California Vote on Death Penalty

I have migrated from being a death penalty hawk 30 years ago to being against the death penalty.  In short,  if I don't trust the government to be able to make decisions on alternate fuel loans, I don't trust them to make life and death decisions.  I grew up in Texas where governors in political races would compete with one another on who has or promises to execute the most people.  Literally they were running on body counts.  This is not an environment conducive to good decision-making.

Further, the death penalty does too much to cut off one's full appeal rights.  A black man in Mississippi in 1965 was never going to get his full Constitutional appeal rights.  Men have been executed that later improvements in racial tolerance or DNA evidence might have exonerated.

Apparently, some of the original supporters of California's death penalty expansion in the 1970's* are now promoting its repeal, and are trying to woo other Conservatives to the cause

Thirty-four years later, another initiative is going on the California ballot, this time to repeal the death penalty and replace it with mandatory life without parole. And two of its biggest advocates are Ron Briggs and Mr. Heller, who are trying to reverse what they have come to view as one of the biggest mistakes of their lives.

Partly, they changed their minds for moral reasons. But they also have a political argument to make.

“At the time, we were of the impression that it would do swift justice, that it would get the criminals and murderers through the system quickly and apply them the death penalty,” Mr. Briggs, 54, said over tea in the kitchen at his 100-acre farm in this Gold Rush town, where he grows potatoes, peppers, melons, cherries and (unsuccessfully, so far) black Périgord truffles.

“But it’s not working,” he said. “My dad always says, admit the obvious. We started with 300 on death row when we did Prop 7, and we now have over 720 — and it’s cost us $4 billion. I tell my Republican friends, ‘Close your eyes for a moment. If there was a state program that was costing $185 million a year and only gave the money to lawyers and criminals, what would you do with it?’ ”

*For those who did not live through the 1970's, it is hard to describe how much the culture was absolutely steeped in the notion that city streets were Road Warrior-esque free-fire crime zones.  The Dirty Harry movies, the Charles Bronson vigilante movies, Escape from New York, the Warriors, etc. etc all promoted this notion that we were too soft on crime and that we had allowed criminals to run wild.

  • http://tjic.com TJIC

    > I have migrated from being a death penalty hawk 30 years ago to being against the death penalty. In short, if I don’t trust the government to be able to make decisions on alternate fuel loans, I don’t trust them to make life and death decisions.

    Same here, for the exact same reasons.

  • me

    That last paragraph sums up in a nutshell all there is to know about the republicans I love - a tendency towards "realpolitik". Too bad there are so many who don't get this (and, just for the sake of completeness, don't get me started on democrats. US politics has reached the state where I'd seriously welcome a dadaist party as a real improvement).

  • chuck martel

    No government at any level should have the power to compel seat belt usage, handicapped parking or barber licensing, much less the death penalty.

  • Mark2

    People get the death penalty in California? They do a few token executions. Most death row inmates in CA die of old age.

    Yes now the liberal trope about death penalty is that it is too costly. Like liberals ever want to cut a government program.

    That said, I do think we are too tough on many crimes. You get into a bar fight and someone dies - you shouldn't get life, esp since 20 years later most people get much more mellow.

    But shoot the people they have been putting to death really deserve it - We don't have Louisiana justice.

  • Henry Bowman

    ...The Dirty Harry movies, the Charles Bronson vigilante movies, Escape from New York, the Warriors, etc. etc all promoted this notion that we were too soft on crime and that we had allowed criminals to run wild.

    I agree with your general thesis, but this statement is mostly irrelevant insofar as the death penalty is concerned. We probably were too soft on crime (at least violent crime) in the 1970s and 1980s. But, that doesn't have much to do with the death penalty in most cases.

  • http://classicjapanesesongs.blogspot.com Brandon Berg

    The violent crime rate actually did more than triple from 1960 to 1980. No doubt the media were exaggerating, but the trend was real. After twenty years of falling crime, the pendulum is starting to swing back the other way, and I wouldn't be surprised to see at least a partial rollback of the death penalty and concealed carry laws in the near future.

  • el coronado

    Leaving aside the right-or-wrongness of the death penalty, let's look again for a moment at what Briggs said: (paraphrase) "We had 300 guys on death row and now we got 720, and it's cost us $4,000,000,000."

    4 *Billion* bucks to feed, house, guard & litigate against 420 extra guys. Even allowing for that $4 billion # to be the tab for the whole 30 years, that still runs to around $317,000/inmate year. Are you freakin' kidding me?? Before Cali gets around to saying "no" on the death penalty, they'd *better* get someone with the stones to say "no, we're gonna do it cheaper than that - a LOT cheaper, in fact."

