May 4, 2012By Curt Hagman
Assemblyman Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills, is the Assistant Republican Floor Leader and represents the 60th Assembly District in the California Legislature.

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.

California State Assemblyman, Curt Hagman (R) represents the 55th District, Serving all or parts of Brea, Chino Hills, Diamond Bar, Industry, La Habra, Placentia, Rowland Heights, Walnut, West Covina, and Yorba Linda. He can be reached at (909) 627-7021.


Oh my.. I just came across this article and I had to say something!

It's preposterous and damaging in how blatantly wrong and full of lies it is! I'm overwhelmed that this is the public opinion of an elected official that is representing people in the same country as me (let alone state!). Streamlining the death penalty so that we can kill people faster and more cheaply should hardly be our priority! Making sure that the state isn't murdering innocent people in our name is important - and we should let as many appeals happen as necessary to ensure that no one is killed unfairly.

Especially in the Kevin Cooper case mentioned, things are rarely as simply as they seem. There were many things wrong with that entire trial and his guilt and identity as a "cold-blooded killer" have hardly been proven. Three men have been released from Death Row in the past couple decades because they were proven innocent and Kevin Cooper will hopefully be the 4th. Letting him die without a fight would be a sin. Though I think Life Without Parole is an unnecessarily costly and inhumane alternative, abolishing the Death Penalty will go a long way to stopping state sanctioned murders from happening in the name of US citizens.

And how about putting funding into schools into this conversation? (instead of continuing to close schools and cut funding for after school programs, etc) These should be the priority of these conversations about prisons and crimes - so that fewer people are denied access to the education and resources that decrease the likelihood and necessity of crime. Or how about conversations about Restorative or Rehabilitative Justice? That would honor the victims far more than killing in their name. (Eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind, after all.) Punitive Justice methods don't fix anything, they just cost a lot and hurt the moral fabric of our country.

Posted by r.beja on 05/20/12, 09:44 AM

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