An eye-for-eye and tooth-for-tooth would lead to a world of the blind and toothless.–Book of Exodus [21:24]
By Doug Porter
Both points of view regarding the death penalty managed to get a measure on the November ballot.
Prop 62 will eliminate the death penalty. Prop 66 will streamline the process of executing people. If both pass, the measure with the most votes will supersede the other.
In a perfect world, there could be a discussion about the advisability of government sanctioned executions involving actual facts and figures. We won’t see much of that sort of thing this fall.
The death penalty is an emotional issue. Facts matter much less than fear.
It doesn’t matter that murder rates in non-death penalty states are consistently lower than those with the death penalty. Or that a recent survey of criminologists by the University of Colorado found that 88% of criminologists believed that the death penalty does not act as a deterrent for future crimes.
The Golden State houses the largest death row population in the Western hemisphere. It costs taxpayers eighteen times more to house a prisoner on death row than life in prison without parole. African Americans and Latinos make up 67% of those on death row. Sixty-six people convicted of murder in California have had their murder convictions overturned because new evidence proved they were innocent.
The one fact everybody does agree on is that California’s system for state-sponsored executions is broken.
Prop 62 addresses this by replacing the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole. Opponents say the system has been sabotaged by do-gooders and a faster track system (Prop 66) is what’s needed.
We’re seeing see a parade of victims, or the relatives of victims arguing for capital punishment on the media. (And a few against.) We’ll be told that justice won’t served until the perpetrators of heinous crimes are dead and gone. We get reminded often in opposition arguments about the gory details of those on death row.
Former Gov. Pete Wilson heads up the list of people opposing repeal. County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis is also on that list.
Police and District Attorneys pretty much all love the death penalty, and it shows when you look at who’s supporting or opposing each proposition. They see close-up the agony of victims and the senseless brutality of the street. This shapes –and some would say warps– their perspective.
Law enforcement’s political tentacles are deeply embedded in the community. A loyal reader alerted me to a Facebook discussion this morning about how neighborhood watch captains in the City of San Diego are using their positions to advocate against sentencing reform (Prop 57- opposed by Mayor Faulconer) and marijuana legalization (Prop 64 – opposed by SDPD Chief Zimmerman).
Don Heller, the guy who wrote California’s 1978 death penalty law, and Ron Briggs, who led the political effort to get it enacted, have both changed sides and now support Proposition 62. The coalition supporting repeal includes labor, faith-based, civil rights and liberal groups.
Early polling (see below) predicts neither this measure nor Prop 66 will pass.
So I have a suggestion for a sure-fire ballot measure for 2018 to end the logjam: Let the prosecuting DA be the executioner. However, if the person killed is exonerated, the prosecutor is guilty of capital murder and in turn faces the death penalty.
For More Information
Ballot Language – DEATH PENALTY. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
Repeals death penalty and replaces it with life imprisonment without possibility of parole. Applies retroactively to existing death sentences. Increases the portion of life inmates’ wages that may be applied to victim restitution. Fiscal Impact: Net ongoing reduction in state and county criminal justice costs of around $150 million annually within a few years, although the impact could vary by tens of millions of dollars depending on various factors.
A YES vote would: make the most serious penalty available a prison term of life without the possibility of parole. Offenders who are currently under a sentence of death would be resentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
A NO vote would: allow certain offenders convicted for first-degree murder to be sentenced to death. There would be no change for offenders currently under a sentence of death.
Polling: A USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times taken in early September indicated 51% of voters would oppose Prop 62, 40% would support and 8% were undecided.
A Faster Death Penalty, That’s the Ticket(?)
The moral arguments for and against Proposition 66 are mirror images of those on Prop 62, so I’ll just enumerate the specifics as told in the ballot argument, written by Jackie Lacey, District Attorney of Los Angeles County, Kermit Alexander, a family member of a multiple homicide crime, and Shawn Welch, President of the Contra Costa County Deputy Sheriffs Association.
- All state appeals should be limited to 5 years.
- Every murderer sentenced to death will have their special appeals lawyer assigned immediately. Currently, it can be five years or more before they are even assigned a lawyer.
- The pool of available lawyers to handle these appeals will be expanded.
- The trial courts who handled the death penalty trials and know them best will deal with the initial appeals.
- The State Supreme Court will be empowered to oversee the system and ensure appeals are expedited while protecting the rights of the accused.
- The State Corrections Department (Prisons) will reform death row housing; taking away special privileges from these brutal killers and saving millions
Much of what Prop 66 proposes to do (or undo) will inevitably be challenged in court. The part about expanding the pool of available lawyers alone will generate Federal court cases based on the question of competent representation, which even the current US Supreme Court has expressed concerns about.
