San Diego, California, it's almost that time of year...to end all the political advertisements on the television and radio, in the newspapers and magazines, and, of course, in all those mailings. Yes, on Tuesday, November 6th, it will be your time to vote!
Although I usually don't use this blog to talk about politics, and your personal politics are not an issue for this posting, I do want to take a few minutes to discuss a ballot measure that I think is very important to us as citizens and for myself as a criminal defense attorney. If you don't think voting for our President of the United States or the Mayor of San Diego is enough reason to get to the polls next week, consider the implications of Proposition 34, the death penalty initiative.
California has had the death penalty reinstated on the books since 1978. There hasn't been an execution in California in over six years; however, we continue to house more than 700 people on death row as they wait for their supposed execution by the California Department of Corrections. The reality is the day will never come, or if it does, it will take 20-25 years and lots of money to get there. The reason for this is the many legal processes that are in place in an attempt to ensure that the convicted are afforded all protections so as to not execute an innocent person because there is no turning back once that switch is flipped.
Reality tells us that these safeguards are proper and must remain in place. After all, since 1973, the Innocence Project statistics show 141 death row inmates have been exonerated due to new evidence and/or new science that ultimately proved the inmate was actually innocent of the crimes he had been condemned to die for.
With all this aside, even if you don't care about the numbers above, you have to look at the death penalty and all that it costs the taxpayers and the end result you achieve by keeping it on the books. It is estimated that $4 billion has been spent on capital punishment since it's reinstatement. According to the Huffington Post, one California study estimated that the 13 executions that were carried out here cost an average of $308 million each. This is up to 20 times of the cost of a life without parole (LWOP) case.
With California being severely affected by the financial debacle in the past few years, the criminal justice system has been hit very hard. In San Diego alone, there has been unprecedented cutbacks including numerous courtroom closures and shorted business hours at the courthouses. The effect has led to a strategic nightmare for defendants and the convicted as they try to navigate through the criminal justice system that is slowly grinding to a halt.
By voting YES on Proposition 34, California will repeal the death penalty. In turn, our state would potentially save millions to billions of dollars which we desperately can use for other programs and government services. And, the goal, getting a serious, violent offender off the streets for life, would still be achieved. After all, life without the possibility of parole means the convicted would not be able to ever live outside the prison walls, unless he is able to successfully challenge his conviction.
It is my hope that on Tuesday, when the votes are counted, the citizens of California vote YES ON PROPOSITION 34 and the death penalty is officially repealed!
Other Internet Cite: USA Today: "Fate of Death Penalty Could Rest on Calif. Voters"