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Death row delays show lack of convictionBy 최남현
Published : May 8, 2011 - 19:11
Not for the first time, this gives us cause to wonder what good the death penalty in California is doing. Gov. Jerry Brown also personally opposes death sentences, though he appears to lack the courage of his capital convictions. The solution is in plain sight and has been pursued successfully by other states, including Illinois earlier this year: Abolish capital punishment.
The budget-minded Brown last week canceled plans to build a new death row at San Quentin State Prison, noting that it was hard to justify spending $356 million on housing for convicted murderers while services for children, the disabled and seniors were being slashed to the bone. Fair enough. But deferring the problem won’t make it go away, as California lawmakers discovered after their practice of ignoring a worsening prison overcrowding crisis was finally ended when federal judges declared the state guilty of unconstitutionally cruel punishment. Similarly, the state can’t go on adding to the death row population indefinitely while failing to address San Quentin’s severe capacity and design problems.
There are 713 inmates on death row, yet the state hasn’t executed anyone since 2006 (29 have died of natural causes since then). Confronted with similar costs and delays, along with evidence that some death row inmates had been wrongfully convicted, four states have abolished the death penalty since 2007. In Illinois, Gov. Pat Quinn dealt with existing death row inmates by commuting their sentences to life without parole, an elegant solution that would end California’s legal and budgetary problems at a stroke.
California lawmakers aren’t inclined to follow Illinois’ lead, and Brown has shown no interest in pushing them. He says this is because he respects the will of the majority, which has shown strong support for the death penalty in the past. But Brown might want to consult more recent polls. A 2010 Field poll showed that although 70 percent of the state’s voters favor capital punishment, a slight majority said that if given a choice between imposing a sentence of death or life without parole in first-degree murder cases, they’d choose the latter. Replacing capital punishment with life imprisonment isn’t necessarily a political death sentence.
(Los Angeles Times, May 5)
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