    But then, it IS California.....and "no" IS such a *negative* word....it creates a totally bogus energy, dude. Besides, it's not like it's *their* money the legislators are pissing away, right?

  • ErisGuy

    I grew up in Texas where governors in political races would compete with one another on who has or promises to execute the most people. Literally they were running on body counts.

    Disgusting, wasn't it? Watching Dolph Briscoe, Preston Smith, Ann Richards in a competition to execute the most criminals was awful. Richards won the election by promising to execute 2,000 rapists. Didn't do it, of course.

    we had allowed criminals to run wild

    We had. Kenneth Allen McDuff, one of those criminals who the governors promised to execute, was set free to murder at least six more women. This example can be easily multiplied, even for California. There is a woman living on an island in Puget Sound. She has no hands. She was kidnapped, raped and left for dead after being mutilated. The criminal who did this, instead of being executed, was sentenced to a couple of decades, then let free early for good behavior. His next victim did not survive. When caught the second time, the DA announced, "now we have him." He should have been dead after the first time. What kind of "justice" system lets men who rape and mutilate sixteen-year-old girls live?

    A black man in Mississippi in 1965

    Good point. I'd hate to be a "white hispanic" in Florida right now. Or anytime. Justice cannot be had when someone not of the criminal's race is on the jury, at least according to modern theories.

    I don’t trust the government to be able to make decisions on alternate fuel loans, I don’t trust them to make life and death decisions

    Keep going. Eventually you won't trust them to make decisions on who to imprison, who to fine, or who to tax.

  • IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States

    >>> “But it’s not working,” he said. “My dad always says, admit the obvious. We started with 300 on death row when we did Prop 7, and we now have over 720 — and it’s cost us $4 billion. I tell my Republican friends, ‘Close your eyes for a moment. If there was a state program that was costing $185 million a year and only gave the money to lawyers and criminals, what would you do with it?’ ”

    LOL, noting that the government is pretty incompetent at spending money effectively in pursuit of a goal is a pretty lame reason to support changing it in a way that won't affect that.

    The government will still keep these prisoners just as ineffectively, allow any number of them to escape here and there, and still gain nothing whatsoever for it.

    "It doesn't do any good?" Really? Name one executed murderer who ever killed again.

    Because, really, the only ones who should be getting the death penalty are ones who have a substantial chance of recidivism. A one-off murderer should generally not be on death row, with a few possible exceptions involving torture, rape, and murder most foul.

    There are people who the world would be better off without. It's pretty hard to believe that anyone has a hard time figuring out that there are some who might inarguably be in that category by their actions.

    Sorry, if you're having a hard time pushing the button on a convicted child molester and murderer who there is not the slightest bit of doubt about being guilty -- move aside, I'll happily push it in your stead.

  • IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States

    >>> We started with 300 on death row when we did Prop 7, and we now have over 720

    And in that same time frame -- since the early 1970s to now the incarceration rate per 100k people has gone from 200 to 900. So the number of people on death row has increased by only 2.4x, while the overall incarceration rate has increased by 4.5x?

    So, the question really is -- Why aren't there MORE people on Death Row?

    Yeah, yeah, don't correct or argue with the above, it's a specious argument BOTH times, pro AND con. I only offer it to show how ridiculously stupid the statistic is.
    ;-)

  • IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States

    Oh, and the US population has gone from 220-odd million since 1975 to 310-odd million now, roughly a 50% increase....

    Might be a teeeensy bit of relevance, there, on that death row statistic, too.

  • IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States

    >>> After twenty years of falling crime, the pendulum is starting to swing back the other way

    Present company failing to grasp the rather obvious, I point out that there might be causation to go with that correlation... :-S

    NAAAWWWWWW.... we have a much more respectful and considerate generation coming up behind us now, not a generation of pandered child-adults with a sense of privilege and lack of self-responsibility that might lead to a massive increase in crime if we relax our standards.

    Naawwwww.... Ain't gonna happen.

    Ow! It hurts when my eyes roll back in my head that far!

  • Doug

    Notorious killer Charles Manson was denied parole today after a California parole board noted that he recently bragged to a prison psychologist, "I am a very dangerous man." Manson, now a gray haired 77, was denied parole for the 12th time. He is serving a life sentence for seven murders in the 1969 "Helter Skelter" killing spree in Los Angeles.

    "This panel can find nothing good as far as suitability factors go," said John Peck, a member of the panel that met at Corcoran State Prison in central California for the hearing, according to a pool report from the Associated Press.

