The death penalty has no middle ground - you are either for or against it. In November, voters will decide whether to replace the death penalty with a sentence of life in prison without parole. Death penalty opponents are now trying to appeal to our pocketbooks saying that it simply "costs too much."
Can a price on be put on justice? Like countless other Californians, I support the death penalty because it is the strongest statement that we as a society can make against the cold-blooded killers of innocent human beings. The death penalty deters crime and ensures that those who have murdered can never murder again.
Opponents have put forward the argument that the endless prisoner appeals and court delays have driven up costs over the years. But who is responsible for the endless prisoner appeals and court delays? The very same people now arguing for repeal! They have created the very atmosphere that they rail against in which the death penalty is too costly. The death penalty opponents are the ones that use our legal system to create costly appeals, and these continuous appeals create the high costs they like to protest about. A verdict, already arrived at by a jury of peers, is not carried out because of their legal wrangling.
When I think about delays, I think about the victims of death row inmate Kevin Cooper, who has been awaiting justice for almost three decades. Cooper was correctly convicted of the savage murders of a Chino Hills family in 1983. A DNA test that he claimed would prove his innocence, instead proved his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Yet one excuse after another has delayed his execution. Legal technicalities and concerns that the execution process is flawed and inhumane have essentially imposed a moratorium on his penalty as well as others. Keep in mind that these delays have little to do with an inmate's innocence. Nobody sitting on California's death row has ever been proven innocent.
It is true that California has spent a lot of money on only 13 executions since 1978. It is also true that there are more than 700 inmates on death row still awaiting justice. The best way to reduce costs is to remove unnecessary delays that have created unnecessary costs. If other states can spend less implementing the death penalty, California can do the same.
In 2010, I introduced legislation that would have trained staff in the Department of Corrections in administration of the death penalty. This would have eliminated frivolous lawsuits filed by lawyers to stop the death penalty and California would comply with a federal court ruling requiring even more safeguards. When given the chance to vote for the bill, liberal Democrats voted "no." They have also rejected other reforms that would have reduced costs and streamlined the process.
If death penalty skeptics are truly concerned about costs, they should work with us to lower them, but that is not their real goal. The death penalty exists because of the horrific crimes committed against the citizens of California. And the high cost of implementing the law is driven by the very people that are against the law.