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Pulling the plug on death penalty
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It’s come down to this: Death penalty foes who have consistently done everything they can to block California from executing those on death row now want the death penalty declared unconstitutional because the state doesn’t put them to death quick enough. They argue lingering on death row for an uncertain execution is cruel and inhumane punishment.

In Nebraska, the legislature wants to do away with the death penalty because it costs $3 million to put someone on death row in that state compared to $1.1 million for life without parole.

The argument goes like this: Think of what the state could do with the money they save.

But remember one thing: Life in prison doesn’t mean life in prison in California. Such prisoners are paroled all the time including a number who got a second chance to kill someone else and ended up on death row. 

Then there is life without parole. While no inmate who has received life without parole has ever been paroled, there needs to be ironclad guarantees that the state will rigorously defend any constitutional challenges to such sentences.

In the past, constitutional officers from the governor to the attorney general have been less than faithful about defending and implementing the death penalty despite voters having spoken clearly on the subject at the ballot box numerous times as well as the United States Supreme Court weighing in.

It is not a leap in logic to believe those currently against the death penalty would shift all of their efforts to chipping away at life without parole sentences should they succeed in getting the death penalty off the table in California.

The main question should be whether the death penalty is effective at deterring future murders. The answer is a resounding “yes.”

There have been 114 death row inmates in California that have died since the death penalty was re-instituted in 1978. Fourteen were executed, 24 committed suicide, one was shot to death during a riot in a prison yard, another had a heart attack after being pepper sprayed, two drug overdosed, and the rest were of natural causes.

There are still more than 750 death row inmates.

So with only 14 executions out of 100 deaths, how could the death penalty be considered a success?

Those who are against it argue the death penalty’s existence doesn’t deter people from murder others. True, but the point is those convicted and sentenced to death don’t kill again meaning the death penalty has successfully prevented future murders. Whether they are executed, kill themselves, overdose, or die of natural causes they are were warehoused in such a manner not to continue killing.

If you think this is wrapped logic, guess again. Raymond Edward Steele passed away last month on San Quentin’s death row. He was 67. The preliminary indications are he succumbed to natural causes.

Steele was on death row for the 1988 stabbing murder of Leann Thuman, a mentally disabled woman.

But here’s an inconvenient truth. It wasn’t Steele’s first rodeo as a hardcore criminal and murderer. He was previously convicted of raping a woman who lived next door to his aunt as well as for stabbing to death his 15-year-old babysitter who he plunged a knife into eight times.

Steele’s road to death row isn’t unlike the 750 plus folks he leaves behind. A number of them had murdered before and were sentenced to prison — sometimes life with parole — and got out and murdered again. Some are serial killers. Others the evidence is so overwhelming and their methods of killing are so heinous that they make terrorists seem like choir boys in comparison.

An average Joe has a hard time understanding how the criminal justice system can find an individual guilty of the vicious rape of a woman as well as the stabbing death of a teen girl —  two separate incidents — and then basically allow him to return to society so he can prey on others.

The threshold for a death penalty conviction is so high not because of the fact the person ultimately is supposed to be put to death for their crimes but it is because of the crime they commit.

Frankly, I have no problem with serial killers and child rapists/murders being sentenced to life without parole providing they are housed in the general prison population. If there are no extreme penalties for extreme crimes then there should be no extreme accommodations such as solitary confinement for those earning convictions in such cases. Certainly death penalty opponents could agree with that.

I will gladly change my position on the death penalty and support life without parole providing those individuals convicted share cells with other life without parole convicts and receive no special treatment designed to separate them from the general population.

That’s not blood thirsty. It’s being reasonable.

If you want to take away the ultimate penalty for heinous crimes by arguing the costs don’t justify it then you have to deliver to make sure the cost of housing such convicts is in line with other prisoners.

Fair is fair.