California’s Death Penalty Repeal: Is Justice Served?

death chamber


On 19 August the Signal, my local newspaper, published an editorial entitled “Our View: Yes on Prop 62” in which they supported that ballot proposition, which would abolish the death penalty in this state. You can read their editorial here: Signal editorial 

I might be more inclined to support this idea if a “life sentence” actually meant the bad guy was going to die in prison. It doesn’t.

FAR too many times they’re paroled out, or released because of “health concerns”, or get their case reopened because some lawyer found some technicality to exploit leading to a new trial LONG after witnesses have died or disappeared or forgotten details of the crime, and evidence has deteriorated.

Their victims don’t get to benefit from any of this kind of “compassion” and “justice”. They get to just stay dead.

The death penalty is only meted out to the worst of the worst. Read about Clarence Ray clarence allen 2Allen, the last guy executed in this state: Clarence Allen pdf . The guy was a waste of skin, and doesn’t deserve anyone’s sympathy.

Further, the fact that no one’s been actually executed since 2006 simply means that the process has become too protracted. Simplify and speed up the appeals process, and limit convicts’ number of bites of the apple. As it stands now, clever attorneys simply file appeal after appeal in a generally successful effort to run out the clock on these guys.

To quote the Signal column, “According to Amnesty International USA, 10 wrongfully convicted individuals were released from death rows across the country in 2003 alone”.

That could have several different meanings. Procedural errors in the prosecution comes immediately to mind, for example, which is in no way the same thing as innocence.

In fact, at best all that statistic really does is suggest that the appellate process is successful in preventing wrongful executions. At worst, it suggests that a lot of people are gaming the system. Either way, if there were even one actual instance of a convict being wrongfully executed, I’m sure we’d have heard about it.

Further, there’s a cost to many of our social policies. Thousands of truly innocent people die every year in traffic accidents. But we don’t ban cars, nor do we have a maximum speed limit of 15 MPH. We simply accept those deaths as the cost of that policy.

I know that if my daughter were murdered I wouldn’t think justice had been served until her killer was put to death, because that’s when the punishment truly fits the crime. Even at that, I’d be settling, because those few who get the death penalty have to have committed crimes that were especially heinous, and the state’s execution process is merciful by comparison to their crimes.

And that’s the bottom line. The criminal justice system is part of our social contract, put there to prevent our society from becoming a place in which people are all running around meting out their own personal justice. BUT, society’s “justice” must be perceived as being actually just, and letting merciless killers live out their natural lives while their victims are permanently dead is no justice at all.



©Brian Baker 2016

(Also published today in my local newspaper, the Signal)


23 comments on “California’s Death Penalty Repeal: Is Justice Served?

  1. Nee says:

    Another home run….:)

  2. jevica says:


    Right on the mark, this so-called life without parole can always be changed by legislation, the courts, etc. New York (liberal land) has death penalty, hell I can’t remember the last time it was used. Your post makes very good points.

    • BrianR says:

      Thanks, Jev.

      Yeah, I’ll believe it’s actually a “life” sentence when those animals start actually dying in prison.

  3. AfterShock says:

    There is a proper place for the “Death Penalty”. It’s a moral place. The onus of determining when or if the Deat Penalty IS or isn’t the proper course of action is upon every jury. Eliminating the potential of the Death Penalty means that those who truly have committed or intend to commit the most heinous crimes will get treated the same as those who acted in a moment of passion, or those who committed murder in an understandable cause out of fear. Life in prison means nothing to the most heinous murderers, they will get education, three squares, health attention and, of course the left always finds an excuse for release such foul individuals — potential left voters – so, the only realistic course to enforce natural law so as to protect the rights of the sovereign, is to mete out ultimate justice, i.e. the penalty of lost life.

  4. garnet92 says:

    Good one Brian and on a pithy subject. I suspect that most people who are against the death penalty think that way because they’re afraid of executing an innocent person – a REALLY innocent one, not a guilty one one released on a technicality.

    I submit that we DO need a death penalty for those really heinous crimes that prove that the perp isn’t qualified to live among society’s innocents, but for the death penalty to be a real deterrent, it needs to be swift and sure. I agree with you that endless appeals neuter the deterrent effect and increase the odds that eventually, some shyster lawyer will get the perp released (to kill again).

    I think that the concern of executing an innocent person can be addressed by treating the wronged individual as a hero – a hero in the cause of justice and making the death penalty an actual deterrent for criminals to be afraid of and he or she should be honored and his/her family paid a handsome sum and afforded other perks. It can’t bring them back but it can honor them akin to a war hero. They will have died in service to their country.

    • BrianR says:

      Garnet, that is a TOTALLY cool and unique approach to any wrongful death that MAY occur, and I have to say, I wish I’d thought of it. My hat’s off to you on that one.

  5. captbogus2 says:

    It would seem to me that folks realizing they are contributing about $40,000.00 of their tax dollars every year to warehouse folks who will never be beneficial to society in any fashion.
    “Life Without Possibility of Parole” really means, “Life With Parole Later,” The elimination of capital punishment has no valid argument. Hanging is neither cruel nor unusual and has been carried out from the country’s inception until introduction of the questionable method of electrocution.
    A return to use of the more orthodox hemp rope and scaffold would do a lot to deter crime.
    It is hard to see how a capital punishment sentence can be a deterrent when the rare imposition of the sentence is 15-20 years in the convicted’s future. And every appeal is likely to result favorably toward the convicted.

