Advertisement

It’s A Gray Area:

Facing facts on the death penalty

March 16, 2008|By JAMES P. GRAY

The death penalty is certainly an emotional issue that affects many people in numbers of different ways. So in today’s column I will address head-on most of the common arguments that are used in favor of the death penalty, as well as some facts about and responses to them.

Next week I will suggest some additional facts and arguments that should also be considered as we all decide how best to proceed in this critical and emotional area. Of course and as always, I encourage your comments and responses to whatever I say.

Typically, the proponents of the death penalty present five justifications for its implementation. They are that this is the appropriate punishment for the offender of such a serious crime, rightful societal vengeance (often cited as an “eye for an eye”), reducing to zero the chances that the offender will return to society, deterrence against future violations by other offenders, and closure for the families of the victims.

Advertisement

The first issue I will discuss is the possibility of the offenders returning to society.

When a person is convicted of a “special circumstance” murder, the only two sentences allowed under the law in California are the death penalty or life without the possibility of parole, otherwise known as “LWOP.” In times past a person receiving a “life” sentence could still be paroled, but now if an offender receives an LWOP, that is simply not possible under the law without a pardon from the governor, which is politically quite unlikely.

Furthermore, to my knowledge no one serving such a sentence has ever escaped from prison. As a result, this is probably no longer a reason for the death penalty to be invoked.

With regard to the issue of closure for the families of the victims, consider that California has had only 15 executions since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978. But as of this time there are more than 660 convicted offenders on death row. Thirty of those offenders have been there for more than 25 years, 119 for more than 20 years, and 408 for longer than 10 years. The last two people executed were Clarence Ray Allen and Stanley “Tookie” Williams, both of whom were executed about 26 years after their offenses were committed. As a result, “closure” for the families, if it comes at all, comes after keeping the books open for decades.

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles
|
|
|