When I read Proposition 62 on the Nov. 8 ballot, I don’t see it as a “yes” or “no” issue or even as a moral dilemma.
I see Les Schellach.
Schellbach was a Lincoln Police officer that was pursing three suspects that robbed East Avenue Market on the morning of Dec. 12, 1971. The chase took him down a country road where — unbeknownst to him — the three thugs armed with automatic weapons waited for him to reach a blind curve after overturning their vehicle and shooting Sgt. Bob Barroso who responded from his home in his personal vehicle that did not have a police radio. Schellbach left behind a wife and two young children.
I see Craig Miller and Mary Elizabeth Sommers.
The young couple — both were 21 years of age and engaged — was taken at gunpoint in the Arden Fair Mall parking lot in Sacramento on Nov. 2, 1980. Gerald Gallegos approached them, pulled out a .25 caliber Beretta and ordered them into a car driven by his wife Charlene Gallegos. They drove them to a remote spot in the foothills east of Lincoln. He ordered Craig Miller out of the car. As he walked toward the front of the car, Gerald Gallegos shot him in the head. He pumped another two shots into his head as he laid on the ground. He then had his wife drive Mary Sommers back to their apartment where he raped her repeatedly for hours on end. He then had his wife drive them to another remote rural area where he killed Sommers by shooting her three times at point blank range.
I see John Mayeski and Michael Baker.
The two 16-year-olds on July 5, 1978 were doing what 16-year-old boys do when they get their driver’s license. They were enjoying their new found freedom sitting in a Ford LTD eating drive-in hamburgers. Robert Alton Harris was also enjoying his freedom. He had been paroled six months early after serving only three years for involuntary manslaughter after he beat his brother’s roommate to death. It was described as an unprovoked attack. Harris hooked up with his brother that day looking for a car to steal to use in a bank robbery when he came across the two teens. He took the car and teens at gunpoint and drove to Miramar Lake. There he ordered the boys out of the car and forced them to kneel. Both boys started to pray. Harris told the boys, “quit crying and die like men” just before shooting them multiple times. Harris and his brother Daniel returned to their home where Harris ate one of the victim’s unfinished hamburgers and bragged about the killings.
There are 741 “people” on death row at San Quentin. Between them they have well over 900 murders including people they had killed previously before being released to kill again.
It’s been so tough to get someone sentenced to death in California for the past 60 years that even death penalty opponents don’t argue that there are any innocent people awaiting execution at San Quentin.
What they do argue is this: It is expensive and cruel and unusual punishment especially given they are locked up never knowing when they will be executed. That’s rich since legal maneuvers that have nothing to do with the murder’s supposed innocence keep postponing execution dates.
Let’s recap what happened to the trio that killed officer Schellbach. One committed suicide during the trial. The other received life sentences as the state supreme court had just ruled the death penalty unconstitutional. Gallegos was sentenced to death in 1984. He died of rectal cancer on July 18, 2002 while still awaiting his execution. Harris was sentenced to death on March 6, 1979. He was executed April 21, 1992.
Harris lived 13 years after receiving his death sentence. His teen-age victims lived perhaps a minute after he sentenced them to death.
Gallegos actually murdered 10 people. After being sentenced to death, Gallegos lived 18 more years before dying from natural causes. That was five years longer than his youngest victim breathed — 13 year-old Sandra Colley.
A vote for Proposition 62 will give the 741 cold-blooded murderers — many of whom tortured and raped their victims before killing them — life without the possibility of parole. It also gives future sadistic killers a pass on the state giving them the same death sentence — although much more humanely done — than the ones they gave their victims.
This will supposedly save us $150 million each year.
We are told by many who oppose the death penalty that it isn’t a deterrent. They also tend to be the same folks that want prison to not just be a humane place but also a place of rehabilitation.
I wonder how humane Craig Miller thought Gallego’s sentence of three bullets to the head and having his body dumped in a shallow grave was as life left him. Harris is a poster monster for the fact some people can’t be rehabilitated.
The point of prison first and foremost is to protect society and having those convicted pay the price for their transgressions.
It’s strange, in a way. Many people get so worked up over animal rights that people who mistreat pets often get stiffer sentences than those that savagely brutalize kids. Yet they have no quarrel with putting a rabid dog down.
The same sensibilities should prevail for anyone that manages to pass the extremely tough legal litmus test needed to reach death row in California.
I would not vote for the state to let rabid dogs live so why would I support the same mercy for rabid people?
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.