    • BrianR says:

      I also think that the “deterrent effect” would be much more effective if executions were made public, like maybe on pay-per-view.

      That was another thing they had back in the days when the death penalty was more effective: public executions.

      Now it’s hidden away like some shameful act, lending credence to the “ban it” crowd.

      • captbogus2 says:

        Agree. How ‘big’ would that gang banger appear to the wannabe younger crowd if he had to be dragged up to the scaffold pleading for his life, crying for his mama and peeing his pants…

      • BrianR says:

        Yep. There it is.

  6. captbogus2 says:

    Oh yeah. And conviction of an act of terrorism a pigskin rope could be substituted for the hemp.

  7. slowcowboy says:

    I actually think putting people in stocks at corners of major streets would go a long way to eradicating crime.

    As an attorney, I find that too many of my ilk take advantage of the system to make a buck or two. Its seldom about justice.

  8. CW says:

    “…letting merciless killers live out their natural lives while their victims are permanently dead is no justice at all.”

    Well said, Brian. Justice, in and of itself, is all the reason needed to uphold the death penalty.

    I read the Signal editorial on this and it angered me. The writers start with the question: “If it is against the law to take a life, why would it be acceptable for the government to do so?”

    What a dumb question. Is this a high school newspaper by any chance? As you pointed out, there is an implied social contract in this country. Ideally no one should kill anyone else, but once a citizen demonstrates that they do not intend to live by the contract, they are not entitled for the state to restrain its actions against them.

    The Signal says, “Perhaps the most appalling consideration in the debate over the death penalty is the possibility that a person wrongfully convicted of murder could be put to death by the state. In 2003, convinced the death penalty could not be carried out fairly in his state, Illinois Gov. George Ryan commuted all Illinois death sentences.”

    Following murder cases is sort of a hobby of mine, and I can tell you that people are sometimes wrongfully convicted, probably at much higher rates than most of us would think, so I am very sensitive to this topic. I have been shocked and deeply upset at the many cases I’ve seen of wrongful conviction, almost all of which were the result of human error, negligence or corruption. But people like the editors at Signal and Gov. Ryan infuriate me because they act as though taking the death penalty off the table solves this problem. While they are busy patting themselves on the back for robbing society of its right to seek justice against heinous murderers, the wrongfully convicted can STILL be sentenced to years or even life in prison because these do-gooders did NOTHING to address the errors, negligence or corruption that led to the wrongful convictions. If they would put their efforts toward fixing those problems and ensuring that there are serious consequences for failures in the justice system they would be doing a far greater service to society and the wrongfully convicted. Telling someone who’s been wrongfully convicted that they ONLY have to spend their lives in jail can’t be very comforting to them.

    The Signal says: “Between 1978 … and 2011, taxpayers spent more than $4 billion on capital punishment in California, or about $308 million for each of the 13 executions carried out during that time.”

    I seriously question that math, but as far as the money spent, whose fault is that? Surely there are ways to stop this asininity without making it worse by depriving us of our right to impose justice.

    • BrianR says:

      Thanks for that great comment, CW. It was worthy of being a column in and of itself.

      Yes, sometimes miscarriages DO happen, but then, it’s not as if a guy’s sentenced to death and then marched directly to the gallows. There’s a lengthy and detailed appellate process that does everything possible to make sure that a person isn’t wrongfully executed.

      But more than that, even if somehow ALL of that fails and some guy is wrongfully put to death, as sad as that would be, is that a reason to do away with the entire process? If we’re looking for perfection in everything, we’ll have nothing, because nothing devised by man is EVER perfect.

      • captbogus2 says:

        There have been questions down through the years about capital punishment ranging from the lynching as in “The Ox Bow Incident” to the, “Did he do it or didn’t he,” as in Carl Chessman. Even Texas Governor Bush added his two cents in saying he had never heard of a guilty man being executed in Texas.
        Well, first, Mr. President, I offer this. The people fight for those they truly believe innocent of their capital crime right up to the day that person is executed. But then they go to other condemned people they believe innocent because they cannot help the one dead.
        That said I still come down on the side of capital punishment. But I do believe it should be carried out in a more timely fashion. This could be if all appeals to both state and federal were given a fast track to the front of the line instead of having to pretty much, ‘take a number and wait’.
        Perhaps if the date could be set by the governor and the courts had to examine the appeals within that time frame???
        Oh, yeah. I’m sure it would take a Constitutional Amendment to keep the federal courts from dragging their heels.
        But it’s a thought. It’s a thought.

      • BrianR says:

        Buck, it’s a thought I completely agree with.

        In fact, I’ve proposed a 1-1-1 process. The condemned have one year in which to file their one and only appeal, which must cover ALL the issues to be considered in their appeal, and the appellate court has one year to render their decision. If the sentence stands, the execution to be carried out immediately.

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