California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

    Capital Punishment Needs Dire Reform

    California voters are left to choose whether to end or mend an incredibly broken system that has granted virtually no justice in almost 40 years – capital punishment.

    Proposition 62 would retroactively end all capital punishment, make life without parole the highest sentence, and require all people found guilty of murder to work in order to pay restitution to victims’ families.

    Proposition 66 would keep the death penalty with the promise of saving time and cost through various measures, including placing a time limit on the appeals process.

    Although all voters must look at the facts themselves.Capital punishment in California is costly, ineffective and beyond salvaging with the empty promises of Propostion 66.

    Many people wish to preserve the death penalty because they believe it serves justice and brings closure to families of victims of heinous crimes. However, many people also do not realize it costs an additional $184 million per year when only 13 executions have occurred since the policy was reinstated in 1978.

    An editorial from the LA Times wrote, “The chief reason to abolish the death penalty in California is that it is cruel and unusual punishment, both immoral and inhumane and out of step with ‘evolving standards of decency’ in the United States.”

    In reality, there are far more “chief reasons” to abolish the death penalty any person can agree on, including the individuals who wrote either proposition. The attached argument in favor of each act lists such issues as an unending, costly appeals process, the fact that death row inmates are not permitted to work, and the lack of closure for families because justice is rarely served.

    Both proposals also offer many of the same benefits, such as lowering expenses, but only one argues the system can be reformed.

    Proposition 66 would limit the appeals process to five years, increase the number of lawyers available for appeals, eliminate separate death row prisons, increase portion of inmates’ wages applied to victim restitution, and even exempt prison officials from the regulation process for developing new execution methods.

    The official arguments for Proposition 66 found in the California voter guide state, “Proposition 66 means the worst of the worst killers receive the strongest sentence. Propostion 66 brings closure to the families of victims. Proposition 66 protects public safety — these brutal killers have no chance of ever being in society again.”

    Colleen Windham-Hughes, who has a doctorate in religious studies, said voters are largely unaware of the realities of the death penalty system and both campaigns are trying to raise awareness of how the California law has been practiced. However, it seems to me this statement from the “No on Proposition 62, Yes on Proposition 66” campaign is a clear appeal to emotions, and not the facts.

    One of the arguments in favor of Propostion 66 says it will save taxpayers over $30 million annually, a number given by former California Finance Director Mike Genest based on no clear research. Propostion 62, on the other hand, says it could save $150 million annually, according to the state’s Legislative Analyst.

    The family of Josephine Rocha, who was killed by Clarence Ray Allen, the most recently executed death row inmate in 2006, issued a statement that said, “Mr. Allen abused the justice system with endless appeals until he lived longer in prison than the short 17 years of Josephine’s life.”

    Helen Lim, who has a doctorate in criminal justice, said in an email interview that this is an incredibly important vote for college students. It sets a precedent for how justice will be carried out in California and determines where millions of taxpayer dollars will go.

    Regarding class discussions on capital punishment, Lim said, “Some students who support the death penalty believe that it is ‘just desserts’ (retribution) for the crime the offender committed. Some students who oppose the death penalty will argue how seriously flawed and costly the process is. Students raise ethical issues for both sides. Others aren’t sure or are undecided.”

    For those who are undecided, it is important to become informed and truly examine whether capital punishment in California can be saved in a way that serves justice. In the words of Herbert Gooch, who has a doctorate in political science, “You have to go back in history and ask the question, ‘In your own heart, how do you feel about it?’”

    Whatever side you vote for, let it be a system that would never grant a promise so empty as this.

    Dakota Allen
    Staff Writer