their sentences will change to life without possibility of parole.)
The costs include higher state and county expenses associated with death-penalty murder trials, heightened security procedures for death-row convicts, and mandatory and unavoidable court appeals that stretch over many years in most death-penalty cases.
Besides the enormous cost, the practical effect of these lengthy delays has been to reduce the death penalty in California to a myth. It exists in name only. The billions of taxpayer dollars spent over the past decades only kept a broken system limping along and preserved the illusion of capital punishment.
From The Star’s perspective, Proposition 34 offers a more practical alternative. If it passes, the worst felons would be sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole. They would be required to work in prison and make payments to victims of crime, though nothing can make up for a heinous crime — not cash payments, not life in prison, and not even execution.
But this way, at least there would be the certainty that heinous killers will die in prison, instead of making victims’ families suffer for decades in California’s grotesque charade about executions that probably won’t occur at all.
That’s the reality of the situation in California today. It’s time to admit this expensive system isn’t working. The Star recommends voting yes on Proposition 34.