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Our View: Yes on Prop 62

Posted: August 19, 2016 4:58 p.m.
Updated: August 20, 2016 2:00 a.m.
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Among the 17 statewide measures on the Nov. 8 ballot are two that deal with the death penalty in California.

The first, Proposition 62, would simply repeal the death penalty. It would change the sentences of those currently on death row to life imprisonment without possibility of parole.

The second, Proposition 66, would revise the death penalty in an apparent bid to speed up executions through a series of procedural adjustments that we suspect would have little to no effect. It contains the clause: “Other voter approved measures related to death penalty are null and void if this measure receives more affirmative votes.”

It’s time for residents to recognize that the death penalty is immoral, very likely unfairly applied, and impractical.

In 2015, in a minority opinion involving best drugs for killing prisoners, Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer suggested execution of prisoners is incompatible with modern social standards.

We believe Breyer is right. The days of hanging people in the town square are long past. The state shouldn’t be in the business of killing its own citizens – however heinous may be their acts and however undeserving we believe they are of life.

If it is against the law to take a life, why would it be acceptable for the government to do so?

Perhaps the most appalling consideration in the debate over the death penalty is the possibility that a person wrongfully convicted of murder could be put to death by the state.

Recent studies have shown that possibility is sometimes a reality.

According to Amnesty International USA, 10 wrongfully convicted individuals were released from death rows across the country in 2003 alone. That’s 10 people who were sentenced to death but whose cases were overturned before their sentences could be carried out.

How many people’s executions were carried out before they could be exonerated? We’ll never know.

In 2014, The Guardian newspaper reported on a study that concluded at least 4.1 percent of those sentenced to death between 1973 and 2004 across the country were falsely convicted. The statistical analysis concluded about 340 prisoners were wrongfully sentenced to death over a period of about 30 years.

In 2003, convinced the death penalty could not be carried out fairly in his state, Illinois Gov. George Ryan commuted all Illinois death sentences.

Though the death penalty has been back on the books in California since 1978, not a single convicted murderer has been put to death since 2006.

Concerns that methods of execution be humane (no matter the brutality of the method of murder), along with other factors including intense media scrutiny and growing public opposition to executions, have rendered capital punishment effectively unenforceable.

We believe laws should be enforceable, and those that aren’t should be stricken from the books.

Lastly, the state spends six times more money on prison inmates than on college students. The death penalty is adding unnecessary expenses to the high cost of incarceration.

Between 1978 – when the death penalty was reinstated in California – and 2011, taxpayers spent more than $4 billion on capital punishment in California, or about $308 million for each of the 13 executions carried out during that time.

Proposition 62 would save the state about $150 million annually within a few years of passage.

We urge you to vote “yes” on the first death penalty measure on the ballot, Proposition 62, and vote “no” on the second death penalty measure, Proposition 66.

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