    Peck read aloud some comments Manson had recently said to one of his prison psychologists. "I'm special. I'm not like the average inmate," Peck read. "I have spent my life in prison. I have put five people in the grave. I am a very dangerous man."
    ========
    Yeah, let's keep this one alive. Who are we to say he's guilty or dangerous to others?

  • DoctorT

    Like Warren Meyer, I wavered about the death penalty. Now I'm in favor of death penalty sentences. Not because I trust our governments to be scrupulous about evidence and apply the penalty appropriately, but because people given the death sentence are more likely to get their cases reviewed and get inappropriate convictions overturned. Scores of death row inmates have been released after evidentiary reviews, but few people who were wrongly convicted and sentenced to lesser penalties have gotten their cases reviewed. Prosecutorial malfeasance covers the entire spectrum of convictions, not just first degree murder.

    I'm truly in favor of the death penalty in one circumstance: for a prosecutor or law enforcement agent who deliberately hides evidence, alters evidence, ignores evidence, suborns perjory, etc. and gets a conviction of someone who wasn't guilty. Killing a few immoral prosecutors or cops will greatly reduce wrongful convictions.

  • Vilmos

    I do support the death penalty but very differently than most people. In some sense, I agree with DoctorT.

    I don't support it against criminals. Yes, it is better to keep a hundred bad people alive than to execute an innocent one.

    But I do support the death penalty against those in authority, who with their egregious abuse of power, undermine society's trust in the authorities. While I want as little authority as possible, I do want to be able to trust them. Surely there are screw-ups, but if I feel they honestly try to solve them, then trust is not lost. Then all we have are some snafus. But trying to cover-up for example when cops murder an innocent man (Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver Airport) is unacceptable. My problem is not mainly with the cops who killed him but those up in the chain who tried to suppress the video evidence. Those are the ones who undermined the public' trust in the authorities.

    Vilmos

  • http://harqueb.us Mike S

    "We started with 300 on death row when we did Prop 7, and we now have over 720 — and it’s cost us $4 billion."

    Meaningless statistic. As others have pointed out, overall prison population has increased too.

    How many convicts have been executed over that time? How much would it have cost to house, feed, and provide healthcare for them?

    How long is an average death row trip, and how much does it cost? How much does it cost to care for a convict for the rest of his life? Is death row incarceration inherently more expensive than non-death row incarceration?

    But turning it into a cost argument avoids the core issue: there are crimes for which the only acceptable restitution is the life of the transgressor.

    End the drug war and free all those non-violent offenders, replace jail time for most offenses with requiring the criminal to provide restitution to the victim, and require the death penalty for capital crimes.

    The money we save on the first two reforms would easily pay for the latter.

  • Bertha Minerva

    ErisGuy nails it. Coyote is well on the to changing my mind about the death penalty, but thinking that a Kenneth McDuff might get out of prison and go on to torture and kill more victims is the only thing that keeps me slightly on the pro-death-penalty side.

    If life without parole for the criminals with a high chance of recidivism (to rephrase IGotBupkis's point) REALLY meant they wouldn't get out to kill again, I'd be quite happy to see the death penalty abolished.

  • Doug

    Another "innocent man" set to meet his maker in FLA: http://tinyurl.com/786chkk

  • IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States

    >>> Another “innocent man” set to meet his maker in FLA: http://tinyurl.com/786chkk

    Yeah, Gore is the poster child for the whole problem here. While I more than amply concur that full and total effort should be made to establish the guilt or innocence -- even after the trial -- of someone sentenced to death, WTF is the question here?

    **Really**.

    He doesn't deny he did it, he took authorities to the grave sites of other victims, and it's clear beyond any possible rational doubt he's a serial rapist and murderer. Even if he is totally insane and "not responsible", it's still merely a matter of society putting a mad dog to sleep.

    I don't believe in the death penalty for revenge's sake -- though it may provide succor for the victim's family, I would support it regardless of anything it provided that way. It should be done as painlessly and quietly and easily as possible. Because anything else lowers society down to the murderer's level.

    It should not take freaking 25+ years to finish this job. It makes a total mockery of the legal system.

  • IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States

    http://www.gainesville.com/article/20120316/WIRE/120319678?tc=obinsite

    Fry the fuckers. I don't see how anyone can read about this crap, and, assuming it's even vaguely accurate, not want this scum removed from the face of the earth. Not for revenge, just because the people in question aren't eligible for the term "human". You cannot do this and be a human. You are at best a mad dog that needs to be put to sleep, as quickly as reasonably possible.