They’ll be lucky to see appeals on Prop 66 resolved within the time frame they propose for death penalty convictions. And the time limit imposed on appeals applies only to state courts.
No major newspaper (as of this writing) in the State of California has editorialized against eliminating the death penalty (Prop 62) or in favor Prop 66’s proposal to streamline the process.
Here’s the San Francisco Chronicle:
“Californians have been offered two options on the Nov. 8 ballot to “fix” a system of capital punishment that all sides agree has produced enormous legal bills, no semblance of deterrence to would-be murderers and too little justice to victims’ loved ones over the past four decades. … The other, Prop. 66, proposes a highly complex, probably very expensive and constitutionally questionable scheme for streamlining the appeals process in hopes of shaving years off the timeline between conviction and execution. Even the most ardent advocates of capital punishment should be wary of the promises in Prop. 66. Its core time-saving provisions would reduce the number of habeas petitions and tighten the deadlines for filing (within one year of acquiring an attorney) and resolving appeals (within five years). In so doing, it brushes aside the legal and practical realities in the way of achieving any time savings.”
For More Information
Ballot Language – DEATH PENALTY. PROCEDURES. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
Changes procedures governing state court challenges to death sentences. Designates superior court for initial petitions and limits successive petitions. Requires appointed attorneys who take noncapital appeals to accept death penalty appeals. Exempts prison officials from existing regulation process for developing execution methods. Fiscal Impact: Unknown ongoing impact on state court costs for processing legal challenges to death sentences. Potential prison savings in the tens of millions of dollars annually.
A YES vote would: change court procedures for legal challenges to death sentences, such as time limits on those challenges and revised rules to increase the number of available attorneys for those challenges. Condemned inmates could be housed at any state prison.
A NO vote would: mean no changes to the state’s current court procedures for legal challenges to death sentences. The state would still be limited to housing condemned inmates only at certain state prisons.
Polling :The Field Poll/IGS Poll taken in September indicated 35% of voters supported Prop 66, 23% opposed and 42% were undecided.
For information on the November 2016 General Election, see our San Diego 2016 Progressive Voter Guide
Other San Diego Free Press coverage of the 2016 general election.
Tomorrow: Prop 63. Ammopalousa! The commies are coming for your guns, says the NRA. We’ll be writing about various state and local contests Monday-Friday for the next week.
Weekly Progressive Calendar: Upcoming in San Diego
Get your event listed: I try to list the next 10 days or so of mostly non-commercial events I think our readers might find of interest. I source my material from social media listings and press releases. In cases where there are competing but similar events or campaigns of the progressive persuasion, I do my best to list everything.
Play Reading/Talk Back on Domestic Violence
Friday, October 7, 7pm
First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego
4190 Front Street (Hillcrest)
Info & Updates
Before the days of Phil Donahue or Oprah, no one talked about domestic abuse or self-esteem — it was a private and embarrassing subject. Linda, a young newlywed, is so in love with her husband Larry that she believes him when he tells her everything is her fault. The two of them are back in their home state of Ohio, but Linda has no friends and no one to talk to since her family moved to California. Each time there is an “incident” she continues to stand by her man and wait for a better day. What other choice does she have? Finally, she reaches her limit and fights back. But at what cost to her?
Award-winning playwright Simons brings her cast of actors to read her play SILENCE IS NOT GOLDEN followed by a talk-back led by Lt. Misty Cedrun, San Diego Domestic Violence Unit & Family Justice Center and Alejandra Aguilar, Prevention, Education & Advocacy Services Director, Center for Community Solutions. To RSVP email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 619-466-5952.
Fall Fest 2016
Sunday, October 9, 5:30pm
Che Café Collective
1000 Scholars Dr, La Jolla, (UCSD)
Info & Updates
Welcome back to UCSD! We got a heavy lineup of student bands and artists so DON’T MISS THIS!!
UCSD Students free with ID. All else $5 cover. Or volunteer and get in for free!
Che Cafe is a safe(r), sober space. We ask that you respect our space and everyone in it. This include the surrounding garden and woods. Leave the drugs and alcohol at home. Be kind in the space!
No Way to Treat a Child: Youth Imprisonment in Palestine and US
Sunday, October 9, 1:30pm
Malcolm X Library
5148 Market Street
Info & Updates
The San Diego chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace is excited to announce our upcoming event titled “No Way to Treat a Child: Occupation, Youth Imprisonment and Mass Incarceration in Palestine and the US”.
The event is being held in conjunction with the No Way to Treat a Child campaign, which is headed by Defense for Children International Palestine and the American Friends Service Committee. The campaign seeks to challenge Israel’s prolonged military occupation of Palestinians by exposing widespread and systematic ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system.
