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.