In November, California voters will choose whether or not the state?s death penalty will be abolished. The measure is called SAFE California and it will completely do away with the death penalty and all death row inmates will inherit life without parole sentences. This means that serial killers like Charles Manson, Sirhan Sirhan and Richard Ramirez (?The Night Stalker?) will be able to live the rest of their lives behind bars instead of pay for their actions.
This ballot measure seems all too familiar as the death penalty in California has been in question before. In 1972, three years after Sirhan was sentenced to death by the gas chamber, the famous lawsuit People v. Anderson ruled that the death penalty was a form of cruel and unusual punishment. This resulted in both Sirhan's and Manson's death sentences to be commuted to a life sentence. Because of the lawsuit and Proposition 7 in 1978, no executions performed in California until 1992 when?Robert Alton Harris was given the option of a brand new punishment known as lethal injection, which became the default method over the gas chamber in 1994. February 2006 proved to be another roadblock for the death penalty as U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy D. Fogel blocked the execution of serial killer Michael Morales because of claims that lethal injection was not administered correctly causing the subject to feel pain, deeming it cruel and unusual. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that lethal injection must now be carried out by a legally authorized medical technician.
Since that February, there have been no executions and only 13 since 1978. For 83 other death row inmates from 1978- present, their death came before execution by way of natural causes, suicide and "other" causes. This makes a great case for the death penalty to be eliminated. Instead of elimination, reformation would be the way to go so the possibility of people like Manson can be done away with permanently.
SAFE California claims that abolishing the death penalty will save the state billions of dollars. On the contrary, removing the death penalty will not save the state much money, but reforming the appeals process will. The appeals process in California has four steps:
- Automatic appeal
- State Habeas Corpus
- Federal Habeas Corpus
- U.S. Supreme Court
Removing two steps from this process would allow the appeals process to move quicker and save the state loads of money. Shortening the appeals process to the two state appeals would be the ideal way to go, keeping a California issue within the state. The Los Angeles Times wrote a piece in 2008 asking to reform the appeals process. Writer Ronald M. George suggests that the appeals in the California Supreme Court be spread out to the?six appellate court districts to help take a load off of the Supreme Court. George also claims that this would guarantee significantly more high court review of capital cases than currently under the federal death penalty system. Keeping the death penalty at the state level will save time and money, and the executions will be quicker and in larger quantity per year. With this shorter appeals process, monsters like "The Night Stalker" will not be allowed to breathe ?free air? for much longer.