Event co-sponsors are San Diego Public Library, American Friends Service Committee, Amnesty International, All of Us or None – San Diego, Council on American-Islamic Relations – San Diego, and Students Against Mass Incarceration-UCSD.
Candidate Forum: SD City Attorney & City Council District 9
Wednesday, October 12, 6:30pm
East African Cultural Community Center
4061 Fairmount Ave. (City Heights)
Info & Updates
On Wednesday, October 12, from 7-8:30pm, the National Action Network – San Diego and Women Occupy San Diego are cohosting a candidates’ forum for City Attorney and City Council District 9, focusing on police accountability, racial justice and criminal justice issues. All four candidates have confirmed their participation: Mara Elliott and Robert Hickey for City Attorney; and Ricardo Flores and Georgette Gomez for City Council District 9.
Moderating the Forum will be Kelly Davis, a freelance journalist whose work has included investigations into the high rate of deaths in San Diego County jails and conditions in county juvenile detention facilities. She’s written extensively about how law enforcement interacts with mentally ill individuals and was a 2015 John Jay/Langeloth health and criminal justice reporting fellow.
Sips & Civility: November Propositions Party
Wednesday, October 12, 6pm
Downtown San Diego Public Library
330 Park Blvd.
Hosted by the League of Women Voters
Info & Updates
Don’t get spooked by the number of propositions on this November’s ballot! Join us for our final Sips & Civility of 2016 and learn about some of the most confusing propositions you’ll face at the ballot box.
As always, we will have beer, wine, and snacks to scare away your fears and plenty of time for asking questions and enjoying civil political discussion.
*BRING: your sample ballots and/or mail in ballots and vote along with the conversation*
Don’t let parking frighten you: Free 2 hour parking is available underneath the library with validation. Must be 21+ with a valid ID to enjoy beer and wine. Find us on the 9th floor; Shiley Events Suite.
All-In for CPI Labor & Lawyers Tournament
Go “All-In for CPI” and join us for our 1st Annual Texas Hold ‘Em Poker Tournament!
We are joining with our brothers and sisters in the Labor movement and the great legal minds of San Diego for a night of gaming and fun in support of CPI, our region’s progressive policy think tank.
$50 buy-in with the opportunity to win an array of prizes. $25 spectator ticket.
All tickets include food. Buy-in gets you into the tournament, but we’ll have roulette and black jack for additional fun!
Matt Haeck Concert
The Grassroots Oasis is very pleased to welcome Nashville Americana artist Matt Haeck back to San Diego, where he got his start in music! Matt’s debut album, Late Bloomer features The Avett Brothers’ Paul Defiglia, Old Crow Medicine Show’s Critter Fuqua, Caitlin Rose, Elizabeth Cook, and more.
Matt Haeck comes by his contradictions honestly. Scrappy with a genuine, lyrical voice, he sings truths hard-earned from struggles most men twice his age haven’t seen. Born in Barbados, West Indies to missionary parents, he was introduced to music through hymns. While working on a Master Of Divinity to become a pastor, he fell out of love with theology and religion and decided to pursue music instead.
He began falling into addiction for the next four years with phases of pills, cocaine and alcohol. Entering rehab, only to relapse two months later, he then fell into the most hellish year of his life, at the end of which, he moved to Indianapolis to enter a yoga recovery program. It was during this time that he began crafting the songs of Late Bloomer, shortly moving back to Nashville, having been cast in Studio Tenns critically-acclaimed stage production The Hank Legacy and subsequently, The Cash Legacy.
Black Panthers of Southern California in Action: Panel
Monday, October 17, 3pm
Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union
San Diego State University
Info & Updates
Panelists explore the Black Panthers, their connections and impacts. Original Black Panthers, historians, members of related organizations including MEChA and Black Lives Matter reflect on history and outcomes. A Common Experience and One SDSU Community event co-sponsored by the Library. Free and open to the public.
- Henry Wallace, former San Diego Black Panther
- Roberta Alexander, former Oakland Black Panther
- Mychal Odom, Black History professor, Mesa College
- Arturo Casares, MEChA veteran and associate of the Brown Berets
- Melina Abdullah, Ph.D., Pan-African Studies faculty at CSU Los Angeles and #BlackLivesMatter organizer
- Antwanisha Alameen-Shavers, Ph.D. SDSU Africana Studies (moderator)
On This Day: 1946 – Hollywood’s “Battle of the Mirrors.” Picketing members of the Conference of Studio Unions disrupted an outdoor shoot by holding up large reflectors that filled camera lenses with blinding sunlight. Members of the competing IATSE union retaliated by using the reflectors to shoot sunlight back across the street. The battle went on all day, writes Tom Sito in Drawing the Line. 1967 – The Beatles refused an offer to play Shea Stadium for $1 million. 1985 – The United States announced that it would no longer automatically comply with World Court decisions.
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